Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pinoy in Chile - My travels to Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso and Maipo Valley

Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal skyline bwThe view from Cerro San Cristobal gives Santiago a spread out look but the city is surprisingly walkable. Thanks to its very good urban planning, there are under ground highways, subway trains, lots of green areas, and picturesque side walks. 

To me, Santiago is the epitome of the romantic old and the modern new.

Even though the distance from San Francisco to Manila or Sydney is technically farther, our flight going to Santiago felt like it was the longest flight we've been in. Four airports, all in all. The flight took us from SFO to LAX and then to LIM. And then finally, SCL.  

We got to Santiago early in the morning. Luckily, our hotel was able to check us in right away.  Being able to check in right away allowed us to have a good long relaxing hot shower and a nap especially after a long journey. Thank you, gracias por todo

 Eurotel Providencia!

After a quick rest, we started our Santiago site seeing at Plaza de Armas. This area is a feast to the eyes because it is a mix of old world architecture and modern skyscrapers. These first glimpses of Santiago instantly took all my stress away. I was thankful that Mijo and this small town Filipino got to Santiago safely. This moment also reminded me how blessed and lucky I am to have the priviledge of travel. I shouldn't take that for granted. 
As a bonus, this Filipino guy was all excited to get to use his broken Spanish once again.    
Santiago - Plaza de Armas old and new 

Plaza de Armas was a great starting point for us because it is close to a lot of landmarks like the Catedral Metropolitana, the Central Post Office, a couple of museums including the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino. A couple of pedestrian malls are also nearby. Plaza de Armas is also a stop on the very efficient and clean subway system.
Santiago - Plaza de Armas pano 

The seasons are reversed here in the Southern Hemisphere. Winter in the States means it is summer in South America. Chilean summer is hot during the day but it is dry heat and then the temperature cools off at night.
Santiago - Plaza de Armas plaque Santiago - Plaza de Armas statue Santiago - Scupture near Plaza de Armas

We found refuge from the heat inside the cool Catedral Metropolitana. The lavishly decorated interior reminded me of churches in Europe.
Santiago - Catedral de Santiago door Santiago - Catedral de Santiago saint Santiago - Catedral de Santiago  

Mercado Central is also nearby so we grabbed something to eat there. The place is still used as a wet market but as soon as we stepped further inside, we discovered a whole new world. Restaurants galore and seafood is king here. We looked around first and ended up having late lunch at a restaurant called Donde Augusto. I couldn't tell if locals eat here but our lunch was really good. The mercado has beautiful wrought iron columns giving it an old world charm.
Santiago - Mercado Central 
Santiago - Mercado Central flag Santiago - Mercado Central entrance 

Afterwards, we walked off our heavy lunch by strolling on the pedestrian mall on Ahumada to go to the Palacio de la Moneda. This street gave me a European vibe much like walking on Barcelona's La Rambla. Lots of restaurants, cafes, stores, pharmacies and kiosks selling newspapers. I always enjoy seeing locals in action whenever I travel and this place allowed me to check off that box. Whenever I interacted with a local, they first thought I was Chinese or Chino. Soy Filipino Americanizado. I get a surprised but happy look. I got asked a few times if Filipinos normally speak Spanish. Si. Algunas personas hablan Español pero la mayoridad hablan Ingles 
mas. I think this is still true more or less?
Santiago - Ahumada

Santiago - Ahumada kiosk

 We finally reached the Palacio de la Moneda but it was too late to go in and check out the courtyard of the palacio and palace's museum called Centro Cultural located under the building. 
Santiago - Palacio La Moneda
I just took photos of the front and back of this massive building. 
Santiago - Palacio La Moneda back   

Near the La Moneda subway station, I found this Rapa Nui statue in the middle of the park. Since we weren't going to Easter Island in this trip, seeing this statue was the closest thing to that.
Santiago - Rappanui statue

Since it was summer in South America, there was sunshine even at 7pm so Mijo and I decided to go for an evening stroll. We were staying at Providencia and we walked the length of Nueva Providencia and then back on Providencia. This gave us a feel of the barrio where our hotel is located. Lots of dining possibilities in this area.Santiago - Skyscrapers
 We found this cute little place that sells empanada called Doña Empanada. As they say in Spanish. Bueno, bonito, barato!
Santiago - Dona Empanada store

