Santiago. With some Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, too.
(Gallery of pisco… err, pics here.)
Rio is Rio. Buenos Aires is referred to as the Paris of South America. I’ve seen Santiago, Chile, referred to as the Tokyo of South America. Ok. But, still, that long, skinny country has always seemed a magical place to me, from the Andes to the Atacama down to Patagonia, and the end of the world at Tierra Del Fuego.
With a couple days still open on Katie’s summer break and Chile dropping reciprocity, we booked a 5 day trip to Santiago with the intention of exploring the country’s capital and the nearby coastal cities of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.
We arrived in Santiago bright and early, after a spectacular view of the Andes around sunrise form our plane. Would pretty much be the last we saw of them.
We stayed in the Providencia neighborhood, a cool part of town right near the big hill, Cerro San Cristobal. Quiet street, but, as with Buenos Aires, our airBNB host was brilliant, and we had easy access to lots of restaurants and the metro for easy getting around.
Our first day we walked through the city to check out Barrio Bellavista, known for its cool vibe, street art, and (more) restaurants. Had a cool look around, checked out the sites, and enjoyed a swell meal and some local beer, Cerveza Austral. Enjoyed more of the city hiking home before a power nap, then off to the highly recommended restaurant Liguria, where I enjoyed an utterly fantastic Pollo al Pil Pil.
Day Two saw us head over and hike up Cerro San Cristobal. Along with an endless stream of Chilean walkers, joggers, and cyclists we ascended the hill up to the 70’ statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks the city. Was a couple hour hike and the temps rose to about 90F/34C… Took the funicular down to the Bellavista entrance before a well-earned lunch.
Later in the day we metro’d into the city, hiked up another hill and checked out the fortress on top of the Cerro Santa Lucia, later enjoyed the sites along the main drag, and took in a Charlie Chaplin act at the Plaza de Armas.
On Sunday we took a tour of Concha y Toro vineyards, famous for Casillero Del Diablo. We booked up for a special cheese pairing after the tour. Was a wise choice. We enjoyed a beautiful day checking out the grapes – they had “show plots” set up for all the various types to sample – but the terroir of the region, and everything you see in the background are Cab Sauv.
After touring the grounds we returned and got down to business, touring the facility where the barrels are housed as the wine ages, the cellar, which legend has it is protected by the Devil himself, and finally sampling some great wines.
But our tour was even better, as the private tasting, which was just our host, Katie and I, and a young Brazilian couple got to sample five more glasses, of various wines, including their Marques de Casa line. Camembert with Carmenere was the best all round pairing.
Come Monday we had booked a bus/group tour to nearby Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. VdM is a bit of a resort city/town, whereas Valpo is full of colorful slums built on hillsides and more of an artsy community. VdM is also home to Everton de Viña del Mar, sister club to Everton, my favorite football team.
Saw some land marks – the Flower Clock, casino, ate a swell fish lunch with a brilliant Pisco sour, explored some of Valpo’s streets, took a funicular ride, and finally toured the harbor on a short boat tour, complete with Sea Lions entertaining us. An enjoyable day capped off with some local beers – Tubinger – at a nearby bar.
The Tokyo of South America might be a busy busy finance city, but was also a charming place with lots of good eats, good drinks, and friendly people.