Volcanoes, Lakes, Patagonia & More

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Feb 21st, 2018, 01:12 PM
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Volcanoes, Lakes, Patagonia & More

This trip report begins in Chile and includes Valparaiso 2 nts, Santiago 3 nts, Pucon 3 nts, Puerto Varas 3 nts, Torres del Paine National Park 3 nts, Punta Arenas 1 nt, Ventus Australia cruise along the fjords of Patagonia 4 nts, Argentina: El Calafate 3 nts, Buenos Aires 2 nts. My husband (mid-70’s) and I ( low 60’s) travelled from January 10-February 5, 2018.

An overnight flight on American from Miami to Santiago arrived at 9:30am and we were picked up by a private transfer ($145) arranged by our hotel in Valparaiso, Casa Galos.

Valparaiso: Colorfully Decrepit

Day 1:
It’s about noon when we arrive, and the genial front desk woman, Florencia, stores our luggage and hands us a map of the city. She tries to make a lunch reservation for us at Fauna Hotel at 1:30 (it’s supposed to be open by then) but she’s told they won’t take a reservation and to come at 2pm.

So, we wander around the neighborhood, Cerro Alegre; poking in small shops, watching your step while walking from missing pavers, potholes and dog debris and riding the oldest funicular, Ascensor Reina Victoria, down and back up. It’s mostly overcast and in the mid 60’s, pleasant walking weather. The thing thawt strikes you, besides the general sense of decay and ramshackleness, is the wildly colorful street art that adorns most buildings and steps. That, and the higgledy piggledly way all of its buildings are built into the nooks and crannies of hillocks and crevasses in an impossible fashion reaching almost straight up in many cases. There are some European style buildings with their original beauty bones peeking out through peeling paint and missing pieces of balustrades and moldings but the vibrant art helps mask their dilapidated state.

So, we’ve been killing time and we’re more than ready to eat. But, a sign has been posted on the door of Fauna that they aren’t opening until 2:30. Now I’m getting hangry but we decide to wait because they’re supposed to have a beautiful terrace with view down to the water. We come back eagerly at 2:30 to be told they’re not opening until 3....What?! The reason given is that they have a new menu....huh? Now I’m ready to give up but need to use their restroom first.....and after, lo and behold, now they can seat us. Had my first of many pisco sours and it was great, Here they serve them in champagne flutes, while on a previous trip to Peru they used rocks glasses. Either way, my palate can’t distinguish between Chilean and Peruvian pisco. Didn’t take notes on my food but remember it being good.

Now we’re ready to go back to Casa Galos for quick nap and unpacking. The lovely thing about South American travel is that the time change was only 2 hours from EDT so no jet lag. But we all know you don’t get a good nights sleep on an overnight flight.

The hotel is set on top of Cerro Allegre with a long view down to the bay that Valpo is tucked into. But first you look across rusting, broken corrugated iron roofs. In fact, across the street a rusted, demolished VW Bug is nestled into the roof? How did it get there?!

The room is large and decorated in organic neutrals, as is the cozy breakfast area. Breakfast was very good with eggs cooked to order, cheeses and meats, fresh fruit, yogurt and pastries: One of the best features, besides the helpful staff who speak good English, is a roof top terrace with couches from which you can see the whole of Valpo spread all around you. The sun came out later in the day, and the view sparkled from the terrace.

Dinner was at Cafe Louisa, a charming, small French restaurant that was a short walk away. Because our lunch was so late, I didn’t want to eat much so ordered a fig salad and DH ordered a seafood filled pasta and we shared. The portions were delicious but not enough (and we’re not big eaters) so I went dessert crazy and ordered 2 desserts when we normally would share one. The price for this and two or three glasses of wine, and 10% tip came to $100 US, which seemed high for what we had.

