We had a guided tour of the Valparaiso and Santiago area March 6-10. I must begin the review by stating that a severe attack on my back, hip, and leg nerves/muscles debilitated Elaine to a great extent during the duration of this tour. The cause was unknown, but she has had similar attacks in the past, but not to the extent that I had to use a wheelchair. Needless to say, this situation severely impacted our enjoyment of the tours, and indeed kept her in the hotel room for an entire day. I must also add that Elaine is the chronicler of their trips, and so our review of this tour is somewhat truncated and cursory in detail. One thing we must add, the injury to Elaine occurred just a day or so before beginning our Chile tour so advance notice regarding her dependence on the wheelchair was unexpected to all and had not been considered in the planning of the trip. We understand the hardship this placed on everyone and appreciated the considerations that were afforded us, and apologize for the extra work and stress it placed on all those helping us. The trip planned out by Veronica was excellent and responsive to our requests, and we thank her for a job well done. Nonetheless, we got to see a lot in the area and did enjoy many aspects of the trip. To recap, we were picked up by our guide for Valparaiso (we didn’t get his name) and driver (Roberto). We did not connect with them until about 30 minutes after our pick-up time. We don’t know if this was unfamiliarity by Viking or the gentlemen as to the proper place to pick up people. But we were soon loaded up and began our overview of the city. We really enjoyed the unique and fascinating culture of the city, and were particularly fascinated by the layout of the colorful houses all built along the signature hills that characterize the city. Elaine was particularly taken by the graffiti/murals that seemingly decorated every structure in town – I could easy have enjoyed a tour of nothing but the vast variety of that artwork. Elaine was even able to very painfully get to and take a ride (with lots of assistance} on one of the characteristic funiculars. Unfortunately, those same hills kept Elaine from seeing more of the city since she could not tolerate any walking, much less on hills. So, she was stuck in the car while the guide and Doug explored the many neighborhoods of the diverse city. This was particularly unpleasant as some of their excursions lasted a significant period of time and Elaine had nothing to do with no wi-fi and the driver’s lack of English (and Elaine’s lack of Spanish). All the sitting was also not good for Elaine’s back. We were happy that Doug could visit the communities and he took lots of photos to give Elaine a glimpse of them. It was the same situation at Caleta Portales where Doug got a look at the fish market and brought the smell of it back to Elaine! While it was very limited, we did enjoy getting a glimpse of this unique city. We did stop at the Fonck museum where we were able to see the authentic Mooi in its grounds, but we could not tour the museum as Elaine was incapable and Doug was too tired. We went on to Vina del Mar, which was strikingly different in character than Valparaiso but provided comfort and ease of getting around in the wheelchair for Elaine. The Sheraton was modern and spacious, which is what Elaine needed. They also loaned us a wheelchair for the duration of our visit. We were very glad that we had opted to stay in this hotel with its great ocean view since the second day Elaine was forced to stay in their room in bed. The second day was Doug and the guide/driver alone as they hit some of the local communities. Again, it was good that Doug was able to get to these sites and bring photos back to Elaine. He did say that the closure days of all venues, such as the Pablo Neruda, should be checked before getting there. It was a little odd that the guide was not sure if he was to be our guide for only the first day or both days. On the third day, we transferred to Santiago and met our guide/driver Orlando. We did an overview driving tour of this huge city and got a feel for the diversity of the city neighborhoods. The difference between the “feel” of Valparaiso and Santiago was striking. Mid-day we checked into the Singular Santiago, which gave us a break and a chance to get a loaner wheelchair from the hotel. The hotel is an older property and thus was harder for us to navigate with the wheelchair. We took a break on their rooftop bar for a snack and a drink even though we found their menu quite limited and rather overpriced.. Afterwards we went to the Pre-Columbian museum, which was of particular interest to us. We spend a lot of time in the museum which was very convenient for the wheelchair and which was quite empty of other tourists and a great help to us. The guards were considerate and helpful navigate the museum easily. We enjoyed this stop immensely. We were tired and a bit concerned since it was Day of the Woman with a parade, either that day or the next, that was scheduled to be held in the vicinity of our hotel. To avoid any issues, we went on back to the hotel. Unfortunately our room was very hot at 26-27C. We mentioned this to guest services, but when we returned to our room after giving maintenance a chance to work the issue, we found the room just as hot but a FAN had been added (which provided no relief since apparently the Air Conditioning was not working and was not fixed). We asked for water since there was none in the room, and they told us it was in the mini-bar which we had searched for and could not find. They explained it was in a second closet that looked like an electrical closet to us! The next day, Orlando drove us outside the city (and that takes a long time). We enjoyed the drive down the Canon del Maipo along the river and valley. It was a pleasant drive and we started to climb into the Andes toward our destination, Yeso Reservoir. The water was a gorgeous blue color and we drove along it. Unfortunately, the road that bordered it was also the one that the big gravel trucks had to use. This was some tricky driving on the narrow road, but Orlando was a good driver with quick reflexes, which we were to find out more than once in this land of crazy drivers! Orlando talked us into lunch at Casa Bosque which was a very interesting and very popular restaurant. We soon knew why as it had great food and a big clientele to prove it! Orlando had asked the hotel concierge to get us a reservation at the popular Leguria restaurant, which was just down the block from the hotel and an easy wheelchair away. We got their at an early hour and enjoyed a quiet dinner before returning to our hot hotel room. We checked out of the hotel and journeyed down the Maipo Valley on our way to a wine tasting at Santa Rita Vineyards. This is where Orlando really earned his Merit Badge from us. The vineyard was very pleasant, quiet, and a nice break from the traffic of the City, but it was not made for wheelchairs. Orlando was an impressive trooper as he pushed Elaine over cobblestones, gravel roads, stairs and ramps - all with not a murmur of complaint! We enjoyed the tasting and the break it afforded him. Orlando was the best part of our tour and he gets our highest thanks as he was simply a terrific asset in every way. Getting back into town, we went to Met Park with its iconic hill with the Christ statue very like Sugarloaf in Rio. At this point, Elaine was able to do short bits of walking and so was able to get to the cable car and ride it up the hill. There was a nice area at the top with gorgeous views of the City. Here we took a rest and Orlando talked us into a Motte(?), dried peach drink that was very refreshing. After that we were able to get down on the Teleferico with its great views of the City. This took us to time to return to the hotel where we had a few minutes to collect our bags and take a very fast shower and get a change of clothes for our trip to the airport. It was blissfully close by and we got there in record time. We parted with Orlando and thanked him for his exemplary service and showing us a good time.
By Elaine S for Elaine Stamman (3) on Mar 21, 2023
It was well planned and for the most part, things flowed easily. There was some concern regarding the local guides, but that did not affect the quality of the experience for the participants. It was of concern to the leaders of the group. The side trip I took was well-planned and all went very well.
By Barbara D for Group Don Smith - Barbara Djordjevic on Nov 22, 2022
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By Iris H for Iris Hariri x 4 - CLFI123939 on Aug 14, 2022