What I learned about myself while in Santiago, Chile

Before we left for this trip, I made a reservation at Concha Y Toro for a wine tasting tour. For a little over $40, we get four glasses of wine and a charcuterie. But when I mentioned about it to Jorge, our city tour guide in Santiago on our first day there, he talked us out of going. He said it’s very touristy and he preferred Sta. Rita winery instead. Because we didn’t have a transport to Concha Y Toro, we decided to book us a wine tasting tour at Sta. Rita Wineries in Spanish (the English tour was sold out). My friend speaks Spanish but I do not, and honestly, this was a big mistake on my part.

The driver wasn’t going to pick us up until 1:30pm so we had the morning to explore Bellavista, a Bohemian neighborhood in Santiago, and only a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. If you are looking for bars and restaurants, this place has plenty of them. Pio Nono Street is the main street where most of the bars are located. Towards the end of the street, you’ll see people lined up for the funicular and teleférico to reach the summit at Cerro San Cristóbal. It was about 11:30 am and they told us it’ll take more than a couple of hours for the whole experience. We decided to buy the tickets now to avoid the long line later when we come back from the wine tasting tour. Waking back to the hotel, we looked for the restaurant, Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). We were told tourists come here just to take their pictures in front of the restaurant. After looking inside and checking out the scrumptious menu, we decided to have dinner there tonight.

It took a little over an hour drive to Sta. Rita winery. I realized that this tour that costs about $46 was the classic tour, not a premier tour unlike what I had reserved at Concha y Toro for about $41. After realizing that, I felt that we made the mistake (we wanted transportation, which we got, but the tour itself was nothing special). And also the fact that it was in Spanish, I stood there, lost among the crowd (who were giggling and laughing whenever the guide would crack a joke). I did feel I was cheated of this experience (at least my friend was enjoying herself and sometimes she would translate something to me). I only have myself to blame because I agreed to the Spanish tour (thinking I was there for the wines so who cares if the tour was in a language I barely understand). But I wish I hadn’t listened to Jorge. Yeah, now that I think about it, this was his fault! If he hadn’t dished on Concha y Toro, then we wouldn’t have been here in this vineyard right now. Of course, it was too late when I became fully aware of the mistake I made. We were already there, I might as well make the most of it.

To make the long story short, I didn’t really enjoy my time there—something that I kept to myself because I didn’t want to ruin it for my friend. The whole time she kept saying how much she enjoyed the tour and that it was the highlight of her trip so far. Yeah I would’ve perhaps enjoyed it too if I knew Spanish lol! I kept thinking how dumb I was to let this happen to myself—on my own dime and time.

Fortunately, the wine was good. I bought a 2015 Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenere that was awesome and from what I was told it was not widely sold in the stores in the US (or Texas—I can’t remember which one, not after the good amount of wine they poured on my glass 😁). I’m such a lightweight, I was tipsy after the wine tasting. I’m glad wine makes you forget everything. By this time, I was no longer feeling angry at myself.

On the way back to the city, we asked the bus driver to drop us off in Bellavista, where the funicular was, instead of dropping us to our hotel. We only had about less than three hours before they close. Luckily we were smart to get our tickets beforehand, skipping the long line.

This funicular is probably the steepest funicular I’ve been on. I’ve only been on three other (in HongKong, Paris, and Southern Italy) but I don’t remember them to be steep. Suffering from acrophobia, I almost shit my pants when I looked down while the funicular was going up. I thought I was going to have a panic attack (this explains the lack of pictures).

We got to the cumbre (summit) and there it was another birds eye view of Santiago. It was also here where we rode the teleférico (cable car). I failed to mention to my friend earlier that this was my first time to ride a cable car and told her just as we hopped on it. She laughed and couldn’t believe I’ve never been on one.

I developed my fear of heights when my husband (who was my fiancée at the time) and I went to Mexico City and climbed the pyramid (I can’t remember which one, either the moon or the sun) in Teotihuacan. I had no fear climbing up until it was time to go down. I panicked when I saw how high we were and my knees were trembling while going down the pyramid.

To ignore my fear of heights and be willing to get on the cable car knowing how high it was going to be was a huge accomplishment. It meant I was willing to overcome my fears. Of course it didn’t stop me from screaming as soon as the cable car started moving. The people we were riding with didn’t help either because just like me, they too were screaming at the top of their lungs. I guess I wasn’t the only scaredy cat there. 😹

On our way down, on the funicular, a young Indian guy (who looks like he was in his twenties), screamed to one of the operators to let him out (he saw how steep the funicular was and panicked). His friends were laughing, thinking he wasn’t serious. But he did get out and his friends at this point were quite shocked. I asked the young man how he’d get out of there without taking the funicular, he said he’ll find a way. My friend and I didn’t think he would be back at his hotel tonight if he had to walk down. Tomorrow perhaps! I bet he had to take the funicular anyway and had no choice but to face his fears. If not, he’d get stuck there overnight.

We went back to our hotel to change our clothes for dinner. I was excited to go to Como Agua Para Chocolate. If you read the book, Like Water for Chocolate, this restaurant is exactly based off of that. The waiter told me the restaurant was already in business even before the movie was released. But the movie enhanced the restaurant’s popularity. We were initially at the bar waiting for a table to open up and the bartender was really helpful describing the different drinks in the menu. I ordered his recommended specialty and glad I did because it was really good.

For dinner, I got the Cazuela de Jaiba y Camarones (spicy broth with crab and shrimps) served in a clay pot. I could’ve ordered a lot more (appetizers and dessert) in the menu but sadly my friend vetoed that desire. She decided to eat less not only on the first few days of our trip but on the entire trip! It was too bad because the reason I travel is to immerse myself in the country’s culture and trying out the food is a huge part of the learning experience. I don’t ever think of dieting when I’m in a different country. Also after each breakfast, she’d announce that we better skip lunch and that was every.single.day we were in South America (except in Patagonia because we were at an all-inclusive resort). Our three days in Buenos Aires was even worse and I missed out on trying a few great restaurants. Of course, I could’ve gone by myself but that’s not easy to do when you have a travel partner. But I was still grateful my friend was there with me although I realized traveling solo gives you the optimum results if you want to accomplish everything in your trip.

There were so many things I learned about myself on this trip. I learned that I can challenge myself to overcome my fears. I also learned that I enjoy traveling solo and I have FOMO–fear of missing out (which in this particular trip, I did miss out big time 😭)!

Como Agua Para Chocolate was the perfect place to conclude my last night in Santiago. It signified what the city of Santiago is—charming, hip, modern yet romantic, and definitely unforgettable.

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