Complete City yet Lacking Spice

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
RQ Central Suites, Santiago, Chile

Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, April 15, 2011

Santiago is a very clever city that seems to be, for lack of a better word, complete. The city is beautifully put together and provides all the workings of big city life. It is clean, has very maintained parks and feels safe throughout. Its size makes exploring fun as there are endless miles of exploratory walking. And like its southern neighbor, Argentina, great wine is very affordable. Some of the funny intricacies are that the barrios don't seem to be self-contained centers (with all the requisite stores, restaurants and bars) like those of most major cities, they have no concept of what sushi is supposed to be (as it seems every restaurant has some cheapened version on their menu) and everyone likes to eat wieners.

Day 1

Although we very much enjoyed Valparaiso, we were excited for the 1.5 hour journey to the big city. Buses back and forth are constantly scheduled so we were on a bus within 5 minutes of arriving at the station. Although there are cheaper options, we ended up paying $6 for the first available. Upon arriving in Santiago, we strolled through the bus station to the attached Metro station downstairs to use the very easy to use transportation system. Our hotel, the RQ Santiago Suites was just five stops away.

With relatively little trouble, the RQ Santiago Suites staff provided us a very nice one bedroom suite on the 22nd floor downtown. It was a corner studio lined with wrap around windows and a full kitchen. Because we actually made our reservation with the hotel’s sister hotel RQ Central Suites we decided to spend only the first 10 days in this hotel and the rest of the month in Central Suites. This was arranged because it felt like the company was doing a bait and switch on us. After checking in we walked a couple blocks to the Central Suites to check out the gym and pool there. The gym had a couple machines that needed maintenance but they were useable. The rooftop pool had a hot tub next to it with no water in it. We asked if there was any way it could be fixed and the front desk staff told us that they don’t have a hot tub. We tried to tell them that we were standing in it but she barely believed us and told us she would check and get back to us.

It is so exciting to get a home base for a month that we really just wanted to act domesticated and be productive. We took a stroll around the nearby palacios and plazas (almost all of which we can see from our hotel room window) and then hit the downstairs grocery store so that we could cook for ourselves, Hooray! It was a wonderful feast with chicken, pasta and wonderful cheap and tasty wine. The feast was not without incident however. While cooking we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the fan over the stove and of course the smoke from toasting our chicken set off the smoke alarms giving us the opportunity to speak with the head of housekeeping and several of the maintenance staff as they tromped through our room trying to understand the problem. Fun!

Day 2

For the second day in a row we caught the easy-to-use Metro system to do some canvasing of the Providencia area. We have learned to become excellent canvassers and nothing goes with canvassing like a Havanna coffee – along with Juan Valdez this is South America’s version of tasty, yet overpriced Starbucks.

At the edge of Providencia lies Parque de Las Esculturas. The open museum park next to the water channel is full of outstanding outdoor sculptures and an underground museum. It is an inspirational place to walk around or have a rest. The locals have even turned most of the sculptures into interactive art as they sit or eat on them.

After some serious Providencia canvassing we searched for a spot to watch one of the many "El Classico" matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid and came up with the Louisiana River Pub for beers and front row seats. The game was another great match between two of the best and we were lucky to get there just in time to beat the masses piling into the bar as the match got underway. Because these lower Southern American countries are not much for day time drinking, when the match ended it was like a watching the packed restaurant pour out onto the street during a fire. We waited around long enough for the wait staff to try to screw us for an extra $10 by not honoring their advertised promotion but it all worked out in the end. Sometimes it pays to have an accent and limited vocabulary.

The convenient metro swooped us back to our hotel where we grabbed a quick bite before heading out to a drum n’ bass show we early scouted out. We found out that the metros stop running at 10pm (seems foolish) so we had to grab an inexpensive $3 taxi to Bar Mala Vida in Barrio Independencia for DNB in a change-over sushi restaurant. When we arrived at about 11pm they were hanging candy canes and placing palm leaves throughout the dance floor. Over a bottle of wine we sat and watched these funny people setting up as the place filled. It turned out to be a very electrifying oregano candy cane pounding dance fest. Really good music and fun people.

