Santiago, Chile: The Aubrey
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AddressConstitución 299 - 317, Bellavista Santiago. , Chile +5629/402-800 theaubrey.com
A suite stay: Both suites, christened the Art Deco and the Cerro San Cristóbal, are well worth the splurge. The former is like a designer apartment with its own street access. The latter is ideal for couples on a romantic getaway: bright and open-plan, with a large soaking tub.
Afternoon tea at the bar: Instead of formal sit-down service, a laid-back self-serve spread of tea and cakes can be taken on plush leather armchairs or out on the patio.
Get some sun on the veranda: You don't have to stay in one of the terraza rooms equipped with private terraces for a little alfresco action—snag a moment of solace in the sun on the shared veranda.
- Complimentary afternoon tea
- 24-hour reception
- All-inclusive breakfast
- Piano lounge
- Heated Swimming Pool
- 15 uniquely decorated rooms
- Free wi-fi
- Brazilian cotton sheets
Standing in the sleek glassed-in Hansgrohe shower in my room at The Aubrey, I suddenly lost my footing. 'Did I just get dizzy?' I thought, until I realized that the ground had moved before I did. Later, at dinner on the terrace with my travel companions, the reports began rolling in: A 7.1-magnitude earthquake had struck Chile, the longest and strongest tremor since an 8.8-er devastated the middle of the country two years prior. Luckily, if there is a city to be in for seismic episode, it's Santiago. The Chilean capital has stricter building codes than San Francisco and, while the skyscrapers swayed and my hotel room shook, no major damage was reported.
What a relief for the owners of The Aubrey, a boutique hotel that opened in 2010 in the colorful boho-chic barrio of Bellavista (pronounced bay-a-vista), where Pablo Neruda lived and many other artists still do. A three-year, $3-million revamp rescued the 1920s Spanish Mission-style mansion from neglect, resulting in what has been billed Santiago's first true boutique hotel. The beautifully restored interior features Art Deco details like dark wood paneling and stained glass windows. Classic oil paintings mix with modern touches like Tom Dixon lamps for an eclectic look. The decor in each of the 15 rooms (only a handful are similar; I stayed in one of these minimalist lower-tier rooms) feels personal, like the hotel is just an excuse for the owners, an Australian and a Brit, to display their fabulous art and antiques collection and spanking great taste.
Dining on the terrace the following evening, sounds of exotic birds and monkeys occasionally punctuated our conversation. 'Is that an animal howling?' I wondered aloud. It sure was—the chirpy inmates of the zoo located on Cerro San Cristóball nearby can be heard (and sometimes smelled) at such close proximity. At least it wasn't a sheep bleating, which may have detracted from the earthy Patagonian lamb served on a bed of cochayuyo (bull kelp). The food at the restaurant is ambitious, making use of local and indigenous ingredients, like hydroponic greens, Carmenere, and merken, the spice made by the Mapuche people—it's a far cry from the bland international cuisine of the city's big box hotels. The comprehensive Chilean wine list is complemented by pisco sours and other cocktails. So in the end, you may end up geting a little dizzy even if the earth doesn't move beneath your feet. —Chantal Martineau
In the Area
- Pablo Neruda's House: Just a few steps away, this quirky house is a colorful work of art in itself that houses several more by the likes of Diego Rivera and Picasso. The dining and bar areas are of particular interest, considering that Neruda was a bona fide gourmand, penning odes to lemons, tomatoes and artichokes, and rarely relinquishing control of his kitchen. Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Bellavista; +5627/778-741; fundacionneruda.org
- Galindo Bar & Restaurante: Not to overuse the word colorful, but the neighborhood invokes it quite a bit and there are few better ways to describe Galindo. The bright and festive local favorite serves up Chilean staples like pastel de choclo (like Shepherd's Pie), cazuela de pollo (hearty chicken soup) and empanadas. Dardignac 098, Bellavista; +562/777-0116; galindo.cl
- Fuente Alemana: Often one of the first stops on a trip to Santiago, this 50-year-old no-frills lunch counter is best known for its lomito sandwich, but also does a mean chacarero, both of which are stuffed to the gills with meat – pork for the lomito and beef for the chacarero. Wash your lunch down with a glass of beer to blend into the crowd. Av. Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 58, Santiago; +562/639-3231