The next day, we had a full day's worth of sight seeing. One thing I noticed the next day was the climate. It was summer and the days get hot but the evenings and the mornings are cool. It reminds me so much of California weather.
Santiago - Vagabundo boutique

First, we went to check out the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistal building since it is just a few stops away on the subway. Gabriela Mistral was a Chilean Nobel Prize winner in Literature. The venue is a performance and arts center. The building has this rusty looks from afar and a feel of openness when viewed from the center inside the building.
Santiago - Centro Gabriela Mistral building 

Santiago - Centro Gabriela Mistral lobby Santiago - Centro Gabriela Mistral mural Santiago - Centro Gabriela Mistral stairs 

 Afterward, we walked on Lastarria through a very picturesque and quaint Barrio Lastarria. We passed by a small but a stunning church called Parroquia de la Vera Cruz. We would later have a delicious and relaxing lunch in the neighborhood at Mulato Restaurant at the Plaza Mulato.
Santiago - Parroquia de la Vera Cruz

Santiago - Barrio Lastarria 

Afterward, we made it to the Museo Nacional Bellas Artes. It was designed in the Beaux-arts style by Emile Jecquier. It is as beautiful on the outside as it is in the inside. Because of my basic Spanish skills, I couldn't understand why the tickets to go in that day were free. Aparently, Mijo didn't get it either and Spanish is his first language.
Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes

Look at this beauty! Natural light everywhere. There was an exhibition showcasing arts by the three more popular Mexican artists Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco.
Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes lobby 

Staring at the glass ceiling, I couldn't help but think of what happens during an earthquake. I am aware of the fact that Chile is part of the ring of fire. That region in the Pacific where volcanoes, shifting plates and earthquakes are part of every day life. I wanted to ask a museum staff what happened in the last big earthquake but I thought it might be inappropriate.
Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes arch Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes Orozco Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes Rivera Santiago - Museo Nacional Bellas Artes Siqueiros 

After a delicous lunch at Mulato Restaurant, we then walked on Merced toward Parque Forestal. 
Santiago - Mulato Restaurant door

From there, we reached Pio Nono and Barrio Bella Vista. We took a funicular to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal to see the Virgen del Cerro de San Cristobal and the church of Santuario de la Immaculada Concepción
Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal funicular

The area has a feel of quietness and peace eventhough it is in the middle of the city. 
Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal Virgen

Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal Santuario 
The view of the city from the Cerro is amazing. From this angle, the city reminds me of Los Angeles. The mountains surrounding the city make the area naturally stunning.
Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal skyline   

We went to check out one of Pablo Neruda's homes that has been transformed into a museum called La Chascona.  Pablo Neruda was another Noble Prize winner who was from Chile. The museum was named after the red and untamed hair of Matilde Urrutia, who was Neruda's secret love at the time.

The museum is just a couple of blocks from the funicular station at the end of Pio Nono. Too bad taking pictures inside the house is prohibited so I don't have a lot to show. There was a video room to give everyone a background on Pablo Neruda's life with extra focus on the La Chascona home.
Santiago - La Chascona front 
Santiago - La Chascona backyard Santiago - La Chascona video room 

We checked out Barrio Bella Vista and its seemingly endless supply of restaurants and cafes. Very cute neighborhood.
Santiago - Barrio Bella Vista

Since it was a Friday, the crowd was starting to get bigger in this part of town. Mijo and I were dressed up as tourists in polo shirts and shorts and we both felt like we were not dressed up for the occasion. We both decided to come back and have dinner here after we had gone back to the hotel to freshen up and had put on something more decent.
Santiago - Wall art near La Chascona Santiago - Wall art Bella Vista

Friday early evening scene around the Providencia neighborhood of the city. We didn't make it to Bella Vista because we were tired by the end of the day.
Santiago - Providencia

We had another full day's site seeing on our third day in Santiago.
We wanted to check out the changing of the guards at the Palacio de la Moneda but we couldn't make it on time. We did manage to get inside the walls of the Palacio. Enter on the Morandé side of the palacio. The guard by the gate will ask for a passport but we were not carrying ours around so we asked if our California drivers license were fine. He said fine.
Santiago - Palacio La Moneda door soldier 