Day 3

It turns out that on contrary to many of the reviews; this hotel has a really great breakfast (everything from eggs and cheeses to cereals and fruit). We wanted to head out today (Sunday) but nothing was open in the downtown area – even the grocery stores). We figured that the more touristy and hipper Providencia would have more options today and we were correct to find Niu Sushi with a daily 50% discount. It’s just average – no need to return since every roll came with cream cheese. Weird.

By the way, What's schop dog?

We had prepared to see a futbol match today so we hopped the Metro to Independencia Recoleta. On our way through the empty streets to the stadium we stopped for a beer at Iching. This is a pleasant Chinese option, apparently in the Chinese district. We were excited to spend a minimal amount to check out the Union Española futbol match at Estadio Santa Laura. Although we appreciated seeing a live match, the whole entertainment experience was pretty miserable. It was an old stadium and there were no beers or hotdogs - only ham sandwiches (1 slice of ham on a roll). The home team won after a boring first hour of play. It was enough for us. We grabbed some Chinese takeout at Nueva and grabbed an $8 taxi home. Nueva was good (fairly authentic, from a Chinese neighborhood) but a bit overpriced.

Day 4

It is time to get started with our list of To Do’s so we picked up a computer cord necessary to be productive. Of course, we also scouted out the happy hour places along the way, but then got down to some serious blogging. We are five cities behind at this point. Other than a much needed workout we ended the evening with pure productivity.

Day 5

The productivity continues into today. It is all about blogging and working out in the morning and afternoon. It really helps that we are in such a comfortable place to be productive.

Of course all work and no play make Raymie and Bee a something something so we headed out for some happy hour fun. We decided to try out the Chilean version of Ruby Tuesdays for a drink but it turned out to be even worse than the American version. What a drag. Bars are not as prolific in these southern countries so there are not that many options. Fortunately we came across Joker Resto Pub, which eventually turned out to be our favorite “corner bar” type spot in the city. They have strong, cheap drinks, good service and a 2x1 happy hour. (In Chile and Argentina happy hour almost always means 2x1 cocktails which brings them back to affordable prices when all the cocktails seem to be double the price anyways).

After Joker we found a classic old timer’s bar, La Punta, just off the main street O’Higgins. This place has all the makings of a hole your grandfather would like to frequent. I think its downtown location dirtied it up a little but it was still a pleasure to check out some old world charm. Not to mention Raymie bought his replacement wedding ring from a guy peddling “silver” rings.

Raymie made Bee share a $1.60 Big Mac before stopping at our local grocery store to pick up some ribs (BBQ) and potatoes (instant) for a proper dinner. It’s wonderful to be able to cook again!

Day 6

Given all the good work we have been doing we decided to take a day to do some serious Santiagan exploring. We started today by taking the Metro (Line 1) to the end where there is a tourist trap shopping district called Pueblito Los Dominicos. It is charming artesian market complete with working studios, beautiful grounds and a plethora of “wild” cats. We spent some time exploring for gifts we needed to send home but only ended up with pricey ideas.

We headed into Providencia because we wanted to see the next installation of “El Classico”. This is thee event in Latin America and is so fun to see such a high quality match. We ended up at the California Bar for wings, beer and the futbol match. This is a very comfortable place with a real bar and some of the best wings we have had in South America. Nice job!

After stopping home for some rest and a real meal we headed back out to Bella Vista (taxi $3) for some evening time fun. After walking up and down the entire district we finally stopped at a speakeasy looking spot Etniko. This place is shooting right to the top of the best bars we have been in. It is mostly a wine and tapas bar but is filled with exuberance and a DJ popping techy sounds from the back room. There is not an open door for entering and it’s clever walking around this crazy place. The only way to get in this place is to ring the bell and there is no way to know of the bell unless you are in the know (or lucky like us) – there was a guy was smoking in the doorway when we went in. Great music, $5 beer and wine; it was right up our alley.

At about 1am we headed over to Club La Feria. This is a deep undercover and totally cool house music club. It’s hard to find situated in the residential district on Calle Constitucion but just look for the guy halfway sitting inside a black door. It was just the right size and just the right ambiances, from the glowing red lantern covered main room to the light blue watery lounge. The $6 entrance and the $8 drinks seemed right for the event. We had a blast dancing and relaxing in the fuzzy booths.

Day 7

After all the fun we had yesterday, we have to get back to it. Besides the occasional stop to talk to a friend or family it is just blogging, grocery store, workout, blogging.

