I’ve never been to South America before, and really didn’t know what to expect. People (and the Internet) insisted that folks in Santiago would have a good smattering of English, since it’s a cosmopolitan city and they’re teaching it now in as a second language in schools. I was hopeful for that, since my second language choice in high school was (foolishly) Latin. Which qualifies me to speak to nobody who is not conversing strongly in English.
The “sure they speak English” thing turned out to be the case… well… not so much! The longest conversation I had with anybody in the city was probably with a waiter who had recently emigrated from Belgium! Even in the most tourist-y areas, trying to ascertain from the waiter whether a beer was light or dark, or a food was spicy or not, turned out to be five-minute conversations, frequently with another waiter called in to help.
The city itself was nice… but really just a semi-modern city. But walking outside and seeing the Andes all around, not to mention a small drainage river from the mountains that ran through the middle of the city, pumped up the “exotic” factor. Well, that and all the foreign words. ?
The Sheraton Hotel we stayed at was really nice – surrounded by views of the mountains, and featuring a gorgeous pool and bar area. Here are some shots:
We shuttled back and forth every day for six days from the hotel to a convention center about 10-15 minutes away, and midway between, was a really cool area called Patio Bellavista. The place was filled with shops and restaurants and the zoo was located near there. I spent several evenings there, having dinner and doing a little writing, and bought all my souvenirs there as well. One night, I even had the opportunity to watch a local band play:
Over the course of several dinners in Patio Bellavista, my hotel and a couple places in the downtown area near my hotel, I sampled a number of Chilean beers. I must admit, I wasn’t blown away by any… but was interested to note the German influence on a couple of breweries (particularly Kuntsmann).
My favorite easy-drinking amber was Mestra, but I really liked the darker richness of Austral Yagan and the heavier, vanilla tinged flavor of Kross’s anniversary brew – 5. I brought home a couple bottles of Yagan home in my suitcase. Not sure what the “special occasion” will be to open them:
One of the best parts of the trip was a brief visit to the seaside town of Valparaiso, an arts-oriented community with a beautiful, hilly setting (it reminded me in places of San Francisco). I took as many pictures there in a couple hours as I did during the entire rest of the week in Santiago!
The Streets of Santiago
On the first day and the last day I was in Santiago, I walked through the city streets near the hotel, and shot some pictures of the riverway park area (where they have outdoor gym equipment!) as well as the city buildings and restaurants themselves.
Going home… with Pisco
I packed my Pisco (a Chilean liquor made from grapes) into my suitcase and had my last Pisco Sour at the airport… and then after an exceptionally long plane ride (with a stop in Miami) I was finally back to home sweet home.