Santiago: Enter Crazy Parents

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Santiago!! Who was kidding who when they said this was a 3rd World country!?!?  This is a place that Canada can really learn something from, it was just awesome!  Among many attributes, they have this amazing metro and transport system that is clean, efficient, easy and cheap. 
Nik and I arrived one day before our parents were set to arrive and we managed to find an amazingly pimpy hotel downtown Santiago for next to nothing.  We spent the majority of our day collecting tourist information for when our parents arrived and then celebrated Valentine`s day in style at the local diner.  I thought the neon lighting made the setting extra romantic and Nik thought the French fries were done to perfection.  All in all, one might say it was an unforgettable evening.  Well, maybe not so much, but our days of cheap food were over as soon as that plane landed and my mom and Nik`s folks walked through those gates!
It was a great feeling to see our parents down here in Chile and even better that it all went so smoothly.  We went with our driver (yes, we`re now big time) to our apart-hotel which just happened to be next to the Sheraton Four-Seasons.  So once the Sheraton boys had pulled all our luggage out for us, we thanked them and walked to our cheaper accommodations across the street.  Our place was amazing! A beautiful hotel with full service (breakfast and cleaners) and a nice living room too.  We were also in a beautiful neighbourhood (Providencia) and right near to the metro - perfect! We strolled around that night and landed a nice place for dinner where we discovered the deliciousness of Pisco Sours (Pisco wine - like brandy, lemon, egg whites, and bitters) and how cheap good dining is down here. 
The next day we set out on a self-guided walking tour of Santiago beginning right from our hotel.  We passed through a sculpture garden and the prestigious neighbourhood of Bellavista en route to Cerro San Cristobal.  This hill gives us a view of the entire city at 880m above sea level (300m above Santiago) and a close of view of the 22m statue of the Virgin Mary at its summit.  This hill was pretty cool as well since we were able to take a gondola up one face, take in the views of the city and the Virgin, and then take this awesome fenicular down the other face of the hill.  Basically, it is just a very very steep train track that you scale down on a platform.  Very cool and very different. 
We continued our walking tour past some artisan markets and Pablo Neruda`s house.  We tried to enter this eccentric poet`s home, but the wait was near an hour so we felt our time was better spent elsewhere - likely an oversight in retrospect, but something for the next time we are through Santiago (ie/en route to Easter Island!!).  The artisan market`s we visited were very cool.  The products focus on lapis lazuli (a semi-precious blue stone primarily found in Chile and Afghanistan, thought to be an aphrodisiac with medicinal properties as well)  and copper (1/3 of Chile`s foreign trade).  We continued to Plaza del Armas which is the central square in Santiago, checked out the National Historic Museum, and headed towards Cerro de Santa Lucia which was basically the hill where Santiago was founded.  It was a really great day and we learned a lot about Santiago.  Grabbed the metro back and went to a rotating restaurant for dinner - special for Uwe! - just in time to catch a beautiful sunset. 
The next day we went to Valparaiso (`Paradise Valley`) which is only 120km from Santiago.  Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Chile`s most important ports today.  It is also where the National Congress is located, not in Santiago!  More striking is how all the houses are built up the side of the hill - apparently to protect against pirate raids back in the day.   Because of the hills, there are feniculars everywhere (steep elevators on rails to the top of hills).  We checked one out, saw the port in full swing, had an amazing seaside lunch, and then drove to Viņa del Mar (`Vineyard by the Sea`) that is famous for it`s floral clock that actually keeps accurate time.  This is where Nik`s dad finally got to dive into the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  And we all watched (it`s cold!!).  Uwe was easy to monitor as he was the only one over the age of 10 and completely white. 
After shopping around Santiago the next day, through local artisan markets and absolutely stunning shopping centers, we went to a fabulous dinner show at Los Buenos Muchachos.  This show featured typical Chilean dances from all it`s regions, including Easter Island (Polynesian).  The variety of live music and dance was absolutely fantastic, as was Nik`s dad`s improvisation on typical Chilean dance - It was very good!!  The food was amazing as well, as seems to be the norm down here. 
And that was it!! Santiago was over and done with before any of us knew it!!  We hopped a bus the next morning to head to Mendoza, Argentina and it was a beautiful passage through the Andes.  The road that snakes it`s way to the actual border crossing to Argentina (near Cerro Aconcagua) was a joy in itself -  it climbs to 2740m from near sea level on continuous switchbacks (probabally about 20).  Looking down on it, the road itself looks like a racetrack.  It was great!  The mountain views were stunning the entire ride and we arrived into beautiful Mendoza and another beautiful hotel ready to test our palates. 
Santiago was a really great place, I look forward to going back another day to explore more. 
Love, Us.xoxo
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