Day 8

More of the same today. Blogging, Workout, and more working time. We did take a walk in the rain to find food but everything was close for Good Friday; a national holiday in these Catholic countries. We ended up at La Picola Italia for lunch since it was the only thing open besides the scary 24 hour diner and it was okay even being kind of an Italian Perkins or Coco’s crossover.

On a wonderful note, we are caught up! Blogging complete!, for now.

Day 9The sun came out today so we were up for a little exploring. We started at the Plazas de Armas, which is quite an impressive space (although it does seem a little sketchy – watch your belongings). The Cathedral along it is very beautiful as well as the museums and pedestrian streets. Near the plaza is the extensively full Mercado Central. The fish and produce offerings are expansive and the restaurants are very elegant for a Mercado. The little mercado across the puente, however, is not as impressive and it much cheaper for not only foods but also clothing.

We later made our way through Barrio Patronato and all the way up through Barrio Bella Vista. These areas are full of afternoon commerce and the prices seemed right. This is where the locals pick up their fashion, which is okay but doesn’t have a great range of design. It’s just typical fashionable and one-size fits all.

The Bar La Nona in Bella Vista is one of about thirty places on Calle Pio Nono you can have a cerveza on the sidewalk. We suggest not choosing this one because it is really gross. We received our beer outside but don’t even think about going in to use the toilet.

Fabrica de Pizza on the other hand is an enjoyable place to sit outside and have a beer and a slice. Good food with good prices on an open corner to people watch – what else could you want? It was also a lifesaver for Raymie because his pee pee dance was going out of style, quick!

After heading back home for our favorite conquest, naptime, Bee wanted to stay in so Raymie headed back out to Bella Vista for some evening time festivities. After walking up and down the popping streets looking for something new he finally settled on going to Etniko for some wine and house beats. Because there is so much more to see, after one drink he headed to the Dubliner for beer. This of course is the Irish bar of Santiago and provides a large spread and good beverage selection. He met a few people there including a couple Australian girls that provided some tips on heading to Southern Asia – one of our next stops. The intent was to go back to Club La Feria since it seemed to be the only electronic music option in the area but it was still too early so he slipped into a reggaeton club and spent $8 cover for bad music. They must have their appeal because there was a lively young crowd but he didn’t understand it and ran out as soon as he could finish his beer.

Finally it was time to get into Club La Feria but the girl at the door told Raymie it was a private party and that he had to be on the list. Trying everything to get in, there was no luck even after walking around a bit more and returning asking if they knew where else to find electronic music. They said it was a private party and the only other option was in a dangerous part of town (Big Check Minus for this city). So back to the first place for cocktails and decent beats where Raymie got a chance to talk to the DJ’s (typical) before returning home to Bee.

Day 10 - Easter

Our first task for this beautiful Easter Sunday was to walk to the cathedral at the Plaza de Armas for Easter mass with the archbishop. It was quite an event as a group of protesters decided to make a spectacle of themselves during the completely full mass. It may have been planned as there were already cameras and police prepared to take the few people out as soon as they went to the front of the church and screamed whatever they were complaining about. This was a pretty high-profile situation with the Archbishop but the mass went on and no one was hurt.

Today was the day that we were changing hotels and of course it had to be a big ordeal. Chilean people are really not as efficient as they seem and do not follow through with what is expected. (The first room they put us in didn’t have an oven, then they forgot to call us when the next room was ready so we told them when we saw it was clean and empty. We also had payment issues between the two hotels but we took care of everything once we realized they had no clue what to do. etc.)

Once it finally was resolved we could carry on with our Easter celebration. We followed our typical tradition of Mimosas, a vast Easter dinner (salmon with blueberry cream sauce) and lots of wine. It was a perfect way to celebrate the new Catholic year.

Day 11

Aahhh, Mondays. Since we finished our blogging responsibilities we could finally get on to some of the other important tasks on our list. Today we proceeded to complete our resumes and begin restructuring Raymie’s website. It was a long and busy day and we were able to figure out our wine travels. A perfectly productive day.

Day 12

We continued trying to get all the important things done today – work, laundry, etc. and then headed out for the arduous task of Bee clothes shopping. It was supposed to be easier in Chile but the luck simply has not come our way just yet. Either the clothes were too form fitting not leaving anything to the imagination or they were made for shorter and “fuller” women.

