Sep 062017
 



I had forgotten that one of the best things about southbound/northbound redeye flights with no time zone change is the total lack of jetlag. Ended up going to bed around 10p my first night in Santiago, and slept over nine straight wonderful hours due to being so tired…and no waking up in the middle of the night due to jetlag. It was wonderful!

First stop was down the street to Starbucks to get some coffee and wake up, but for some reason (despite the opening hours indicating otherwise) the store was closed 45 minutes after it was supposed to open, and there was no sign of life inside. Hmm, oh well, on to plan two – breakfast at the W which was included with my room.

For some reason was feeling like fruit this morning, so went for a light breakfast of fruit and cheese, along with plenty of coffee. Fruit was fresh and super tasty – does anyone know what the fruit in the upper right of the picture is?

Still hungry, I went for a bit more fruit…and some pastries of course…

Sufficiently awake, I checked out, and called an Uber to head to the airport. No problem getting an Uber this time (despite the supposed illegal status in Santiago) and was at the airport and checked in in no time at all. Through immigration and security rather quickly, and walked through the duty free shop on the way to try and find the lounge. In Russia there was vodka in plastic kalashnikov rifle bottles, and apparently in Chile there is pisco in Easter Island statues for sale. Anything as a gimmick for the tourist dollar!

Finally found the Starbucks, and no thanks to signs, the Avianca lounge which is hidden in the basement. Never would have found it without asking someone where it is. Makes you wonder why there aren’t signs. The lounge is about as disappointing as every Avianca lounge I’ve been in, but did the job with plenty of bottled drinks and some chocolate chip cookies to go with my espresso, so I was happy.

Headed to the gate about 40 minutes prior to departure, and there was a huge throng of people waiting to board. Lots of jetlagged people continuing on from Toronto, including the obligatory “I’m a silver elite member” pushing people out of the way to try and board. Ahhh….just like being back home. But the Air Canada baby blue 787 looked striking against the grey, rainy sky:

Boarding was pretty easy, and a very friendly crew welcomed me on board and showed me to my seat – 1K

Air Canada flight 92
Santiago, Chile (SCL) to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE)
Depart 10:45, Arrive 13:40, Flight Time: 1:55
Boeing 787-9, Registration C-FKSV, Manufactured 2016, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 74,624
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,451,601

Bienvenue á bord! Day three of trip, third language…

Must have gotten to the airport just on time, because the skies opened up and very heavy rain had begun to fall For pre-departure, the choice was water, water, or water. At least it wasn’t served in a plastic cup…

Great view of the Andes soon after takeoff. No sign of any soccer players…

Love this shot of the snow-capped Andes with the distinctive 787 wing.

The light clouds really added to the beauty.

About 30 minutes into the flight, lunch was served. Not too bad for a flight under two hours, and a continuation flight. I find generally when airlines do these “tag” flights onto a longer flight, the second flight has a tiny snack at best. This had a full lunch service which was super tasty. There was even a simple menu for the short flight:

High marks to Air Canada – the lunch was super tasty and fresh, and one of the better meals I’ve had on such a short route anywhere in the world. Plus, the Deutz is a less-common champagne that was a nice change from some of the more frequent offerings.

As we were approaching Buenos Aires, it was suggested I have another glass of champagne. My mild protests fell upon deaf ears….as did the ones 15 minutes before landing. “You’re having more, and I’ll put it in a plastic cup so you can enjoy it right up to the gate.” Did I mention I loved this crew?

Not feeling like dealing with Uber at the airport I allowed myself to get taken advantage of by the official taxi service, which was quick and prevented me from having to wait in the heavy rain outside looking around for an Uber. When I got to my hotel, the Sheraton Congress Centre, check-in was a little on the slow side, but they did inform me that they had upgraded me to a suite for my one night stay. Not too shabby for the low rate. The living room upon entry:

Looking from the living room back to the door and kitchen area:

Pretty typical bedroom, as big as most hotel rooms:

Great view out the window of the Plaza Fuerza Aérea Argentina, the Torre Monumental, and the Retiro train station:

Previous trips to Buenos Aires I had always stayed in the Luxury Collection Park Tower (which is right next to the Sheraton) but for some reason on this stay rates were more than double, and I figured for one night I would try and be a bit economical. Short version: I was perfectly happy with the Sheraton, and glad that I hadn’t spent the extra money simply for a nicer room.

It was still a light rain when I headed out, but decided to walk for a bit in hopes of not getting too wet. Monument to those killed in the wars in the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands:

Heading up the beginning of Avenida Florida past San Martin Park as dusk set in:

After about an hour of walking it was dark and I was getting damp and tired, so headed to my favourite parilla, El Establo, to get some delicious Argentine steak. The place was a bit more run down than I remembered it being, and of course prices are much higher now that the blue market exchange rate is more or less a thing of the past, but a half bottle of good malbec and a giant lomo/filet mignon with dessert was still under $30. Can’t beat it!

Almost perfectly cooked….could have been just the tiniest bit more red, but given the propensity of Argentines to overcook steak (even when ordered punto jugoso) I was very happy with it!

