Well, what an adventure this trip has turned out to be. Though, in keeping in the spirit of a ďtaking it easy, play it by earĒ trip, it actually was quite a nice experience.
The first leg of the trip, Chicago to Dallas, was quite a nice flight. I had used my upgrades to fly this segment in first class. The gentleman next to me and I had some pleasant conversation. The two flight attendants taking care of us were quite pleasant. We had some nice conversations with them, as well, even throwing a pillow around while driving to the gate in Dallas.
The glitch happened once we arrived at the gate. The fellow manipulating the sky-bridge seemed to be taking a long time getting it into the Ďlegalí position for disembarkation. After about 15 minutes, it was clear that something was amiss and that it was NOT going to be quickly resolved. At this point, as you can well imagine, most passengers were getting antsy, even put out. The flight crew did a great job in passing on information as soon as they received it, and this went a great way to easing the minds of the passengers.
After about 45 minutes and having seen the food crew come and go, through the other door, things were looking tight, as to whether Nick and I would make out connection to Santiago. Amy, one of the flight attendants in First Class, had the pilot check on the status of that flight. It seems as it was delayed as well, and would be waiting for us, should we make a timely get-away from our current trap. This, of course, was welcome news.
Well, after about 70 minutes, it was determined that they could NOT move the plane to another gate, as all of the 777 gates were currently occupied. Upon further deliberation, it was decided that a portable stairs would be brought over and we could disembark on to the tarmac and we could enter the airport from there.
The one glitch from this plan, was that the determined route into the airport would take us through a customs area, and therefore was banned. Bringing the passengers through this section would incur huge fines for the airline.
Finally, after about 90 minutes of being imprisoned within a stoneís throw from our freedom, the gate next to ours was unoccupied and we were liberated. We deplaned via the portable stairs, crossed the tarmac, and climbed up through the sky-bridge at the adjacent gate.
As expected, there was a American Airlines Service Representative waiting to direct us to our connections. As I approached her, I could see she was not looking forward to dealing with the mayhem that was about to ensue. I asked her about the Santiago flight and she told me that it had already departed and to please take a seat until she could inform everyone about their various connections. Three gentlemen, also bound for Santiago, emerged from the sky-bridge and were given the same news. Two of these gentlemen, though, decided that AA may as well have taken their first born child and sold them into indentured service. They immediately went into attack mode, and thankfully, another Service representative was available to aid them in accommodations for the night and re-booking them on flights for the next evening.
When Nick emerged from the jet-bridge, I told him the news, to which we both said ďYay!Ē Now, keep in mind, this trip started out as a mile run, so we were thinking of all the cool things we could get the airlines to do for us as compensation. We decided that we werenít going anywhere soon, so we graciously let all of the other passengers get taken care of before us.
Once we were at the counter, we bantered with Ms. Munnia, the first Service Rep., while she pulled up our information. You could tell that she was NOT having a good day. But, we were the friendliest people she had had to deal with, and she found us quite amusing. She was quite surprised that we were actually happy that we were laid over. She did a great job for us, bumping us up to Business Class on the flight to Santiago, making us reservations for us at the local Radisson and giving us $80 in meal vouchers (which the other passengers were told was against airline policy). We were having such a good time, we asked her to route us to Santiago via Hong Kong. Nick actually told her to be as creative as possible! I believe she would have done that if we were serious, and it wasnít the end of the day and she wanted to get home to her kids. The time was 10:30, at this point.
Well, after we got all of the paper work done, and we had our picture taken with her, we headed outside to pick up the shuttle to the Radisson. It was 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity. I was DYING! We had to wait 45 minutes and placed 2 calls to the hotel, before the maintenance guy grabbed a van and picked us up. And we didnít have it all that bad, considering the you lady who had her 10 month old son with her that had to wait in the heat for close to 2 hours in the withering heat!
Well, we had the whole day ahead of us, as our flight to Santiago did not leave until 9:30 that night. The only thing we had hard fast on our agenda was to visit as many of the airline lounges that we could. More on that later.
