Friday, January 17, 2014

Trip to Chile and Argentina, part 2 - Santiago

After a gorgeous few days in Chilean wine country, we dropped off the rental car (which proved to be a little challenging with the language barrier...but we made it work!) and checked into the Grand Hyatt Santiago.

At this point, I was getting a little tired of wearing the same clothes over and over...luckily I had packed a dress and pair of sandals in my carry on, so at least had something to change into...we put the concierge team on the hunt with the airline, and headed out to lunch.

The Grand Hyatt is not in the heart of everything, which was actually kinda nice.  It is located in residential district called Las Condas, and the area was beautiful, clean, and impeccably well maintained.  We found a great market/restaurant, Coquinaria, and sat down to enjoy a nice lunch and afternoon cocktail.

Back to the hotel, we enjoyed the gorgeous views from our room and the concierge lounge.  About 10 minutes after we got there, a knock at the door...and a very nice bellhop was standing on the other side with my suitcase!  I literally hugged him!  

I happily changed my clothes (so many options!  What to wear?!) and we headed out to find a beer bar that M had read about in a hipster area of town, called Cerveceria Nacional.  Certainly the only Americans in the place, the bartenders were pretty helpful as I tried to stumble through some questions in Spanish and learn about their beers.  We got to try a few different ones, and got dinner there before deciding to turn in for the night.  While a little out of the way, the place was fun and provided great people watching. 

Early the next morning, we were up and headed across town for a bike tour of the city.  We took the 'Local Life and Markets Morning' tour with La Bicicleta Verde.  A little small world story - our tour guide was from Charlotte and her sister went to Elon!  Gotta love it.  She was there for a semester finishing up a graduate program, and this was her job!  Very cool. 

The tour was fantastic.  Bikes are a great way to see more of the city than you would walking.  The tour starts out by exploring thbohemian Bellavista neighborhood, as well as the bustling Patronato neighborhood.  There were tons of restaurants and bars lining the streets, and workers cleaning up from a big crowd the night before and preparing for another day.  

Then we headed, with our bikes, into one of the busiest markets I have ever seen.  La Vega Central was absolutely packed with locals buying all kinds of items from fruit and veggies to all kinds of meats and spices.  I love going to markets when we travel, it's such a great way to learn about the local cuisine and culture. 

We locked our bikes up and had a chance to wander through the market a little.  One of my favorite things was the different aisles designated for different nationalities - there was a Cuban section, a Peruvian section, a Brazilian section, and so on.  

There were also rows of street food vendors.  We were able to try sopaipillas, deep-fried pumpkin dough, which they serve with a spicy tomato sauce.  They were delicious! 

Then we headed across the street to the fish market, Mercado Central.  It's housed under a wrought iron canopy that dates from the 1870s.  It was amazing to watch the men work, cleaning and preparing the fresh fish for customers. 

After the markets, we visited La Plaza de Armas, and then returned to the bike shop to end the tour.  I really highly recommend this tour if you're ever in Santiago.  They also have regular bike rentals if you want to attempt it on your own.  

One of the restaurants we had lunch at was called Liguria, which is a Santiago staple.  There are a couple of them around town.  The waiter was great, and helped me (again) stumble through menu questions and ordering, guiding us to get a few of their specialty items.

The rest of our time in Santiago we wandered the city and enjoyed the scenery.  We found some cool places to go have drinks that evening, and man was it packed!  The streets were bustling.  One of the places we found was Bocanariz, a wine bar featuring dozens of Chilean wines.  It was fun to see some of the familiar names from the prior days, as well as try a few new ones.  In the Lastarria neighborhood, it was surrounded by countless bars and restaurants, all full of people!

We absolutely loved Santiago and would love to go back.  The city was buzzing with people, was clean and beautiful, and full of energy. 

It was time to say adios to Chile and head across the Andes to Argentina - and to more wine!  Next stop, Mendoza.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Better late than never...trip to Chile and Argentina, part 1 - Santa Cruz

So 10 months later, I thought maybe I'd post some photos of our last trip to Chile and Argentina .... luckily pictures and memories don't go bad!  We were in both countries a total of 10 days - Santa Cruz and Santiago, Chile, then Mendoza and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I'm planning to do 4 posts, one for each part of the trip...

First up, Chilean wine country!

We were delayed coming out of DC to Miami, and had to literally sprint through the Miami airport to make our flight to Santiago...luckily we made it, and were greeted with a much needed glass of champagne!  