Now that was a LOT of steak.

…but of course, being Argentina, there was still room for some Dulce de Leche ice cream. Also being Argentina, there’s no such thing as a small dessert!

With that, it was getting late and I was getting tired, so it was time for some sleep so I could enjoy more Buenos Aires in the morning before heading onwards…

Jun 062014
 

It was nearly 7:30pm already by the time I reached my hotel, the Sheraton Quito. Nice touch number one: was met carside by the valet/doorman with an umbrella, so I didn’t get too terribly wet in the downpour. Now that’s service…and from a Sheraton! Check-in was pretty slow, taking nearly 20 minutes, but after asking if there might be any suites available for upgrade, they did find a nice junior suite for me.

It was happy hour, and I had lounge access, so decided to go check it out since it was still pouring rain.  I was the only person in the lounge, and had a few small munchies and a couple of glasses of wine while I waited for the rain to let up.  The hour I was there, I was the only person in the lounge…which kind of made me wonder why they had it open.  After an hour of browsing the local area for places to eat, and the rain letting up to a steady drizzle, I decided to first go for a walk around the block.  Couldn’t find either of the places I was looking for, but did manage to find a local ripoff of the Pinkberry frozen yogurt chain in DC.  Or maybe this came first…not sure.

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Didn’t find anything in my wander, so headed to the huge shopping mall near my hotel.  Nothing that looked special there, and so far a TGI Fridays was looking like the best bet.  It was almost 9pm at this point and I was getting seriously hungry.  One more loop around the block, and I found a Chilis, lol.  I was hungry, and it sounded good…plus the rain was getting heavier again, so I went in.  Are you serious….a 2 hour wait for a table…maybe 90 minutes at the bar?  I’ll pass.

Kept walking back towards the hotel and came across a little steak place right across from the Sheraton whose name I can’t remember.  But hey, they had sangria, so all was not lost:

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Unfortunately, my steak was terrible.  It was way overcooked, and way too gristly.  I guess my expectations were just too high after having great steaks all over south america.  Oh well!  At least it was filling.  Decided to skip on desert, call it a night, and get up early to explore.

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Still managed to sleep in until nearly 9am, just in time to go up and grab breakfast in the lounge.  A decent selection of hot and cold items, and plenty to fuel me for the day.  Once again, I was the only person in the lounge.  I was beginning to wonder what was going on.  There were wedding decorations all over the hotel, so clearly it was pretty full, but for whatever reason nobody was using the lounge.  Oh well!

Went downstairs and asked the bellman to get me a taxi to go explore, and he highly recommended using a hotel car and negotiating a rate for all the stops I wanted to make.  I had three stops planned, and the driver was more than happy to negotiate a flat rate for 6 hours.  Sold…I wouldn’t have to worry about finding cars, leaving things in the car, etc.  Maybe cost $20 or so more in the end, but well worth it to not have to think about safety/etc.

First stop was the TelefériQo (get it?  Teleférico and Quito combined?  Clever) which is a cable car that starts at about 10,000 feet and rises to nearly 13,000 feet and was supposed to have great views over the city.  Paid my $8.50, and got a Sacagawea in change…I never even see those in the US, but apparently they’re alive and well in Ecuador.  This was one of many times I got one.

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There was absolutely no line, got my own gondola, and up I go.  But first…let me take a #selfie

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Great views of the city from the Gondola…I was getting a bit of fear of heights at this point….

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At the top, I paused briefly to catch my breath…and start a hike further up the mountain.  First stop was a small church:

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May 062014
 

Through immigration and customs in less than 10 minutes, and had to find my way out of the airport, which was easier said than done due to lack of signage.  Fortunately, I found an ATM on the way, so I could stock up on cash for the next few days.  Got a taxi for 80 bolivianos (which I now know is a ripoff – 60 is the “real” price) – but getting ripped off by $3 on day number one in a country is nothing to get too upset about.  Now, the fact he drove 140kph on the switchbacks down the mountain, that’s another story.  Checked into my hotel the Radisson by 3:15, and was out cold by 3:30.  Woke up the next morning to a fantastic view of La Paz out my window:

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After about an hour to get moving and adjusted to the thin air, decided to start on a walk.  I seriously don’t know what we did before google maps.  I decided to slowly head down to the main tourist area, and was stopping every 2 blocks or so to catch my breath.  13,000+ feet above sea level kinda hits you hard.  Along the walk, I saw a restaurant with a name that sounded familiar.  Checked TripAdvisor, and sure enough I’d seen it there, advertising great breakfasts.  Plus, Cafe Il Lampu had a fantastic seat on a little second floor mini balcony to people watch from:

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Fortified with some espressos, toast, and my new vocab word of the day “huevos duros” or hard-boiled eggs, I was ready for some more slow wandering.  After another 10 minutes or so, I came upon the church of San Francisco, which had a fantastic plaza to camp out and people watch for a bit . Are you catching a theme here?  It was lots of stop and go walking in the thin air for the first several hours:

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