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Travels in Chile (Part 1) Santiago 2020

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

©Bless the Nest 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Since the beginning, Martin and I have discussed where our first international travel would be. Ever since Martin was a little boy, he had been going to and from Chile where his father was from during the summer months and later in life had taken a European tour. I, on the other hand, had never left the country...That's right I said it! Here I am at 33 years old and the only place close to real travel was the outskirts of the Mexican border visiting from Arizona, where I spent my early years of childhood. To imagine a place outside of the US seemed unfathomable. The world is so vast and to think most of us just see a small piece of it. Now was our time! Lilo, Martin's father had invited us out to his home in Lago Rapel, Chile for two weeks!! It was our wintertime here at the end of January, but it was right in the middle of the summertime there, the best time to go to Chile.

The plane ride was about 8 hours, not bad and it was smooth. I tend to be an anxious traveler, but I am getting much better in crowded airports and on plane rides as we increase our exposure more and more. It helped to take a night flight and we slept most of the way. We flew with Latam and the service was great! We got free glasses of red wine the whole way and the on-board meals were actually quite tasty. There were plenty of movie selections and before we knew it we were there. I looked out the window flying over Chile and saw the rich agriculture and the golden brown mountains surrounding us. It was just before six am, and the sky a tangerine warmth that felt like a hug. I actually started tearing up, it was surreal and absolutely breathtaking.

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Wow, a different country?! We were greeted by a nice man Martin's cousin, Sebastian had sent for us to take us to his home while he was working. I was shocked as we went through the parking garage and how compact the cars and the parking spaces were, I mean tiny!!! If you're claustrophobic in anyway beware of parking garages in Santiago. We arrived at Sebastian's home which was nestled away in the quiet suburban rolling hills of Santiago, in Las Condes, which he shared with his warm and inviting girlfriend, Caro and their adorable children. We spent the weekend with them and they took us to many lovely places. The first stop was a local ice cream shop and bakery. Martin told me we have to try Lucuma ice cream and it was his favorite treat when he was younger. Sebastian, Martin's cousin, recommended a place that makes the best ice cream and he called ahead of time to see if they had it and luckily they did. I guess, they specialize in empanadas, because it was called Emapanas Satira, of course we had to get some to-go for later. It was my first Lucuma fruit ice cream. Lucuma is an exotic fruit native to Peru and Chile that resembles an avocado and orange, but tastes like a butterscotch caramel and pumpkin. It's really quite good! Martin had a bite of mine and reminisced, but then went for his favorite go-to ice cream, vanilla.

Lucuma Ice Cream an exotic fruit native Chile and Peru

After our ice cream pit stop, we headed to a traditional artisanal market, a relic of original and authentic Chilean culture in a developing metropolitan city. If you want local craft artistry in a busy city adapting to modern times, this is the place to get real and authentic Chilean souvenirs.

Los Dominicos, Santiago, Chile 2020

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This market is called, Pueblito Los Dominicos, en Las Condes. It is home to Chilean artists, craftsmen, and artisans of all kinds specializing in sculpture, woodworking, knitting, tapestry, jewelry design and other specialty novel gifts and souvenirs. There were all sorts of plants for sale as well as rabbits and chickens, fish and songbirds. It was really something to see Chilean craftsmanship and biodiversity first hand like that. There was so much cool stuff to see.

We adored these little handcrafted penguins at a jewelry store where they were selling Lapis Lazuli gifts. The national stone of Chile is Lapis Lazuli, which comes from The Coquimbo Region. It's a beautiful deep and vibrant shade of blue and is thought to bring harmony and universal truth. The penguins were all unique in there own way and tiny, perfect to fit in our suitcase and take back home. We now have them on our bookshelf and they sit as a reminder of our love and our first international trip together!

As we were walking through the market, we came across an old man who was a woodworker and artist. We were blown away by his skills and talent. He would take a photograph to work from, and use a sheet of wood to carve out, chipping away to a fine detail what details were in the photo. He liked to use boats on the water, and scenic landscapes for his designs. He showed us how he did the painting process on the wood, which came from all-natural dyes from an array of herbs and fruits. It was unbelievable. We would have bought a piece from him, but we had limited spacing in our suitcase. Next time we go back, we'll be sure to buy one of his beautiful designs.

