We spent our last day in Santiago busy with experiences both traditional and not. We started off with snacks at a German bakery down the street from our apartment building, which Mackenzie passed many days but had not been into. There is a large German influence in Chile, especially in the South where there are towns in which only German is spoken.

After that we hit a nearby mall so the girls could get overdue pedicures. I forgot to take pics, but suffice it to say, the experience was a bit unconventional. The salon was set up to provide pedicures, but with our feet propped on the workers knees, and each of us sitting in different corners of the room it wasn’t exactly the relaxing, girl bonding experience we’d anticipated. The results were acceptable, though.

From there we speed-walked back to Mackenzie’s house to meet up with her home-stay family who had invited us out to lunch at a “traditional Chilean restaurant.” It turned out to be a pri-fixe, 4 course meal with wine.

We were also joined by the sister of Mackenzie’s “dad,” Rodrigo, and her British husband, who currently live in Cyprus but spend several months on the coast in Chile, in Viña Del Mar. We had high hopes for Keith as he speaks only English, but he turned out to be pretty non-conversational. I guess that’s how their marriage works.

Thoroughly stuffed, Isabel had one more place for us to visit, so Carmen Gloria dropped us off at an artisanal market, Centro Artisanal Los Dominicos.

Instead of dogs, there were cats;

And birds;

And lovely walkways shaded with rustic roofs and greenery, connecting many little studios and shops.

We saw all kinds of traditional crafts and art, including the ceramic figures in the first picture, depicting people in various lines of work, both conventional and contemporary. The artist did not appreciate my photographing, but oh well. I had to do it and I’m glad I did, all week long. Mom’s iPhone photos wherever we go has become a family tradition!

Flat Out

We covered some serious territory today. It began with a hike to the top of the tallest hill in Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. At the summit of Mount San Cristobal is a giant statue of the Virgin Mary. We had intended to take the funicular rail car to the top, but it was closed for maintenance. So up we hiked the couple kilometer trail.


There were some great views to the west along the way.

The top greeted us with dogs, views, empanadas, Mary, and the real miracle, Delaney. She was our reluctant hiker, but her music and the promise of snacks at the top helped  to keep her motivated.

The drink here is a classic Chilean beverage, Mote Con Huesillos. It has something for everybody; in other words, few people in our party liked it in its entirety, but everyone liked some part of it: the peach juice, the canned peach halves, and/or the wheat grains at the bottom.

Before we left the empanada stand, James escorted an older woman down the steps, at her insistence.

We took a gondola down the length of “the green lung,” which is what the Parque landmass is also called. Because of it’s shape? The oxygen it provides? I don’t know, and Isabel couldn’t provide accurate data.

The Parque behind us, we headed to a huge farmers’ market, by way of a sculpture park along the river, and several Metro stops.

La Vega Market

We resisted buying the amazing looking strawberries, avocados, etc., but did indulge in snow-cone-like drings and fresh pressed fruit juice.

From there we made our way to The University of Chile’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which was connected to the Museum of Fine Art. Because, why not? No pics allowed inside.

After a short rest back at the apartment, we headed out to Barrio Italia for dinner. I failed to get dinner pics of ravioli with pesto, vermicelli bolognese, and ensalada caprese, but James took this one of our drinks. img_5965

All that, and Delaney still had energy to exercise after dinner. This family’s got stamina, I tell you!

One more day to get the rest of it in, and we head home tomorrow night. I think we’ll be able to say we did our best to see everything Santiago has to offer.

Giving Thanks in Chile

After a day of high and low, we managed to finagle an American-style Thanksgiving dinner. The high: we visited the top of the tallest skyscraper in all of Latin America (central and south, combined), Sky Costanera. You can see it in the picture above, protruding above the hills and in front of Mackenzie’s face. Here are some views from the 61st floor, and above it, an open sky, windowed penthouse floor.

Here’s how the building compares to some other well-known skyscrapers:

The low was a trip to the San Joaquin campus of Pontificia Catolica, where Mackenzie/Isabel has been attending classes all semester. It was low because the campus is in the valley Santiago resides in (as opposed to 300 meters above ground), and because Mack had her final test of the semester and due to a malfunctioning Metro train, was a little stressed and 30 minutes late.

However, a taxi ride and different Metro line later, we arrived on campus and she got her test done, and then took us on a tour around campus.

Jesus welcomes all onto the campus.

Lots of shade under treed walkways.

More ice cream.

Picking up the final Sociology paper. Pass.

A 45 minute Metro ride later and we hit the supermarket to pick up Turkey Day trimmings. Here’s what we got:

Some creative improv and a microwave later, and voila! Thanksgiving dinner.

Although it didn’t feel much like Thanksgiving, it was one to remember. We hope yours was was too!

Valpo with Isabel

Using her given name to make reservations and tend to other exchanges has proven difficult, so Mackenzie has taken a new one for doing business in Chile. It makes sense.

Today Isabel took us to Valparaiso, or Valpo, a city on the coast due west of Santiago. We got there via bus and spent the day tromping up and down hills and steps, exploring the vividly decorated neighborhoods.

Along the way, we learned things, not necessarily imparted by our guide, but she did get us where we needed to be. Here are some of the things we learned:

1) How certain candies are made.

2) Why Chile is not known for its beer. It’s gross.

3) That a creaky death-trap of a ride can generate just as much amusement as a pricey, well-maintained one at a theme park, and maybe more.


Yep, that’s us. We kind of stick out like sore thumbs. Santiago is really diverse, but as we travelled in our rental Peugeot into the mountains today, there were more sheep and stray dogs than Americans, for sure. Although we did run into a couple from Massachusetts. We could spot each other a mile away. Or maybe it was James’s omnipresent Patriots sweatshirt and Red Sox cap…

We somehow passed Boston College on our way out of town…no sightings of cousin Jack. He must have been at the “library.”