One thing I had not mentioned was that I had left a part of the power adapter that I needed for my laptop at home. Since we were heading for a 10 hour flight with only one movie being provided, I really wanted to be able to use my laptop to watch some movies.
With that in mind, we decided to head out and see if we couldnít find a store where I could purchase the necessary hardware. If you know the Irving, TX area, we were staying at the Radisson Inn South, located on the south side of Route 183, halfway between the airport highway and N. Belt Line Road. Our hotel was located next to a small river or a creek, situated at the bottom of a slight valley. The only business in our immediate vicinity was a Embassy Suites, a Conoco gas station and a Whataburger. We had caught glimpses of lights the night before that promised additional businesses atop the eastern rise.
So, bracing ourselves for the blistering heat, we headed out on our quest. Climbing the incline, we quickly wondered why anyone would voluntarily choose to make this place their home. There were definite signs of refreshment, as we passed a Jack-In-The-Box (one of my favorites for Ice Cream Shakes), a McDonaldís, and even a 7-11 (SLURPEES!). As we crested the hill, we spotted an Office Max on the other side of the highway. There was also a Dennyís on that side, so our mission quickly became to grab some breaky at Dennyís, buying us a reprieve from the heat, and then head onward to the Office Max.
So, after a hearty meal of pork products, beef products, potato products, chicken ova, and of course generous quantities of Coca Cola, we were ready for the next leg of our sojourn. Again, bracing ourselves for the onslaught of the heat outside, we headed out.
Entirely by my fault, we wound up passing the Office Max. This was mostly due to the fact that a Best Buy was seen just beyond it. Upon entering the Best Buy, we immediately headed for the cell phone/PDA section. They, of course, did not stock such products in this section, we quickly found out. So, correcting myself, we headed for the portable computer accessories. There were two options available to me, both being complete power adapters. Of course, I just needed a small item from these kits, and so was reluctant to purchase either one.
We decided to head over to the Office Max and see what they might offer. As we left, we also noticed a CompUSA about a half mile down the road, on the other side of the highway. Keeping this as an option, we were off to Office Max.
The staff at Office Max was very cooperative, quickly approaching us to see how they might be of service. Once we put our desired item of interest to them, they hit their inter-employee radio to see who might know where this item was located. It was quickly ascertained that they did not carry and such items.
Upon our re-entry into the Texas summer heat, we quickly made up our minds that there was no way in hell we were going to make that trek to CompUSA. So, heading back to Best Buy, I finally purchased the power adapter.
Heading back to the hotel, we needed another reprieve from the heat, so we sought shelter this time at the Jack-In-The-Box, where we had root beer floats to aid in the cooling process. Once these were consumed, we made our way back to the hotel and up to our room.
Once it was time, we grabbed a ride from the hotel back to the airport. Once again, our plan being to visit as many airline lounges we could. This is one of the reasons we worked hard on achieving our American Advantage Platinum status.
We decided to try the British Airways lounge first, so we had the driver drop us off at Terminal B. Once we got there, though, we realized that all of the lounges were behind the security check points, and that we could not check and get our boarding passes at this terminal. So, we hopped on the airport train and headed for Terminal C, where we checked in and got our boarding passes.
With our paper work in hand, we boarded the train again, determined to get into the British Airways lounge. With all of our luggage in tow, we made it to the lounge. Entering with trepidation, we made our way to the desk and presented our AA Platinum cards and asked if we could enter the lounge. At this point, we werenít sure if they would honor it, even though all of the rules said that they should.
The ladies were more than happy to let us in, though they mentioned that their last flight was leaving in 5 minutes and the lounge would be closing after that. We explained to them that that would be fine, as we were lounge hopping and we merely wanted to see what it was like. They welcomed us in. The lounge was actually quite small and had very limited facilities. We each had a drink and some biscuits. Before long, they lounge was cleared and we were on our way again.
