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.  

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