(Martin) Every time I go to Chile, and I've been coming here since I was 10 years old, more on that later, I always make it a point to come to Los Dominicos, a tradition per se. Once here, I always pick up an artisanal wooden or metal mind puzzles. Throughout Chile, when I was younger, you would always find street vendors selling a variety of them. Walking through the various stores we luckily found the puzzle kiosk and I surprisingly had the majority of them. I did find a new challenge in the shape of two horseshoes with six links and a metal ring in between them. The object was to remove the metal ring from in-between the horseshoes. I bought them (18.000 Peso/ $21USD) and asked for her business card just in case I couldn't figure it out. Update: That same night before going to dinner and Ashley was getting dressed, a beer in hand, I figured it out in about 15 minutes. It was actually harder to put the ring back so we can play it again.

When you are in Santiago, be sure to go to Los Dominicos to experience and support true traditional Chilean art and crafts.

Later that same night —dinner in Santiago

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We went to a restaurant that night in downtown Santiago and had a delicious traditional Chilean dinner. I was called Miraolas, in Avenida Vitacura. We enjoyed a dish called, "Angulas al ajillo" which translates to baby eels in garlic butter. The dish comes out sizzling and the eels boiling in a savory garlic butter. It's served with freshly baked bread to dip in and it literally melts in your mouth, buttery garlic goodness. Baby eels!! It took a lot for me to take a bite, but I'm so glad I did. It's a local and native tradition and it was so tasty. We also had "Machas a la Parmesan" which is a classic Chilean appetizer made of saltwater razor clams baked in their shell with a melted with wine and Parmesan cheese. Another typical Chilean starter is the Merluza Austral, which is the meaty neck part of a fish, the Kokotxas cooked in butter. We also indulged in the classic cocktail, Pisco Sour. Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy produced in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. Made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit, it was developed by 16th-century Spanish settlers as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain. The traditional Pisco Sour is a cocktail made of the combination of Pisco, simple syrup, lemon juice, and egg white. It's extremely refreshing and be careful as one or two will get you quite tipsy! The egg white gives it a nice froth on top of the glass and its simple ingredients make it quite popular and traditional, the perfect way to cool down on a warm summer night.

Next day, Saturday BBQ and Wine Galore

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On Saturday, Sebastian hosted an amazing BBQ at his beautiful home. Which, by the way, is made to have gatherings, BBQs, pool parties galore. The start of the day began in the kitchen as Caro prepared the dishes and her famous cream cheese stuffed pumpkin. The smells coming from the kitchen were unbelievable and we were drooling already! The guests started to arrive and we set up the table in the backyard by the pool and barbecue. Each guest brought a dish and most of them brought multiple bottles of wine as they too are in the wine business with Sebastian and their company, Tandem Wines. These wines were amazing quality, and high end and we learned so much about each bottle as they all had a story about the winemaker and their journey. One bottle, in particular, Ceniciento 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon stood out in my mind which is amazing because we probably polished off over twenty that night. One vineyard in Chile experienced wildfires that year and the winemaker feared the grapes were ruined. They sold the land to a woman and she decided to harvest the grapes and they turned out to be exceptional despite the initial winemaker's doubt. It's as if the fires enhanced the flavor of the grapes. The bottles were released and became a hit in the industry and consumer's palettes.

There was so much steak and meats of every variety all cooked over the flame on the grill. The lunch was a Chilean BBQ experience like no other. The kids were running around playing in pure bliss and the two dogs an Italian Mastiff named, Ragnarok and a little Chihuahua, named Lupe patiently waited underneath the table for fallen scraps of meat. We laughed and had an amazing conversation with the guests and learned so much about Chilean culture. Since I only speak a little Spanish, I was worried at first that I'd be lost in translation but for the most part everyone spoke a little bit of English and had a way of expressing emotion without words if that makes sense. We were all united as one brought together with music, food, wine and laughter. There were no cultural barriers and that is the biggest thing that stood out in my mind, we are all one.