However, after Derby for lunch (a halfway decent stop on the O’Higgins Street for a typical Chilean lunch at a very reasonable price) we did manage to find Bees some Roos in her size. Yippeeee! That calls for celebration so to the Joker for White Russians and nice bartenders. Since we wanted to get home sooner rather than later we decided it was in our best interest to just buy some cafe liquor to make White Russians at home. Genius!

Day 13

It was an unusually early wakeup this morning – 8 a.m. Wow! But we wanted to get down to the Ticket Facil office for Jamiroquoi tickets. We hopped the metro, which was packed for rush hour, down to Providencia. Not sure why these countries make it so difficult to buy tickets but the process absolutely requires that you go down to some random apartment building to pick up the tickets. And, if you buy them online, you have to pay a surcharge and still pick up the tickets in the same stupid little office. Anyways, we found the office, picked up our tickets, and its official, we are going to see a legend.

After our ticket experience, we took it upon ourselves to make the trip back an extended canvassing experience. It is a solid 5km from the ticket office through the tree lined boulevards back to the city’s centro. There is very little construction in the city and the sites, monuments, and parks are very well maintained which makes strolling through this city a very comfortable adventure.

Across from Cerro Santa Lucia is the less touristy tour trap with better priced artesenal market. This market has all the common souvenirs and gifts that you will find anywhere else in the city but without the overpriced attitude. After stopping at this market we cruised through Paris (one of the most common, and decently priced, department stores) and the centro commerciales before hurrying to see the fourth installation of “El Classico” in only 15 days. The scheduling of the Champions League just happened to match these two teams against each other as they competed to meet Manchester United in the championship match. Since we didn’t see any other place to enjoy the experience we scooted back to the California Bar for the Barcelona win over Real Madrid. This bar provides an enjoyable experience as we sat in all of their various ambiances (upstairs deck, outside patio, inside bar).

We hopped the Metro home and then made the biggest mistake of Santiago – Telepizza. We should have known but how bad could it be? There are so many locations and the pictures looked alright. Why would society keep this multiple branch conglomerate in business? This is the worst pizza in the world. It tasted like garbage and that’s where it ended up. We felt absolutely no condolences throwing this crap away. Avoid Telepizza. Even $8 for an X-large on Wednesdays is a total rip-off.

Day 14 – Chilean Wine Adventure in Santa Cruz

Look how good we are. Early to bed, early to rise, again. It is amazing how we get into modes where we don’t sleep past 9:30am when other times it is impossible to wake before 11am. Today we hopped the Metro to Estacion Central so as to ride the Metropolitan Tren to the wine valley of San Fernando. This valley is very poorly set up to encourage visitors and tourism. Previous to our trip we sought out how to explore the vineyards and the only thing we could find were overpriced tours that carry you from one winery to another at their schedule. Since we are not much into that format we figured we could just jump the train and explore by ourselves. We at least thought that we could find a tour or more information once we arrived into town but there was no such luck.

When the train let us off at the little rundown station we took a short 1 hour walk around San Fernando. Despite our canvas-type exploration around the main boulevards and Plaza de Armas we found nothing that indicated wine and therefore we went to the bus station and hopped on Buses Peñablanca pulling out to Santa Cruz ($2) for the 1 hour journey thru the Colchagua Valley.

Upon arriving in Santa Cruz, it was immediately evident by the city structure, hotels, tourist info and casino that it was being developed for tourism however as we walked about the Plaza de Armas and some ajoining roads we really didn’t see anything other than the Vinotecca and Pizza de la Piedra attached to the Hotel Santa Cruz. But, this certainly worked out for us. We had an amazing pizza and were able to try many of the local wines in this extravagantly decorated little spot. The bartender and waitress were extremely congenial and the wines were quite tasty. An “A #1” stop in Santa Cruz. The hotel and attached casino were nice to walk thru. A trick to the casino – if you enter from the street side you are definitely paying to get in, from the hotel side security was pretty lax.

