Archives for posts with tag: Chile
Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

April 1. April Fool’s Day and the biggest joke of the day was our group thinking our early morning LAN flight to Santiago, Chile would leave on time. We were at the Puerto Montt Airport by 8 am for a 10:15 flight. Technically, our airplane was there but it was somewhere above us circling above the dense fog that rendered anything beyond the glass windows just an opaque smoky haze.

The arduous pace our group has kept has taken its toll. Some are sick. Most of us are exhausted. The hours of fog-induced delay have pushed our schedule back. The plan to tour Santiago before our night’s activity became an hour stroll among crowded streets and an even more crowded plaza (watch out for the pickpockets!!). We spent little time in Santiago but my initial impressions are of a tattered-appearing city, overcrowded and ill-adept or disinclined to preserve their historical architecture. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we met inside the lobby of Hotel Atton Vitacura to find out which home we’d each be visiting for dinner with a local host.

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

As this was Russ and my first group tour, we didn’t quite understand what dinner with a local host meant. In this case, volunteers who are part of the Smithsonian community agree to host a home cooked meal for a designated number of people. As we came to understand, the host is provided requested provisions. Our group of four couples was assigned to Andrea, a well-travelled woman in her 30s who spoke fluent English. A driver picked each group up and delivered us to the respective front door. In our case, Andrea and her five-year-old (total cutie) son Read the rest of this entry »

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Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Our lake thinks it’s an ocean with a tropical storm pushing its waves into foamy peaks before it slams onto the shore. The lake is just across the street from the picture window of our room in the Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur in Puerto Varas, Chile.

It’s day 12 of our 18-day expedition to Patagonia with Smithsonian Journeys. Getting to Puerto Varas was tedious. Our group of 20 travelers from across the United States and Switzerland, as well as our illustrious Tour Director, Nick Tozer, left the iconic mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, drove three hours by coach to the Puerto Arenas Airport, flew two hours and then drove another half hour by comfy coach to our fifth hotel. Each hotel becomes progressively more modern, more beautiful.

View from our room at Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas. photo by Russ Wagner

View from our room at Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas. photo by Russ Wagner

Our travel was delayed yet again by a late LAN flight. So far they’re batting 100%. No flight has left on time.

We don’t arrive until 11 pm, still the dinner hour for many Latin Americans. Though we are a tired party, none of us turn down welcoming gestures of the bartender’s freshly made pisco sours and the chef’s homemade miniature empanadas. As if the delectable bites weren’t a treat, our room bears another plate of tasty bites: cheeses, nuts and slices of lunch meats. We nibbled, put the rest in the fridge, and decide this room, rich in creams and brown tones, was comfortably cozy. Maybe because the 98-room contemporary hotel is now a part of the Radisson Hotel family, we can flush toilet paper in the toilet! (If you don’t get my exhalation of joy, read Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

Google Patagonia, Chile and the iconic picture that pops up is likely of The Masif. Photos of the 10,000 foot high giant rarely do it justice, especially when you’re staring at its snow-bald cap under a startling blue sky streaked with puffy white clouds. Few get to see The Masif preening in all its glory. Mostly the base is visible under a heavy blanket of fog or grey rain. Once again, the weather gods were kind to our intrepid group.

We’d seen the Masif in the distance, but our six-hour bus ride from Punta Arenas (where we’d disembarked from our ship, the Stella Australis) brought us up close and personal. For the next few days, the rustic 95-room Hotel Rio Serrano, located near the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park, would be our home. Our

An early morning rainbow bursts from the mountain in Torres del Paine area, just outside of our hotel. photo by Russ Wagner

An early morning rainbow bursts from the mountain in Torres del Paine area, just outside of our hotel. photo by Russ Wagner

Smithsonian Journeys-arranged lodging backed up to a horse farm, green and gold grasses, glaciers glinting in the sunrise orange sky and a rainbow bursting from the cracks of steep craggy Read the rest of this entry »

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

Omni King Edward Hotel gets a $40 million facelift

In this issue: Free French breads. Line up soon

Money talks and Resorts reap the benefits

Europe’s hands get cleaner

RENOVATE, RETROFIT AND REDO

It isn’t every day that a hotel receives a $40 million facelift, even an iconic beauty like The Omni King Edward Hotel, built in 1903 as Toronto’s first luxury property. The Canadian luxury hotel, originally including 400 rooms and 300 baths, was designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. Restoration to its original glory while delivering modern amenities has been an ongoing project since 2013 when first acquired by Omni Hotels & Resorts. All 301 guestrooms, meeting space, and restaurants have been updated while maintaining its historic elegance. New ingredients include the exclusive Royal Club: 29 guestrooms and suites, access to the VIP Royal Club Lounge, breakfast, light bites in the afternoon, evening hors d’oeuvres, and on-site guest services including the business center, complimentary use of boardrooms and car service. The 22,000 sf of small to mid-sized meeting spaces, the lobby, and three ballrooms were updated, including four large teardrop crystal chandeliers added to the Sovereign Ballroom. While Executive Chef Daniel Schick and his team have updated the dining menus to include locally-produced seasonal Read the rest of this entry »

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