This year the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday; smack dab in the middle of the week, so it means no work travel for us road warriors. I’m taking and extra 3 days vacation next week, so I have the whole week off except for Friday. Steve (DOS) and I try to plan a quick trip around each of the holidays, and this one will be a wine-touring trip out of Santiago, Chile. We are taking a 3 day private tour once again with Jose, of Uncorked Wine Tours, including a couple night’s stay in an actual vineyard. We toured with Jose a couple years ago and enjoyed it so much we are repeating this again, although with mostly different wineries than last time.
First off, though is getting to Chile! As it’s summer time in Florida, that means daily afternoon thunderstorms. We were going to leave for Miami on the 7:30pm flight as our connecting flight doesn’t leave for Santiago until 10:50pm, but as I’ve been watching the weather and flight delays for the week, we changed to an early morning flight. We flew to Miami in the morning, and then stayed at the Miami Airport Hilton for the day and early evening, instead of sitting around the Miami Airport terminal all day. We’ve stayed at this Hilton many times over the years and we love the location overlooking the Miami International Airport. The nice thing is our luggage is checked all the way thru to Santiago, so we only have our carry-on luggage to deal with for the day.
At the Hilton, we got upgraded to a huge Junior Suite on the 10th floor, which was arranged in a half semi-circular layout, with panoramic windows all the way around the front of the room overlooking the airport as well as the lagoon towards the side of the hotel. It’s the type of room you’d love to have for a week stay instead of the short 9 hours we were there!
The Hilton has a scenic walking/jogging trail all the way around the property, past the pool and by the lagoon. It’s great for taking photos of both the hotel property, the nature walk, and the planes taking off across the street.
We especially liked the Iguanas that we’d occasionally see scurrying about. Their green color allowed them to camouflage with the tropical green shrubbery and palm trees, which made it hard to photograph them. DOS took this photo closeup of one we saw that had just crossed the sidewalk and climbed up some shrubbery.
By late afternoon, the scheduled afternoon Florida storms started to roll in. This is why we left in the morning, rather than chance our evening flight to Miami with a relatively short two hour connection. The sky turned quite bleak as seen from the room!
Fortunately the storms passed thru fairly quickly, and we had no travel delays from Miami to Santiago. Our originally scheduled flight from Orlando to Miami, however was over an hour late, so we’re so glad we took the morning flight to Miami and could relax at the Hilton instead worrying about making our connecting flight to Santiago.
As our flight didn’t leave until 10:50pm, we went to the Squadron 94 Restaurant for an early dinner. The Squadron is less than a mile from the hotel; right across the freeway from the airport. We had eaten there a couple years ago, and like last time loved the food and service, as well as the aeronautical theme.
We really enjoyed our window seat, and loved watching the jumbo jets take off right across the street from us, including this TAM Boeing 777, and Lufthansa Airbus 380 double decker wide body.
After our meal week we took Uber back to the hotel. Although it’s walking distance to the restaurant (less than a mile), my ankle is still on the mend, plus there is road construction in the area. It was the first time we were picked up in a Mercedes Benz by a Uber driver too!
Back at the hotel, we gathered up our luggage from our day stay at Hilton, and took the 8pm shuttle van to the airport. As our bags were already checked thru to Santiago, we only had our carryons, and went straight to the TSA Pre-check line. Screening was quick, and would have been even quicker had I packed my corkscrew in my checked luggage. I forgot; sorry. The lady screener was very nice and offered me to mail it back, re-check it, or trash it. I said it was only a $5 corkscrew and we were going to more wineries, so trash it. I actually was quite impressed with their professionalism and finding this; and thanked her. Bravo for the Miami TSA! That’s something they don’t normally hear!
Once past security, DOS and I went to American’s Flagship Lounge at D30. We were there last month, and while it was quite busy this time, it’s so large there was no problem finding seats in a quiet section, not far from the self service wine bar.
DOS had a little bit of the pulled pork, but I was still stuffed from our dinner at Squadron 94, and also wanted to save room for dinner aboard the flight.
We headed down to the gate around 10pm for our 10:50pm, flight, and they had already called zones 1 to 8! As we were in Business Class on this Boeing 777, we were in Zone 1, so quickly boarded. I was in seat 2L while DOS was right behind me in 3L. The Business Class section (it’s really First Class as there isn’t a separate First Class cabin on this aircraft) is arranged in 1 X 2 X 1 seating, so every passenger has aisle access.
The A and L seats offer both window and aisle access, which is what we had. This is the newest version of American’s reconfigured Business Class, and offers fully flat seat beds, plenty of privacy and storage space, and large individual TVs with loads of movies, music, TV shows and more on demand.
I watched the movie thriller “The Commuter” while having dinner, and left the flight route running all night when I slept, as I like to know our flight progress.
Our flight from Miami to Santiago was the quickest we’ve had to date on this route, and was only 7 hours and 21 minutes; normally it’s a little over 8 hours. We had a 100 mile tailwind most of the way, so we got in to Santiago nearly an hour early, around 6:30am. This time of year, Chile is on the same time as Eastern Time, which makes it easy on the body clock.
Immigration was very quick, and our luggage came right out without delay – very efficient! Customs was quick as they X-ray each bag. The only question they asked us was what was in the big hard-sided case we were bringing, which I replied ‘nothing’. Literally it was empty and I explained it’s made to hold a case of wine, which we plan on bringing back from our wine tours. No problem at all!
We took a cab to our hotel, the brand new Hyatt Centric, and at 7am, there was no traffic at all. Once at the Hyatt, we were warmly greeted by the energetic young staff, and to our surprise the room was waiting for us!
Since check in wasn’t until 3pm, I figured we would have a wait, but fortunately they had pre-reserved a nice corner room for us on the 11th floor. This is our first time at a Centric Hyatt, and this has a very modern, and trendy type upscale decor, similar to a ‘W’ hotel. While the rooms weren’t large and we didn’t have a suite, the corner room was bright, colorful and newly fresh, and had the largest towels and bath rooms of any hotel we’ve ever stayed in.
After getting our bags delivered via the bellman, we took a walk around the immediate area. At this early hour the streets of this upscale Las Contes neighborhood were very quiet. We took a walk for several blocks to get familiar with the area, and the morning chill felt quite nice compared to the hot and humid summer weather back in Florida.
We then explored the hotel a bit, going up to the rooftop pool on the 17th floor, and peeked in the fitness center as well.
We are staying here at the Hyatt Centric one night only, and then taking our 3 day wine tour in the morning, where we will be staying in Santa Cruz the next couple of nights. We will return here to the Hyatt Centric on Tuesday, our last night before flying back home. For now, we’ve have a great trip so far, and as always love coming back to Santiago. Buenos días y bienvenido a Chile!