Since the mission of our travel was to visit some vineyards, we inquired about possible tasting rooms that were walking distance from the town and it turns out there is only one - Laura Hartwig Bodega. The grounds of this bodega are beautiful featuring a polo field, a long line of cacti and vines. The experience inside was a bit odd however. Inside the tiniest tasting room attached to the largest building, one young girl with bad English stood there and stared at us as we tasted the wines. There was nowhere to escape so we kept the small talk flowing with her and her manager who was doing numbers on the adding machine across the counter. The wine was OK and there was no tour available (maybe during high season), and everyone was nice enough but it was weird. They could use a little help with “the experience”.

With only a little time before we needed to catch a bus back to the train station we were instructed that we had to visit the Museo de Colchagua. It was a bit pricey at $10 but totally worth it. This is definitely one of the nicest museums we have ever been in with beautifully, well explained displays ranging from history to religion to machinery to winemaking. The problem was that we only had 30 minutes to explore the museum and we needed at least 3 hours. High recommendation!

After a brisk walk back to the bus station we immediately hopped a Pullman bus returning to San Fernando for $1.60 and caught the last train by 7 minutes. Our travelling skills have definitely peaked and our timely skills have become completely Latin by showing up exactly on time when necessary. Naturally, we picked up a bottle of wine from Laura Hartwig for the train ride home, but the fact that we had a Chardonnay tells you how we felt about the wine as a whole. The Chardonnay had much more flavor than any of the red offerings. (For cups, Raymie stopped at a little market outside the station to ask for a mini-coke and a couple Styrofoam cups. Seeing that the older woman couldn’t help herself from ripping him off, he paid $1.20 for the 150ml of soda.) What a great 2 hour train ride back to Santiago with our wine in hand.

Day 15

We started the day being completely productive, working on jobs and contacts, etc. That is because tonight is the Jamiraquai concert at Movistar Arena. We were terribly excited to see this legend in action and of course did it right. We had pre-party drinks at the hotel because we knew there would not be a place to stop on the way (It just doesn’t work that way in this country.) before walking 3km through the city streets and adjoining parks. The Movistar is your typical bowl arena design and experience. It was a nice enough space for a concert, but as we expected alcohol was not allowed inside. The event organizers seemed to get around this law by putting small bars around the outside of the arena and charging $3 for 12oz beers. It was packed outside and a different concert experience. The show inside was wonderful as expected. Jamiraquai was guaranteed to put on an unforgettable experience. After the show we walked all the way home hoping to find something open for further diversion. We walked several km through the heart of the city without finding a single thing that looked entertaining. It’s just the kind of city it is. Fortunately, we had a flyer in our pocket for a club, Blondie, that we pulled out only a couple blocks from our hotel. The club is on the same street, O’Higgins, about two miles down from the RQ Central Suites. This club is banging fun. It has multiple levels and wonderful ambiances from the chill Smith’s room, to the electro gritty punk room, to the huge electro hall. The clientele was just as eclectic ranging from punky to suave, hardcore to femeninos. Definitely a must stop for future party goers.

Day 16 – Relaxing Saturday

After a couple days of constant excitement and engagement it was definitely time for a day off. Today we did nothing more than our typical relaxation routine of movies, cooking a fine dinner, and a quick workout. Ohh, how good it feels.

Day 17

Because this is the land of protests, most Sundays have streets closed off somewhere in the city and this day was no different. Today, the main street in front of our hotel, O’Higgins was closed for the 1st de Mayo. Several blocks were littered with protesters, signs, flyers and chanters. The mile long stretch of closed road was also lined with many carabineros complete with riot gear and armored tank looking vehicles. Almost all the police vehicles look like they were pulled out of a war. I personally think they need to retire these vehicles as they lead to a police state mentality that does not and should not exist in such a civilized country. It is a psychological snafu.

We walked O’Higgins all the way to the mall and bus station but there was absolutely nothing open on this beautiful Sunday afternoon so we hopped the Metro from the bus station to Bella Vista to have a couple hamburgers and drinks at Dublin. It was a good time to be there because there were only a couple people around and we got the opportunity to converse with the bartender. We invented a new drink called a Trebol Colada (shamrock colada) and even taped the making of the drink. Since it was a lazy Sunday, we watched some NBA playoffs and played it cool the rest of the evening.

Day 18

As with all of our past Mondays, we once again dedicated ourselves to getting work done. Not much to write about, but man are we demons in the kitchen!

