Although this was originally writtenand posted inmy VIP Blog.....I thought I would post it here as well, just in case someone is looking specifically for information on Santiago, Chile.
On our way to Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), we decided to take abreak following the overnight flight and to spend a day and night in Santiago before heading further south and another three nights in Santiago before flying back to Miami. For years, we avoided Chile**, but decided it was time to go.
Using Marriott Reward points, we reserved a room at the Santiago Marriott (points are more fun to spend than money). On-line booking was a snap and our one bedroom corner suite (thanks to Platinum upgraded accommodations) which wasready when we arrived,also includedcourtesy breakfast in the VIPlounge on 23rd floor. We decided to enjoy a light breakfast while our luggage wasretrieved and placed in our suite. The VIP lounge was staffed with knowledgable and helpful personnel.
The Santiago Marriott is located in Las Condes, an upscale residential neighborhood with broad tree lined boulevards, offering a variety of fine and casual dining opportunities and a modern shopping center right next door, if needed. With 6.5+ million residents, the center city of Santiago is congested with vehicle traffic and suffers periodically from irritating eye and noseair pollution similar to LA smog at times..being removed from the inner city and catching a frequent breeze sweeping down from the Andes, makes Las Condes a better choice.
In the late afternoon, after a short nap, we walked several blocks to the Ritz-Carlton for a light lunch at the much touted Wine 365 http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Santiago/Dining/Wine365/Default.htm and for a chance to taste of some premium Chilean wines, including a 2003 Almaviva (95 points in Wine Spectator) Over 365 Chilean winesmay be ordered by the glass,affording the opportunity to enjoy a variety without buying a full bottle.
After tasting an03 Almaviva, we decided to schedule a private tasting at the winery on our return trip back through Santiago. The Almaviva Winery is a collaborative effort of the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild of Mouton Rothschild in France and Concha Y Toro (much along the lines of the collaboration with the late RobertMondavi which has produced the much heralded Opus One in NapaValley).
We will be posting more information in a wine blog later regarding our visit and tasting experience.
Santiago boasts a long and colorful history, since being founded in 1541 by the Spanish conqueror, Pedro de Valdivia. The center city buildings and neighborhoods are a mixture of Spanish Colonial architecture and various periods of European architecture. However, we found the Bellas Artes neighborhoods, filled with cafes, museums, great little book shops, and a variety of gourmet food shops both appealing and entertaining.
We decided to take a walking tour with a Liz Caskey, an American expatriate now living in Santiago, who operates a private guide service and write articles for magazines and newspapers http://www.lizcaskey.com/ Over a period of five or six hours, we talked and walked through neighborhood markets, buying fresh produce, local cheeses, purchased freshly made breads and stocked up on several flavor of extraordinary ice cream from one of her favorite shops. We returned to her spacious apartment overlooking the park and the Palacio Bellas Artes and assisted her in the preparation of a three course gourmet lunch (prepared from the products we had just purchased). While we waited for our Humitas(Chilean tamales) to warm up, we enjoyed a freshly prepared pisco sour, tasted small batch goat cheese snacks seasoned with Chilean merquen http://www.etnia.cl and helped in the kitchen as sous-chefs. Liz, who is also an accomplished sommelier (having written numerous articles for in-flight magazines and travel periodicals) , paired our meal, which began with a cold avocado and yogurt soup, with a fresh crisp Chilean sauvignon blanc. Lunch was delightful and the conversation, insights of living in Chile and general banter was even better.
If youre looking for nightlife, head for the Bellavista neighborhood dark (well, it doesnt get dark until around 10:00PM in January), great little restaurants of most ethnic persuasions are prevalent..and we suggest:
Jose V. Lastarria 297
Although a Peruvian restaurant, locals and expats alike consider Cocoa a great place to dine..as did we!
Pubs and clubs are loaded, sidewalks are clustered with outside dining and all of the small boutique shops are open for business. One concept we couldnt quite grasp is unique to Santiagoit is called "caf con piernas" http://archive.salon.com/travel/wlust/2000/05/05/piernas/print.html
Although we didnt visit one of the coffee shops, those we walked by seemed to be doing a bang up business.busier than our corner Starbucks back in the US.
If you happen to be in need of a private guide, consider contacting Hector Medina. He offers the garden variety of tours of Santiago, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and Casablanca Valley Wine Tours. More importantly, he is an independent operator with his own van (new and keptclean inside and out...always stocked with a cooler of bottled water), speaks exceptional English and communicates quickly via Internet. He is available to tailor his services to your specific needs and desires, rather than fixed routes on a tourbus or crowded van with other tourists.
We used his services for privateairport transfers, transportation to a couple of specific vineyards we wanted to visit and a driving and walking tour of Santiago of sights we specifically wanted to see. His motto is Flexibility and he means it.his rates are very competitive. Great value for money spent.
Very Personal & Private Tour Service.
56-09-8 9002248 (cellular-24 hrs)
Were looking forward to returning to Santiago in the near future..maybe well even stay at the Marriott again.especially if our points total continues to climb!
**Given the political climate of Chile from the early 70s until 1990, we shied away. During the dictatorial rule of General Augusto Pinochet, we had no interests in traveling to the country (although tourism was possible and even encouraged). History has recorded more than 3,200 people being executed or having disappeared, and scores of thousands more being detained and tortured or exiled during the Pinochet years.
Message Edited by omegaet on 09-26-2008 08:55 AM
Re: Santiago Chile
I would agree with the great review of Santiago. I visited Torres del Paine in southern Chile last year and stayed for a few days in Santiago prior to going south. I would also recommend staying Los Condes.We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Santiago (also usedfrequentflyer miles!) and had a lovely time.We booked a club room whichwas an excellent value. They providedbreakfast, an afternoon tea, as well as an evening cocktail---the food was excellent andwe were able to see a lovely sunset.Weused TransSantiago (their transportation system) most of the time; it was a little tricky to get to from Los Condes. On the trip back we arranged a private tourof one of the wine regions (the Casablanca Valley) as well as Vina del Mar. Iliked it every bit as much as my tour of Napa/Sonoma a few years back. One warning...if you are blond and blue-eyed, construction workersand men in Santiago will stare and whistle. It wasa bit disconcerting to stick out as much as I did!
Re: Santiago Chile
ngallag....where did you stay in Torres del Paine?
Re: Santiago Chile
In Torres del Paine, I stayed at the explora lodge--also called Hotel Salto Chico. It was beautiful and comfortable--the only thing I didn't like was my inability to change the room temperature. Probably the best vacation I've ever had.
Re: Santiago Chile
ngallag....we stayed at Explora as well......what a wonderful experience (no problems with room temperatures). The guides and staffmembers were exceptional and most accommodating to all of our needs and requests. The trip to Patagonia was one we checked off our "life list" of must dos!