We Such Contrasting Experiences In Santiago Chile
We had such contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile. Some experiences provide great discoveries about the food and culture in this South American city. And others were some of the less pleasant things that come with a big city. It was hard to know if the positive memories countered the less positive ones.
Our cruise to Antarctica with Silversea Cruises started and finished in Santiago. So in all, we had about 5 days to explore this city.
We enjoyed a great luxurious stay at the the Ritz-Carlton Santiago and enjoyed many of the special events offered by the hotel. But the excellent customer service that saved us when we were robbed in Santiago may be what we remember the most!
We had a lot of sights on our plan for our stay in Santiago. We saw several of the main tourist spots. But fires in the region destroyed the visibility. So many of the viewpoints we wanted to visit came off our list for this trip.
Santiago was the first spot we explored in South America on this trip. But not the last. We definitely took some reminders away with us.
Time In Santiago On Our Cruise To Antarctica
When we booked our Antarctica Cruise, we were interested to learn that we started and finished in Santiago. Silversea Cruises used this as a marshalling point for all guests before we flew to Puerto Williams in Chile and boarded the cruise ship. As usual, we chose to book our own flights. We had points and status with Air Canada. And we heard too many bad stories about all cruise ship company air travel arrangements.
It was always great when we booked long flights from Toronto as direct flights. We compared flight options and prices. We were happy that in February, Air Canada had one direct flight a day each way between Toronto and Santiago.
Our initial plan for Antarctica took us to Santiago with just one night stay. We worried about travel delays so added two additional days in Santiago to the front of our plans. We paid the change fee and a nominal cost for the difference in air fares. But we slept better with a little buffer in our travel plans.
After the cruise to Antarctica, we were flown back to Santiago. We enjoyed another full 2 days and nights. And then we headed for a stay in Buenos Aires for more South America adventures.
We explored before and after our cruise and found so such contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
Flying Into Santiago
We checked and re-checked the entry requirements for Chile as part of our planning for our Antarctica cruise. Our check-in with Air Canada took our Covid vaccination certificates. And we downloaded and completed the Chile agricultural SAG forms before we left home. When we visited Chile, that was all that was required to enter and travel around the country. Antarctica had no further requirements.
Our plane boarded at almost 11pm at night so we really wanted to try to sleep as early as possible. Since our Air Canada Business Class ticket included access to the outstanding Air Canada Signature Suite, we planned to arrive early and have a relaxing dinner at the sit-down restaurant in this lovely lounge.
With clear weather in Toronto, our airplane was on time and departed with only a quick stop for de-icing. Dinner was served quickly and then the lights were dimmed. While we slept fitfully, we managed to grab a few hours of rest. After a quick breakfast, it was almost time to land in Santiago. A pretty easy way to get all the way to South America.
We heard about long lines and slow processes at the Santiago airport. But we were pleasantly surprised. We were prepared to figure out where to get an Uber at the airport but decided to take the taxi offered as we exited security.
The taxi driver was disappointed when we told him we were good to check-in to the hotel as soon as we arrived. We were sure he hoped to sell us a tour for a few hours. But in no time we were deposited at our hotel and began our relaxing start in Santiago in Chile.
Our easy travel to Santiago was generally not one of the contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile
A Luxury Start At The Ritz-Carlton Santiago
Silversea Cruises used different hotels in Santiago for their hotel stays. For our cruise to Antarctica we were booked into the Mandarin Oriental Santiago. But when we added some extra days at the beginning of our trip, we booked rooms using our Marriott Bonvoy status at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago. We sure loved the pampering with our Ambassador Elite status. And on this visit we tried our first STARS experience provided by our new luxury travel agent Tully Luxury Travel.
We were expected at the hotel and our upgraded suite was ready when we arrived. A tasty amenity and a bottle of wine waited in our suite. We were delighted one day when a hand-made Ritz-Carlton lion was delivered!
