Ritz Carlton Santiago
Calle El Alcalde No. 15, Las Condes; 56-2-470-8500; ritzcarlton.com; 205 rooms, rates start at $299 (U.S.).
The sexy singer in the jazz band at the Ritz Carlton hotel bar in Santiago, Chile, knows all the old standards, from Volare to The Girl from Ipanema. But there is nothing standard about the large, intricate tattoo that artfully occupies the space between her shoulder blades – and is clearly visible between musical numbers when she chats with the band members in her plunging backless dress.
The swirling tattoo is a touch of New World panache in a bar that otherwise exudes dark-wooded, Old World tradition and the aroma of fine cigars and smoky scotch.
It is a bit like the Ritz Carlton itself, a comfortable, predictable place with the capacity, at times, to surprise.
The actual site is one of the best features of this hotel, which is situated strategically near Santiago's busy financial district in a barrio called El Golf – so named because of the old golf course a few blocks away. (Alas, no privileges for Ritz guests.) If you want to save some taxi fares, there is a stop nearby on Santiago's efficient subway network.
If I could change one thing
Why do luxury hotels, after charging their customers $300 and up for rooms, insist on squeezing them further with WiFi charges? The Ritz Carlton dings you for $24 (U.S.) a day. But my biggest surprise was the absence of an iron in my room – although room service will deliver one if requested.
The bar itself. It may not be the most exciting venue in Santiago's club scene, but it is a cozy place to while away a few hours, smoke some cigars (try this in Canada!), sip a glass of Laphroaig for $20 or more and catch a bit of jazz from Wednesday to Friday evenings. One young Chilean woman described it as "your father's bar" – she prefers the more hip scene at the newer, nearby W hotel – and that's a fair description. This is a haven for grown-ups.
Whom you'll meet
People with money, including tanned older couples with carefully coiffed manes of white hair – and that's the men – or rakish Antonio Banderas types accompanied by ultra-thin girlfriends or wives. And there are the legions of American businessmen. The best place to catch this passing parade is from the comfy chairs in the big lobby lounge, which also serves afternoon tea.
Room service or restaurant?
The hotel sports two restaurants: Arola, a tapas-heavy place that is a collaboration with Spanish chef Sergi Arola, and Estro, which sports a more classic menu. Seafood is the favoured Chilean cuisine, and Estro was offering salmon from Puerto Montt in northern Patagonia. The two restaurants sit side by side with outdoor terraces, which are fine perches for watching Santiago's young swingers and older rich amble by. Restaurant service is prompt and attentive, as is room service – but why hole yourself away from the always interesting crowd unless you really have to?
Room with a view
Ah, the spa. I'm not a big fitness fanatic, but the rooftop atrium at the Ritz Carlton is memorable – not just for its hot tub, indoor pool and sun deck on terraced roof, but for possibly the best view in the city. Santiago is not Rio or Vancouver, but the Andes Mountains are never far away and this is perhaps as good as it gets for vistas in Chile's capital.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel.