Chilly Chilean Dogs
Top Three Airplane Tips of the Week:
1.) Buckle your child's seat belt for take off and landing. No, placing your hand against their body as they lay across the seat won't be enough. Would you drive a go-kart around with your sleeping child sideways, head on your lap, jump over a mini ramp and think that it was fine to land without insisting they buckle up? No? Then put their seat belt on.
2.) Seriously consider your use of the "it's an emergency" while trying to access the bathroom after being told not to. Depending on the stage of flight, we may not be able to leave until you sit down. If we're in the air, chances are the captain has warned us of possible turbulence. You probably won't get seriously injured (you could, though) but that slight bump will make... things... go a little haywire in there, and then the rest of the flight has to either deal with your mess, or continue on one bathroom short. But why don't the flight attendants clean it? We hand out your snacks, bro. You really want us to do that a few minutes and a hand wash after we've cleaned up the scene from Daddy Daycare? Nuh-uh.
3.) Remember traveling isn't fun for anyone else, either. I'm not talking about when you arrive at your destination, I'm talking about the process of getting there. Unless you're hiking or taking a cruise ship, most of the time moving your person from point A to point B is a pain. But it helps to remember that it's a pain for everyone. Knowing this and reminding myself that many people rarely fly, if ever, allows me to forgive the customer who pulls at my sleeve to tell me, heatedly, that the person next to her still has his phone on and is trying to hide it from me. It allows me to relax when I receive complaints about the food, or the leg room, or anything else regarding service. Because I know this is stressful, and that even though the general public wants to be able to afford a plane ticket, that lowering cost to provide reduced airfare doesn't always connect mentally with the shrinking seat sizes and limited meal options. Because right now, it just sucks, and I get that. As a passenger, if someone else is being a real WHATEVER, even to me, remind yourself that this type of travel requires you give all sense of control to an airline while you hurtle through the air at over 500 mph, trapped in a metal tube. Breathe. It may stop you from committing a serious crime. And if you want to stand up for me? That's okay, but trust me, I got this.
Now on to the adventure...
We went to South America! Finally, an international trip comes forth after months of training and working for the airlines. Chile wasn't our original choice - in fact we intended, and still do, to go to Quito, Ecuador - but six days off in airline lingo means literally six days off, and until midnight of my day off, the company has a right to call me. We designated two days to ensure that I we would be able to arrive at our destination and return home with plenty of time for me to be ready for work at exactly midnight of my last day off. Since it was our first time pass traveling across countries, I decided that crossing the border, heading into the middle of the rainforest, and leaving a situation where I had any form of contact with the airline might be a bit risky... what if my uniform required luggage was eaten by a jaguar? One can never be too careful.
We decided Santiago was the perfect starter trip: it's not a typical tourist destination in August, it's a bustling urban center comprised of seven million people, it has the Andes Mountains, and most importantly, it has wine. Seriously, did you know that Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world? I had no clue (perhaps because I don't focus much on the bottle labels, preferring instead to direct my attention to the prospect of fitting as much of the contents into my glass at one time). Which leads me to my first recommendation of things to do in Santaigo, Chile:
1.) Drink all the wine.
Anxious to try all the famous wines, we booked a tour on Viator with the intent to see Maipo Valley. For $115 a person, we were picked up by our sommeleir (who had conveniently grown up in California, and moved from one wine destination to the next), driven to the valley, taken to three wineries, and provided with lunch. Perez Cruz was our first stop, and seeing the label, I was convinced that I had consumed their products before. Perhaps cursive lettering in general tends to remind me of fancy wine, though, and it takes only a semi-attractive label to result in my mouth watering, Pavlonian-dog style, at the prospect of red wine.
If you ever go to Santiago, and decide to tour a winery, go to Perez Cruz. Not only are the views amazing and the pours a healthy amount per wine, the architecture of the winery is astounding. Because Chile is known to experience almost every natural disaster known to mankind (I believe our guide said only tornadoes were foreign to them, but earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, tsunamis and flooding were all a part of life in Chile), the Perez Cruz architect, José Cruz Ovalle - last name is coincidental - designed the winery to withstand repeated attacks from mother nature. The ceilings are often split, and the weight of the building is able to shift in order to compensate for the ground moving beneath it. This has saved Perez Cruz products many times, and has the added benefit of an attractive, modern-rustic look that is entirely unique to the region.
But what about the wine, you ask? It was good, real good. The legs were long... I guess sometimes short? And the colors were... reddish? There was a white, too.The fruit underlays were... screw it, I'm not there yet, but I drank it, and I'd drink more without question. Get the Cabernet Sauvignon, even if, like me, you can still barely say it.
