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Where they went

Over the hills of Santiago - and beyond

Chris Santos atop Cerro Santa Lucía overlooking Santiago. Chris Santos atop Cerro Santa Lucía overlooking Santiago.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Diane Daniel
Globe Correspondent / April 20, 2008

WHO: Chris Santos, 55, her husband, Chris Dippel, 54, of Brookline, and their daughter, Calli Cenizal, 20, of Claremont, Calif.

WHERE: Chile.

WHEN: One week in December.

WHY: Santos and Dippel went to visit and travel with Cenizal, who was in Santiago for five months through an exchange program at Pomona College, where she majors in Latin American studies.

FAMILY AFFAIRS: They picked a mix of urban and rural spots, starting in the capital city. "Calli met us at the airport and took us to the hotel and just launched right into her Spanish and took charge," Santos said. The parents stayed at Chilhotel in the Providencia downtown neighborhood. They had lunch with their daughter's host family after first toasting with pisco sours. Later they presented the mother, a professional cook, with a bilingual Betty Crocker cookbook and the father with a Red Sox cap.

DOING DOWNTOWN: Santos and Dippel wore out their walking shoes around town. "There were many preserved buildings, streets turned into pedestrian ways, and vendors and artists in the Plaza de Armas." During the week, they visited three houses of Pablo Neruda, Chile's Nobel Prize poet and diplomat, the first being La Chascona, in town. "It was on a hillside right in the middle of the city and on a lot of levels," Santos said.

HILL THRILLS: During one walk they climbed the stairs to Cerro Santa Lucía, a popular downtown overlook. On another they took a funicular ride to Cerro San Cristóbal, a large park topped by a huge statue of the Virgin Mary. When Santos decided to try a glass of wheat tea, she struck up a conversation with an American in front of her in line who later introduced himself as Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods." She was interviewed for the show.

TO THE COUNTRY: For a change of scenery, Dippel and Santos took a bus out of the city about an hour eastward to Cajón del Maipo, or Canyon of the Maipo River. "You could look up and see the foothills of the Andes," Santos said. They stayed at Cascada de las Ánimas in a B&B with a view of the mountains on all sides. "We took a hike to a waterfall and another four-hour walk up a steep trail to a mesa above the river. It was beautiful."

TO THE SEA: Cenizal accompanied her parents to Valparaíso, a seaport and fishing town about an hour northwest of Santiago. "We stayed in The Yellow House in an older part of town with cobblestone streets," Dippel said. "It was literally perched on the hillside, with three narrow stories that have doors for each floor on each successively higher street." "It's a sort of gritty town but they're creating a walkway along the ocean to make it attractive to tourists. And the seafood was really, really good."

STOP, THIEF: The family had one unpleasant incident on a bus there, when two men grabbed Santos's camera as they were exiting. Luckily she was holding on to the strap, and after Dippel gave them a few "wimpy" whacks, they let go. "Everyone around us was very apologetic, but we blamed ourselves, too," he said. "We shouldn't have been so close to the door."

SEE WHERE THEY WENT

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