Travel doesn’t always go the way you hope. There are bumps and bruises and other things along the way— but there are also many unexpected gifts to be found if you let yourself take the adventure. Our first day in Chile held all of those.
After arrival and the lines of immigration and customs, my husband joined the rental car line while the rest of us waited by the luggage. And waited. I changed clothes. I took two children to the bathroom— on separate occasions. It looked as though Gary was at the front of the line each time I passed by and yet, he still never seemed to move. After about an hour, he rejoined us and we walked out to the rental car lot to claim our vehicle.
Part of the holdup had been a smog regulation in Santiago that only allowed cars with certain license tags to enter the city at certain times and part of the holdup was his refusal to take two rental cars, instead insisting on the larger one car he had reserved online. These are things I would have expected an online registration at a reputable rental car company to have managed early, but, alas, that’s the ‘charm’ of international travel: you often don’t get just what you expect.
So, there we were, back in that rental car lot to claim our vehicle. I don’t know that I have ever seen so many cars jammed into one tiny lot! We wandered about with our three children and many pieces of luggage and looked for what might be our car. Eventually, a gentleman showed up to help us and directed us to a minivan. We loaded our luggage and were told to tell the police we wouldn’t be going into the city until late if stopped by police. Our license tag was one of those not allowed into the city during mid-day. Great.
We pulled out of the lot… but that even took great effort. There was a band of stray dogs which blocked our car from leaving. They just stood in front of the car barking as Gary tried, cautiously, to drive past them. This is the man who escorts bugs out of our house, so I assure you he was doing all he could not to harm the dogs. We laughed a little but also threw up our hands in exasperation. We just wanted to enjoy South America and now we were being blocked by DOGS?! Eventually they moved, but that became a running joke throughout our stay in South America— we were sure there was in underground gang of dogs marking our every move in the continent.
Instead of heading to Santiago where our hotel reservation was (and where our license tag was not allowed), we decided to explore the coast first and drove to Viña del Mar, passing through the wine region of Casablanca on the way. (It was still late morning, so our hotel wouldn’t be ready to receive us, anyhow.) As my husband drove, I emailed with a winery contact in Casablanca and arranged a winery tour for our family the next day. We made note of the winery’s location as we drove on to Viña del Mar.
As we got closer to our yet undetermined destination in Viña, my son explained that he REALLY needed to go to the bathroom. We exited the freeway and began searching for any place that looked like it had a bathroom we could use. Nothing materialized forEVER. We passed a few pub-looking places with tons of graffiti nearby. I wasn’t so sure about sitting in the car with 2 children while sending my husband and son in to use the bathroom. Fortunately, my husband could feel my vibe, or else he just kept missing the turns to the questionable locations. Eventually, he found a gas station that looked okay and off the two of them went.
Soon we were back in the car, searching for the right place to stop to eat and explore, when our daughter began to get carsick. Yes. Really.
She had been getting queasy just before the bathroom search for my son. I couldn’t find any tissues or napkins (ummmmmm Travel Mom FAIL!) but gave her the gallon plastic bag I had been using to hold our passports and the kids’ birth certificates and hoped for the best.
“I’m so sorry you’re feeling bad, honey. Use this if you need it.”
So, now that we had just left a bathroom, even if it might have been a questionable one, it had running water and tissue, my daughter begins to get sick in the gallon plastic bag.
Nice. Isn’t family travel fun?
Gary began the search for a new bathroom, we inched through traffic and, fortunately, found one. Of course it didn’t use paper towels, so I helped her clean up the best I could and bought tissues for the rest of our travels. And yep, in the event you are wondering, I emptied and rinsed the plastic bag. It is now residing in her carry on bag in the event it is needed again.
After her initial incident, she was fine and we continued our quest for more enjoyable adventure…
We drove along the coast and spotted a few restaurants and hotels, but then Gary and I decided to seek out a hotel where we had stayed in 2000. The hotel was situated just on the edge of the ocean and I remembered the crash of the waves just beneath our hotel room window many years ago. The view had been breathtaking.
Eventually, the Hotel Oceanic came into view! And it had a restaurant!
We parked the car and my heart leapt with joy.
Returning to that hotel brought back such happy memories of exploring Chile with my husband nearly 15 years ago. We had to snap a photo to commemorate our return:
I was thrilled to bring our children back to walk in some of our footsteps.
Our trip was certainly taking a turn for the better…