The flight from Miami to Santiago began with heavy turbulence, not so heavy that it was frightening, but heavy enough to keep the flight attendants in their seats and delay dinner service. After four hours in the First Class lounge, it wasn't that we were hungry, but we did pay big bucks for those filets. The delay subtracted some precious sleep time and that was a shame. We already have five time zones to overcome. After an overnight flight you just feel lousy, no matter what you do, but sleep was feasible in Business Class, just not optimal.
Our suitcases arrived with us and it was so good to see the man just outside the airport with a sign with our names on it and to know that we would make it to the hotel hassle free. We have been very happy with Viator airport transfer service everywhere in the world we've used it. The driver came into the hotel with us to verify we were in the right place and they were expecting us. At 9am the room wasn't available, but it didn't take long before we were in bed snoring away.
We felt challenged when we went to use an ATM and get some pesos. Usually when we put in our debit card, the machine automatically gives directions in English. The bank guard tried to help us, but he didn't speak English either. Our first impression is that Chile will be more challenging when it comes to language. Shame on us for not speaking more Spanish.
Experience has told us that you have to get out of bed and do things, if you're ever going to make that time adjustment, so we headed to the 400 year old Central Market to meet a guide for a food tour. We were the only ones on the tour, so we had plenty of time to ask questions and linger at places that interested us. Santiago is an hour from the coast as is most of Chile and seafood is a popular meal choice. The market was a combination fresh fish market and seafood restaurant mecca. After sticking out like a sore thumb in Kenya, it was clear that we look like we fit in here. We were regularly approached by restauranteurs trying to lure us inside, fish salesmen and just plain friendly people.
We love food tours, not just because we love to eat. Food gives you a feel for the local culture, you just can't get any other way. The first comestible called mote, was a beverage sized glass filled halfway with wheat sprouts. They were topped off with half a peach was soaking in its own sweetened juice. The peach in its sweetened juice and some ice topped off the glass. It was strange, but edible and like nothing I have ever consumed.
We walked through a number of other food markets and the guide could tell whether the vendors were local or from Peru or Columbia. Chile also gets a lot of immigrants from Cuba and the population of Santiago has grown to eight million. The flower market was my favorite, although most of the flowers looked like they were being prepared for funerals. The next eating stop featured a huge plate of french fries, topped with shreds of finely sliced meat, fried onions, and a sunny side up egg. The guide ordered us wine to cut the fat of the dish. Works for me!
Then we had ice cream cones and it was hard to choose from the many flavors, so many unknown to us. The last stop was quite lah-di-dah. Wine is a major export here and we went to a sampling restaurant and had three flights of wine - one from a vineyard near the coast, one near here in central Chile, and one for the foothills of the Andes. Each was paired with a food product from that area. We enjoyed the white with abalone ceviche and the two reds with a piece of meat between two corn crackers on a stump of wood and a sweet berry marmalade covered with shredded cheese served on a rock. Frou frou food. All the wines available were listed in chalk on the wall. There must have been two hundred names.
The walking kept us awake, but by the time we returned to our room, we were glad that there was no need to search out a restaurant for dinner. And so to be for a fitful sleep.