A November 2002 trip
to Santiago by Jarvey Jornada
Quote: A long Thanksgiving weekend trip to Chile features good food, great drinks, and other than the dreaded "reciprocity fee", a superb cheap getaway for two!
One caveat: when we were in, the hotel was only 20% full, so it took 10 minutes for a 16th floor room to get hot water in the shower! Other than that, the "superior" room we received was just that---- a nice executive-quality room with separate shower and baths in marble, a corner view toward the parque metropolitaine, and a nice morning breakfast room. The concierge was truly helpful. The neighborhood was good, and the metro was a 7-8 minute walk away.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 14, 2002
Ave Vitacura 2885
Las Condes, Santiago, Chile 7550024
By this, I mean that the end of the metro line is about a CLP 2,500 taxi ride away (About $4), and you'll be using the hotel's resident nonmetered cabs. At night, it's quite a ride back from downtown Santiago, many miles, but of course with the metered cabs, it's only about 5,500 CLP back ($8).
Our room had everything you expect of a nice hotel, but the bathroom wasn't especially large or luxurious.
The hotel has a nice gym and spa, and we had an hour massage each for about US 30$.
Breakfast was not included, so we ate elsewhere.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 14, 2002
Av Presidente Kennedy 5741
Santiago, Chile 6772208
+56 (2) 426-2000
Attraction | "The Bus to Vina del Mar"
The parks (there are several) are quite beautiful. The buildings and architecture range from horrible ugly (near the bus terminal, no surprise) to gorgeous (the casino, the old tudor/german architecture on the hills, etc.).
Go to the bus station at the Universidad de Santiago metro stop. There, several bus companies serve Vina frequently. For about $4 each way, you get a comfortable coach trip. We took Tur-bus' coaches, which left every 10-20 minutes, with reserved seats.
When you get to Vina, don't hesitate to haggle with the carriage drivers about 2 blocks toward the ocean, and get a 1 hour tour of the town. (We both went for $15). They'll stop for pictures, and explain the buildings in the best English they can muster, which is not too great. But they're trying. And they're nice as can be. It's a great way to see the place.
We stayed for about 5 hours, having a meal which was unmemorable but pretty good for the money. Then, we returned to the bus station, and were on our way back, after a 20 minute wait (the first two buses were full. Not a bad service, huh? 3 buses in 20 minutes?)
Arriving back at Santiago, GET OFF THE BUS WHERE EVERYBODY ELSE GETS OFF at the first Metro station, rather than return to the bus depot. This assures that you get a seat back to the center of things, rather than having to stand, especially if you're staying in Providencia, where we were (see Inter-Continental above). The metro ride is about 20 minutes. The time saved in Santiago traffic can be substantial.
Bus Ride to Vina del Mar
Two hours West of Santiago
Attraction | "Parque Metropolitaine"
Pedro de Valdivia Norte
+56 2 7776666
Left SFO at 10A, arrived at Santiago around 9am the next morning (5 hour difference in time), and got about 6hrs of sleep on the way. We hit the ground running, less $100 each for the increased "reciprocity fee", apparently the Chilean protest against USA visa fees for Chileans. Business class seating let us be the first to the window, so we didn't have to stand behind 230 other people arguing that their guidebook said $45, or that the consulate told them $61.
A taxi from the "official" taxi stand (just outside in the arrivals area) cost us US$20 to the InterContinental Hotel in Providencia, an upscale upslope section of the city. A great hotel.
Around the corner from the hotel is a superb silver dealer (no English spoken, but we got by fine with our 7th grade Spanish and some gesturing). The dealer sells upscale silver tea services, etc., and we got a set of eight dessert bowls reasonably. The store is Murillo, and it's a five minute walk toward the metro from the I-C.
Speaking of the metro, it's great. A simple route structure gets you all over town. A ten-ride-"multiviage" ticket is less than $5, and you can share the ticket by just passing it back to your travelling partner(s). It runs up and down the Alameda, (or officially, the Avenida de la Liberador Bernardo O'Higgins) and runs until 10:30. Now, given that this is a LATE city, why stop then? Beats me, but the taxis are sure reasonable, less than $5 to get back to the I-C after we'd played until 1 or so.
The city has just thousands of buses. It's just remarkable how much transit there is. We almost mastered the bus system too, in the 4 full days we spent exploring, but the metro was such a no brainer, and cabs were so cheap, that we only used the bus about 3 times.
Our first day saw a run through the Plaza de Armas,a worthwhile square surrounded by colonial buildings. It had a band playing at one end, the big Post Office, and the Mercado Centrale only a few blocks away. We porked out on conger eel and some good seafood paella at Donde Augusto, both of which set us back about $25 in total, our first meal in South America and actually our most expensive! Explored neighborhoods near the downtown core on foot for the day, and scoped out possible restaurant choices; "Les Assassins" at the end of Lastarria (along with a couple of tea houses) looked promising (we actually ate there our last meal: it WAS good. I ordered a beef filet in roquefort sauce, she got calamari).