Seeing as we were in the B terminal, it only made sense to visit the Admiralís Club in this terminal next. We headed off looking for this lounge. On the way, we spotted and Pizza Hut and decided to use our lunch voucher. Now, these vouchers were valid for only the one day and were clearly marked as having been issued on the 3rd and expiring on the 4th. Unfortunately, the gentleman at Pizza Hut seemed to think that that meant they were no longer valid on the 4th. He, therefore, refused to honor said voucher, and could not be reasoned with. Not wanting to waste any time trying to educate him, we simply picked up and left.
We made it to the B terminal AC and presented our paperwork. We were welcomed right in, though advised that our flight was out of the A terminal and that the AC over there was directly across from our gate. We explained that we were sampling each of the ACís and that we would make our way over there. We spent a good 45 minutes at this AC, having a few drinks and looking around. The facilities here were also limited, though much better than the British Airways lounge had been.
As we were leaving, the clerk admonished us that the hours of the lounges were shorter due to the holiday. The C terminal AC would close at 8pm and the A terminal one would close at 8:30pm. As we were to board our plane at 8:20pm, this worked out just fine.
As we neared the C terminal AC, we again spotted a Pizza Hut. We decided to try our luck with this one and see if service would be granted. Five minutes later, we were splitting a personal Pan pizza, 2 orders of breadsticks, and some chicken wings. Feeling much better, having consumed these items, we entered the AC.
Again, one of the kind ladies advised us that we might prefer to go to the A terminal lounge, as our flight would be leaving from there. The other lady present, though, knew exactly what we were up to, proclaiming, ďOh, theyíre clubbing!Ē So, again we made our way inside to explore this lounge.
The facilities in this location were quite good, in fact. There were free Internet terminals where we spent most of our time checking emails and just generally being geeks.
After an appropriate amount of time, we headed off to our last port of call, the A terminal Admiralís Club. This club proved to be the best, in my opinion. It had Internet Terminals in a raised bar configuration. We grabbed some snacks, drinks and settled in for some light surfing. We managed to keep ourselves occupied until our plane was called.
As this has gotten quite lengthy, Iíll end day 2 here. More to come!
Okay, so we board the plane and take our nice seats in the Business section of the plane. These are the NICE seats, which is a pleasant place to spend a 10 hour flight. While there was no built-in monitors in the seats, as some planes have, we were given personal DVD players with a about 8 DVDís to watch. The kit included these EXCELLENT Bose noise canceling headphones that were great on the plane, as they removed most of the engine noise
Most of the movies were, em, ďclassicsĒ, though. As I had brought 10 of my own DVDís for the trip, I tried playing one of these in their player. They are much to clever for me, of course. They had set the Ďregioní of the DVDís and player to one different than the one assigned to us in the States. Our DVDís are all coded as Region 1. The player reported that these DVDís were not able to be played.
Since it was getting on to 12:00 am by the time the meals were concluded, I decided to settle for some music from my MP3 player, using those great headphones. Despite the great acoustics, it was hard getting to sleep, and I didnít get quite as much sleep as I should have. Lesson learned: remember to pack the sleeping pills!
Other than that, the flight was pretty straight forward, landing in Santiago on schedule and without incident. The only other nice thing to mention was that these flight attendants were also very great. In fact, one of them Terri, asked me about the DVD and whether I could play my personal ones or not. I told her about the software I use, DVD Region Free, that allows me to play any region on my laptop. She was interested in learning more, and so we traded emails. Itís nice to make new friends.
So, the trip to the hotel was pretty much a typical visit. We disembarked from the plane and headed to the Immigration booth. Before we reached it, though, there was another matter of business that we had to take care of. Chile has an arrangement to charge a fee to residents of those countries that charge for visa processing for Chilean residents. This is called Reciprocity and for US citizens, it is $100. They only take US dollars or personal checks. They staple a receipt for this tax in you passport and it is valid for as long as the passport is valid. One thing it does is encourage further visits to the country, as people will usually want to get value from that money.
