Experiencing Argentina and Chile
Second of 2 parts.
The short flight to Santiago on Lan Chile Air was much more comfortable than the one to Bariloche.
Through all these flights and transfers, Silvana, our host guide, was thoroughly attentive and professional in helping us to keep track of our luggage and to get to the right gate.
She also, very wisely, held on to our tickets and passports, distributing them only when in sight of our gate.
Despite all this, when Silvana gave us our last ticket as we got off the bus to enter the airport for our final flight from Santiago to Miami, one lady managed to lose her ticket between the bus and the check-in counter. What a mess that was!
We toured all the notable sights of Santiago on the journey from the airport to our hotel: Plaza de la Constitution, Avenida O’Higgins, la Alameda, Plaza de Armas, the historic main square and Parque Forestal.
Buenos Aires and Santiago, though different geographically, seem very similar with their somewhat gritty and very loud downtowns, many parks and very upscale outer areas.
We did not get deep enough into the culture to discern significant nationality differences between the Chileans and the Argentineans.
It does seem, however, that both cultures are now surging ahead with stable governments and confidence in a growing economy after living with instability and governmental thievery for decades.
The Intercontinental Hotel in Santiago was excellent, as was the Intercontinental in Buenos Aires. This had been another long day, departing from the hotel in Petrohue at 8:30 a.m. and finally settling in at our hotel in Santiago about 6:15 p.m.
Since “Pisco,” a strong, clear liquor similar to tequila, is the national drink of Chile, we were greeted with Pisco Sours at many of the venues.
Watch out if you are offered one. They contain two cups of powdered sugar and they’ll knock your socks off!
We had dinner on our own that evening with a couple from New Jersey. During dessert, the lady suffered a fainting spell and shortness of breath.
An ambulance was called, and it arrived quickly. It was well equipped for all types of emergencies. She turned out to be OK, but as a precaution, spent the night in the hospital. She and her husband both rated the medical care “A+,” and there was no problem with insurance.
The next day, Friday, March 26, we were off by bus to Valpariso and Vina del Mar. Valpariso is very commercial, and the waterfront area looks like Naples, Italy, did 30 years ago.
However, the highlight of this day was our boat tour of the Valpariso harbor. It gave us a great view of the entire area.
The hills above the city had a look similar to California and Nevada. Vina del Mar. Just a little further along the coast is a tony resort, where the waterfront is lined with high-rise apartment houses.
Again, Grand Circle did a great job of showing us everything. We even stopped on the way back to Santiago for a tour at the Via Monte Winery. More about wineries later.
By Saturday morning, I had finished all my novels, so Jo and I started out to find a bookstore carrying English-language novels and an English- language newspaper requested by our doctor.
It took a lot of walking and three cab rides. The bad news is that we never found one.
The good news is that none of the cabs cost over $2; we saw some beautiful areas of the city (Providencia and Las Condes), and we ended up in a modern shopping mall, which could have been in Orange County if not for the Spanish language and prices stated in pesos.
Later that afternoon, the group was taken on a shopping tour to a high quality area of shops with an eclectic range of merchandise, including antiques. I had considered taking a pass, but I found it very interesting and worthwhile.
That evening, we were taken to the top of San Cristobal Hill for a magnificent view of the city. It is vast. I compare it to looking out over Los Angeles from the hills of Pasadena. Then it was on to our farewell dinner, complete with Pisco Sours, at a fine restaurant on the hill.
Our last day, Sunday, we were taken on another winery tour. Though this may sound like overkill, it wasn’t. The Vinicola Cavas del Maipo winery (Cavas family winery in the Maipo Valley) turned out to be our most interesting winery tour ever.
It is a mom and pop operation. The family immigrated from Spain in 1950, worked and saved as a family, and bought the land in 1954 with $18,000 down.
We got to see the entire winemaking process, up close and personal. We saw not only the usual crushing and fermenting, but also the labeling and bottling.
Additionally, the vintner took us through the complete process of making champagne. Although I can’t say much for their red wines, the chardonnay was outstanding.
This tour was particularly refreshing because “modern” winery tours leave me feeling ho-hum – just computers running a lot of grape juice around in pipes and kettles.
The flight home that evening was uneventful. We felt LAN Chile Airline to be on a par with any other airline when traveling in coach. We agreed that this tour was right for us because the tour’s itinerary was varied, interesting and moved along at a brisk pace.
John Short is retired, loves traveling and lives in Lake Wildwood.
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