Day 2:
Very foggy in the morning and stayed cloudy and coolish all day...not one drop of sun to spark up our photos.
First up, La Sebastiana, one of Chile’s beloved poet Pablo Neruda’s three quirky houses. The woman at the desk tries to convince us to walk there as it’s sideways, so mostly flat, and she said it’s a beautiful walk. However, my feet were so swollen yesterday from a combination of recovering from a tendon tear, the flight, and walking up and down hills yesterday that I demur. She talks us into at least walking part of the way and then flagging down a bus when we need one. So that’s what we do although I’d disagree about the beauty of that segment. We’re always happy when a bus ride turns out OK, and in this case, it did until we got off at the wrong place and then had to figure out where La Sebastiana was hiding. The first several locals we asked didn’t know either.

The 5 story folly was quite interesting filled with sea faring furniture and keepsakes from his world travels. It’s hard to envision that portly man climbing the 5 flights to his office where he wrote his poetry with green ink. I was going to buy his first book of love poems but decided to wait until we visited his Santiago home. Note to self...have you forgotten the Moscow Rule of Shopping? If you see something you want, buy it because you may never see it again. And I didn’t....the Santiago gift shop was out of it and I never saw it throughout our trip. I did buy a pen because I’d forgotten to bring one, but it didn’t have green ink. (just ordered one from Amazon)

After this, we started our slog downhill first stopping at a delightful macaron and candy shop, Septima Pasteleria, but the latte was lacking. From there, we eventually reached The Open Air Museum where a variety of street art decorated the exceptionally decrepit buildings and lined the multitude of steep steps. A tired old dog took a liking to me and shadowed us for quite awhile. The city is overrun with stray dogs who mostly seemed content to sleep in the roads only to bark angrily if a car dares to pass and make them move.

We ended up in the local’s downtown area....crowded and bustling and not where we wanted to be. We walked further to Plaza Victoria punctuated by towering palm trees and lion statues. Lunch was overdue but I wanted to eat in Cerro Concepcion so again tried to ride the city bus. Getting on is easy...knowing when to get off not so much and we ended up going way past Ascensor Turin to the furthest one Ascensor Artilleria. No problem, we’ll take a look since this was touted as having the best panoramic view. If you like staring at mounds and mounds of colorful shipping containers since it overlooked the main port, then this one is for you.

We popped back down and walked for awhile to get to Ascensor Peral that takes you up to Paseo Yugoslavia where I thought we could easily cross over to Cerro Allegre but no such luck. Have to walk up a steep hill over and down and by now my feet are killing me from tendinitis. Finally get to Cafe Turri and get a table overlooking the bay. Right next door we see that Ascensor Turin is under maintenance so we couldn’t have gotten up on that one anywa. I try Pastel de Jaiba, the crab casserole that’s popular in Chile. Much too rich for my taste with too much matted cheese and DH has an excellent seafood stew...but it’s 3 pm again...so late for lunch. Explore a few shops on way back and find a reasonable light blue cotton shawl and DH finds a paper Panama hat.

We were too full to make our dinner reservation so instead go later and nearby to Malandrino, for an excellent wood fired Neapolitan pizza and large salad.

This was enough time for this interesting city but I’m ready to leave. Tomorrow morning we have another transfer to drive us to our hotel in Santiago.

“Valparaiso, how absurd you are...
You haven’t combed your hair,
You’ve never had time to get dressed
Life has always surprised you.” Pablo Neruda

Last edited by barefootbeach; Feb 21st, 2018 at 01:15 PM. Reason: Forgot to tag Argentina
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 06:18 AM
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Looking forward to more! I don't remember Valpo being quite that decrepit but it was 2012.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 06:53 AM
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It wasn't that decrepit in 2016 either. But maybe the OP didn't anticipate that the traditonal brightly painted corrugated metal construction (is part of the history as a shipping port). I highly recommend doing a tour to get oriented.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 07:04 AM
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Thanks Thursdaysd and Mlgb.....it could be that we see “decrepit” differently....it was part of Valpo’s charm.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 07:30 AM
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If you are going to post photos, especially a lot of them, could you please, please shrink them a bit? They are bigger than my desktop screen and I can't see them properly. And my desktop screen is 24 in. I just have to scroll past them, which can get annoying.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 08:20 AM
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These have been deleted. They weren’t over large on my iPad.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 10:35 AM
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Thank you! Although I didn't mean anything that drastic. The site doesn't seem to have a very good interface for photos. They do seem to be a different size in different platforms, not sure how they would look on a phone.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 12:43 PM
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Roofitop view from Casa Galos


Room view with car on roof


Open Air Museum


Mosaic steps Open Air Museum
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 12:48 PM
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Thursdaysd, would you please tell me if the four pics I posted came out too large? I believe I’ve reduce the size. Thanks!
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 02:55 PM
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Much better! Thanks!