We didn't get inside the building, we were just allowed to check out the garden and the courtyard.
Santiago - Palacio La Moneda arches
Afterward, we went to check out the Centro Cultural la Moneda which is located under the Palacio but you go in through a different gate. This museum was having an exhibition about the Samurai. I am not sure if that was the same exhibition that came to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco because they seem very similar. 
Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda 
Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda Botticelli Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda main hall Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda Samurai exhibit

The museum also has artifacts about Rapa Nui and I enjoyed that immensely. Maybe, someday I will go see Easter Island.
Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda Rapanui shell necklace Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda Rapanui writing 
Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda Rapanui Santiago - Centro Cultural de Moneda sala  

Another place that I enjoyed immensely was the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. This allowed me to learn about the native peoples that lived in Chile before the westerners arrived. 
Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino

This Inca cord was used to record the person's net worth or position. I've never seen anything like this. It is like a series of flags and switches. What a genius piece of artifact. I also learned that the ancient peoples had a different name for strawberry, potato, avocado and pineapple.
Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino inca cord 
Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino fruits of the land Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino jars Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino map Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino mapuche statues Santiago - Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino paracas mantle  

We went to the Costanera in the afternoon for a late lunch at the Costanera Mall's food court, a little window shopping and coffee at Bonafide. Afterward, we checked out Sky Costanera which is an observation deck on top of the Gran Torre. It provides 360 views of Santiago from 300 meters high. From up there, I was able to see even clearly how good the urban planners of this city truly are.
Santiago - Sky Costanera observation deck 

Santiago - Costanera Mall Santiago - Sky Costanera view 1 Santiago - Sky Costanera view 2 Santiago - Sky Costanera view 3 

Whatever little time we had in our last day in Santiago, we used it to check out Parque de las Esculturas. This park is really close to our hotel. I am amazed at this city's love for the arts that they have this park dotted with large sized scupltures. My favorites were Yantra-Mandala by Aura Castro and Semilla by Patricia Del Canto.
Santiago - Parque de las Osculturas Aura Castro Yantra Mandala 

Santiago - Parque de las Osculturas Cristian Salineros Semillas Santiago - Parque de las Osculturas Federico Assler Cojunto Escultorico Santiago - Parque de las Osculturas legs Santiago - Parque de las Osculturas Sandra Santander Pehuen  

Mijo and I also checked out the national stadium which is called Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos. It was built in 1938 and was one of the venues of the World Cup in 1960. 
Santiago - Estadio Nacional  Santiago - Estadio Nacional inside

 We got around the city using the clean and efficient subway. I have to mention Santiago's Metro art. I am sure if there are a lot more of them but these are the ones that I saw from the few metro stations I've been in. I am very impressed. I wonder if this enhances creativity among commuters?
Santiago - Metro art Santiago - Metro art 2 Santiago - Metro art 3 Santiago - Metro art 4 Santiago - Metro art 5 

On our fourth day in Chile, we left the city to see the coast. This day was a relaxing experience. Our first stop was Vi
ña Del Mar. This part of Chile is about 70 miles from Santiago going to the coast. It gets the morning summer fog that burns off in the afternoon much like the summers in San Francisco. The drive to the coast from Santiago was scenic and we passed by wineries and rows and rows of vineyards. The first thing I noticed is the long shoreline. Viña seems like a nice place for a relaxing vacation.

Here are views of the Clock Flower or Reloj de Flores, the beach and the shoreline in front of the Casino Viña del Mar.
Vina del Mar - Flower clock 

Vina del Mar - Beach Vina del Mar - Shore looking south Vina del Mar - Shore looking north 

After checking out the Museo Fonck, we decided to get something to eat at the Fellini restaurant. A couple of glasses of Pisco Sour sounded and tasted really good at the time.
Vina del Mar - Museo Fonck rappanui Vina del Mar - Museo Fonck rappanui back Vina del Mar - Carbenere and pisco sour Valparaiso - View of Vina del Mar  

After Viña del Mar, we went to check out Valparaiso. They are literally right next to each other. Valparaiso is industrial and urban and one cannot escape the densely built colorful hillsides. That and having the Mediterranean weather and being next to the water make it look like San Francisco.  No wonder it has a nickname "Little San Francisco". The fog finally burned off and the sunshine greeted us when we got to Plaza Sotomayor
Valparaiso - Sotomayor Square 
Valparaiso - Boats

If San Francisco has the cable cars, Valparaiso has the funiculars. The same concept. The cariage is lifted up and down using cable. We rode the one near Cerro Concepcion.
  Valparaiso - Funicular

Valparaiso - Funiculars moving up and down Valparaiso - Funicular view from below

One thing that sets Valparaiso apart from the other cities are its graffiti on the walls of the houses. Lots of them everywhere you go. Some of them, however, are artsy and creative. 

