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
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.