Chile? The only thing I knew about that country was that it was the gateway to Easter Island. But what else to do once my cruise ended in Valparaiso?
Instead of going straight home, I discovered a “bespoke” travel consultant named Brown+Hudson. What I got was a service that catered to my preferences right down to whether I liked a boutique hotel or a five-star experience or wanted a veggie meal instead of meat. “What did I want to see?” they asked. And from my vague Chilean wish list—see a cowboy, since rodeo is Chile’s sport and visit a winery or two and I was also curious about any Jewish presence in Chile—Brown+Hudson went to work.
The company’s mission is to get you what you want, no matter how unusual the request. Brown+Hudson even once sent a helicopter for a man who was on a cycling trip in a remote stretch of New Zealand. When the guide overheard him saying that he would just as soon play golf that day.
As for me, they sent a travel expert in advance of my arrival, to look into things I had fantasized about. Maggie Lemere Holden ate in restaurants we’d eat in, stayed in hotels we were interested in, and then became our handler on the trip. She met us at the boat, and never left us on the eight-day excursion (unless we wanted to dine alone, say).
Somehow, she discovered that Santiago has a Jewish volunteer fire brigade, and took us to the firehouse for a tour. We followed that with lunch with one of Chile’s former soccer stars, Rodrigo Goldberg, who played in Israel.
Wines? We dined at a restaurant with a veranda overlooking the Andean valley. But we also took a horse-carriage tour of the spectacular vineyard run by the highly regarded Casa Silva winery.
As for cowboys and horses, Brown+Hudson set up a series of meetings with riders and horse experts—even a sitdown with a radio personality who talks rodeo. We also visited roadside stands where cowboy gear is made by hand. All of this was achieved within an hour or two of Santiago and Valparaiso, where we stayed in boutique hotels converted from mansions—the W and Lastarria in Santiago. Maggie even provided us with a list of restaurants we could walk to.
While it didn’t involve cycling or a helicopter, we enjoyed a week of discovery in a faraway country. Wonder what they can come up with in, say, my old Brooklyn neighborhood.