Day 19

Another work milestone accomplished today. Raymie finished his website for now. It is professional enough to advertise, hooray! After a working day, we decided to do some canvassing in the southern area of the city but nothing too excited. Then it was time to go to Bee’s new favorite spot in the city, Cerro Santa Lucia. This hill in the middle of downtown is a lovely designed park with pathways throughout the terrain, old castles and monuments. The cerro has a great lookout of the city (when the smog allows) and there is even a Japanese garden (which needs a lot of work). We were also fortunate enough to see a bicyclist film being made and also saw a couple guys get busted for smoking wacky tobacy on the opened view path. The hill contains a Castillo on the back side and is well over a hundred years old as are most of the designed paths.

Our journey next took us to the Lastarria Barrio with Beverly Hills like streets, boutiques and opera themed restaurants and cafes. This is a well put together neighborhood for the more affluent. Beautiful parks, monuments, interesting shops and vinotecas lined these streets for which to peak your head in. We ended up stopping at Sur Patagónico for yummy yummy salmon and artesenal beers. The sidewalk cafes are very comfortable and have extremely high class gastronomy. They are pricey but don’t break the bank.

We finished the evening with some grocery shopping and a trip to our favorite “corner” bar for happy hour, The Joker. Oh, God bless the Joker.

Day 20

Ensuring ourselves that we covered every corner of the city, we made our way down to the Barrio Brazil. This barrio, along with many of the others just doesn’t fit into the common concept of a neighborhood because they are not self-sufficient. Whereas one might think of a typical neighborhood as having its self-contained needs such as grocery stores, markets, restaurants and pubs, the neighborhoods here simply seem to specialize in one thing requiring the residents to leave the area for all of their other needs. The Quinta Park is quite grand and lovely to walk through. When there, you lose sight that you are still in the city, which is pretty impressive. It also buttresses the Basilica which is a nice sight from the outside but not open to the public (at least it wasn’t when we were there). Outside the Basilica is a massive fiberglass, fake looking mountain alter thing that they apparently use for outdoors mass and to unimpress gawkers.

Our way back through the desolate streets of Brasil revealed nothing of interest (including a fun place to stop and rest) and therefore we ended up stopping for a refreshment at the first place we could find - Vivi Centro Mall for a f*** job beer out of a paper cup and straw – muy incognito! At this point we were back in Lastarria Barrio and stopped at Victorino bar for well-deserved beers. We had been walking for hours and were quite parched and ready to rest our legs. While sitting on the sidewalk relaxing in the sun, an older version of Raymie came up to us advertising his many books of poems and artwork. Naturally, we had to buy a $4 book from him as he wrote out a poem dedicated for Bee on the spot:

Flying over a dream
Flowers give you the true
Of your pure love
In the feeling of the sky
Life in your gently giving to us
Love of hope

Making our way back through the city we stopped at Ruta Tercera for Chinese food; to go? Nope! Only beers and egg rolls. Oddly, the main after-office spots appear to be these run down half Chinese decorated cafeterias darkened by stained walls and thick smoke. It is understandable, given the low prices, but it is so surprising that there are not more attractive after-office, happy hour offerings in the middle of the commerce district of such a large city. I suppose this is what the locals want, but wow.

Due to our lack of Chinese food to go, we stumbled upon a sushi-to-go place that was cheap and to our surprise it was quite OK.

Day 21 – Happy Cinco de Mayo

The earlier part of the day was spent working and planning very exciting future travels.

We collected a couple ideas to celebrate our favorite time to act Mexican, and it was time to put ideas into action. We hopped the quick Metro to Bella Vista to hit La Mordida for margaritas. This is a beautiful Mexican restaurant with authentic Margaritas once we asked them for an extra kick – they’re quite gracious. We intended to return to try the food but it simply wasn’t in the cards on this trip. It was our intentions to find the next spot celebrating the holiday in this heavily bar and restaurant district but we couldn’t find anything going on just yet. Chileans go out late so our choices were still quite limited at 8pm. We ended up seeing an art exhibit and sliding into the nearby Bar Mori for wonderful Belgium beer. They didn’t have a happy hour but they have a wonderful beer menu to make up for it. YUMMY!

Hunger was happening and we really couldn’t decide where to go since we had already visited the only real Mexican spot in the area. We ended up stopping at the oft-packed Galindo Bar for typical Chilean cuisine. I think it is always packed because of how typical this place is. Not a terribly exciting menu but very decent food, nice drinks and reasonable prices. We felt like locals.

