Santiago – Big City time
On Dec. 13th we left Valparaiso, retrieved our truck/camper from the campground where we had parked it and drove to Santiago and checked into CityExpress Airport Hotel since they had free parking.
The first thing we did was take Uber to Aeropost to set up an account. Dave had been told by Aeropost in an online chat that we had to go to this particular office on Ave. Nataniel Cox to set up a RUT account (similar to a US SSAN) since we couldn’t ship into Chile without that number. Once there we were told we could have used our passport number to open up an account. The mis-information that Dave received caused us over a +two week delay and that’s why we stayed as long as we did in Santiago and its environs.
After getting the Aeropost account set up, we took Uber to mechanic Mario Oyance Lubricentro mentioned in iOverlander to set up an appointment to get regularly scheduled oil change, tire rotations, inspection of tires and various other truck maintenance items.
When we returned at 7:30am on the 14th, Raul, the mechanic, efficiently got everything done by 9:45. He and Mario were friendly, courteous and inexpensive. Mario, the owner, even gave us a bottle of wine as a parting gift.
Since we were on a roll, we drove directly to Camper Travel (a small camper manufacturer) on the northern edge of Santiago’s suburbs and Rodrigo, the owner, and his staff had our kitchen water line unclogged in 30 minutes. (Finding the plant based on the gps coordinates we had took more time.)(And also took more time for me to move items out of cabinet and afterwards returning them into cabinet.)
On Dec. 15th we drove to the Airport’s long-term parking lot and left the truck/camper and took a taxi into Centro and checked into the Hotel Sommelier Boutique on Merced.
We tried to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour but once we found a stop, discovered we couldn’t actually take the tour since we hadn’t bought a ticket beforehand. (In all the other large cities we have visited on this trip, you could buy the tickets on the bus.)
On Sunday 16th we were successful in locating the Hop On Hop Off bus and a newspaper kiosk who sold us a ticket. We rode the circuit with one stop at Costanera Mall and the Sky Costanera Tower.
The Tower is the tallest building in Latin America with 62 floors. It ranks in the top 15 tallest buildings in the world. We took the $30 elevator ride! up but it was so smoggy that only glimpses of the Andes were visible.
The 17th was Chile’s Presidential election and though we visited the Plaza de Armas, the cathedral and palace and everything was closed because of the election.
Monday the 18th found us searching for and visiting a dentist.
But the highlight of the day was after looking up at the sky, because everyone else was, to see a sun halo. It was our first sighting of this natural phenomenon and although we have seen moon haloes, this was very impressive and stayed around for hours.
On the 19th we were able to get into the central Post Office to observe the architecture, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Centro Cultural Estaćion Mapoche (restored historic central train station) Museo Histórico Nacional where we were limited to only one floor due to maintenance and the Parroquia Milagroso Niño.
The 20th found us wandering around looking for a medical clinic, a pharmacy, visiting the Iglesia San Francisco and walking along the Alameda (Ave. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins.)
On the 21st we visited the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes, a restored 1910 Paris’ Petit Palais-style which now is home to traditional art pieces as well as modern visiting exhibitions.
We were fortunate to hook up with Pacifican friends Deb & Kevin who are vacationing in Chile in the afternoon for lunch and into the evening for catching up.
The Hotel Somelier moved us into a suite and at this point I must say the Hotel and this room was just about perfect. This Hotel is centrally-located site within walking distance to all sites in Centro, bountiful breakfast buffet (even if the same every day) quiet and spacious room, big and exactly needed firm bed, friendly staff, and great bathroom and shower.
Our first outing on the 22nd was to take the funicular up to the Cerro San Cristóbal but after walking to the station, discovered the funicular was closed for maintenance but Turibus was operating a bus up to the top. Once on top, the smog again prevented a clear view up to the Andes.
After returning down to the Centro via a bus, we walked over to Pablo Neruda’s house. There was a steep entrance fee so we didn’t visit the house but we did get to see the pavilion outside the house set on a hillside lined with approx. 15″ pavers set slightly apart to allow water to flow around, through and down the terraces.
We signed up for a Maipo Valley wine tour on the 23rd. And once again off to a poor start since 20-25 minutes late. It is operated by a Southern California man who has moved to Chile with his fiancé and has studied to be a sommelier in Chile. He drove and navigated and we were joined by a mother/son from Ohio.
We first visited Haras de Pirque, a secondary business after horse racing for the wealthy businessman owner. Consequently there is a recurring theme throughout winery including the building shaped like a horseshoe to the wines named for some of their horses. It was recently sold to a big Italian family well known for their wines.
Our second tour and tasting (and lunch) was at Concha y Toro – one of the largest wineries in Chile if not the biggest.
The 24th was quiet although we tried to see the new Star Wars movie in English. No luck with the movie.
The 25th was also quiet although we shared Christmas dinner with Deb and Kevin.
On the 26th we went back to Aeropost to see what was happening with our packages and was told maybe six more days. At least now, the packages are in Chile.
While in that area we visited the Palacio Cousiño – the former mansion for the Cousiño family – and had a English-speaking guide take us on a tour by ourselves since no one else was there. The mansion is gorgeous and the main floor and furnishings are original although the top floor was damaged in a fire and has been replaced by the Chilean government with lesser quality items and copies.
We tried for the movie again but the times just didn’t work out.
We decided to leave Santiago and go out to surrounding environs while waiting for Aeropost. For more on those locales, see next post.