Santiago Chile to Mendoza Argentina
Feb 5, 2017
|Sunday Jan 29th – Sunday Feb. 5, 2017
Well, last we spoke we were flying to Santiago Chile, from Lima Peru. And so we did, and not landing til 6:30 PM because of the 2-hour time change, and then getting to our hotel – in a new city – around 8 PM (dark).
We have been looked after by Condor Travel reps in all of our stops to date; and the service has been excellent. Why are we telling you this – to set the stage, of course.
We arrive at our hotel and the night manager is taking a very long time to find/process our reservation (should have been our first clue, seasoned travellers that we are). Our driver/guide leaves us. The hotel clerk indicates that there is a slight problem – our junior suite (that we reserved 9 months ago) is not available – they only have one room and we would have to wait until the next day when a suite would be ready. What choice do we have – we had to take the first floor ‘disabled’ room that you could barely swing a cat in. Well the good news was that it had a ‘comfort height’ toilet……. Next morning Mr. Thom goes out to speak with the front desk and comes back saying – Apparently we are at the wrong hotel. @^^**!!??**
Our guide who (we would like to have choked by then) had our itinerary, and who is also from and works in Santiago, took us to the Lastarria Boutique hotel instead of Cumbres Lastarria Hotel. Big difference – the manager then took us on our stroll as we walked, with our luggage & with smoke coming from our ears, the 3 blocks to our correct hotel. Checked in to a beautiful suite in a quite different quality hotel. Our suite came with a separate sitting area and a lovely balcony. It was available that early in the morning, of course since we didn’t sleep there the night before, lol….what a fiasco. Always trust your instincts……
Santiago was founded in 1541 on behalf of the King of Spain. It is the capital of the Republic of Chile and is the cultural, administrative and financial centre of the country. There was a military coup in 1973, overthrowing the government and establishing a Military regime that lasted until 1990, when a peaceful transition to democracy was made. Santiago is located in the Maipo Valley with the Andes to the East and other ranges surrounding it to the north, south and east – contributing to its pollution problems. The smoke from the large forest fires to the south of Santiago was also getting tapped in this ‘bowl’. The cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast flowing and very dirty (translate to garbage etc.) Mapocha River. Some parts of the city are dotted by lovely art deco and neoclassical structures and other areas are very dirty and filled with graffiti. The modern downtown business centre is clean, bustling, filled with high-rise office towers and is nicknamed – ‘Sanhattan’.
We did a ½ day city tour of Santiago. We climbed Santa Lucia Hill for a panoramic view of the city. In the Plaza de Armas we saw the Cathedral, National Historic Museum, and the Central Post Office etc. etc. but it was Monday and all museums are closed on Mondays – so go figure – we were striking out on all counts in Santiago.
Our second day, in Chile, we were on an all-day tour to the coast – to see Valparaiso, a port city founded in the 16th century. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site and reminded us of San Francisco, but with a number of funiculars and elevators to help us up the steep hills. Again, some nice areas with colourful cliff top homes, some seedy areas, and some fabulous graffiti art - everywhere. We toured the “La Sabastian Museum” the former home of the famous poet and Nobel Prize winner (Literature) Pablo Neruda. And then it was on to Vina del Mar, “the garden city”, and the country’s main beach resort town.
Next day is February 1 and we are catching a bus to cross the Andes to arrive in Mendoza, Argentina. The bus was comfortable, the views of the Andes remarkable – but the trip was a long 7 ½ hours. We spent 2 ½ hours in immigration and customs – bus waits in line for quite a while, then everyone gets off the bus, with their papers, to be interviewed by an immigration officer – then everyone back on the bus, wait a while longer, and then the bus enters the customs building – everyone off the bus again with carry-on bags to be searched. Meanwhile they are taking all the checked bags off to run through X-ray and re-loading. Finally we are on the road again. We found out later that we were lucky – sometime it takes 6 hours at immigration and customs because the bus and car lines are so long. I (Thom) will never complain of inefficiencies at Canadian Custom lines again….swear with my toes crossed.
We are met in Mendoza Argentina, by our guide (his name is Santiago- go figure) and taken to Club Tapiz y Casa Zolo. The property is in the middle of a vineyard; the grounds are lovely, and the staff superb – very helpful in booking wine tours, organizing transportation etc. And, they have a wine tasting, of their own wines, every evening at 8 PM. Nice time to meet the other guests and compare days spent at other vineyards. Last night we sat with guests from France, Netherlands, America and Swiss American…. Was fun discussing world issues? Nothing could Trump that.
Club Tapiz was by no means the deluxe property we expected – it is a little run down and needs some work - on the rooms especially. Regardless, we enjoyed ourselves and our daily sojourns into wine country. We visited multiple vineyards, Carinae, Achaval Ferrer, Norton, Trapiche and Zuccardi. We had a 6-course luncheon with wine pairings on two of the days – too much food, & wine – el stuff-o-ed. The food has been absolutely superb and the presentations wonderful. The wine has been overflowing and when combined with the pairings…..we had better sign up for weight watchers before we land back in Canada.
Today is Sunday and we are taking a break – it’s 4 Pm, we have not left the property today or had any wine - --- YET. Saving ourselves for the wine tasting tonight and Thom is going to get the Super Bowl on his computer, then off to Buenos Aires early tomorrow morning. Also saving ourselves for our Tuesday evening reservation at ‘Steaks by Luis’. This restaurant was recommended by Reggie, our good friend from Panama (via Toronto) who was born in Argentina and knows Buenos Aires well`. Then, there is our Tango lesson and dinner on Wednesday night……move over Fred Astaire…..
Only 7 full days left before we start the trip home to that white stuff called……snow…….and a little shift in the weather……
Til then, take care
Thom & Kari