Again it was still too early to go to the Cinco de Mayo party we found online so we stopped at Openbox for a sobering cup of strong coffee at Bella Vista Patio at $6 for two cortados doubles. Nobody knows how to do Cinco de Mayo like Americans and I can’t even get a damn chimichanga.

Finally it was time to make our way through the crooked streets of this beautiful barrio and up to Santaria for one of the only advertised Cinco parties. They had a good share of funny Mexican mustaches but the questionable music and the horrible margaritas made it a quicker stop than we had planned. People started to show up but it was full of tourists and we were getting out. Back to our favorite Santiagan club – La Feria where we couldn’t convince them we were on the list and ended up paying $8 entry with free MGD beer. Yuck! We definitely hit the zone in this place and danced the holiday away with great house music and fun people.

Day 22

Seis de Mayo is supposed to be a day of rest and recovery but we had some important things to do today – namely, hit the track. We recovered in the early afternoon with some fair grocery store sushi and off we went to the Club Hípico horse track. It was a beautiful series of buildings from the outside but the inside needed a good paint job. Perhaps they should charge more than $1 to enter the track. Several races went by and our luck was typically bad for the track but they were fun $1 bets and we had big beers to up our spirits. The best thing was that you couldn’t tell the jockeys from everyone else like in other countries. It was hilarious to see them tower over some of the typical Latinos in the crowd.

In about the 7th race on our way past the winner’s circle towards the exit, two young men were walking towards us with a large bottle of wine in their hands, obviously drinking it while walking towards the track. We made a gesture towards them and they laughed and immediately started pouring wine down our throats. This was our introduction to Jose and Max who we hung out with for several more hours at the track, placing bets, laughing, and drinking the god awful wine and coke mixture. “El vino en Chile es muy rico,” they explained to us before mixing it in a cup halfway full of Coca Cola. It was horribly disgusting but Raymie drank it with them anyways. They even had to go back to buy another couple of bottles. The two guys were professional futbol players in the third tier league in Chile and Max’s father was part owner of a couple of horses at the track. They were hilarious talking to each jockey as they rode past on their horses before the race, asking them how they felt today. Somehow between all of our dumb luck we actually won four races in a row. It was one of those wonderfully sloshy lucky moments. We are grateful for meeting such kind characters who tolerated our Spanish.

Ready for a quiet end to our evening we ended up hastily grabbing a frozen pizza in the grocery store (not realizing we were going to be charged $10) but we were in no state to argue. Just relax.

Day 23

It turns out that Siete de Mayo is this year’s honorary day of rest, relaxation and recovery. Besides a trip to the grocery store it was all chill.

Day 24

Lazy Sunday Afternoons! We made this Sunday your typical day off, complete with museum hunting and afternoon sports. We started off by visiting the Museo Historico Nacional at the Plaza de Armas, which has a nice account of the Chilean history thru religious and military artifacts amongst other items. It is interesting to view how some countries represent their military’s harsh and questionable pasts. Usually they are shown with dignity whether they deserve to be or not. At any rate, this is an attractive building with interesting exhibits and Raymie only got yelled at once for taking pictures.

There was a military band playing Sousa-like ballads in the plaza so we stopped to have a listen. They were much better than some of the previous country’s bands we had heard. There were many people enjoying the classical sounds on this fine Sunday afternoon.

The Bellas Artes museum was our next stop and definitely a worthwhile one. There were only about four main exhibits but they were outstanding and the old Parisian-style atrium building is an exhibit in itself. Each exhibit was quite different with some involving more senses like radio and telephone sounds and others featured small clips of movies. Sundays are free so there’s no excuse not to go.

After our museum hopping we picnicked in the park across the street from the museum by taking company with an old street dog. Steak and goat cheese sandwiches, carrots, apples and hidden white wine in the large plastic yogurt bottle. Yumm!

We later took a walk through Los Dominicanos Pueblito to gather some artwork we had seen two weeks prior which later took us to the California Bar for the "hope you don't like the Lakers" day. We got the opportunity to watch the finals game where Dallas Mavericks sweep (and the extremely poor loser Lakers) with Brad, a nice Texan in town for business. He is an airplane seat salesman so we told him we would rip up our seats on subsequent flights so he would receive more business. Friends have to help each other out, you know.

