We knew the journey to Santiago would be our longest, but we didn't know it would be this long. We left Deborah's place at 4am (and since we were so unsuccessful at de-jetlagging ourselves, we just didn't go to sleep) and our Delta flight left LA at 7am for Mexico City. So we walk up to the Delta counter and say we're here to check in for our flight to Lima and the Delta attendant says, “We don't fly to Lima.” To which I replied, “Well, then why did you sell us a ticket to get there?” And that's how our journey began. And it didn't get much better until we checked in to the lovely Orly Hotel at 9am the next day. AeroMexico didn't want to give us our customs form (because “we were sleeping” said the Business class stewardess) and LAN changed our flight from Peru to Santiago without telling us. Somehow we got to Santiago at the right time, and when we were in Lima, we had no idea what was going on, it was the beginning of our Spanish immersion and we couldn't tell izquierda from derecha. Somehow we made it though. Unfortunately, the Orly couldn't have our room ready until noon and we had to wait it out for a few more hours. So we had to stay up for about 48 hours with a few hours of plane sleeping thrown in there and then we SLEPT for about 20 hours with an amazing Chilean tasty dinner thrown in there. We showed up at 11:30 thinking we might be too late for dinner (that was the time we woke up from our 48 hour nap... We were not accustomed to the Chilean accent so we simply asked the waiter for carne. He pointed to about 4 options, and we each picked one at random. Mine was a great brisket, but Laurie was the real winner. What arrived was an incredible cut of beef wrapped in bacon. I wish we knew what the name of it was because Laurie hasn't stopped raving about it since!
We had about a day or so until Valerie arrived so we took the time to walk to Cerro San Cristobal, which is the hill at the top of the city and we took a cable car to get up to the top with amazing views. On the way, we stopped at a sculpture park, which was very nice and the city had a lot of public art which was very cool. Once we got to the cable car, it was a nice ride since we got to see the city from above. At the top of the hill, there were some huge Madonna statues and an outdoor chapel. This is when I realized we are back in a Madonna con Bambino part of the world and the culture shock began to set in a bit. No more Pagodas, Wats, or quiet Asians. Now it was the passion of the South Americans with potential Football singing, chanting, and drumming around any corner! All good and well, just different and it would take a little getting used to. From the mountain, we took the funicular down to the BoHo neighborhood of Bella Vista. We sat and had a coke and watched the world walk by. Laurie was very proud because she had her first conversation completely in Spanish. It basically consisted of 1) Good afternoon 2) two cokes please 3) yes, pepsi is okay 4) How much is it 5) Thank you very much. Complicated stuff.
That evening, the first Gutmann arrived! When Valerie showed up, somehow we found what must be the only vegetarian restaurant in Santiago and had a great meal, despite it being carne-less, and we settled into our new routine of gorging ourselves on some of the tastiest food and vino that Chile and Argentina has to offer. Val and I both had a Mexican concoction while Laurie ordered (and thankfully shared) these cream cheese sticks covered in sesame seeds with a soy dipping sauce. It was a lovely meal with locally brewed beers. Cheryl and Ernie showed up a day later and thus began an amazing two weeks filled with lots of carne and lots more vino!
We had an enjoyable day wandering around Santiago, although we realized the more people, the more difficult to figure out plans that will please everyone. So after a walking for a bit and a small lunch at an Irish pub, Ernie and I took the long way home and enjoyed the walk to the hotel. Laurie, Cheryl, and Val decided that after a bottle of vino tinto, they wanted to wander some more. All I know is that they ended up in the fish market and got meowed at by the fish mongers and that Laurie and Cheryl tried to break into a church. Go figure.
First, we drove to Valparaiso, which is the hometown of Pablo Neruda, the famous South American poet, and had a nice day checking out the town. We were a bit disappointed since much of the town was closed, but it certainly held true to its bohemian legacy. The views of the harbor were just incredible. Then our tour guide took us over to Vina Del Mar for an amazing look at the Pacific Ocean. We had a descent seafood lunch while our tour guide proceeded to ask Valerie to be his girlfriend. She turned him down because he was married and had a girlfriend already. Laurie would not let me take marriage advice from him. We also had a moment to enjoy the beach and dip our toes in the frosty Pacific Ocean before driving back to Santiago to get ready for Argentina.