I thought the street art in Valpo was really good.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 04:45 PM
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Santiago
Day 3
We arrived at Hotel Le Reve, an attractive, small French style hotel on a leafy street in the Providencia neighborhood just after noon. Room on the 3rd floor is small but nice with a view to the courtyard that’s obscured by trees. 2nd floor rooms would have been better because they had French balconies that gave you a floor to ceiling view...don’t know if they were the same rate. The best part of the hotel is a charming inner courtyard shaded with large trees and flowers where breakfast could be taken or a glass of wine from their honor bar enjoyed.

We head out for lunch a few doors down at a French cafe, Le Flaubert. Lunch is served in a delightful shady terrace in the back of the restaurant. The menu is presented on a blackboard and no English was spoken. Excellent food included a pasta with salmon and a salad with shrimp and Pernod chased down with a glass of sparkling wine and OK French bread.

Our hotel had loaned us the use of a Bip Metro card that we could re-charge with money for quick access to the Metro, which was about 4 blocks away. We headed to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which was devoted to the events that began on September 11, 1973 when Pinochet overthrew Allende’s socialist government and replaced it with a military dictatorship that resulted in years of torture and murder of thousands of citizens....another “gift” of Nixon, who provided support. Watching the bombing of the Palace, hearing Allende’s final radio broadcast before he shot himself, watching the Junta’s first TV broadcast, hearing the stories of torture told by some survivors and gazing at the photographs of thousands of missing people was very moving.

From here, we took the metro to Barrio Italia to walk around this trendy neighborhood filled with boutiques, antique shops, and restaurants. It was a Saturday afternoon so crowded with young families and others enjoying a weekend stroll. Hard for me to enjoy because my feet were killing me and I could hardly walk up the many steps of the metro. Unfortunately, this is a new development in my life and plagued me the whole trip. The metro can get extremely crowded and our return was marred by a guy with a microphone “singing” rap right next to us....yikes! But, the people are very polite and several offered to give me their seat. Perhaps I look older than I think!

Le Reve is located just off a busy, unattractive boulevard, but all the side streets were charming and loaded with restaurant options. We walked about 10 minutes to Le Bistrot de Gaetan, which again was a cute French bistro and we were served by an adorable, English speaking server, Gisel. Excellent food included a Kir Royale, mussels with frites, tuna medallion on hollandaise sauce, sautéed mushrooms and chocolate mousse.

Day4
Sunday dawned sunny and promised to be a hot one in upper 80’s. An excellent breakfast similar to that of Los Gatos was enjoyed in that leafy courtyard. We took the metro to the Bellavista neighborhood and walked a bit to La Chascona, Neruda’s Santiago home. Very whimsical, it was built in sections up the hill and filled with wonderful decorative objets d’art.

We then wanted to go to the top of Cerro Cristobal for views of the city so walked to the funicular only to discover it was broken. Tourist buses lined the street to take you up instead, but the lines to buy tickets were extremely long. The other option is to hike up but my feet wouldn’t allow that. So, a guy told us we could hop in a shared taxi that would take us up to the mid-way Telerferica, cable car, which we did. Then, you buy tickets for a ride to the summit crowded with families picnicking and enjoying the views, which were too hazy to see the Andes surrounding the city. The 50 ft high statue of the Virgin of Perpetual Help crowned the top and we could hear a mass being said. Walked back to the cable car and returned to the mid point because we knew taxis would be there. Hopped in another to take us back to Bellavista where we had an excellent fried hake sandwich and Austral Patagonia beer outside at Ciudad Viejo. In retrospect, the trip to the top wasn’t worth the time and effort.