As far as views go, I was also impressed by the Haras de Pirque winery, shaped like a horseshoe, which overlooked the Maipo Valley and allowed us to taste wine in their Game-of-Thrones-esque cellar. Seriously, my inner nerd about cried with joy as I sipped wines at a beautifully made oak high-top, surrounded by barrels of the very elixir that some may say makes life worth living. This winery also gets points for extremely high standards - their top selling wine is only available every five to ten years, due their refusal to use sub par grapes - their efforts to limit their carbon footprint, and their Italian heritage. Mi piace.
2.) Pet all the dogs.
Okay, I know stray dogs might make some people nervous, because when you picture a stray, you imagine a mangled, two-or-three-legged creature that will simultaneously bite your face off while stealing your firstborn child to be raised by the dog pack. Strays in Santiago, and Valparaiso for that matter, are not like that. They are fat, they are happy, they are friendly, and the community gives them sweaters when it drops below sixty-five degrees Celsius - because in Chile that means it's winter, and dogs understandably have no advantages to withstand such weather without a pink and blue striped pup-sweater purchased for a few bucks on the side of the street. In some areas, the amount of "community dogs" has become so out of control that the government attempted to implement neutering policies, but many Chileans disagree with a person's right to chop off any dog's nether regions. I can imagine they feel that until their fur friends learn Spanish, consent is unable to be acquired.
3.) Drink all the pisco.
A friend recommend I start early and drink often when it came to sampling the pisco sours in the region, and because I respect our friendship, I headed her advice almost immediately. During our walking tour of Santiago on day one (by the way - always look for free walking tours! You pay the guide a tip, he or she ends up making good money directly, they work hard to earn said tip, and if they're awesome, like ours was -HEY PHILLIP!- they'll take you out for drinks afterwards and allow you to meet their friends) I ordered a pisco sour at a pit stop mid-tour. Later that evening, I had a Terremoto, or "earthquake" in English, from a local bar, that Phillip recommended I try - a concoction which involved adding ice cream to the already delicious pisco sour, as well as a few extra shots of pisco directly into the drink. According to Phillip, one will put you in a good place, so I smartly had two.
Two nights later, Peter and I stopped by a pisco themed bar - Républica Independiente del Pisco - which offered tastings of the pisco itself. We discovered pisco is possibly more varied in taste than any other hard alcohol we'd previously tried. Sometimes, it can taste like sipping smooth vodka, and other versions lean closer to a smokey whiskey. All of it is worth trying, especially when your bartender is there to explain the variations well past the point where you're too tipsy to remember any of it.
4.) Smell all the fish.
Okay, so you don't actually have to stick your nose into dead fish, but I'm trying to stick to theme here and you should definitely head to the fish market. Don't be confused like we were and assume the fish market consists of the hundreds of shops set up along the side of the river and Central Market street of Santiago, although those shops are also fun to peruse if you're into inexpensive trinkets and snacks (I loooove snacks). The fish market is indoors, and along with housing all the fish you will ever want to see artfully laid out on blocks of ice, there are at least twenty restaurants ready and willing to serve you said fish directly. Stick to the outer ring of restaurants, as the inner circle is more expensive. (I'm sorry, I assumed you were also a broke twenty-something, if not, eat where you wish!)
5.) Give all the hugs upon leaving.
The Chileans are fantastic people. Coming from the Midwest, I am used to a level of friendliness (or nosiness, whatever) that isn't often matched in other states, let alone foreign countries. The Chileans went above and beyond my expectation, especially those who ran the hotel we were staying at. Hotel Quito's - ironically named after our first choice destination - owners spoke approximately four sentences of English, and could have very easily written off the two Americans from the Estados Unidos who hadn't bothered to learn even Portuguese, if not Spanish. Instead, they made sure we were fed by pulling us into the breakfast room each morning and gesturing toward food and coffee. They dealt with conversing through Google translate, if necessary, and helped us book tours when the confused Spanish speakers who had picked up wondered if they had been butt-dialed by some Americans halfway across the world. Perhaps they knew what it felt like to be on the other end of the phone, as I had frantically called the hotel earlier in the week to explain we would be a day later than planned getting to Chile. Unable to answer or respond to my English concerns, I received an email five minutes later which simply stated, "ok, la esperamos," or, "ok, we wait." Despite feeling like we may have burdened them with our inability to operate an elevator which only fit two people and had to be shut from the inside, and our difficulties sipping on instant coffee (Chileans drink A LOT of instant coffee), I highly recommend anyone I know heading to this hotel... maybe, though, be better than us and learn a few words in Spanish.
Until next time!