Once we paid our reciprocity and were processed through Immigration, we hired a taxi to our hotel. For a fixed rate of 12,000 pesoís (US$18) we were carried to the Four Points Sheraton, where we were greeted by the lovely Catherine, who checked us in. Sleepily, we made our way up to the 6th floor and found the room. It was a quick matter before we were both stretched out across our beds, luggage having been dropped into our corresponding corners.
We pretty much stayed that way for a while. After a while, I wanted to check my email (the geek coming out again) and realized that I had not brought a phone cable to plug into the data port on the phone. I know, I know, for a geek, I was quite ill-prepared in the computer department. So, I popped downstairs and asked Catherine where I could pick one of these up. It being about 8:30am at this point, she told me that nothing would be open until 10:00am. I thanked her and made my way back to the room and into my bed.
About 12:00, I stirred again and decided to head out and see what I could find. Borrowing 10,000 pesos from Nick, as I had not gotten cash yet, I exited the hotel and headeknow, I know, quite ill prepared in the computer department.ought a phone cable to plug into the data port on the phone. corned left. I quickly found myself on what looked like a London high street. Avenida Providencia is quite the retail section. Lots of little shops, banks, and pizzerias. Iím not kidding, there must have been two pizzerias on each block! Chileans must LOVE pizza.
Right on the corner of Santa Magdalena and Ave. Providencia was an Atlas Bank, which also bore the Citi Bank logo. It was closed, but there was the familiar glass door with an ATM behind it, protected by a slot to slide your card in. Ah, some things never change. But they do. This one did not open upon the magic slide. I never did gain entry into that vestibule. After a few futile attempts, I gave up and headed on down the street looking for a likely candidate for my quest.
About 5 blocks later, I came across a store that purported to sell computer equipment (I hoped). I entered into a store no bigger than a typical ATM vestibule (see how the mind makes connections!). There were no less than 5 people already in the shop, as I became slightly claustrophobic. I asked the girl behind the counter for a phone cord. She, of course, had no idea what I was asking for (youíd think Iíd be used to that!) and asked another to help out. He was able to make sense of my query and came up with the requisite cable. I decided to press my luck and ask for a power adapter for Chilean wall sockets. He was able to provide this as well.
Phone cable = 300
Power adapter = 400
Ability to connect to the Internet = Priceless.
After concluding my business with these nice folks, I continued walking to see what I could see. Right then, my phone went off. I assumed it was Nick, seeing where I had gotten to, but I was wrong. It was my friend Dino, calling from Toronto, basically calling simply so he can say he called someone in Chile. No, actually, he was checking in on me, as I had mentioned the trip to him as he has family in Argentina and, well, there was mutual interest. We talked for a bit, which is really cool, when you think about. Maybe itís the techno-geek in me.
After that, I headed back to the hotel to regroup and see what we would plan for the day.
Once I got back, we hooked up to the Internet and looked up where the nearest Citi Bank was located. It turns out to be only 2 blocks away, and quite easily reached. We made our way there and withdrew 70,000 pesos apiece. Thatís kind of a cool feeling. Try it.
After that, we made our way east on Ave. Providencia and just walked that for about 2 miles, taking in the sites. I found it quite interesting that there were quite a few Bank of Bostonís scattered throughout the city. I used to laugh at Bank of Boston Connecticut, when I lived in Connecticut, so you can imagine how amusing I found this discovery to be.
It being rainy and us being tired, we retired to our room fairly early, choosing to watch TV and use the Internet. I stepped out for some dinner later that evening, deciding to try the local cuisine, the local version of KFC that is. Ordered the #2 combo to go. Got it almost right, except that he thought I meant for eat in. A few more minutes and we had it straightened it out. I definitely need to learn Spanish. Mid-Years resolution, I guess.
So, to end the third day, I had some Kentucky Fried Chicken, some really BAD fries, and 2 cans of Coke (300 pesos or about 45 cents).
