The first day of our South American journey was a bit of a whirlwind. It started just before midnight which was an hour later than the scheduled departure time of our flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport. The 9 1/2 flight aboard the Air Canada Boeing 777 to Santiago, Chile was a bit choppy due to turbulence but the seats were quite comfortable, even in Economy class. We landed in the Chilean capital of Santiago just before noon on January 3.
Having passed through immigration and collecting our luggage, we hailed a cab to our hotel. The 1/2 hour cab ride to the NH Collection Plaza Hotel in the Las Condes area of downtown cost 27,000 Chilean Pesos ($45 CDN). The hotel’s location is in a great spot with a modern indoor mall just over a block away and dozens of restaurants and bars within walking distance.
We checked in at the hotel and after organizing our bags, we relaxed for an hour before a quick tour of the city. We purchased tickets for the Turistiko Bus (hop-on, hop-off) at the mall and boarded the bus just outside the hotel. Perched on the second floor of the double-decked bus, we toured through several districts along the Mapocho River, which flows from the Andes and divides the city in two.
The hop on hop off bus eventually took us to a second bus before arriving at the gates of the Metropolitan Park of San Cristobal Hill where we took the Teleferico de Santiago (cable car) to the top. A late afternoon haze hung over the Andes in the background but afforded great views of the city lying along the valley. The prominent Gran Torre Santiago, the 2nd largest skyscraper in Latin America, towers above the cityscape like a giant obelisk. Leisurely walking around the observation deck at the top of San Cristobal Hill and taking in the magnificent views while enjoying ice-cream seemed like the appropriate way to unwind after our long journey from home. After spending about an hour at the top, we took the cable car back down the mountain in order to make it to our 6:00pm restaurant reservation.
We looked for a cab at the entrance to Metropolitan Park where we had been dropped off, but to no avail. I ended up walking a couple of blocks away through the mostly residential area before I located one and then we drove back to the park to pick up Kim. As we navigated the busy streets towards the restaurant, our driver indicated that there were major protests happening at the Plaza Italia. The protests had been going on for a couple of months and were driven in response to increasing Santiago Metro fares. Plaza Italia, which we had to pass through to get to our restaurant, is centrally located and is a demarcation point between the affluent neighbourhoods to its’ East and impoverished neighbourhoods to its’ West. It is a gathering point for celebrations, festivities and, in this case, social protests.
Our driver told us it would be too dangerous to cross through the plaza to get to our restaurant and he needed to bypass it, suggesting we find a restaurant closer to our hotel. We agreed and as we passed by the Plaza, we could see hundreds of people shouting and carrying placards and banners in the Square. The traffic was backed up significantly as we inched along passing the Plaza on our right. At one intersection, a fist fight broke out between a couple of protesters who seemed to be part of the same group. We finally made our way around the chaos and arrived safely at our hotel.
After paying our fare and exiting the cab, we walked across the street to a casual Italian Restaurant with an outdoor patio. We enjoyed a delicious pizza and shared a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, while we chatted about our eventful day. Having been on a plane for nearly 10 hours prior to our arrival, we happily had an early night and sound sleep at the hotel, anticipating our 2nd day in South America.
Continue to Day 2 - click here
Exploring Egypt - Day 11
Our final days in Egypt were spent resting and relaxing by the Red Sea. After many busy days of touring the country our next 4 days were spent laying by the pool and enjoying the sun. The hotel that we stayed at was an all-inclusive property so all our meals and drinks were included which made it easy to make decisions each day and we could really just relax, sleep and read books.
The food at the hotel was a buffet setup. After a few days it does tend to become a little bit repetitious. One evening we did have a made to order dinner at the Italian restaurant which gave us a bit of a change. The service was very good and the food tasty so we were generally happy. One evening we also took an Uber to a small town about 30 minutes from Hurghada to have a change of pace. We enjoyed a stroll on the shoreside boardwalk and dinner on the patio. Everything was super fresh and it was a wonderful evening.
One day we planned a half day excursion with one of the companies that roams the resort offering activities. We chartered a private boat for a morning of snorkeling. The water in the Red Sea is crystal clear and has amazing shades of blue. We were taken for a ride, approximately 30 minutes out, to a reef where we were given snorkel gear. We popped into the water from the back of the boat with a guide. He slowly worked his way through the water showing us so many kinds of fish, coral, plant life and other sea creatures – it was amazing. Below is a video that shows our highlights from Hurghada but also includes footage from under the water while on the snorkeling trip. It is some of the best snorkeling we have ever done.
One day Denis also went golfing at a course in the area. In Egypt starting early is really necessary due to the heat. He enjoyed a morning of golf and had the course almost to himself. The scenery is pretty spectacular.
At the end of four days, it was unfortunately time to return home. Our adventure in Egypt was everything we hoped it would be – an education in history and culture, awe inspiring due to the incredible structures and a truly magical experience that should be something everyone enjoys. We know we will definitely be back.
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.