Thursday, July 24, 2014

Santiago 2014

Leading up to this trip, I was more excited about planning for an upcoming trip to Colorado than this, but once the time came, it was time to look for adventure!  While waiting in the airport, I tried to look up as many things to do as I could, and I downloaded some tourist apps.  I like to use the Frommer's Day-by-Day guidebook series whenever they're available, but Santiago didn't have one.  That series is awesome, with advice from someone local, who's in-the-know, who has good tastes.  Even without the guidebook, though, I was able to stitch together a great week, combining info from google searches, trip advisor, and apps. 

Even flying in, you could tell it was going to be special.  There are mountains all around the airport.


After arriving on Sunday morning, I enjoyed a breakfast from the 17th floor of the hotel, with a great view.


After breakfast, I suited up for a run.  On a tourist map, it looked like you could get to the entrance to the path that led up the hill in the middle of the city.  I followed the sparse trail of other runners and bikers, and was excited to find the park.  It was a pretty steep hill, but there were tons of people running, biking, and walking up and down it.  Halfway up the switchbacks, there was an area where they were having a free, public fitness festival.  I did some martial arts-style class, then a zumba class.  It was fun.  There was a diverse group of people there, and the moves were kinda funny to see guys and older men do.  It felt like a party, with everyone just enjoying the great, cool weather and moving around without caring how crazy we might've looked (I was quite un-coordinated, but others seemed to know all the moves).


Further up the hill, there was a great view of the area where my hotel had been.  The tall building is the tallest one in Latin America, and it rises above the largest mall in Latin America.


At the top, there was a statue of a Saint.


The run took about 49:34, and was an estimated 5+ miles.

I raced back down, because I wanted to be at a bar in time for the World Cup Finals!  I found a place through a website - the Black Rock Pub, which is run by an Aussie, with a German chef.  I had watched the tail-end of the first game in Argentina, and I was watching the last game in Chile.  It's always fun to watch games with others, especially soccer, with Latin Americans.

When I got back, I did 40 min of a recumbent bike, with a running magazine.  The gym in the hotel smelled like burnt rubber, so I wondered if I was doing more harm to my body than good.  I did some arms afterwards.  

Monday-Friday, worked.  Ate ostrich one night, at a specialty restaurant.  Tried Camenere, the wine of Chile, and Pisco, an alcohol made of fermented grapes (which isn't at all like wine like I had thought).  Santiago is a super-modern city, which I had no idea about.  It's nice, and all of my colleagues, who have been all over LA, say that Santiago was their favorite.  There are mountains all around.

I went to a restaurant on the 18th story one night, with a rotating floor that gives you 360 views of the city.  I probably went 180 degrees in around the 45 min that I was there.  The food and service were "eh", though.

Saturday, I decided to sign up for skiing, through a tour arranged by the hotel.  I chose Valle Nevado, which is the highest up.  I've been skiing maybe 5 days in my life.  I watched you-tube videos for intermediate lessons.  In the past, I had always used the snowplow method to stop, as well as control my speed while going down, which is super-taxing on your body.  The parallel method is actually a lot easier to manage.

Of course, Paddington Bear came along:





I mostly stayed on the greens, but I did try a couple of blues.  To access two of them, you have to use this non-chair-lift contraption, where you put a disc behind your legs, and a cable pulls you.  It took me three tries just to get moving on that thing without falling.  You aren't supposed to sit on it, because it has a lot of slack, to account for the varying heights between the upper cable and the ground.  Finally, I did make it up, and the blue run was quite beautiful, because there was a sheer cliff to the left, and you could see a lot of mountains, and the run itself wasn't too hard.  It was getting up to start of the run that was hard.  I wanted to go again, but on my second attempt up the non-chair-lift, the ride suddenly stopped, and unless you're snowplowing backwards or are prepared for the stop, you'll naturally start to lean backwards back down the hill, so I totally fell, and they had to keep the ride stopped even longer, as I got out of the way (which is quite difficult, on a steep gradient with two skis on your feet).  The ride goes fast, too, and those metal discs are heavy.  I was totally embarrassed, and it felt like an eternity as I tried to make my way up to the next intersecting path, so that I could get back on a trail.  Anyway... I avoided that lift, after that. 

There was another blue that I tried, but there was one super-steep section that I couldn't get through without wiping out both times.  The harder ones are funner, because you feel like you're really skiing.  It works out better when you go fast, and go back-and-forth a lot, but it's also a lot scarier.

My first runs ended up being the best, because my legs were the freshest. I got in about 5 hrs of skiing, total, and that was about enough... my legs wouldn't have made it too much longer.

Here's a video for you, courtesy of the GoPro:



It wasn't until the last weekend, unfortunately, that I discovered how great two restaurants were - Aqui Esta Coco, which has the most amazing food (especially seafood).  I scooped up every last grain.  I had Sea Bass with Quinoa with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and some kind of tart dressing.  It was soooooo good.  I hadn't eaten or drank much that day, since it was the ski day and I only had an apple and chocolate for lunch.  Maybe that was part of it, but the food was so good.

The next day, I had breakfast, then went for a run along the river.  Here's what it's like, un-foggy.  That morning, you could hardly see the building next door, because the fog was so dense.  In the pic, you can also see San Cristobal Hill.  I was tempted to run the hill again, but I wanted to try different things.  It was so foggy, anyway, that you would've seen nothing.  I did 4 out-and-backs, along a section with dirt trails, for a total of 8.7 miles.  On Sundays, they close off parts of the main road, so that bikers and runners can enjoy it without having to worry about cars.


After showering and checking out, I went to a handicrafts market (Los Dominicos), which was very quaint and nice, to get some stuff for my dad.

Then, another awesome restaurant - El Huerto, which has vegetarian and vegan food (and some fish).  They had a sampler-style menu item, where you got thai soup, different kinds of salads, bread, and some roasted veggies, plus a pear tart dessert, all vegan.  The portion size was awesome, and the food was great.

Santiago is a great place to visit.  I probably won't be back with work, but if I ever got a chance to go back, I'd check out Valparaiso (a world heritage site port city) and a winery, both of which are less than 2 hrs away.

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