Tomorrow, we go to the City Center!
The sunshine breaks through the curtain to gentle rouse us from our slumber. As awareness grows and we start to stir, it dawns on us: Sunshine! Itís going to be a lovely day. Getting out of bed, I head over to the window to take my first look at a Chilean day in the light. And what a glorious day, it is, The Mountains in the background, the streets clear!
So, I made my way over to the computer to be the geek that I am, while Nick headed for the shower. Once we had completed those morning tasks, it was outward and onward to see what adventures this day would bring.
Leaving the hotel, we headed right for the train station, our intent being to ride the rail into the center of town. How hard could it be? We were both seasoned travelers of Londonís Tube, and should have no problems navigating our way through Santiagoís comparatively simple system.
Climbing down the stairs into the station, we see the typical ticket sale booth. Shying away from the need to look like foolish American tourists, we decide to by-pass the agent and head for the automated machine to purchase our boleto, or ticket. We were presented with 4 options, which we believed to be individual (400), return (800), specific line (1000), and global (3000). We opted for the global fare so as not to worry about fares later that day. Nick inserted his 3 1000 peso notes, which the machine gladly accepted. But when he pressed the Global button, it did not reciprocate with the appropriate ticket. In fact, after a few attempts to get the machine to dispense his ticket, the machine suddenly showed that it had no monies at all!
Well, it was only US$4.30, so not a terrible loss, and we needed to purchase these tickets. So, I stepped up to see if I would fare any better. We decided to try the machine opposite this one, hoping the results would be more satisfactory. This machine proved to be a little pickier as to what it was fed, and would only accept two of my notes, though I did try 4 different ones. Figuring that we had spent quite enough time wrestling with this machine, we decided to purchase the Regional ticket for 1000, yielding two tickets.
So, proud we finally got the goods, though still stinging from the whole messy business, we headed for the turnstiles to enter the belly of the station. Looking for the slot to insert the ticket, and not finding one, we again were faced with our own ignorance. Making way for passengers behind us, we quickly saw our mistake when we saw that they held the ticket up to a proximity sensor. Now armed with this knowledge, we proceeded, once again, to enter through the turnstile, firmly bearing our boleto and holding it up to the proximity sensor. When this failed to work, we took a closer look at the colored card in our hand. Nick was the one to realize that what we had purchased, was in fact, telephone calling cards. AGGGH!
Feeling chagrin, we slinked out of the station, deciding that, since it was such a lovely day, we were much better off walking instead. This way, we could see more of the city and the people. It was, after all, the most logical decision! Yeah, thatís the ticket.
So, we made our way out to Ave. 11 de Septiembre and headed west toward the city center. Iíll let the pictures tell the story of the walk. We saw great buildings and some cool sights.
We did stop for Chinese food at this restaurant downtown. It was quite the experience. Not speaking Chinese or Spanish, we sat down for a meal that we didnít order. The restaurant proprietor pointed to Number 2 in the menu, which we just nodded and agreed. So, we dined on a chicken and bean sprout dish and a beef and vegetable dish, along with fried rice. The meal was, em, ok. Not the worst Iíd ever had, but definitely not like the food I had in London.
We walked for about 5 hours, and then made our way back to the hotel room to crash. Along the way we saw this bloke juggling in the street. He was like one of those fellas who wait for traffic to stop and then wash your window, hoping that you would give them some money. But, this gent at least provided some entertainment value.
Well. after crashing at the hotel for a bit, we popped out for some dinner. We had a nice meal at the local Pizza Hut. We just a little difficulty, we ordered a ham pizza, some wings and, of course, Cokes. It was not bad, as it goes.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the local grocery store to pick up some supplies. There were two cops patrolling the store, and they immediately started following Nick and me. I guess the two americanos looked suspicious. We did manage to make our purchases and extricate ourselves from the premises without being accosted by the police. I never felt more relieved in my life. Actually, I didnít even notice until Nick pointed it out to me.
Well, that pretty much ended Day 4.