For Carnaval this year, we did what many Brazilians do: take advantage of the time off of work to get out of town. Travel outside of Brazil these days tends to be less expensive than travel within the country; and even flights are equal, if not less, so we’re taking advantage. While it is a bummer to miss the festivities and traditions of Carnaval, we thoroughly enjoyed our wonderful vacation to Chile – full of sunshine, cool nights, tasty (and affordable) wine, lots of walks, and so much laughter thanks to our friends April and Jeff who joined our journey. Picture heavy post follows – enjoy!

Jeff and I started our time in Santiago with local Chilean beer and traditional dishes at Galindo in Bellavista, the neighborhood known as the bohemian part of town. This fun bar/restaurant was a perfect start to our trip and only a few minutes from our hotel.

Just outside of our hotel we were able to hop on the funicular for a ride to see the beautiful views from atop San Cristobal. You’ll notice very few clouds in the sky (though maybe a little smog held in by the not-so-far-off Andes), which is telling of how perfect the weather was for our trip (apparently quite typical for this time of year). Sunny, hot during the day, cool at night, nice and dry.

After our afternoon adventures we took a nap in our lovely hotel room at The Aubrey and then went to dinner at El Meson Nerudiano where we enjoyed a wonderful, intimate setting on the back patio, delicious seafood, THE BEST PISCO SOURS, and lovely live music.

Throughout our stay in Santiago, we truly enjoyed The Aubrey boutique hotel. The grounds are beautiful, the staff very sweet and accommodating and the breakfast just delicious.

On Saturday we caught up with our new favorite travel buddies and explored a few neighborhoods of Santiago, including Lastarria and Centro. We started and ended the day with ice cream at Emporio La Rosa, walked up the hill/park Cerro Santa Lucia, explored Plaza das Armas and ate a seafood lunch at the Mercado Central. We hit up a local, hole-in-the-wall bar La Piojera for “terremotos”, which I’ll let you read about on April’s entertaining blog (click here) and after that stumbled on to enjoy some Chilean contemporary art at Museo de Bellas Artes. Besides April’s bag getting snagged while we were too focused on the delicious ice cream and coffee (and Jeff being sad about how tiny his coffee was – see picture below), it was a flawless day that we ended in the hustle of Bellavista nightlife for dinner and drinks at Etniko.

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Though all of our days in Chile were spectacular, the hands-down winner was our bike tour and wine tasting day with La Bicicleta Verde. It felt so good to be amongst the vineyards again, on a bike and breathing fresh air. Not to mention, the wine. Just spectacular. We ate some fresh almonds along the way (see picture below where they are drying out), drank wine straight from the barrels and learned a lot from our wonderful guide and winery hosts. We ended the tour with a tasty Chilean lunch (chicken stew, empanadas, pork ribs and of course more wine) at a little country house called K-feteria Tipica (no joke).

We enjoyed the evening back in Santiago sipping beers outside with beautiful cool evening weather.

Monday morning we savored our tasty breakfast at the hotel one last time and hopped in our rental car with April and Jeff to head to Valparaiso.  We made a few stops in the Casablanca valley for more wine tasting at Vina Indomito and Metetic. We enjoyed the remote setting and tour at Metetic more than the more lounge-like setting of Indomito, but views from both were spectacular and the region, known for its white wine grapes, puts out some wonderful, refreshing wines. I also became minorly obsessed with the fact that there were llamas around – okay, alpacas, but still. Awesome.

Later in the evening we made it to Valparaiso, a funky port town spread over five or so very steep hills – each having it’s own name starting with cerro, meaning hill. We made our way to Cerro Alegre (aka Happy Hill) where we were staying. We spotted our hotel from way below and it only took us 3 to 4 attempts before we finally found a street that didn’t dead end into an 8-foot wall – many thanks to our brave driver Jeff Jones (the car was a manual!).

From the second upon arriving at Hotel Cerilo Armstrong, I knew I was going to love this town. Wonderful, colorful street art, rustic materials lining all buildings and spectacular views from every corner of the city. It is definitely not a place for everyone – ask most Brazilians and they’ll tell you to skip over the port city and head straight to Vina del Mar, the beach resort 20 km up the road – but, we loved it. Our hotel was perfect. A fun balance between rustic, contemporary and artsy with a great balcony and friendly staff.

We had one full day in which we took advantage of the sunshine and walked around a lot. We explored Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana, wandered through different neighborhoods, hopped in to many cute shops (lots of fun jewelry and artsy accessories), ate tasty seafood, and of course, drank lots of wonderful Chilean wine.

We also rode up one of the many funiculars in Valparaiso, which transports pedestrians from the port up to the top of the hillside neighborhoods. While arguably much better than climbing hundreds of stairs, we all decided that once was enough due to the feeling that it might just fall apart, at any second.

We had lots of fun wandering and taking pictures. And as you might assume from pictures like this one, we had lots of laughs as well.

April and I memorialized our llama encounter with “So Sexy” alpaca wool “llamas” and we ended our day-of-wandering by spending an inordinate amount of time at a little shop called the Traveling Chili. We picked up everything from ceramic coffee mugs to special Chilean chili powder to beef jerky. We then went back and enjoyed our patio and the exceptional weather at the hotel suite with a few good games of Farkle, amazing cheese, bread and wine – all Chilean, obviously (besides Farkle, which is an American game April and Jeff have introduced us to. so fun.). Then we rolled ourselves out for one last Chilean dinner (tasty seafood) and more wine at a casual Chilean joint in the neighborhood.

The drive back to Santiago the next morning was easy and we even made it back in time to go to the Los Dominicos market, where I found a pretty copper ring and a nice alpaca shawl.

Let me tell you – good wine, excellent cheese, delicious seafood, beautiful jewelry and all at a reasonable price – I could have stayed for weeks/forever. Especially knowing how much more there is to see and do in Chile – skiing, patagonia, the desert, the lakes – we’ll be going back.

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