Sunday, December 24, 2017

Puttin' on the Ritz in Santiago, Chile

I'd been pretty excited leading up to our big tour of South America. Brandon was a new addition to our cast of characters this time. I hadn't been abroad with him since our high school trip. It's taken me about 15 years to forgive him for "the incident".

Lydia, Zoe, and I flew together and went to meet Brandon at the airport in Santiago, Chile.

We had a stop in Atlanta long enough to do a bit of free lounging. They have a pretty fantastic bar there and everything is complimentary. I'd like to compliment them on that.

The flight was an overnighter so December 25th hit us while we were in the air. I had hoped Santa would be able to substitute his usual chimney entry for the airplane's toilet but I ended up disappointed.

There was a non-zero chance that meeting up with Brandon would be a nightmare but he was just chilling out right by the immigration exit as we walked out. It was a very nonchalant overseas rendezvous.

We were excited that Santiago had Uber but much less excited when we saw how poorly it was excecuted. There was a group of confused white people all huddled under an awning at the official rideshare meeting point for cars that never seemed to come.

The guy who finally did pick us up was hilariously inept. He drove us to the exit and presented his paid parking ticket, but he'd been sitting in the parking lot not picking us up for so long that it had expired. So he left the car in the exit line to go talk to an employee. The employee presumably said "sorry brah go buy another ticket", so we drove all the way back to where we'd started to get one. He left us all in the parking lot. The line for the parking machines was super long, and I feel like he waited in it a while before realizing he didn't have the correct change, so he returned to the vehicle mumbling some Spanish before leaving again. Meanwhile the 4 of us and our luggage are packed into this tiny car whilst slowly simmering in the Chilean sun. It was a very strange start to our Christmas Day.

They like Jim Beam out here, too! Maybe there is hope for the world.

The city was very beautiful and peaceful. I thought it was amazing how nice traffic was, then remembered again that it was Christmas. It's easy to completely forget about Christmas when you're traveling, especially when traveling someplace warm. Additionally no one blankets the place with Christmas decorations like we do in the US, so you don't get the material reminders either.

Our driver was super confused when we pulled up to the Ritz-Carlton Santiago and only Brandon and I got out of the car. The girls were headed to a nearby park in what turned out to be a pretty hilarious caper, at least from my angle. I had a couple of free Ritz nights to burn and everyone was excited about staying someplace fancy. Great. 

The problem was that every guest past the second was supposed to pay a $60 per person per night fee. And there was no way in hell we were paying that. So the plan was to check in with just Brandon and I, then just have the girls walk in separately and sneak into the room. Then we'd just make sure to walk in and out separately. What could go wrong?

What went wrong was that they didn't have a room ready for.. a while. So while the girls were sleeping under trees in a South American public park, Brandon and I had no choice but to 
mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks 
or "umberellas" in their mitts
Puttin' on the Ritz

I thought it might draw too much suspicion if Brandon and I didn't go check out the pool and spa on the roof.

I had some water infused with citrus fruits so as not to blow my cover.

Meanwhile, at the park...

There were free gingerbread men in the lobby. Also Brandon was there.

I tried to think like a guy who wasn't trying to sneak in undocumented hotel guests. Such a guy would probably go to the bar next, sit on a big leather couch, order some pisco sours, then sip them while admiring a bejeweled globe.

When we finally got into the room I was excited to see this on the wall. I've definitely heard of them but I don't know that I've ever seen one. The sign read:

("Knot" in Quechua)

Numerical accounting system developed by pre hispanic andean civilizations.

Handmade recreation by local handicraft ateliers.

We walked over and picked up the ladies who had by now started a sort of shanty encampment at the park.

Planning things to do on Christmas Day can be tricky because a lot of stuff is closed. We thought we had solved that problem by booking a walking tour that specifically said they operated on Christmas. In very classy fashion our guide simply did not show up. The backup plan was to follow a self-guided walking tour Lydia found on her phone. We started at the Plaza de Armas.

We got drawn inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, which dominated the square.

Pedro de Valdivia served as lieutenant under Francisco Pizarro in Peru, founded Santiago in 1541, then served as the 1st Royal Governor of Chile.

The police cars in Santiago were all like brick-to-the-windshield-proof. There was sort of a chain link fence wrapped around all exposed window glass on the cars. Seems like things may get real around here on occasion.

There was a little gas station snacking along the way.

We decided to walk all the way to a touristy outdoor mall kind of place called Patio Bellavista. Yes it was a little touristy but on the other hand every shop and restaurant was open for business. My sort of place.

I suggested that we pick an especially authentic McDonald's to eat at.

Brandon went straight for the Happy Meal Pokemon toys.

I wasn't about to leave this exotic McDonald's unreviewed. The weirdest thing I got was a cherimoya sundae. Fun fact from Wikipedia: Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men". You're welcome Lydia.

We then did a nice stroll through Barrio Bellavista, which is the cool kid bohemian quarter.

We took a look at the exterior of Nobel Prize for Literature winner Pablo Neruda's house.

Back at the Ritz we discovered the room had gotten a little evening turndown service. While normally I would be charmed I was worried about the security of our operation. Two dudes sharing a room with 10 pieces of luggage may have raised some eyebrows.

You know what else raises eyebrows? John Milito in his spa robe. The Schaeffers were real jelly about Brandon and I's alone time at the pool earlier so we had to take them up so they wouldn't get all teary-eyed.

By all rights I should have been in more of the pictures if not for certain rude individual(s) who shall remain nameless.

We topped off a pretty rad Christmas with a very A Christmas Story visit to a Chinese restaurant. I had it on good authority that this was the best Chinese-American restaurant in town.

We got the food, we said our Fa Ra Ra Ras, and went home for some well earned ritzy rest.

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