The base for our many excursions was Santiago, the capital city and home for half the country’s population. It is miles and miles of grey concrete buildings interspersed with occasional buildings and churches built many hundreds of years ago and the Andes Mountains towering in the east.
We spent the first few days in the city visiting the markets, museums and historical sites. My favorite museum was the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombro, It is devoted to the indigenous people of Chile and had some of the finest pre-Columbian pottery, jewelry and textiles I have ever seen.
|Vase with Rattles in legs. Used in Ceremonies|
|Statue of god wearing a flayed skin of a human. Gave me chills|
The textile exhibit was my favorite, but it was displayed in a room with special lighting and no pictures were permitted. I bought the exhibition guide which was very good, showing the actual stitching, weaving or knitting technique used to create the fabrics.
Our first trip out of the city was to the Concho De Toro winery, via the Metro and a local bus. Concho de Toro is the number 2 wine company in the world behind Gallo. Best winery tour I have ever been on. You can walk in a special section of the vineyard where all varieties of their grapes are growing and taste the grapes right off the vine. I posed by the grapes used to make a Chilean brandy called Picso.
The wine cellars are old and underground. There are three generous wine tastings as part of the tour, and the complimentary wine glasses even made it back to the US in my suitcase.
On New Years Eve I followed a Chilean New Years tradition guaranteed to bring me happiness and good times in the new year.
Mine was purchased from a street vendor and worn inside out until midnight when I put them on correctly.
|Street vendor - yellow good luck underwear|
Well not exactly midnight because we walked a couple blocks from my son’s apartment to the main Av Liberator Bernardo O’ Higgins to join hundreds of Chilean families celebrate the new year. Kids shot off huge tubes of confetti and adults drank champagne. Standing in a huge crowd of people in Jan wearing shorts and a tank top and watching fireworks was a unique experience for this northern hemispherian.
On News Years day we flew to Easter Island. I have wanted to visit this place since I was in grade school. My elementary school had only two educational movies and we saw them multiple times a year. One was a black and white movie about Easter Island and the over 800 huge carved heads , moais found all over the island. The island is 3000 miles or a 5 hour flight from Santiago, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nothing nearby. The natives of this island have Polynesian ancestors and speak that language. The majority of the island is a national park, with only one small town. First stop after getting off the plane is not luggage pickup, but the park kiosk in the airport to buy park admission tickets (cash only) We stayed in a small but modern cabana a couple blocks from the town of Hanga Roa. It is a beautiful, clean island. The weather was gorgeous 80’s, light breeze and no humidity. The moai are everywhere and awe inspiring .
We climbed to the top one of four volcano cones on the island for an great view of the water filled cone (crater lake and the sea beyond.
Locals put on “Cultural” dance shows. Very fun. The dancers wear authentic attire and many of the tattoos are real. I enjoyed watching these guys dance.
We returning to Santiago for a few days to wash clothes and rest up and then we flew north to the city of Calama and traveled by bus to the town San Pedro de Atacama.
A true oasis in the middle of one of the Atacama desert, one of the driest in the world, it is surrounded by other worldly landscapes.
We visited salt flats with lagoons full of flamingos,
Young Family Portrait - 1970's record album style
valleys of steaming geysers,
and little dusty towns where these guys wandered the streets.
|Llamas on the hoof|
We flew back to Santiago and then off again on a two hour bus ride to visit Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, the twin cities of Chile’s Central coast. Though they share a harbor, they are very different. Valparaiso has colorful houses on steep hills, like San Francisco.
The food was good. I ate lots of fish, either grilled or as ceviche. Beef was also plentiful, which my guys liked. Potatoes were served with everything. I am not a potato fan. The markets had a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables as it was summertime. Chile exports a lot of fruit and wine. The peaches and blueberries I have in my kitchen now came from Chile. But I was amused to see a USA sticker on the apples I bought in Santiago. Wines from the vineyards around Santiago were inexpensive and excellent. And I drank my share of Pisco Sours, a Peruvian/Chilean cocktail made with brandy, lime juice, simple syrup and egg whites.
My travel wardrobe worked well. I loved my cross body bag with water bottle compartment. It probably marked me as a tourist, but boy did I need that water bottle in the desert. Most women in Santiago, no matter what size or shape, wore tight leggings or jeans with longer sleeveless tops. So I fit right in. Outside of the city I wore my reversible shorts to death, mostly on the dark side but occasional on the white side. The garment I wore the most, that I threw in the suitcase at the last minute, was a tencel "denim" shirt. It worked great as lightweight protection from the sun and as a layering piece for warmth in the evening.
Sorry, but there was no sewing related sightseeing or shopping. Back to regular blog programming in the next post.