I had the distinct honor and pleasure of being the guest of LATAM Airlines recently on a familiarization trip to Rio and Santiago. The trip was designed to introduce us, as corporate travel managers, to the benefits of LATAM airlines and business travel hotels in Rio and Santiago but it was so much more!
After a relaxing layover in the Miami LATAM VIP Club, we boarded TAM for our direct flight to RIO. Nine hours later we were met by a private tour guide and hit the ground running! On our way in from the airport, our guide pointed out the numerous “Favelos.” Once considered slums, the favelas are brightly colored mountainside shanties built one on top of the other. Each favela embraces its own unique identity but at night, they unite to light up the hills of Rio!
Our home base for the next several days was the Hotel Caesar Park Ipanema. The weather was beautiful and people were out in throngs (and thongs, too) enjoying the beach and sunshine. You can walk from Ipanema Beach to Copacabana Beach and enjoy watching footvolley, a Brazilian mix of volleyball and football! Of course, kiosks along the way serve your favorite beverage, including the traditional cachaça. Careful though! That stuff’s potent!
There is so much to do and see in Rio de Janeiro and while we didn’t have time for it all, our Destination Management Company, Consolid Latin America, provided the best overview possible. We visited Sugar Loaf Mountain, known worldwide for its cableway and panoramic views of the city, and Maracana Stadium, home of the 2014 World Cup. We took the breathtaking train ride to the top of the Corcovado to see the iconic statute of Christ the Redeemer, and enjoyed a city tour of Rio Central before heading to the outskirts of a quiet but spectacularly beautiful neighborhood called Santa Teresa. There, the streets are cobblestone and orchids grow wild from tree trunks! Our nights were equally entertaining. Having never been to a Brazilian Steakhouse, the authentic experience at the Churrascaria Palace was eye-opening! I’ve never seen so much food and different cuts of sword-skewered meats! The waiters carve thin slices directly on your plate one after the other. Honestly, a unique and “full-filling” experience! Another night, we were VIP guests at one of Rio’s most popular night spots, The Rio Scenarium Bar and Club. It has three floors lavishly decorated with antiques and vintage stuff including an old pharmacy dating back to the 30’s. Dancers do the samba to live Brazilian music and the whole place feels electric.
It was difficult to leave the beauty and friendliness of Rio but LATAM’s hospitality helped ease the pain. We enjoyed their VIP lounge at the Rio airport prior to our evening LAN flight to Santiago and we were graciously allotted comfortable premium seats for the five-plus hour flight and, per usual, the service was impeccable.
We were greeted by Turavion, Santiago’s premier Destination Management Company, upon arrival in Santiago. It was a little after midnight when we arrived at the wonderful Renaissance Santiago Hotel and the beds did not disappoint our tired bones! After a great night’s rest and waking up to a beautiful view of the Andes Mountains, we enjoyed a walking tour of a quaint Santiago neighborhood with lots of good shopping and food! Our meal at the Como Agua para Chocolate was truly gourmet! We enjoyed the local “eel fish,” filet mignon, and a melt-in-your mouth custard dessert. The rest of the afternoon, we enjoyed a Santiago City Tour which included the Civic Center, San Cristobal Hill, and the unique Los Dominicos craft market. We enjoyed site inspections at the San Cristobal Tower and the Sheraton Santiago Hotel before dining at the delicious “El Cid.”
Our second day in Santiago was my favorite. We drove about an hour northwest of the city to the Rosario and Casablanca Valleys and enjoyed touring Matetic Vineyards. The wine was excellent but the small hotel on-site was better! La Casona was quaint and restful and an oasis! I would go back for a week for some true R and R! After Matetic Vineyards, we were treated to a true Chilean equestrian show and lunch at the Puro Caballo Ranch and Restaurant. The food and wine were deliciously plentiful and the experience truly memorable! None of us thought we’d be able to eat another morsel the rest of the day but after returning to Santiago, freshening up and touring the eclectic Santiago W Hotel, we enjoyed yet another gourmet meal featuring fish and beef. The service was impeccable and I don’t think it was because Miley Cyrus was a W guest!
Our last day in Santiago took us about an hour and a half east of the city towards the majestic Andes to the Maipo Valley. The drive through the Canyons was beautiful and reminded me a little of the Glenwood Springs, CO, canyon lands. Green strips of copper, Chile’s largest natural asset, lined the brown canyon mountains against the white backdrop of the Andes. Beautiful! After a site inspection of a hidden little gem called Altiplanico, we enjoyed a wonderful tour (and tasting!) of the Santa Rita Vineyard, among Chile’s largest. Once again we had a gourmet lunch where Santa Rita wine flowed freely. None of us left without a souvenir bottle (or case!)
We ended our Chilean visit with a site inspection of the Santiago Ritz-Carlton and Grand Hyatt Santiago. There are so many wonderful places to stay in Santiago, each with their own personalities but all with a view of the Andes!
Once again we enjoyed the VIP LAN TAM lounge at the Santiago Airport prior to boarding our return flight to Miami. We were graciously afforded premium business class seats (aka FIRST class of the utmost extreme) aboard LAN’s new 787 Dreamliner. The service, food, lay-flat beds and amenities were truly luxurious. I was spoiled with 6 hours of solid sleep and the ability to work the same day I arrived home! Thank you Salome and LAN TAM!!
I liked RIO and I liked Santiago, but something made me fall in love with the country of Chile. I want to go back and experience Valpariosa, Easter Island and Patagonia, see the penguins, get further into the Andes, and visit more wineries! Looks like I’m going to have to ask Ricky for more time off! Rebecca (With much gratitude to Salome Penailillo and LAN TAM…and Ricky!)
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