Our last day at Vina del Mar. We awoke to take advantage of the breakfast that was included with our room: first time we’d done it as every day before we’d been sleeping well through breakfast hours. We could tell it was going to be a beautiful day which was somewhat upsetting as we were now leaving... In case you ever visit Vina del Mar:
NOT everyone speaks English, so don’t expect it. It is not a beach-laden area. There are hotels with pools and very, very crowded stretches of beach but mostly rocks and stone walls. There are good restaurants if you pick correctly. The prices of wine are wonderful in most of them, the hotel-based restaurants like to charge you more. Definitely more of a tourist place for other Chileans than foreigners, and directions are not so great: do NOT buy a Fodor’s guide, look online and print out exact maps of certain areas.
We left Vina del Mar and drove the two hours to Santiago. Arriving in Santiago was not so bad. The main highway, 68, turns into the main drag of Santiago, called Avenue Bernardo O’Higgins: apparently a very important man down there. The road is separated into 8 lanes - 4 for each side - 2 for cars and 2 for busses (and only busses). And there are a lot of buses & they are all yellow. It’s a different place to drive, as most foreign countries are. Many one ways and lots of no turns, plus the road signs change whether you are turning right or left, and the writing on all signs are so very small. My eyesight is not so good, but Mike, with perfect eyesight, couldn’t see them either. Even if you could read them chances are a bus is blocking the sign as you go by. That was our first experience of Chileans’ directional aptitude post-Vina del Mar. Our concierge at the Sheraton hotel had given us directions that seemed easy enough. However, the roads he told us to turn on were all the opposite one-way, so we had to fend for ourselves and double back quite a few times.
We eventually got to the hotel. It was an amazing difference than our smaller hotel in Vina del Mar. We quickly saw the differences between hotel and luxury collection hotel. Everyone at this hotel spoke English perfectly, greeted us by name, and we received impeccable service from every member of the staff. Seeing the bright sun and beckoning pool, we ran upstairs to put on our bathing suit and ran back down to the pool. This was the pool I had been looking for at Vina del Mar. It was round and beautiful, there was a lawn area to use as well as a bar and restaurant. We ate lunch at a buffet with some very determined bees. I shooed and shooed but the waiter finally told me to stop, that the bee would take what he wanted and then leave me alone. I followed the advice, and the bee then landed directly onto my piece of pork, went to work and eventually left carrying a very large piece. Then it was gone. Luckily, he did not land on my wine - a Cousino-Macul Chardonnay. We sat by pool for a few hours, but we are whiter than white still, so when it got too intense and hot we left and got ready for dinner with Ricardo Rivadeneira-Hurtado, who makes wine at Maquis and is a partner with Global Vineyard Imports, an importer in Berkeley that has a large Chilean portfolio. He picked us up at 9pm with wife, Pilar, they took us to a lovely Peruvian/Chilean reataurant. It was one of the only restaurants open at the time - during February, everything shuts down like August in France. We opened 3 wines: 03 and 04 of Maquis and then the Domus Aurea. All showed well and the Maquis, while not terribly complex, is a neat blend of Syrah, Carmenere and Malbec, the ‘04 has a bit of Cabernet Franc instead of Malbec, and, in turn, has a bit more structure. It was a late dinner: I know the Domus was good, but it was so late and I had had too much to compare it to.