Bought Lapis Lazuli gift on this same street (Lastarria), at a boutique at the other end, nearer the Alameda. Had highest quality we saw on the trip.
Pushed farther by walking up toward the Barrio Bellavista, which, at 4pm, was starting its street market for the evening. At the end of PioNono, after you cross the river, is the entrance to the zoo, and the funicular up into Parque Metropolitano. We ended up meeting some friends on the funicular. From there, it's a 7 minute tramway ride (the view is SUPERB, especially if it's clear) uptop, where we walked toward the wine bar/restaurant Enoteca.
Everyone tasted seven red wines, ate appetizers, and marvelled at the bill, which was dirt cheap. Well-oiled, we headed back to the tramway; Well, sort of. Actually, you can only go down in the direction of Providencia from here after 6:00, so another adventure, in a new direction
This neighborhood in Providencia is a beautiful residential part of town, and we enjoyed walking around the well-manicured homes and grounds. The metro must have been a half-mile up the road, but the walk was fine. The metro took us back to Baquedano, where the walk to Bellavista is about three blocks, for dinner.
A superb dinner for four, with pisco sours (national drink of Chile it seems; a white-grape brandy mixed with lime juice I think, and egg whites and sugar)or two for all, big steaks and superb garlic mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and wine, ran about $40. Can't remember the name, but it's one of the nicest-looking restaurants at the end of Pio Nono, and it's not the LAST one, but maybe the next-to-last good establishment. It's on the right, as you face the park. Dinner was again superb. I really was impressed by the high quality of the cooking everywhere we ate.
The famous Venetia, a couple blocks back and on the other side of Pio Nono, which has perhaps the nastiest restroom facilities we encountered in our quick survey, serves edible(retro) Italian food. I hadn't been served ravioli like that since 1962, I think. Not bad! I really can't recommend it if your dinner dates are few, but we craved Pasta!
We found a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant with great food, which four of us could share: Rincon Espanol, in an alleyway off Av. Rosal, where the helpful staff led us to the freshest fish and meats on the menu, and we enjoyed everything. Knowing a little Spanish helps: you're not going to get any English help. But again, they couldn't be kinder.
We explored the downtown area (lots to see and many shops to wander in and out of), and the Londres/Paris old town on the other side of the Alameda. (Our friends stayed there, at the Hotel Vegas for about $50/night. Rooms were simple but clean, roomy and relatively quiet given the location near a church, churchbells excluded).
Sunday, we made a pilgrimage to Vina del Mar, which is the seaside resort town about 90 minutes from Santiago by bus. There's several bus stations, and I understand you can get to Vina from any of them, but the most frequent buses are from the Station on the south side of the Alameda at the metro stop "Universidad de Santiago", which was convenient. $4 one way, and we were off. See my notes about it in that section.
Monday, we visited the "Los Graneros de Alba" marketplace, which is located in Las Condes, a suburb a little higher up the slope than Providencia. Take a cab there, as it's several miles beyond the end of the metro. It's a great little traditional crafts market.
Returning to the city proper, we climbed up the park at Cerro Santa Lucia, near the Santa Lucia metro station. A great castle up top, great views if it's clear (including the Andes, much as with the tramway), and a number of interesting architectual monuments. There's another big crafts market across the Alameda from the metro here; worth going to if you haven't got those last gifts.
The last day, we spent shopping in Providencia, exploring little shopping alleys, and then headed downtown to see the grand shops there. My wife wanted to look at expensive fabrics in a particular store she had been referred to; I went in search of a Chilean flag for my collection. We both found what we were looking for, but not without help by asking.
We were allowed to check out of the hotel at 8pm for our 11pm flight home.
In all, other than the $100 ripoff, I found Chile to be someplace I'd recommend to others, and will be going back if circumstances permit. I'd like to see Valparaiso, check out some wineries (our friends did this), and travel further from Santiago to explore more. I chalked the $100 up to a "$20/day ticket" which allowed me to ride cabs and public transportation everywhere I wanted to go for a pittance more, and helped to offset the fact that with the dollar so high, meals were bargain-priced. Typical restaurant entrees ran CLP 5-6,000. Add in $1 for pisco sours, or beer, or a bottle of wine for $8, you've got a meal at half what it would cost in a big US City.
And hey, the visa you get is good for the life of your passport. So my per-day ticket will get cheaper if I return, which I'm heartily considering doing.
See you there?
San Francisco, California