Day 25

This morning we had to wake early to make it to the Palacio La Moneda tour to see the primary government house. Bee had signed up to get on the tour weeks ago so not making it was not an option. We woke up with just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and run a few blocks down to the palace. Unbeknownst to us, however, the time turned back the previous night and we were an hour early. Not sure if everybody knew this, but the security officers certainly did and did a poor job explaining why we were not able to enter as of yet. This country has a time crisis anyways (as far as never knowing what time it is). So, after an hour of walking around the nearby streets and plazas we came back for the thirty minute tour. The building was not as amazing as one might expect but it was nice to see the various salas where dignitaries are met, presidential press conferences are held and many of the executive and congressional branches work. (The congressional branch is still officially in Valparaiso where it was stationed fifty years ago in an attempt to decentralize the government. This is an ongoing contentious issue in the country).

Da da da daaaaaa, Naptime!

We spent the afternoon searching for and securing presents that we needed to get back to the states. We did most of our shopping in Bella Vista including a stop at Fresia for Carlsberg big beers. The rest of the evening was chill as we enjoyed one of our last night’s cooking and relaxing in Santiago.

Day 26

We got up today to make sure we saw the changing of the guard that only happens every other day and this was our last chance. It was a massive pomp and circumstances that included multiple songs played by the fifty piece band, horses and soldiers marching and moving in unison. Since we had a little mishap recently, we stopped at a shop to get the screen on the iPhone fixed before taking all of our presents to the post office for the timely and expensive process of sending packages to the U.S. This is a very expensive endeavor to say the least and they had to log every item and its worth into the system for customs officials. What a headache.

Since we had yet to navigate the beautiful natural space of Cerro San Cristobal we hopped the Funicular from Providencia to the Jesus statue for only a couple dollars one way. We thought it was a Jesus statue but it turned out to be Mary overlooking the city. It was cold and windy and there was of course too much smog today to see the city or the mountains, but we still enjoyed our time and hiked a few miles across the chain of hills and down into the city. There are mountain bike paths, runners and Infantil Jardines where we played on the seesaw and climbed the trains. This is a beautiful public space that includes pools and restaurants only open in the summer.

After a few hours of hiking we finally found an exit back into the ritzier part of Providencia and stopped at De la Ostia for beers and calamari. This is a top notch Spanish tapa style restaurant that we would definitely frequent if we lived in the city. Very high recommendation! We started making our way back home but the weather turned terribly cold and windy and thus we had to stop at Charleston to warm up for a bit. This is a very complicated place to determine whether it was good or bad. It is a restaurant filled to the max with tables and chairs with a decent ambiance while playing (what maybe the most annoying) collage music. The table de carne was OK and the prices are decent (at least in happy hour Tuesday specials). Maybe someone else can decide if it deserves a recommendation.

Day 27 – The Departure

On our last day, we had to hit the last area of town we have not canvassed, La Vitacuna Barrio. This is a high flying business district with expensive outlets and beautiful restaurants. The Metro exit is El Golf and there we found the Louis Vitton and other designers shops, Starbucks, beautiful vinotecas and one of the most beautiful wine stores we have ever seen (oh, and an Applebees, woo hoo). We saw many beautiful stores and buildings as well as fountains and artwork but we still opted for our simple picnic lunch on a bench. It was a wonderful last day in town.

The trick to getting from downtown to the Santiago airport is the Centropuerto bus in front of Los Heroes metro station. It only costs $2.80 to get the airport compared to at least $20 if you were to take a taxi. It takes about 30 minutes to get there and we did it with 7 hours to spare. We knew we were plenty early but really didn’t have anywhere else we needed to go and therefore assumed we could sit at the airport bar and maybe get some online work done. What we didn’t expect is that there are no good options to relax at the airport and LAN wouldn’t let us check our luggage until three hours before boarding. No problem, we’re not going to let that get us down. We went across to the attached hotel and had a super party at the hotel motel Holiday Inn drinks and food, futbol and fun! Because everything past security was closed we stopped once more at La Pausa in the airport for Pisco and Yo soy! Funny television series. We boarded at 1:30am and off to Punta Arenas!

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