Our first morning in Santiago was a bank holiday Monday, and even though the weather was absolutely splendid, the streets and the many green areas of the city were deserted. Clearly a lot of people had left the city for the holiday, and as we made our way around the local area to find a nice place to have lunch (sleeping replaced breakfast on this rare occasion!) we found the atmosphere to be very tranquil.
As there were no activities planned for today, we had the entire day free to work on all the various aspects of the project. This was very productive and took us right up to 8.30pm when the Starbucks, whose Internet we were using extensively, threw us out as they were closing! From here we made our way to a little sushi restaurant a short walk from our hotel, and while the food wasn’t up to the Peruvian sushi standard, it was very palatable indeed. This concluded our day at the relatively early time of 11pm, and we retired to the hotel for a decent night’s sleep.
Tuesday morning brought about a mass influx of people coinciding with the end of the holiday, and streets that had been empty before were now thronging with cars. However, for a change, we didn’t need to drive to our destination as we were due at the KPMG offices which were a mere 10 minute walk from our hotel. We arrived there at around 8.30am and prepared to deliver a presentation to an assembly of KPMG staff. Traditionally we have had a large press attendance at these presentations, but this was an employee only affair, and the press event was scheduled for the following day.
The presentation, which we are used to giving by now, went well and we had a round of very interesting questions delivered by the attentive audience. With this complete, we went outside where Toby had just arrived on cue with the SRZero to display outside the office. There were gasps of surprise as the SRZero cruised silently down the wide, leafy boulevard, with the sunlight glinting off its white bodywork, and came to a stop right where we were all standing.
Toby parked the car up on the pavement, and we spent the next few hours talking to KPMG employees and passing public alike. We have done this often before, but today had something very different going on. Just before lunch, I got asked by a man why there is a Hellmann logo on the car. I explained that this is because they had sponsored the project with the transport of the SRZero and equipment from London to Anchorage. He then excitedly explained that he was actually from Hellmann’s Chile branch, and that he didn’t know anything about it and that he wanted to hear more!
It didn’t end here though as he quickly called down his boss from their office just around the corner. His boss and the head of Hellmann’s Chile division, Markus, was just as excited to see the car there, and he was vaguely aware of the project. We spent some time explaining the project in more depth, and also the coincidence that Clemens was, just earlier that day, talking to Markus’s counterpart in Argentina in order to arrange the shipment of the car back to the UK. He promised to help sort something out, possibly in return for a much bigger logo on the car, but he suggested we discuss it over dinner later that evening, and he subsequently invited the whole team out! This was a great turn of events, especially as we haven’t seen anyone from Hellmann since leaving London.
Anyway, back to the day at hand; our last engagement for the day was a big lunch at a fancy restaurant with KPMG staff as well as diplomats from the British Embassy. Sitting in the restaurant eating the delicious food and enjoying the stimulating company, one could easily imagine being anywhere in Europe or the US such is the modern feel of Santiago. It distinctly feels un-South American, with a huge number of foreigners calling the city home. People often refer to Chile as the Switzerland of South America, and sitting in this beautiful and smart area of this 6 million strong city, I couldn’t but agree!
The rest of the afternoon was spent, as you may have guessed, working. Although, on this occasion, Nik and Toby were out fixing the van’s mirror which had had an unfortunate encounter with the wall of a car park. Fortunately though, the damage was easily and cheaply fixed, and everyone was soon reunited at the hotel.
At 7.30pm, Markus arrived to pick us up to take us out to see a bit more of the “local” side of the city, outside the glitzy area of skyscrapers and plush apartment blocks. He had booked for us a table in a very traditional restaurant in a an up-and-coming area of the city, and we enjoyed a fantastic traditional meal of grilled meats and potatoes, accompanied by a great German tasting beer which, perhaps surprisingly, originated from the south of Chile. We had the opportunity to quiz Markus on the ins and outs of Hellmann as, seeing as we have done so much logistics work ourselves, we were interested to find out how the professionals do it on a global level.
As you would expect, this was a very interesting conversation, and time flew by until the food was devoured, and it was time to move on. We found a little bar off a side street and listened to some live music while sampling the local variety of the pisco sour drink; a prerequisite for anyone visiting Chile!
Our last stop for the night was something quite special; Markus took us to the top of the W tower which comprised of a hotel, restaurant, bar, and residential units. This building was on par if not exceeding anything we would consider impressive in the western world, and the view from the bar at the top was nothing short of spectacular. Before calling it a night and walking back to our hotel, we enjoyed another drink up here, and had a chance not recount some of the stories from the trip.
All in all, our stay in Santiago was really enjoyable, and the city was far nicer than what we were previously expecting! A big thanks to KPMG and Hellmann for showing us such a good time and for feeding us in such style!