1 February 2016
It has been a whirlwind for the past several days, but a quick catch up is in order. Oh, and I apologize for the black or grey spots in the middle of a few photos. Apparently my camera wasn't happy in my pocket, and somehow got lint inside the lens or something. The camera is now in the shop for cleaning, and I was told to get a bag to hold and protect the camera. So no new photos for a few days.
We left Los Angeles and decided we needed a quiet day in the wine country area. We decided to head to the town of Santa Cruz, because it was an easy 50 km or so (30ish miles) from Ruta 5, it is located in the Colchagua Valley, which just sounded tranquil, and it's a big enough town to have choices for lodging as well as food.
So we headed to the town of Curicó, went a little farther north, and then turned west toward Teno. The signs were few and far between, so we'd periodically stop and ask for directions. We've come a LONG way since our driving around Costa Rica, when we could barely understand the directions we were given. Now, we can comprehend 50-75% of what we're told. (Of course, the missing part is often essential, but we feel as if we're doing really well most of the time.)
It was a lovely drive through valleys and over hills, surrounded by vineyards and orchards, as we passed through tiny towns. Towns so small they weren't even labelled on the map. Towns that didn't seem to have a school, but were just a collection of houses and maybe a bodega or two. Rural Chile!
We finally reached Santa Cruz, which turned out to be as pretty and quaint as we thought it might be. We found the B & B I booked online, then headed into town. Plaza de Armas is in the center, as always, and is surrounded by various shops, cafés, restaurants, and of course wine shops. Because the Colchagua Valley is one of Chile's primo wine regions.
We had lunch in a restaurant that had lovely grape arbors over the outdoor seating, with huge clusters of grapes ripening in the sun. All kinds of wines were available, but a bottle of wine at 3 PM was more than we felt like handling. There were all kinds of wine tours available, with tastings and visits to numerous vineyards. But we decided, after so much time in the car, we'd just wander around the town for a while.
Plaza de Armas has a lovely clock tower, sort of in the style that we in the US refer to as the mission style. A bit farther down the road is an old church, in the same style - square and blocky, a simplified structure, minimizing the time and effort it would take to build it, and probably why the Spanish missionaries adopted this style for their homes as well as their churches. This was in the classic white building with red tile roof combination. Could have been anywhere from Texas to California to Mexico to Chile.
We enjoyed our one day in Santa Cruz - the weather was mild, the sun set about 9 PM, we could sit in the Plaza de Armas and watch the sunset while families enjoyed the summer evening.
The following morning our hosts served a huge breakfast, with toast, fruit, yogurt, cake (two kinds, neither of which I tried), cheese, meats, and my favorite, mote con huisilla, the dried peach/honey/wheat groats drink. Great for breakfast!
Then we headed back to Santiago. Traffic was intense, though the scenery was wonderful, with the smaller coastal range of mountains to the west, and the Andes rising tall and proud in the east. We got off Ruta 5 just before the airport because we needed a break, but then it turned out we were on the road for our hotel by the airport - the road is named Americo Vespucio! Yes, the explorer we all learned about in elementary school, although we were taught his Italian name.
Anyway, I went to get directions to our hotel, and ended up with about seven people explaining, but divided into three or so giving different directions. One man finally drew a map for us, while another man translated the directions into English. I can follow a map, and it seemed like a fairly direct way to go, so we did that - but I thanked each group, in Spanish, which somehow seemed very funny to everyone so they all burst out laughing. Chileans are all very friendly and try to be helpful, and do their best to explain in simple words once they realize how minimal Richard and my Spanish really is.
Once we finally arrived, we relaxed in our hotel and just enjoyed the quiet of not being on the road. We had a wonderful time, and enjoyed all the places we visited. I especially was thrilled to have seen so many penguins. But it does get a little tiring to repack every day or two, and the driving (for Richard) and navigating (for me) is a bit stressful. So we'll keep our road trips to just a few weeks, and then will enjoy more city time.
Sunday was a special day. Two friends from our high school days were arriving in Santiago, on their way home from a cruise around the southern end of South America, from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, including a visit to the Antarctic. They're high school sweethearts who married and have been living in various places around the world, though mostly in the Pacific Northwest. But now retired, they've been cruising, and this was the first time we could meet up and catch up on our lives. It was wonderful, she's my best friend from those days, the friend who became part of our family as I became part of hers, and, well, we always sort of start up from where we left off the last time we saw each other. (People talk about muscle memory; I think this is emotion memory.)
We met up at the airport, then came back to our hotel since these friends have never met Richard. A long lunch, lots of talking, a quick visit to Pablo Neruda's home in Santiago - La Chascona, a lovely place to visit, though no photos allowed. (The website is http://www.fundacionneruda.org/en/la-chascona/visitors-information.
And then, too soon, they had to head back to the airport for their flight home. It was a wonderful visit catching up, and we most likely will meet up in some interesting place in the future.
So, we're back in Santiago, in our apart-hotel, catching up on the chores of travel: mending clothes, doing laundry, getting my camera repaired, answering email, all that. Plus we'll spend some time visiting the museums that were closed when we were last here. Somehow that time from Christmas to Epiphany (or Twelfth Night, or Three Kings Day) seemed to be a time that the museums closed and we could never get in. We'll catch up on museum visits as we once again plan our visit to the next country.
Once I have my camera back, I'll share the photos of today's dancing couple. I love our street, we seem to have all kinds of cultural street entertainers as well as activities.