Come Sunday, off to Casablanca for a Wine tour(s)

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The next morning Sebastian and Caro surprised us with a trip to see the Casablanca wine region and visit, Villard Fine Fines. Villard was established in 1989 by a gentleman named, Thierry Villard as Chile's very first family premium boutique wine company and is today currently one of the best producers of The Casablanca Valley. As we drove up the long dusty road, there was the Villard estate nestled up at the top of a mountain overlooking acres of ripe wine grape vines shining in the hot summer sun. It felt like a dream, a dream that came true! We walked up the steps of the estate and were blown away with its beautiful landscape design and setting. There were bright cacti, rose bushes, succulents and poppy wildflowers scattered across the estate's landscape. There was a wooden picnic table set up for us for our tasting after the wine tour. We soon found out there was only one other person on the tour, so it truly was a private and intimate experience.

The tour guide was a passionate and informative woman. She led us out to the vineyards and we got to sample the Cabernet grapes fresh off the wine. They were sweet, juicy, and warm and burst in your mouth. She took us to a table that was set set up on a hill under a big beautiful olive tree and we sampled a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc wine. It was light, zesty and had hints of fresh fruit, which was so refreshing as it was a hot day. She explained to us how the area was ideal for growing wine grapes with the dry arid climate and the cool breeze coming off the coast.

We then made our way back up to the estate where we took the tour in the basement to see the concrete eggs, barrels and the overall winemaking process. It was all very interesting to see the process from the grapes being grown, to the aging process and barreling and finally to the bottling and labeling/manufacturing. It was all such a systematic process with each role extremely vital. Then, came the fun part! We sat down at the lovely table that was prepared for us and we were served a charcuterie board of local cheeses and meats with a fresh warm baguette. We were given light profile wines to heavy in tasting and aging to compliment the delicious cheese and meats. We sat there and laughed, enjoying one another's company with good conversation and just took it all in. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't in fact dreaming.

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The tour guide asked after we finished our tasting if we would mind if the dogs of the property could come out and say hello. Being a huge animal lover, I said yes, please! We were greeted by the most adorable faces and those pups got an unlimited amount of pets and tummy rubs!

Martin and I walked out to a bench that overlooked the vineyard and mountains before we left and took a few minutes to reflect where we were. The wind coming off the mountains seemed to play an angelic tune and it felt like heaven on earth. This truly was a life-changing moment for us and will forever be in our hearts. Thank you Villard Fine Wines for the tour of a lifetime and Sebastian and Caro for your unbelievable hospitality and the itinerary of Chile's most amazing places.

After the wine tour went for lunch at Casa Valle Vinamar

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After visiting Villard Fine Wines we headed to the next vineyard in the Casablanca region, Casa Valle Vinamar to have a scenic lunch overlooking the vineyards. I felt like I was walking up to the Great Gatsby estate, it was so romantic and charming. There was a grandeur entrance with white pillars and tiles of black and white checkers decorated the floor. We walked in and I felt like a princess, it was stunning.

We headed up the imperial-staircase to the second floor which was the dining area and sat at a table outside overlooking the Casablanca region. Mountains of vineyards beamed over our eyes. We had an incredible four-course, lunch and indulged in another wine tasting. The service was on point and we had a nice conversation and laughed non stop at the table. Our driver that day even joined us at lunch and had a great time. After lunch, we headed to the entrance of the estate and took a group photo at an over-sized white wooden chair. It was an experience we'll never forget and the view was priceless. We then headed back to Santiago for a much needed good night's rest for our next big adventure!

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After the weekend of the adventure of wine tastings and backyard barbecues with Sebastian and Caro, it was time to say goodbye and head onto our next destination and exploration!

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Thank you to Sebastian and Caro for your hospitality and for being amazing human being's. We had a blast in Santiago and Casa Blanca. Thank you... Thank you... Thank you.

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