finally, some time to continue with the travel stories…
famous for smog so the view might not be as spectacular as you were hoping. If the view disappoints, you can still enjoy the spectacular religious statues. Latin America is a very Catholic place so there is lots of religious symbolism in unexpected places. The funicular is a great transport back in time. From the top of the hill, you can see the sprawl of increasingly modern Santiago. It’s also a park so pleasant to walk around for a little while before heading back down to the city streets.
It’s always a bit odd celebrating your birthday alone, especially in a city where you don’t speak the language. It can feel lonely but I’ve learned to push myself and engage with strangers and try new things and every foreign birthday has turned into a magical experience full of serendipity and experiences I would never have had staying home where everything is easy and familiar. This one was no different 🙂
The day was fairly quiet. After I’d had my overview of the city, I went back to the Aubrey for the free afternoon tea. It wasn’t too elaborate but I did get a cup of tea and cake. Then I headed back to my old ‘hood, Lastarria, for the ice cream indulgence that had become part of my Santiago routine. It was my birthday – I could have cake AND ice cream 😉 The ice cream shop is called Sociedad Emporio La Rosa, The ice cream is sublime and it seems to be a Santiago institution so be prepared for a line – but it’s worth the wait!
There is also a sort of informal street market in Lastarria so added more quirky locally made costume jewelry to my collection. Santiago’s weather (in March at least) is interesting as it starts quite cool, the heat rises to a climax in late afternoon and then cools down for the evening. It’s a pretty great climate for tourists but I started showering before dinner as that made the most sense. Tonight I was going to be more adventurous and my plan was to get to the W Hotel in time for sunset.
The W Hotel is in the Las Condes neighborhood, in an area referred to as Sanhattan. It’s the kind of thing I normally avoid when I travel. I want to see a foreign culture, not a new approximation of my own culture. I do try to be open-minded as well. It’s easy as someone growing up in the very prosperous G7 to want other countries to stay quaint for my tourist photos but it’s not very fair so I am welcoming of development that improves the lives of local citizens in emerging economies. Of course, totally achieving that goal, especially for all the citizens, is inevitably a challenging endeavour.
I felt a bit guilty after my night hanging out with the Marxists but my guidebook said the W had a spectacular rooftop bar/restaurant where you could watch the sun set over the Andes from the most spectacular setting in Santiago. It seemed the right place to celebrate your birthday solo. The sunset could be my dinner companion.
Normally I try not to stray too far from my hotel in a foreign city where few people speak English. Ideally, I can walk back to the hotel if necessary. While my passport fiasco is still costing me money and grief (do not decide you have lost your passport when you have merely put it in a different place :)), it had unexpected benefits as unexpected events in life often do. Since I had to spend so much time going from Lastarria to the Canadian embassy and it was an expensive taxi ride, I bought a bip! card and learned how to use the metro. It works really well and I would highly recommend this to visitors.
According to the map, the W Hotel was not far from the Canadian embassy so I should be able to find it easily, which indeed was the case. Finding the W was easy. Finding the rooftop restaurant proved a lot more challenging but I finally asked for help and got seated in time for sunset.
If you are into sunsets, I would highly recommend a visit to Canada. I think it’s because the country is so far north. I am always up for a sunset but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one more spectacular than the ones I’ve seen in Canada. I am still thrilled when by accident I happen to look out the window at sunrise or sunset and see a particularly fantastic one. So, you SHOULD go to the W for the sunset but it may not thrill you 🙂
It is a spectacular setting though and the food and drink is of a high standard. You may want to avoid red wine though…
First, I need to set the scene. For some reason, the outdoor balcony of the W is filled with white plastic. Everything is white and most is plastic. Perhaps it’s because of the red wine glasses…
I am a bit of a klutz but I don’t spill things that often. I have great reflexes from so many almost tumbles so can normally compensate and impress others 🙂 I could tell there might be trouble as the glass was poorly engineered. When I held it, the top felt way too heavy for the thin stem. I’d finished my meal and was going to finish the red wine and then head back to Bellavista. But it was not to be. I felt the glass tipping over but the top was too heavy to stop it from gravity and seconds later there was red wine and shattered glass everywhere. Since everything was white and either plastic or concrete, the glass broke spectacularly and it was impossible to hide my clumsiness.
The staff were spectacular and moved me to another table away from the scene of the crime while they cleaned up my mess. It seemed rude after all their effort to leave so I ordered another glass of wine. This time I made sure to sip very carefully and secure it on the table between sips rather than holding it in my hand.
It seemed a spectacularly bad end to my Chilean birthday but making a scene got me noticed by a couple of gentlemen at another table who told the server they wanted to buy me another glass of wine. I ended up joining them and having another conversation involving broken English and mobile phone translation apps. They were businessmen from the gorgeous city of Valencia in Spain and came to Santiago regularly. They were quite excited that it was my birthday and creating a scene ended up meaning another memorable birthday in a foreign city.
p.s. Also wanted to include a shout-out to Barrica 94 if you are interested in Chilean wine. There aren’t many wine bars yet in Chile so it’s hard to try a lot of things if you are only ordering a glass but here it is different as the owner has some American influence. It’s in a complex that I initially wrote off as too commercial but my visit here on my last day in Chile proved that you shouldn’t be a snob 🙂
p.p.s. It’s also good to explore new neighborhoods. Brasil was full of friendly people who didn’t speak English and Barrio Italia would satisfy any hipster seeking quirky artisanal goods and services 😉