Here is one of my favorites.
Valparaiso - Street art graffiti
Valparaiso - Streets Valparaiso - Street map on wall  Valparaiso - Street arts Valparaiso - Street art Valparaiso - Street art green  Valparaiso - Musician Valparaiso - Mural on La Sebastiana Valparaiso - Graffiti or art   


The next day, we went to Viña Undurraga to check out the wine tasting scene in one of Chile's premier wineries in the Maipo Valley. We were specifically interested in tasting their single varietal Carménère wines. Most of the 
Carménère wines are produced in Chile.
Vina Undurraga - Building  

First, our winery tour started from the front of the building and then to the winery's beautiful garden. The facilities have a Spanish colonial architecture which reminds me of the style of California Mission churches.
Vina Undurraga - Winery carriages 

A few steps away from the garden is one of their vineyards. From their vineyard, vines as far as the eye can see. 
Vina Undurraga - Maipo Valley 

Here is a bunch of Carménère grapes.
Vina Undurraga - Carmenere grape

We also checked out their caves. The whiff of the smell of grape which is present in most wineries greeted me as soon as we stepped inside the caves.
Vina Undurraga - Cave tour

All the wines we tasted were outstanding. We first sampled their 2015 Reserva Aliwen Arbol Sagrada Sauvignon Blanc. And then we sampled their 2014 Gran Riserva Sibaris Cabernet Sauvignon. The next one was the one I was waiting for, their 2013 Founders Collection Carménère. Lastly, we sample  their 2014 Late Harvest Reserva Especial.
Vina Undurraga - Wine tasting pour 

We can only bring a bottle each back to the States. Both Mijo and I chose their Carménère. Wine tasting in Chile gave me another perspective about this country. Wine tasting makes my trip extra especial.
Vina Undurraga - Founders Collection 2013 Carmenere  

No trip of mine is complete without good food. We were fortunate to have eaten at good restaurants while we were in Chile. Here are the delicious Chilean food Mijo and I ate during our trip there.
This was at the Mercado Central. I think this is called Pulpo ala Bordalesa. I ordered rice on the side but our waiter insisted they mix the rice with the dish and voila. At least, that was how I understood it.
Santiago - Mercado Central mix 

This was at the Del Cocinero Bistro in Providencia paired with a local Cabernet Sauvignon. The food and the service are the best!
Santiago - Del Cocinero Bistro 

Here is a very delicious empanada from Doña Empanada also in Providencia. The best empanada in town?
Santiago - Dona Empanada 

We also tried this coffee truck called Cafe Quittral one afternoon. He makes good coffee!
Santiago - Coffee cart Cafe Quitral

Here is what a breakfast looks like at Eurotel Providencia. It was delicious as well as it saved us time in the morning.
Santiago - Euro Hotel breakfast

If you want a good empanada and you want it quickly, get it from Paradiso.  This pastry chain company is all over town.
Santiago - Paradiso

I had good coffee at this place called Bonafide. This is also a chain and they are all over town. 
Santiago - Bonafide

At Mulato Restaurant in Barrio Lastarria, Mijo and I tried a Pisco based cocktail paired with a very tasty empanadas.
Santiago - Mulato Restaurant

I enjoyed every bits of my stay in Chile. What made it easier were the friendly locals, delicious food, unforgetable wines, and well planned infrastructure that are tourist friendly. 

Muchas gracias por todo, Chile! 
Hasta luego!


PS. The postcards I sent myself just arrived in the mail today. And I am currently enjoying the music CDs by Ana Tijoux, Lucybell and Como Asesinar a Felipes I bought in Santiago as souvenirs.
Santiago - Postage marks Santiago - Post cards Santiago - Music cd

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