Arrived in Santiago today after a 14 hr flight from SFO. Many children on the flight from Miami. Later found out this was the last week of vacation ("holiday") for the children, as they start school first week in March. Flew right through the fees, immigration and customs at the SCL airport. $32 for a cab to Ah Hotel. Nothing fancy, very plain room, sparse furniture. A little kitchen. 5 th floor no elevator. Helpful staff speaks English. Wi-fi exists but only successful once in logging on, and even then very slow, so didn't bother. Walked around the corner and found a nice Peruvian restaurant. Janet had salmon, I had a rice and calamari dish. Both very good. salad had a hard to identify veggie in it, but I figured it out to be huge kernels of corn, thumb nail size. Walked around the shopping district earlier, many,many small shops selling everything.
2/29 Chilean Journey gave us a tour of Santiago today. Trip included shopping, government bldgs., drive thru wealthy areas, embassy, San Cristobal M,t 1000' high. In the afternoon went toa lapis store and lunch before the winery tour. Good prices on silver/lapis. Lunch at nice restaurant, La Vaquita Echa. Good food but way too much. Some special meat dish for two, meats on a mini BBQ in front of you at your table included filet, chicken (dry), pork chop, chorizo (rough texture, not spicy) and potatoes. Also tried a traditional corn pie, much like a tamale pie in a clay pot and a little sweeter masa. Tried the national drink pisco, wine n lemon drink that tastes like a rum drink. Off to the winery, Concha y Toro. Largest winery in Chile. English speaking tour. Bought 2 bottles. Returned back at the hotel at 6. Nap and went to eat at 8:30, an early dinner time for Chileans. Went down to an area of town that has quite a bit of food and bar places clustered together. Very popular destination. Again made the mistake of ordering the dish for two, a huge meat plate like lunch but much more meat! Took a cab back to the hotel as recommended by our tour guide. Safer. Back by 10:30.
3/1 Checked out of hotel at 9 am. Breakfast is simple at hotel, continental style but enough. Instant coffee, ok, but miss our Starbucks. We saw Starbucks about a half mile from here. Tour guide Picked up at 9am and left Santiago and headed NW to Vina del Mar/Valparaiso. Main road is toll to the coast, about 80 miles. Go thru a tunnel to get thru mountain ranges. One tunnel we avoided and took the old road to climb over the pass. Stopped at the Emilana winery, Chile's first organic wineries. Wines were young that we tasted. Dropped off luggage at Best Western Marina del Rey. Beautiful hotel. Had a suite. 10 minutes from ocean. We were shown Vina del Mar and the crowds all left last week so it was great time to go. Had lunch at Restaurant Siete Mores. Seafood stew great but again too much food! Janet had this huge piece of salmon. Had some time to walk the beach collect rocks. Stopped at the Michael Jackson rock, "it used to be dark but the seagulls have turned it white". Forgot the rocks on the tour guides car. Then we went to Valparaiso, a seaport on the West coast. Very old community, very busy, run down but there is a huge "redevelopment" going on with many boutique hotels, hostel, shops, art galleries, restaurants being remodeled and streets under repair. Valparaiso is a very hilly city, rode two gondola cars to climb hills. Was shocked to learn that throughout Chile all firefighters are volunteers! One paid person the rest just "show up" at the fire. Back to hotel around six. Internet worked with the hotels computers but couldn't get the iPhone to work.
3/2 Breakfast at hotel very good with good coffee. Walked down 5 blocks to the beach and the flower clock of Vina Del Mar. Got some rocks along beach, mostly granite and milky quartz. Extreme Northern end of city has a huge sand dune area, apartments very close to dunes! Walked by the Sheraton hotel. This hotel is right on the beach but is not close to any shops or dining so I wouldn't recommend. Wandered up some streets, kind of not knowing how far away we had drifted, and low n behold, came within one block of our hotel! Walked around a lot, city is very busy, say 10-2. Eat after 3 if you can. Went shopping at the supermarket, well stocked. Did pay a lot for sunscreen though. Ate empanadas. Hot today around 90 but the afternoon breeze is nice. Had pizza for dinner. Janet able to log in with her droid but I could not with the iPhone.
3-3 Walked down to the water and our ship has come in! We stored our luggage and moseyed around town. Going to be another warm one. Maybe 35C. Ate a lunch, then back to the hotel to call a cab and claim the luggage. Ten minute ride to cruise terminal.