After we unpacked and were ready for our stay, we headed out for lunch. We planned a late lunch so we could skip dinner and be ready for an early bedtime. While it was very hot in Santiago (about 35C or 95F), we chose a table on the outdoor patio at the Estro hotel restaurant. Camillo welcomed us and walked us through the menu choices. He made sure we got a great local lunch. And helped with breakfast choices the next day.
After a slow leisurely lunch we returned to our room. When we explored the hotel, we found a large rooftop pool with hot tub. With an outside patio space.
The excellent customer service at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago provided one of the contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile. We were glad we booked to stay at the only Ritz-Carlton hotel in South America.
A Pisco Sour Master Class
A knock at our suite door at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago brought an invitation to attend a private Pisco Sour Master Class. We tried a Pisco Sour on our first visit to Chile. But a private lesson sounded like the perfect way to learn more about this iconic local drink.
Lukas did an amazing job walking through the steps to make a classic Pisco Sour with a tasty sweet foam on top. He put 3 shots of Pisco to one each of simple syrup and lime juice. Powdered egg white was added to help form the sweet foam on top after a vigorous shaking. Of course we stopped Lukas several times with questions.
Our first drink was served in a traditional short clay cup. But for pictures, Lukas went back through the preparation process so we would video it. And the Pisco Sour was served in a more flattering champagne flute.
With our drinks in front of us we relaxed in the Lobby Bar and Lounge and listened to live music by Jueves. We do love when we get to experience special Ritz-Carlton experiences on our travels. A tasty way to begin our relaxing start in Santiago in Chile.
Learning More About Local Cuisine
We loved learning more about local food and drink. So when we were approached and asked if we wanted to enjoy a private chef’s dinner at the Estro restaurant, we were delighted to accept. We had no idea what to expect. But we knew we were in for a local treat.
Each course presented by Chef Gabriel and Jihad was served with 2 wines for a pairing. And throughout we tried some new liquors too.
Dinner started with an empanada filled with tender beef. To eat with the empanada we had chancho en piedra. This was like a salsa but much finer cut and with less spice for us spice wimps. We got a huge amusé bouche serving! Chile has over 4,000 miles of coast so we were not surprised at the great seafood we got. Our appetizer was three scallops with an avocado with garlic paste on crispy quinoa. Each scallop was topped with pickled papaya. Every unique part of this dish was tasty.
The main dish had a corn cake top (Pastel de Choclo). The corn on top was cooked with sugar to form the topping. Under the corn topping we found a tasty beef mix with small quail eggs. Served on the side was a Chilean salad (tomato with onion) that we were told to put into the middle of the corn cake. We nibbled at each part of this dish to taste each part separately and then marvelled at how well the flavours mixed. But we must admit that the huge size of this dish defeated us.
For dessert we got a specialty of Chef Gabriel’s. The Leche Navala (snowy mountain) was a massive soft meringue in a very sweet creamy sauce. It was so good and unique we know we will never try to match this anywhere else! But the garnish on this desert was dark chocolate flake. When David told Restaurant Manager Javier how much he liked chocolate, Javier returned with a signature Ritz-Carlton chocolate cake with a mountain of dark chocolate flake on the side. Both great ways to finish a perfect local meal.
We loved the great selection of dishes we had for dinner. The varied local flavours and foods gave us delightful contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
So Many Local Drink Experiences Too
We started our meal with a different version of a Pisco Sour than the one we had the first night. Fabian’s Pisco Sour del Campo replaced the simple syrup with honey and added ginger to open up the honey. This simple change brought a very different taste to the classic drink.
We also learned a bit more about Pisco. In Chile the Pisco is traditionally aged in oak barrels and had a yellow hue. Pisco in Peru was typically double distilled in stainless steel and was clear in colour. But we were also introduced to the Lapostolle Pisco XO that was aged in Cognac barrels and had a ruby tinge. We learned so much about Pisco on this trip.
