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Santiago, Chile

Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral
Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral

Two weeks ago, the country wasn’t even at the top of my mind but one late-night binge on google flights and an Amex offer is all you need to make dreams a reality. I flew for the first time on Latam, read more about that here: My first time flying Latam

Day 1

I landed in Chile at roughly 5:30 am on a Saturday morning. I had a tour booked via Viator that was canceled so I now had a free day. I cleared immigration, then customs, and it was pretty easy. There is a form you need to fill out for customs but that’s pretty much it. I exited to a barrage of taxi offers, it felt like I said no 200 times. After politely saying no, they decided into scaring me into a ride by telling me Uber was illegal and that I’d have issues with them. I went with Uber anyways. My one taxi experience in Colombia pretty much did it for me with traveling and taxis. Now I take Uber or use hotel transportation. (Then there was that one time I hitchhiked in Costa Rica)

I made it to my hotel shortly after 7:00 am and proceeded to check-in. I went online and found a free walking tour via Urban Tours. I took an Uber to Plaza de Armes where the tour began. The plaza is the oldest part of Santiago and perhaps the center of the county. After spending some time here, we move to the courthouse, the stock exchange, the mint, the opera, and Santa Lucia and ended the tour in Lastarria.

Santa Lucia Hill
Santa Lucia Hill

The area resembles French streets with its bohemian style edged with many bars and restaurants. They also have art shops and a flea market. Still feeling the effects of my flight, I decided to have a chia tea at Guztarria. I had a great time and a good conversation with two ladies I met on tour, Carole and Deborah. (Also, thanks for the chai tea)

My next stop was to have a pisco at Chpe Libre. Pisco is a local alcohol indigenous to Peru and Chile. Although there are quarrels on where it originated, both countries have their versions and do it well. I had what’s called a Tiki Mapu. That’s the pisco, Araucanian liquor, orange juice, grapefruit juice, cinnamon, and ginger tonic. This was me warming up to the idea of having liquor which caught up to me a few hours later. Nonetheless, it was totally worth it.

Next, I had lunch at Bocanariz Vino bar. It’s rated as one of the top 10 places to eat in the city and it had rave reviews by others on the tour. The food was amazing and the staff was extra helpful. I had the lamb with mixed vegetables and lemonade with ginger and mint. Pretty soon, the pisco caught up to me and I needed a nap.

Fully recharged that night, I went to dinner at the hotel. I ate at Matsuri. It’s the hotel's Japanese and Peruvian fusion restaurant. I had three dishes and an appetizer.

The appetizer was edamame with local spices. My first course was Sashimi 9 Cuts. It was my first time trying sashimi as I always opt for sushi. It was a great first experience due to the freshness of the fish. I had cuts of tuna, salmon, and white fish.

The second dish was Lacro Andino, fried shrimp in a crustacean sauce over an Andean-based stew of potatoes and corn. The final dish was Gyoson. Japanese dumplings stuffed with duck confit served with hash browns and shiitake mushrooms. Considering I was in Chile, I opted for a glass of Carmenere, a Chilean red wine made by the Torres family south of Santiago and it was a fabulous choice. Too stuffed for dessert, I retreated to my room in preparation for a packed day 2.

Day 2

Old School Buses, Chile
Old School Buses, Chile

My second day started similar to the first, the tour guide canceled on me. Only this time, with no notification. I went downstairs as instructed at 6:30 am and waited. 7:00 am became 8:00 am and by then I’d had enough. I had no success reaching the tour company or Viator so I decided to do the next best thing, ask the hotel for a tour.

Unlike Viator, the hotel only does private tours at a price of $350. Understanding how insane that was, I retreated upstairs for a nap. Not to be defeated, I went to the hotel lobby for lunch. I had an Angus burger and fries, not typically something I would have while traveling but it served as comfort food to get me motivated to go out. I then caught an Uber to Cerro San Cristobal.

Cerro San Cristobal or San Cristobal Hill is a hill in northern Santiago. It’s 850m above sea level and has a statue of the Immaculate Conception, which is a sanctuary and a Catholic Church at the top. I went all the way up via cable car of funiculars as they are referred to locally. I took in the sights before heading down and stopping midway at the Japanese gardens. I would have liked to climb the hill but being pressed for time, I took the quickest option.

I then left the park to head to Parque Quinta Normal. Here I joined another Urban Tours walking tour led by Claudio. The twist was, I took the tour in Spanish, in an effort to learn it and immerse myself into speaking it fluently. If I didn’t understand, he translated. The first stop was the Museum honoring the human rights victims which shed light on the things that went on during the military dictatorship between 1973 and 1990. We then took our time going between the narrow streets of the Yungay and Brazil neighborhoods. The area has more of a local and hipster vibe to it but a great place to get good history.

My final stop for the night was the Sky Castanera. This is currently the largest building in Latin America and hosts uninterrupted 360-degree views of Santiago. It was great seeing the city lit up at night and seeing a different perspective of monuments I saw during the day.

That night I had dinner at my hotel. The Italian restaurant Senso was the choice as Matsuri was closed. I started off with hummus, then had a Mezzeluna in Salsa alla Puttanesca for the main course. The sight of oxtail drew me, however, it wasn’t my favorite dish. I ended the night by having desserts at the La Boutique Pastry in the lobby.

Day 3

Sanctuary on San Cristóbal Hill
Sanctuary on San Cristóbal Hill

This being my final day in Santiago I opted for a relaxed day. My tour to Cajun de Maipo had been canceled on me the night before. I had come to expect it at this point but there was no sense crying over spilt milk. At least this time I knew ahead of time and could prep for it. I looked into traveling to Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar by bus but the thought of traveling for six hours just to be there for two didn’t sit well with me. I opted to have a calm and meditative day at the hotel. I find the Mandarin Oriental to be a great hotel for wellness and retreats. I started early with a workout and followed it up with a detox treatment. A facial and a message would cap the day for me as I pretty much laid around reading the Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale while downing a bottle of Chilean Rose called Estalado Brut-Rose, made by the locally owned Torres Family.

I didn’t see everything I wanted to see but it put things into perspective for me. Life doesn’t always go as planned but I think by now I have the superpower of turning lemons into lemonade. Theirs also a quote by G.K Chesterton that says “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see,” and this time I was the traveler.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any parties mentioned. None of the entities mentioned has reviewed, approved, or endorsed the content listed in this post.


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