This was early in our 2 hour drive along a winding road on the way to the El Yeso dam in the San Juan de Maipo region, SW of the city.

Small communities gave way to pretty barren, gravelly and volcanic landscape.

The road was threatened by washouts in several places, but workers were installing under-road pipes. The pavement ended after we passed groups of goats and sheep grazing on the rocky scrub, and the final kilometers to the dam were on dirt and gravel. We were glad for the rental; and for Spotify, which took us most of the way up to the reservoir.

A foreboding song played randomly just as the road dropped off severely to the reservoir below. “Won’t you please step back from the ledge my friend?” Moms don’t like kids on ledges.

Moms also don’t like cars on ledges, but that was the only place to park.

We walked from there back up to a little empanada stand, the only purveyor of food, passing several small tour groups whose leaders had set up elaborate wine and snack spreads on folding tables. Not for the gringos! Queso pollo empanadas and bottled water for us.

We enjoyed sitting on the rocks and feeding the yellow birds that came to grab crumbs.

We had our own spread later at a catered dinner held for the students and “families” (primarily home-stay) at a house in Las Condes. We met most of Mackenzie’s friends and program leaders there, and dined on onces, beverages, salad and steak. The only gringo family there took full advantage of the hospitality with muchas gracias.


After a sleep in until – gasp – well after sunrise, we took the Metro into downtown Santiago for a tour led by our guide, Mackenzie.

It was a day reminiscent of our week in Japan, when our host, Julia, planned our itineraries, navigated transportation, negotiated all transactions, and conversed in the native language. Today we were completely taken care of, walked miles, and got a quick overview of a historic city. And we ate. After we’d returned to Las Condes, Mackenzie went to a crossfit class, leaving JJ and me to head to the local grocery store for necessities (wine, etc.), and we were unable to respond with the appropriate (1) or (2) on the credit card reader. The cashier helped us, a little impatiently. Sad.

A quick overview of highlights. And I mean quick, because it’s way past our bedtime.

One of several campus sites of the school Mackenzie attends, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, but not the site of her classes. We had lunch in Barrio Lastarria, a cute neighborhood with lots of restaurants.

Delaney enjoyed the various art forms we encountered, being an artist herself.

After lunch we trekked up Santa Lucia Hill, the site where Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia proclaimed Santiago a new city.

At the top, entertainment and a 360 degree view.

Next, we saw the Palacio de La Moneda, the site of Pinochet’s violent military coup in 1973. The Chileans share a sad anniversary with the US, as that event occurred on 9/11 that year.

The only thing to do after that was have ice cream, so we found a gelateria. Then, onto the Plaza de Armas, the former parade ground described once as the “nucleus of colonial power.” We went inside the Catedral metropolitana de Santiago, the seat of the regional archdiocese. Much needed renovations are going on there. It wasn’t exactly peaceful.

We also hit a local vendor market, and James got a knock off rubic’s cube for about $1.50. Just keeping it real.

Then it was a spiral into naps, wine and food, as the end of all great days should be. A friend of Mackenzie’s joined us for dinner downtown, and I failed to get a picture of her and us, but I did of my Pastel de Choclo, a traditional Chilean dish that my aforementioned friend, Julia, would despise because of the prevalence of corn. It was soooooo yummy.

We now drift to sleep to the barking of dogs and buzzing of cars below, rising “early” tomorrow for a day in the Andes and maybe an answer to the question, “why is wine so expensive in the U.S.?!”

La Familia Junta

We landed in Santiago shortly after the sun’s light appeared over the ridge of the Andes. A 20 minute shuttle ride took us to our apartment building, where we parked our luggage and met Mack to go in search of food for all and coffee for me. Things were quiet and most shops and cafes were closed as it was Sunday, still before 9 am, and also happened to be the Presidential Election Day. In true Cummings American fashion, I must report with irony that the places that could accommodate us the earliest were Dunkin Donuts followed by Starbucks. At least we had both Northeast and Northwest representation. Wait until you get to the end of our day.We had at least 4-5 hours to kill before our apartment would be ready, so Mackenzie showed us around the neighborhood of las Condes, an upscale residential and office region. Her homestay was just several blocks from our building, so she was familiar with the area. We made our way to a large park where we could relax and enjoy the surroundings.A pigeon towed a strip of toilet paper around the park for several laps to the amusement of many. JJ is befriended by a street dog.JJ awoke at one point to see he’d been joined by a street dog.Snacking, strolling and napping got us through the day, even after we moved into our residence at 2 pm. Fortunately, the weather was perfect for those activities. We continued to enjoy it once we’d set up shop in our home for the week, a 2 br apartment on the 21st floor of a residential building. Here are some of our views:We surprised ourselves by having the energy to spend some time for “once,” (“ohn-say”) an appetizer-style, early evening meal, hosted by Mackenzie’s homestay family. With her translating and their limited English, an hour and a half flew by. Chocolate cake, empanadas, and other snacks further motivated us. With mamas (Sara y Carmen Gloria).With papas (JJ y Rodrigo). For our day’s conclusion, the pieza de resistencia, the Patriots happened to be playing the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City tonight. There was speculation (hope) by some that the game might be viewable at a sports bar, and Mackenzie knew of one within walking distance. The evening was comfortable and we were needing to walk off our “once” food anyway, so we headed there on foot. When we arrived at 7:55, it was nearly empty, but every huge TV screen was broadcasting the same thing: the Patriots game, and it was halftime. Even better, we were told that the day-long moratorium on alcohol sales in shops and restaurants, due to the election, was lifting at 8:00. So our day ended with chicken wings and Carmanere, and everyone was happy.