With each course the local Chilean wines were selected to offer different pairing options. We started with two different Sauvignon Blancs with the starter. With the main course we tried two different red blends with totally different taste profiles. With the dessert we tried both a rosé sparkling wine and a Chardonnay that was perfect.
Not wishing to stop with the education about local drinks, Jihad introduced us to Ramazzotti. This was a hibiscus liquor. We tried it straight, with soda and then as a spritz. The spritz was much less bitter than a traditional Aperol spritz.
We ate, drank and chatted for almost 5 hours. Chef Gabriel, Jihad and Javier were patient with our hundreds of questions. We learned a lot about Chilean food and drink. This lovely Ritz-Carlton experience was a relaxing start in Santiago in Chile.
Hotel Stays With Contrasting Experiences In Santiago Chile
For our cruise to Antarctica, Silversea used the Mandarin Oriental as the hotel in Santiago. We moved from the Ritz-Carlton and checked into this larger hotel. After we did the Silversea pre-cruise check-in, we were free to relax. Unlike our stay at the the Ritz-Carlton, we waited for hours and only got our room after we checked several times.
The Mandarin Oriental Santiago was a large resort with a big centre outdoor pool area. While we waited for our room, we found a table outside at the Senso restaurant for a tasty late lunch.
After we were settled into our room we went for a short walk in the neighbourhood and saw a very different part of Santiago. But we continued to find the variety in the outdoor art.
Our breakfast the next morning was set conference style with the rest of the people that departed for Antarctica that day. And we gathered later in the same room to depart for the charter flight.
When we returned to Santiago after our cruise to Antarctica we had another short stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Our low expectations about the hotel on our return visit were proven correct. So we departed early when we got a guaranteed early check-in with our elite Marriott status back to the Ritz-Carlton Santiago.
Short one night hotel stays are never our favourite thing. Two short stays at the Mandarin Oriental Santiago sure gave us contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
Contrasting Experiences In Santiago Colourful Art
We found the area around the hotel to be very walkable. On our visits to Chile there was always colourful art everywhere. So it was not long before we found some great outdoor art. Statues of the walking man seemed to be everywhere. There was always something to look at as we wandered.
As we wandered we searched for good spots to stop for coffee. We even found a great spot with a view of the fun statues.
The colourful art in the streets gave us contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
We Wanted To Get A Panoramic View Of Santiago
As we landed in Chile we were surprised we had no view of the nearby Andes Mountains. There was a thick haze over the city. When we talked to the staff at the hotel they told us the haze was smoke from nearby fires.
When we originally planned our visit to Santiago we had many high points on our plan – the Sky Constanera Viewpoint, Cerro Santa Lucía and Parque Metropolitano (also known as Cerro San Cristóbal). Cerro Santa Lucía was actually the remnants of a 15 million year old volcano. A winding path went to the top. Parque Metropolitano was a vast urban park and the largest in Latin America. To get to the top we could take the bus, funicular or cable car. At the top the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción statue towered over the city.
We really wanted to start our visit with a panoramic view of Santiago and then wander to explore what we saw from above. A meandering path from the Ritz-Carlton Santiago gave us our first view of the building. We went to the waterway and found the Sky Constanera building. At 300 metres up, the Sky Constanera Viewpoint was the highest point in South America.
We entered the Constantera Mall and found the directions to Sky Constanera. A very honest ticket agent discouraged us from going up. She said that from above there was no view of the Andes or the city centre. The top was above the haze level and everything was hidden.
Occasionally we saw the Cerro Sanat Lucia through the haze in the distance. But it did not encourage us to visit.
We were sad we missed some great viewpoints on our visit. It reminded us of the sand dust we found in the air when we visited Dubai that eliminated most panoramic views.
The things we saw close up were lovely. But the haze gave us contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
A Shortened Visit To Tourist Spots In Plaza De Armas
We found so many great sights on our visits to Chile. So when we returned to Santiago after our Antarctica cruise we wanted to explore some of the local sights. We were there on a weekend and quickly learned that Uber service on the weekend was almost non-existent. After a discussion with the hotel concierge, he suggested we head into downtown on the nearby subway. He even loaned us his transit card to top up for our travels.