Then, first attempt to get Chilean pesos (we had brought some with us) and the damn machine ate my card! There was no option for English and I thought I could muddle through it, but whatever they asked, apparently I gave the wrong answer. We knew there was a Banc of Chile near our hotel so thought we could recover the card somehow the next day.

Dinner was at Baco y Vino, again about a ten minute walk. The filet was great, the duck breast just OK, but we didn’t like the atmosphere which was too big and bustling.

Day 5
First stop was the bank, which was an exercise in trying to get someone to help us. After a couple of non-helpers and being given the run around, DH waved his arms and called up to the management folk on the mezzanine level “We need help!”, which appeared to startle the security guard at door. However, a young, female manager came down to see what was the issue and she informed us that the card was cut up. Luckily, we had a spare and asked her if she could show us how to use their machine so we wouldn’t lose our last card. So here’s a tip for Chilean ATM’s. You have to put your security code in first, then the bottom left menu option says something about Foreigners. After you hit that, then you get an option for English and it’s smooth sailing after that.

Now that we’re armed with cash, we metro to Plaza Armas in the Centro. Pope Francis will be saying Mass at the Cathedral in 3 Days and they’re already setting up barricades and bleachers and his smiling face beams out from a large banner. The cathedral is closed to visitors so we can’t take a look inside. It’s an attractive square surrounded by baroque architecture. We walk over to Constitution Square along their shopping street passageway and see Palace Moneda and walk below to the Cultural Center, to check out a few shops. This is all very missable. Then continue walking past the oldest building, Church of San Francisco from the 16th C and continue a long walk to the Lastarria neighborhood. This entire walk is not very attractive and the most noteworthy item of interest is how much make up, red lipstick and coiffed hair the policewomen sport.

We were happy to get a table at Bocanariz, the acclaimed wine bar, where we each sampled 3 flights of wine and surprisingly, weren’t that keen on any of them. For food, had just OK empanadas, but also an excellent vegetarian pasta. There’s a wonderful ice cream shop across the street with many unusual flavors. Some cute shops around and street performers make this a lively neighborhood. Pretty hot today...reached low 90’s.

Tonight, we tried a chef-driven, tasting menu restaurant nearby, 99 Restaurant. We opted for the 6 course vs. 9 course menu without the wine pairing. Very creative and experimental, each course is eaten with your fingers...no utensils required. While we enjoyed the experience, it was much too expensive for what you got. Wouldn’t recommend it.

In summary, Santiago seemed much more “westernized”than Quito and Lima, definitely safer, but not wonderful either. Three nights was one too many, but then I didn’t take time to shop since it was the beginning of our trip, and that could have been fun. Next, we fly to Temuco and drive to Pucon.
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 02:04 AM
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Thanks for continuing your report bfb..how annoying re the ATM card! (and your foot!).
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 03:46 AM
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Thanks Mlgb! It sure was annoying....this had never happened before in a foreign ATM
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 04:30 AM
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I am unsure why your card got eaten. If you don't put the pin # in first then nothing happens and no choices pop up. Rather than thinking you did something wrong I think you left your card in the machine too long without doing anything and it was eaten as a forgotten card.

This is a simulator for using the local ATMs. Click on the credit card to get it going, then press appropriate buttons. It will take you through the whole process.
Simulador - Redbanc
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 06:13 AM
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So sorry about your feet! Much sympathy as I have limped through several trips myself. Agree about Santiago, but in general I thought the scenery easily outshone the cities in SA.
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 06:30 AM
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I did like it better than Quito and Lima....tied with Buenos Aires
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 06:33 AM
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Thanks huentutu, I had put my PIN number .In...helpful info about simulator
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 06:49 AM
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Le Reve courtyard


View from Parque Metropolitana


Statue of the Virgin atop Cerro San Cristobal


La Chascona, Pablo Neruda’s quirky home


Catedral Metropolitana welcomes “Papa”
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 12:49 PM
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I should add that the "Open Air Museum" is disappointing and probably deserves the "decrepit" rating. The street art tours actually skip that section!
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Feb 23rd, 2018, 01:21 PM
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I did find that area fascinating
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