Celebrating Christmas in Chile


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South America » Chile » Santiago Region » Santiago
December 25th 2008
Published: September 30th 2017
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Is this the Chilean government's way of saying "No sausage parties allowed"?
Geo: -33.4691, -70.642

We finally arrived in Chile, and the feeling in my legs finally returned! Woo hoo! Isn´t it nice when blood actually circulates through your body? It was quite the marathon getting out of the airport - from lining up to pay the $132 reciprocity fee that Canadians are charged (Chile dings us for this amount simply because that´s what Chileans are charged to come to Canada), to lining up for customs, to getting our bags scanned for illegal agricultural imports, to waiting for a taxi to go downtown. All in all, it probably took 75 minutes to get out of the airport. This ended up being one of the longest travel days I have ever had, perhaps even rivaling the marathon day Mary and I had a couple of summers ago (see blog entitled "Chasing a feeling" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/euro-2007/1187994180/tpod.html)

The smog didn´t seem too bad out at the airport, and it wasn´t that hot, either - I hope that it´s like this in the city, because it was quite a pleasant day. On the ride into town, I was surprised at how much the arid landscape reminded me of when we landed in Fuerteventura last year (see blog entitled "Is that
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Menu at La Piccola Italiana - kind of funny that what's supposed to be a traditional Italian restaurant still offers South American BBQ!
a cockroach, or a small dog?" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/canaries-2007/1198797120/tpod.html)

Finally, we arrived at the hotel - it definitely looked MUCH better in photos than in person. My room was kind of dumpy, actually - holes in the ceiling panels, ripped up carpet ... I guess you can´t complain, given the $17 USD/night price tag. We didn´t stick around long - just enough time to shower and settle in before heading off for a Christmas lunch.

The hotel staff recommended La Piccola Italiana, located just around the corner from the hotel. We started with a few Pisco Sours, the national Chilean drink - Pisco is made from grapes and is kind of their version of grappa, and this particular drink has some added sugar and lemon juice, I think.

The menu showed various pasta dishes under the heading ¨For 2, feeds 3" - so I confirmed with the waiter that it would be enough for us, seeing as we weren´t all that hungry, and we'd be having dinner too far long from now. ¨No, it´s only intended for 2 people." Uh ... so how exactly can you say it feeds 3, then? Because of this, we also ordered an antipasto platter.

We hobbled back to
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Not sure how this could be considered Italian - the antipasto platter had sliced avocado, really bad flavourless sausage, and the prosciutto was actually Spanish serrano ham that was sliced way too thickly. Do you think we're dumb enough not to know? Hearts of palm, Swiss gruyere ... not quite right! Though the roasted peppers and spicy mushrooms were Italian, I suppose. Overall, a pretty mediocre dish, as was the pasta ...
the hotel because in fact, that platter of pasta could feed three people. An Aussie dude told us that Monica had arrived at the hotel, but left because she couldn´t get in the room, as we had forgotten to leave our room keys at the front desk. She couldn´t have gone far, we thought, since it appeared that she had taken her luggage with her. It turned out that the airline had lost her luggage - what a crappy way to start a vacation! I took a little siesta until Monica finally returned, and we were off to sightsee.

First stop - Cerro Santa Lucia, a beautiful park in downtown Santiago, that is capped off with a fort at the top of its hill. The La Alameda district we´re staying in is a bit gritty, so we were surprised to come across the twin Baroque staircases at the base of the hill - beautiful! It should´ve been a short and easy walk, but was made a little more difficult because of the heat and smog. We stopped near the top for some refreshments - I grabbed a pineapple juice popsicle that tasted great at first, but ended up being sickly sweet
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... a selection of gnocchi, ravioli, tortellini, and some other pasta smothered in bolognese sauce and very old, dried-up, shredded Parmesan cheese. Hopefully our future Chilean meals are better than this! You'll notice that only Ben's left arm is visible in this photo - he's had some bad luck keeping his white shirt clean so far on the trip, so I carefully cropped the photo to show the only clean spot left on the shirt. The rest of it is covered in all manner of stains.
at the end. My lips were feeling nasty after, because they were sticky with the syrupy pineapple juice.

We wandered over to Plaza de Armas, via a few pedestrian zones. I´m sure these would normally be great strolling areas, but being Christmas Day, everything was pretty deserted though the plaza was a bit livelier. Back to the hotel for ... another siesta! We had a few hours to kill before dinner at Bristol, located inside the 5 star Hotel Plaza San Francisco. We had pre-booked this place because we wanted to ensure having a nice meal for Christmas. As we arrived, we were filled with Hotel envy as this place was definitely WAY swankier than ours!

The girls went with the 5-course special Christmas menu - a bargain at $37 CAD, which barely gets you an entree at most nice places in Calgary. Ben and I decided to be pigs and strike out on our own. However ... I tried some of Ha´s golden mero fillet - incredible! Juicy, flavourful ... I really regretted not having the set menu instead, as everyone else seemed to enjoy their meal much more than I did. Unlucky with my ordering, I guess!


Additional photos below
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A miniature replica of Easter Island's famed monoliths.
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The is a photo of an actual Ben-olith. Very rare, usually only found in Canada!
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The entrance to Cerro Santa Lucia, at Plaza Neptuno, with its twin staircases.
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I think this is the Capilla La Ermita, near the top.
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The girls, posing with a Ben-olith.
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View from the top of Cerro Santa Lucia - I knew it was close to mountains, but I didn't realize that Santiago was completely surrounded by them. That probably explains why the smog gets so bad there - it just sits in the valley where the city lies.
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This might seem familiar to those of you that have read my Canary Islands blog - while not as plentiful as in Spain and the Canary Islands, they also have the odd inappropriately and unnecessarily sensual ice cream ad here in South America.
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In downtown Santiago, there were several blocks completely filled with optometry offices. We found it odd to have a district of only optometry offices, but I guess it makes for easy shopping.
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Plaza de Armas
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Catedral Metropolitana
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Cool monument in Plaza de Armas
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Dinner at Bristol - we started with some so-so bread, butter, olive tapenade, and a bottle of Carmenere. Wine is a steal here - my normal method of picking wine back home is based purely on science - I locate the CHEAPEST bottle of wine on the list, and then select the next-highest priced one so nobody thinks I´m a TOTAL tightwad! But here, we were able to go with the most-expensive, for once! And the cost ... only $40! The wine was phenomenal; we had already decided that we´d need another bottle after only a few sips.
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The 5-course set menu.
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I started with foie gras, served with a delicious cherry sauce, and some greens and walnuts that were drizzled with a lovely vinaigrette. The cherries were the highlight of the dish, pairing perfectly with the foie´s rich, deep flavour. There were also shitaake mushrooms on the plate - it seems to be a very popular thing with many contemporary restaurants nowadays, but really, they were just out of place in this dish, and in many others.
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My main was pan-fried turbot, served with quinoa (nothing special), and a crisp little stuffed cuttlefish. The turbot and cuttlefish were a bit dry, but I´d have to say the cuttlefish had better flavour. The dish had a Patagonian theme to it; in fact, every section of the menu offered a dish featuring traditional Chilean flavours. Overall, the dish was good, but not great.
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I can't seem to find any notes about the dessert, and I barely remember it after all this time. I just remember that the gelato on the left was quite good, the thing in the middle so-so, and the chocolate cake on the right was very rich, but good. Also on the right was some type of floral syrup, perhaps made with rose petals. I do remember it being very fragrant and a nice match with the chocolate cake.


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