February 21-22, 2023
Above all, it is great to be living out of a suitcase again! It always amazes me at how little I can get by with…and that’s a good thing!
I am now fully embarked on an almost 4 week trip to Chile and Argentina. Eighteen of these 25 days will be abord the Viking Jupiter, a new (2019) and very modern ship that will take us from Santiago de Chile, down the coast, to Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, through the Straits of Magellan and around Cape Horn, over to the Falkland Islands and then up the coast of Argentina to Puerto Madryn, Montevideo, Uruguay and finally Buenos Aires.
In preparation for the trip, two novels by Isabel Allende, were very useful. Largo Pètalo del Mar and Inèz de la alma mía. Both are historical novels, the former about more modern times, i.e. de Salvador Allende, and the later about Pedro de Valdivia and the founding of Chile and Santiago. (I recommend them both! We saw Inèz de la alma mía for sale in book stores and market stalls all over Santiago.) I also read a book about Jose M. Balmaceda, president of Chile in the in the late 1880s to 1891. A civil war ended his presidency and his life. (El rey del salitré que derrotó a Balmaceda, by Guillermo Parvex.)
I flew to Santiago from Dallas-Fort Worth. The flight was non-stop, nine elapsed hours, plus a three-hour time shift forward (from Central Time).
My first images of Chile were from the plane when I woke up on Wednesday morning, What a sight! The tops of the Andes were poking through rivers of clouds and it was magnificent!
I met Gerry in the Santiago airport, and we had prearranged a taxi to take us to our hotel. (I arranged it on Booking.com when I made the hotel reservation.)
Hotel Ismael was our base for these first two days. It was easy walking distance to the Plaza de Armas and most of the important sites in the old part of the city.
While exploring around the area of Plaza de Armas, we stopped to visit the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The museum covers Pre-Columbian art in the entire hemisphere, but we concentrated on the exhibitions about the peoples resident in what is now Chile. Everything was well-displayed and labels were bi-lingual. There is a fascinating collection of textiles and ceramics, clues about the influences of the Incas and the Europeans, and a thread to the artisanal work of Chile’s indigenous people in our own time.
We also took time to look at a special temporary exhibit on Shamanism. Very interesting, the exhibit covered many parts of the world, as shamanism is ubiquitous. We learned a great deal from this very interesting display that highlighted the objects and rituals that shamans in different cultures employ. (I have to wonder though if this exhibit wasn’t somehow responsible for all the oddly shamanic dreams I have had ever since!)
Once we left the museum, the sounds of a marching band drew our curiosity to the Plaza de la Constitución, just a few blocks away. By a lucky chance, we got to see the changing of the guard at that palace, an event that happens every other day at 10am.
For lunch, finding a restaurant we had read about (highly rated) took us to an unusual building – set up like a mini-MOMA with lots more floors and advertising for the various small business along the railing. Our restaurant was up on the 7th level and tucked back in a corner. Sporting just three tables, we were the only patrons. Called Seviza, it turned out to be Peruvian and was excellent. Seviche and fried “reineta,” a whitefish, were served with vegetable soup and potatoes.
After lunch, we checked into the hotel, cleaned up and took a little nap. The evening we spent walking on the Parque Forestal and finally headed down one of the many pedestrian streets to find our dinner restaurant, BocaNáriz.
BocaNáriz is known for its pairings of Chilean wines with food, and that is why we were there! We decided on the “daily menu” serving a flight of wines (small tastes) with the appetizers, a regular size glass with the entrée and another small flight-sized glass with desert. The food was quite good and the wines were all tasty and complementary to the dishes. The staff was very knowledgeable about the wines. It is said that all the waiters there are sommeliers…
Thursday, Feb. 23
The next morning, we had the whole day to explore, so we did the hardest part first – a climb up the Cerro Santa Lucia. The park is beautiful, and the paths between open vistas and spacious plazas make the place seem large and, at the same time, intimate. Some of the paths are treacherous though, and there is a suggested route for those with any mobility issues (including strollers). Caretakers were actively watering areas of the park, making the unevenly-worn steps slippery and difficult to navigate.
The views from the top of the park include the full 360 degrees of Santiago, a sprawling city, packed into a space between the mountains. Those same mountains tend to trap the city’s smog, so much of the bordering mountain range is hidden by haze.
Once back down at ground level we walked to the Palacio la Moneda, the presidential palace. Visits must be prearranged, as access is restricted, this being a working public building. However, we stopped to visit the Centro Cultural La Moneda, located under the building and square. Here we discovered two interesting art exhibits as well as a wonderful public space that included a reading room/library and play projects for children.
Hungry after all this walking we headed to the Mercado Central and had lunch at a place called “Donde Augusto” one of the large restaurants in the old market building (there are plenty of little ones too, said to be even better.) This is a place to eat fish: Fresh fish is a large part of the cuisine of this part of Chile (probably all of Chile given the long coastline!). Gerry tried the reineta again and I had sea bass stuffed with crab. Both were very good paired divinely with two delicious and very cold Chilean beers.
Tonight, we have a fancy dinner to celebrate our 41st anniversary in a place called Boragó which is in an entirely different part of the city. It was another hot and sunny afternoon, so we took an Uber to what we had hoped was a long shopping street (think Champs Elysées) but which ended up being a large indoor/outdoor shopping mall. It was filled with high end stores, but was also filled with people, and wasn’t the window-shopping stroll that we had envisioned. Leaving the mall, we decided to walk to our dinner spot and catch a drink at a bar along the way.
[Both nights our dinner reservations were after 9 pm, making for extremely long evenings. Fortunately, both nights we also showed up early, prepared to wait, but were seated right away, an hour before our stated reservations.]
Walking to the restaurant did not prove to be a great decision. There was nothing along the way to inspire a stop, rest, drink, so we just kept going. Finally, just 400 feet from the restaurant we found an area where we could sit and get an Aperol Spritz. (Free I think, by playing a bean bag game.) It felt wonderful to sit down! Additionally, we were sufficiently rested to forget about the walk there and find the restaurant for dinner.
The simplest statement I can make about the experience that is Boragó was that we had about 15 small courses, each served with a different wine. There is no menu at the place – you eat what the chef made that day. The focus is on farm to table, native ingredients, but the food is not simple! Fortunately, as each presentation was quite elaborate, the staff told us which parts were actually edible!
Everything was weird but also very tasty…we ate things like lobster poached in seaweed cases, soup in a barnacle shell, fresh tomatoes that weighed over a kilo each, fungus, duck, sea weed and more. The wines were all Chilean, and the variety truly shocked me, especially the reds which were quite light. Each dish was a work of art – and the presentations were over the top. Our “plate” for the evening’s dinner was a slab of stone.
The whole experience was unforgettable! Something you must try! (Don’t worry, everyone who works there speaks English, and probably 98% of the patrons are foreigners!) Here’s a slide show! The pictures are only a slightly better description of a meal that was nearly indescribable!
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