Overnight flight, landed in Santiago, rented a car and drove wine country, of course! 

Our first stop was Antiyal Winery in the Maipo Valley.  They are a small biodynamic winery off of a very long, poorly marked dirt road.  But it was worth it once we found them!

Antiyal means “sons of the sun” in the native Chilean language Mapuche.  They were the 'original' garage winery in Chile.   

Gorgeous views...trying to not be worried that my suitcase wasn't on our plane...that'll teach me to check a bag! 

Tasting followed by gorgeous lunch at Casa Silva in the Colchagua Valley, overlooking their beautiful polo fields.  We spent 3 days trying to say 'Colchagua' correctly - it's harder than it looks! 

Our hotel in Santa Cruz, Hotel Terra Vina, was great, and a beautiful setting - right in the middle of vineyards!  

We spent 2 nights in Santa Cruz, so had about 3 days of wine touring.  Driving around the area was easy with well marked streets and maps to help.  

Santa Cruz was a tiny little town, without much going on around it...but luckily there was a wonderful restaurant within walking distance, just through the vineyards!  We ate at Vino Bella both nights that we were in Santa Cruz...and I think most people who stay at the hotel do the same. 

Day 2, winery tour at Montes winery

We loved all of their wines - and the girl told us that we shouldn't buy them from her, wait and buy them here, at Costco!  Costco is their largest buyer, and their wines are cheaper here - so be on the lookout!

The facilities were incredible at so many of these wineries.  Huge, modern, beautiful buildings on gorgeous vineyards. 

Santa Cruz and Chilean wine country was one of the favorite parts of our trip - I highly recommend visiting the area if you're considering a trip to South America.  The wineries are gorgeous, very high class, and all have someone who speaks English.  Because of this, most of them do require a reservation, so keep this in mind.  

Lunch and tasting at Viu Manent

We headed back to the hotel, and after another short walk, ended up at Laura Hartwig winery for the last tasting of the day. 

We actually found a bottle of this wine on the list at Range in DC - we were very surprised and excited, and the sommelier was as surprised as we were when we told him we had been there.  Of course we had to get it - it's delicious, and was a steal at $27 in the restaurant!

Day 3, one more stop for a tour and tasting at Vina Perez Cruz on our way north to Santiago.

Their winery was incredible.  According to their website:  "The building was designed to harmonize the structure with nature.  The entire building was made of radiata pine, a renewable resource whose use does not harm the environment.  The arches imitate the branches of the trees on the site and allows the wind to pass through, evoking the sensation of wind in the trees."  It was really a sight to see...

Carmenere is Chile's signature red grape, and we fell in love with it.  Come to find out, it was originally a well known French grape that somehow disappeared there, and reappeared in Chile.  Most of the wineries we visited had it either blended with others or by itself - you can find it here in the states, so I definitely suggest checking a few out!  It is big and bold, similar to a Malbec or Syrah.

After a beautiful and warm few days in Chilean wine country, we were heading to Santiago to explore the city...and hopefully track down my suitcase...or at least go shopping!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The start of a new year

I am really having a hard time believing that it's 2014!  This year almost feels like a blur it went so quickly, with adjusting to a new job/industry, all of the travel, plus the house stuff, it just doesn't feel like a whole year has gone by...

We had a fantastic time last night ringing in 2014 with some good friends at a NYE wedding!  It was a beautiful party and a very fun way to celebrate both the happy couple and the new year.

In my attempt to be on the blog more, I went back and read some posts from last year, including my New Year's Resolutions post from 2013.  I was pretty ambitious, but looking back, I don't think I did so bad!  With the move, we did a reasonably good job cleaning out and getting rid of things that we don't use, and we're continuing to do so.  Try new things - definitely have done that!  Move more and eat healthier...I think this one's always something that we can work on.  I received a FitBit for Christmas and have enjoyed watching my daily step count for the last week.  I read a few new books this year on the many planes I was on, and have a few new ones I want to read this winter.  Cady still barks at the tv, but she's doing much better.

While browsing on Pinterest this morning, I came across this list.  I love it - it's simple, all inclusive, and doable.  These are simple things that I think will make your life better overall.

I have high hopes for 2014 - I have a great feeling that it's going to be another awesome year.  It'll be as awesome as you make it.  Take this start of the new year to refresh yourself and refocus on the things that are important to you.

Friends, I wish nothing but the best for all of you this new year.  I plan to live life to the fullest, spend time with those I love, and enjoy every day.  I hope you all do the same.

Happy New Year!