Central Chileño inocentes: Santiago and Valparaíso

30 Mar

After a low-key but pleasant stay in chilly (and muddy) Punta Arenas, we stuffed our cold-weather clothes into the deepest recesses of our backpacks and boarded a plan to Santiago, Chile. We were ready to get back to basics. As soon as we de-boarded had a taste of that dry, desert Santiago air, we were back in our element. Jackets off, t-shirts on, we were glad to leave behind the cold for something infinitely more comfortable.

Our first night was spent in Santiago, recovering from the journey and getting ready for dinner/drinks with a former coworker of mine, Katy. She had relocated to Santiago a few months prior, and it was so comforting to see a familiar face in an unknown place. We ended up at a restaurant that served Colombian-Chilean fusion food, so we had shots of aguardiente, some small arepas (arepitas) and  empanadas. It was a nice reminder of the fact that we’ll be back at our home base in a few days (traveling is TIRING!).

Katy was great and it was wonderful to catch up and have a few drinks, but come 1AM, we were tired. We made it back to our hotel with plans to head out to Valparaíso the following day, early-ish.

Our bus ride to Valpo was quick and easy, and before we knew it we were at our amazing B&B up in one of the hillsides. In Valpo, there are around 43 different cerros (hills), each with its own personality. We were staying on Cerro Alegre, a cerro that’s somewhat bohemian, somewhat artsy and close to a lot of different great things. As soon as we arrived, we decided to hike over to Pablo Neruda’s very famous home, La Sebastiana. A compendium of the peculiar, it’s a skinny four-story home converted into a museum to preserve the absolute wonder of his Valpo home. The views are incredible and the minutia of his collection (a carousel horse; custom wicker furniture; a disconnected English wash basin) make the place all that much more special.

On our way back to our hotel, we decided it was wine o’clock. We stopped by a restaurant overlooking the bay and  had a bottle of wine to accompany our amazing ceviche and ham & parmesan covered baked-clams. It was a dreamy late-afternoon. It reminded me a lot of the South Bay, overlooking the beaches all the way to Malibu from the hillsides. It was wildly delicious and our late-afternoon tipsiness was almost dream-like. More, please!

Our next day we decided to walk around a bit more of the city, and in the afternoon we took a cooking class from a local chef. We went to the market (where he bartered for produce) and he drove us up to his home in one of the many cerros and he supervised us as we made a number of Chilean dishes. Ceviche was a given, but we also made a Chilean polenta (which is “totally different” from polenta, especially considering the type of cornmeal used), a typical Chilean salsa reminiscent of pico de gallo, a fancy mashed potato dish with orange zest and mint (that surprisingly worked) and a very traditional, vegetable side of pumpkin, green beans, corn, onions, peppers…you name it, I think we used it.

I can’t fully articulate our fullness after that cooking class. It was a kind of fullness that brought us into the next day and afternoon. It was delicious, but we had to leave the leftovers in Valparaíso with our hostel owner so that at least someone else could enjoy the goods before they went bad.

We bussed back to burning hot Santiago and spent the afternoon wandering around the city, trying to keep the shady parts of the street. We marveled at many a grand structure, and I seriously considered jumping into a few fountains to cool off. I think it was around 30 celsius, which is about 86 degrees F. I loved that dry heat, but 86 degrees is HOT, especially when you’re not near the ocean and can’t enjoy a cooling breeze, as we had in Valapraíso.

In the evening, we met up with Katy (again!) for dinner and a night of fun. Many margaritas later, we found ourselves at a lovely bar with rose petals strewn over the entrance way and funky art and furniture everywhere. The owner of the bar/restaurant was an American from Kalamazoo, Michigan (seriously) who had set up one of the most interesting (and fancy!) places I’ve seen in awhile.

Our last full day was spent wine tasting at Concha y Toro, the largest producer of wines in Latin America and also sponsors of Man Utd. The grounds were expansive, and we only saw one part of the plot. We were able to walk around a few of the vines and try different varieties of grapes, as well as see where they store some of their barrels. There was also an opportunity to taste wine, but I felt very spoiled by trips to wineries in Santa Barbara and Napa, where the pours are generous and the glasses are pentiful. We tasted a red and a white, and that was that.

When we got back to our hotel, we were exhausted and daunted by the travel looming at the start of the following day. We would hop from Santiago to Lima to Quito and, finally, back to Medellín in around 12 hours of travel time. So instead of really going out and enjoying the finest Santiago had to offer, we ended up back at our hotel with a bag of McDonalds. I feel dirty admitting that to the internet.

AND NOW WE’RE BACK IN MEDELLÍN and I am sort of sleepwalking at 6 in the evening. Where am I? How did I get here? What happened to all of my money? The most important part is that I have so many clothes to wash and pictures to upload before sleeping for the next ten hours.

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One Response to “Central Chileño inocentes: Santiago and Valparaíso”

  1. Lea Anthony March 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Wow..sounds absolutely marvelous. But…are you two pickled yet? Sounds like you had wonderful food and drinks everywhere. You must cook for us when you get back home.

    I can imagine the laundry..yuk! The worst part of traveling is that laundry thing.
    Love the pictures…!
    Love you both. Kisses, Mom

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