So, we have just returned from an amazing holiday in Chile! The whole trip was centered around my brothers wedding but his fiancé (Pia) insisted that our visit should include as much of Chile as possible so that we could really get a feel for the country.
I was a little daunted by the thought of a 14 hour flight but I needn’t have been. We flew directly from Heathrow to Santiago on the new Dreamliner with BA, an experience in itself! Though a little more expensive to fly direct, it was definitely worth it with three kids in tow! The Dreamliner is cavernous, so much so that I could hardly close the overhead locker! You could start watching the inflight entertainment from the moment you sat down and the air filtration system was far superior to any other plane I’ve experienced (no dry mouth during the flight or headaches afterwards). The kids (5,8&11) travelled really well with the only issue being, to tell them to go to sleep or they would have happily watched films/ kids TV all night!
Chile is only three hours behind GMT, so adjusting to the time zone didn’t take long. The first couple of nights were spent in The Sheraton hotel in Santiago. Pia’s close family hosted a welcome BBQ on our first evening and we had our first taste of Chilean cuisine. The Chileans love to BBQ and tend to cook big lumps of meat slowly until really tender- delicious! They serve the meat with various salads and ceviche including the best avocados I have ever tasted!
Pia’s dad is a chemist and loves to make his own liqueurs using fruit from his garden! We sampled a few…., we were really beginning to like Chile! Cheers!!
Though the majority of friends and family that we met spoke some English, few were fluent, enabling us to put our Spanish skills to the test. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the trip compared to similar attempts in Spanish holiday resorts, where the locals tend to answer in English with a roll of the eyes! My only other good experience in a Spanish speaking country, was when we stayed with friends in Baiona, northern Spain, a very local-Spanish holiday destination where the Brits haven’t yet invaded in great numbers!! In Chile, even the staff working in the big hotels were not fluent in English, enabling me to be more confident in attempting Spanish. We encouraged the kids to ask for their own food and drink throughout the trip as well as practicing basic phrases, greetings and pleasantries. Only The Boy could turn the Spanish for ‘apple juice’ into a minion war cry! “Jugo de manzana!” We are keen for the kids to become fluent as I have written about before in Why We Are Learning Spanish as a Family.
Our second full day was the day of the civil ceremony. In Chile, couples have to be married officially in a registry office before being married in a church, and with their strong Catholic beliefs, Pia had to marry in the eyes of god. My bro, like most men I’m sure, did what he was told and agreed to Pia’s dream wedding and my mum nearly fell over when he told her that he was getting married in a church!
A family lunch followed the civil ceremony and then we headed off to Santa Cruz, two and a half hours outside Santiago, towards the mountains. We spent four nights in the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza, a beautiful boutique hotel, perfect for soaking up the sun and experiencing more delicious Chilean food! The Museo Colchagua was right next door and as part of our stay, we could visit as many times as we liked. It’s a museum of world history, though predominantly that of South America, put together by Mr. Carlos Cardoen, a business man who found an interest in Pre-Hispanic cultures whilst traveling around South America as an international executive. He began to collect items in an attempt to find his roots as a Chilean, something that he felt, had been lost to history. In his own words: “Colchagua’s museum is the result of my interest for sharing with the society the objects and the knowledge acquired through my life about amazing topics of our origins as humans, south- Americans and Chileans”
The resulting museum really is a sight to behold, from relics and fossils of prehistoric creatures (this Megalodon jaw took center stage!), to a whole section dedicated to the rescue of the Chilean minors in 2010 where he features the actual pod used to bring each minor safely back to the surface.
There were plenty of things for the children to touch and get close to with many items positioned at their level and without glass cases. The attitude to children touching things in Chile is very different to that in the UK, they are actively encouraged to touch and feel with care. We took advantage of being able to visit the museum several times during our stay as it was quite large and therefore tiring for little legs to manage all in one go!
We took a morning tour of a local vine yard via horse and cart, where we were shown the history, progression and current methods of producing Chilean wine, as well as tasting various wines. Yes, we were drinking wine at 10am, I miss Chile!! The kids loved the horse and cart, seeing the huge vats of wine and the room holding stacks of wooden caskets containing 800,000 bottles worth of wine! The quote of the day had to be: “Daddy, that’s how much wine you and mummy drink in a whole year!” Erhem, I think we might need to take a check of our drinking habits……..
The evening before we left Santa Cruz, we visited a second vineyard, but this one featured cable cars (or flying cars as The Boy called them) to take you up to an observatory and a small open air museum featuring replicas of homes and monuments of the Mapuche (the original ethnic group of Chile), Amara (indigenous to the Andes) and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) cultures, that the children could explore. Here we learned that Easter Island is part of Chile, a fact that I hadn’t realised as the island is over five and a half hours flight from Santiago!
The observatory displayed a collection of meteorites and objects from space that thoroughly fascinated the children and the planetarium explained stars, space and the universe while displaying images of planets, constellations and galaxies and their significance to the early natives. Once the planetarium show had finished, darkness was falling and we were taken to the observatory, where we were able to take a look at the first star (Venus) in the sky through their huge, telescope! As it had been cloudy during the day, we hadn’t thought that this would be possible so we were all super excited!
While staying in Santa Cruz, we sampled plenty of the local cuisine, in beautiful restaurant settings, including the Chilean take on sushi! Chileans have a real love for sushi, so much so, that they have added their own twist. Some of their sushi rolls come with avocado instead of the traditional seaweed wrap! They were delicious!
We returned to Santiago a couple of days before the main wedding, giving plenty of time for those final preparations. We stayed in Pia’s uncle’s house, a huge property, with a large garden and a pool, near to the wedding venue and Pia’s family. Our Spanish was tested again, when meeting more family members and the kids were thrilled to meet and play with some children of their own age. It’s amazing how kids need little introduction before they are best of friends, despite the language barrier- it was lovely to see!
Next week, I’ll be posting some more about our trip, the wedding and Lou turning blue!
Have you visited Chile? It wasn’t a feature on my ‘must visit’ list but as you can see, we had an amazing adventure!