My boyfriend, Mike, and his mom, Shelley, were the last people to come visit me in Santiago. They came at a really beautiful time of the year as all the flowers are in full bloom, the weather is nice but not scorching, and tons of new fruits are starting to show up in the vegetable/fruit stores. They arrived the morning of Saturday, Oct 8 and we explored my neighborhood and Parque O’Higgins in the morning before going to check Shelley into her hotel. We then walked around Barrio Lastarria and got some famous Emporio de Rosa ice cream and walked up Cerro Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia was exceptionally beautiful due to the spring bloom, and was one of Shelley’s favorite stops of the trip. The winter smog has really cleared out, and only a tiny bit of haze is noticed some days. That night my friends came over and we showed Mike and Shelley what a South American asado is like using the grill at my building. We had a great time chatting over a good meal.
The next day was full of walking and sight-seeing in Santiago. First we went to the Bellas Artes museum (one of Mike’s favorite stops in the city) and walked through Parque Forestal to the Bellavista neighborhood. Next we went to Cerro San Cristobal and rode up the funicular (a car up vertical tracks) to see the views and the huge virgin Mary statue at the top. That park was so full of people enjoying the nice weather, the hill, and the zoo so it took a while to get through the line to get to the top. We then had a bite to eat in a restaurant before touring Pablo Neruda’s La Chascona house in Santiago. The final stop of the day was Costanera Center where we took a tour to the top floor of the tallest building in South America to the viewing deck. We were all pretty tired after that and came back to my apartment where I made Colombian arepas (corn flour tortillas) with avocado, cheese, and salsa for supper before going to bed after a long day.
Monday the 10th we took a bus to the port city of Valparaiso and checked into our AirBnB located up on Cerro Concepcion. The house had an absolutely amazing view of the city and port. We got groceries and cooked at the house that night while we watched the city transition from day to night. The next day we walked through the hills and saw the port before going to see Pablo Neruda’s La Sebastiana home in Valparaiso. This home was one of my favorite stops because it was such an interestingly designed house filled with his collectibles and stories. Of course, it also had a stunning view of the city. We also took a bus to Vina del Mar, which is about a 20 minute drive along the coast from Valparaiso centro. We went to the beach and watched the huge waves crash onto the shore but it was much too cold to wade in the water for long. It was Mike’s first time in the ocean and it was very relaxing to sit by the water for a while watching some kids swim (we didn’t know how they were in the water). We did a lot of walking through the streets, up the stairs, and down the alleyways of Valparaiso and saw tons of cool artwork on the buildings. We even found a gluten free bakery/chocolate stop where we went multiple times during our three day stay in Valpo. The last day we did some shopping and that night had drinks on the roof of a bar with really cool views as the sun set.
Thursday the 13th we had a day of wine tasting in the Aconcagua Valley north of Santiago. We visited three vineyards: Vina Sanchez de Loria, Vina Errazuriz, and Vina San Esteban. The first was a pretty small family-run vineyard that produces about 100,000 bottles of wine a year. We did the full tour and tasting here and our guide was a 3rd generation member of the founding family of the winery and only spoke Spanish so I did a lot of translating! They still use all the original equipment in the fermentation process (huge oak barrels!), which are housed in the same buildings that the family first built. The tasting consisted of five wines with crackers, chocolate, and some extremely tasty cheese. Their specialties are Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and we also tried a Viognier. The second vineyard was huge and had an amazing mountain backdrop. We only had tasting here but we did a short walk around the grounds. This vineyard was the Las Vegas of the Aconcagua Valley wineries because it had huge fancy infrastructure and grounds and tons of workers. The final vineyard was medium-sized and located in a small town (pueblito). We rented bikes and rode to an archeological site on a hill within the vineyard where did a short hike and saw petroglyphs on the rocks! It was a pretty hot day so tasting the chilled chardonnay after the bike ride was the perfect end to the day of wine tastings. Shelley and I enjoyed all the wine tastings while Mike preferred the bike ride and authentic tour of the third and first vineyards the best.
For their last night in Chile I took Mike and Shelley to stay in a cabana next to the river in the national park located southeast of Santiago: Cajon del Maipo (Maipo Canyon). The park is full of hiking and adventure oriented activities like white water rafting, zip-lining, bungee jumping, and horseback riding. We arrived in the canyon Friday afternoon after visiting the Harley Davidson shop in Santiago. Our porch looked out right over the rushing river and that night we cooked steaks and vegetables over the fire and relaxed in the cabin. The next morning we did a short hike that started in the little town we were staying in, El Melocoton. It began along a pretty dry river bed and went to a series of waterfalls before climbing up the hill to see the different levels. The picture to the left was taken at the lowest waterfall in the impressive canyon that has been carved by the stream. The Cajon del Maipo was one of the highlights of the trip and we were all wishing we had more than one night there. It was so relaxing and nice to be away from the city for a little while. We then returned to my apartment to get everything ready for their plane that night and tried my pastel de choclo, which is a very traditional Chilean dish made with beef, chicken, hard boiled eggs, and a corn cake topping. All in all the trip was really great and Mike and Shelley got to experience the cities, the beach, and the mountains of Chile all within a week.