We were warned several times about street thieves on our stay in Santiago. So for this trip we left our large camera behind and travelled very light. As always on subway systems, we were careful in crowds and vigilant during our subway rides and transfers at one station. But we arrived safe and quickly at the station for Plaza De Armas.
There was much we wanted to see as we wandered in the area. The Santiago Metropolitan Church (Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Chile) dominated the square. This neoclassical cathedral with baroque features inside and out was free to visit but not open when we were there. The current church was built between 1748 and 1800. Previous versions were destroyed since the 1500s by earthquakes.
On one side of the square we saw the bright yellow Museo Historico Nacional. And the artistic Correos Chile. This was a historic central post office and national monument.
We meandered a little further from the main square and the crowds disappeared. We strolled slowly along the street and stopped to look at the National Congress and the Tribunales de Justica. In retrospect, these almost deserted streets should have worried us.
As we walked we went past the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino). This was a spot we wish we had more time to visit.
Heading Back To Plaza De Armas
When we headed back towards the main square we still had a few things we wanted to see. As we wandered we stopped to take pictures with our iPhones. But we were careful. Only one of us had our phone out at a time and the other kept watch. We just shook our head at people who held their phones way out with only two fingers holding onto the phone!
But even being experienced travellers and being extra careful, we figure we were targeted in the Plaza De Armas square.
As we headed towards the subway, we wandered along the pedestrian street. It was a little more crowded so we took extra care. A colourful building drew my attention. I backed up against a building so I could not be approached from behind. And I put my iPhone up on its lanyard and kept it close to my face for the picture.
Getting Robbed – The Ultimate Contrasting Experiences In Santiago
In the blink of an eye, a young man raced past me and grabbed my iPhone ripping it from my hands and the lanyard. Stunned I watched him race off. And then David sprung into action and started chase. David chased the thief for 4 blocks. As he ran along, helpful locals threw things at the thief to slow him down. They did not like the reputation for theft that their city was known for.
A policeman on a bike joined the chase and called for support. On the 4th block, the thief threw down my phone but was stopped by the police. And minutes later the police car showed up. Guided by locals I followed David’s path and caught up with him. In time for the police to escort us both to the local police station. The thief was taken in another car.
We did not speak much Spanish so I quickly got onto my Marriott Bonvoy chat app and notified the Ritz-Carlton Santiago in case I needed some help with translation during the police reporting process. I was surprised and delighted when Maria from the Ritz-Carlton Santiago came to the police station and helped us with several hours of painful process. This was certainly customer service above and beyond the call of duty.
All while we went through the painful reporting process, the thief was processed a few feet away from us. My high end iPhone pushed the theft over the “petty theft” line and was considered a more major crime. We later learned that the thief was kept in jail. And luckily we did not have to be present when the case went to trial. Our detailed statements and the police presence at the take down was enough.
On our first visit in Madrid we were robbed and I lost my iPhone, money and identification. Getting my phone back meant we lost nothing but our sense of security. This certainly created contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
Such Contrasting Experiences In Santiago Chile On Our Antarctica Adventure
It was great to plan time in Santiago in Chile when learned our cruise to Antarctica started and finished in Santiago. We always found so much to see and do on visits to Chile. This trip, we explored some of the city on two short visits. Some things were quite fascinating like learning how to make a proper Pisco Sour. But other things like being robbed were reminders about travelling in a big city. We sure got contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile.
We were still glad we added time in Santiago on this visit to South America. But we still have much to discover on a return visit. There were some great day trips we also missed on our first trip.
When we left Santiago we flew to Buenos Aires and spent 10 days in Argentina. We were excited to discover new gems.
We were a bit surprised by our contrasting experiences in Santiago Chile? Did you have highs and lows too?
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