The final days of our South American jaunt

Nic and the view of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso

The foreshore at Viña

Nic talking to the dude from Easter Island (an original outside the museum at Viña, not one of the thousands of copies)

15-18 January

Our transfer back to Santiago was a most pleasant one. Margarina (who teaches English in Santiago) was our guide and worked for Christian, the Van Man (who had another gig and couldn’t be our man). She suggested that we swing past Viña del Mar, as we hadn’t made it there on our own, which was exactly what was on our mind. There was unbelievable contrast between these two cities. The manicured, clean, and oh, so expensive look of Viña (aided by the casino, castles and 5 star hotels) made it look like Chile’s own little riviera. It certainly didn’t have the bohemian feel of Valpo (nor did it appear to have the crime!). What was sad to see, though, were these lovely old buildings completely out of commission and cordoned off as a result of the earthquake in 2009 – still no sign of any restoration being done. It is such a shame that wonderful art galleries, and historic houses like the one in the botanic gardens, may have their doors closed for many more years, if not permanently, because of the quake (and a lack of funds, or motivation, to fix them).

Some of the earthquake damage on the mansion in the Vina Botanic Gardens

The beautiful palazzo (clearly influenced by the Venetians) in the Viña Botanic Gardens

From Viña we drove through the Casablanca Valley and stopped at the only bio-dynamic and organic vineyard in South America called ‘Emiliana.’ We had a tour of the vineyard and were fascinated by their use of organic and homeopathic methods to fertilise the soil and keep the pests at bay. They also had an excellent socially responsible view of being an employer in that area, ensuring that their workers had other means of income when it wasn’t the high season in the vineyards. The wine was excellent, and we bought a few bottles to share with our hosts and enjoy our last days in Chile.

John and Nic at the wine tasting at ‘Emiliana’

They have impeccable taste!

On our return to Casa Moro we discovered that we had been ‘upgraded’ – due to a ‘full house,’ Walter and Marcelo had vacated their own sanctuary on the top floor for us, and they slept on the couch downstairs in the lounge. We were very lucky indeed.

Nic and the presidential guards – the horse is sucking on her fingers!

The fish markets

Panorama of the fish markets, Santiago

Our plans to visit Palacio Cousiño were thwarted – yet another majestic mansion scarred by the earthquake. So instead, we visited Mercado Central, the big fish and produce markets near the river. We resisted the hawkers trying to get us into their restaurants for lunch (which really wasn’t that hard to resist, cause they shit us!), and headed instead to Bellavista for our meal. Good decision. We went to ‘El Caramaña’ for a traditional meal, and had our first “locos” – which is like abalone, but not (apparently!). We walked back to our digs by way of Santa Lucia hill as well as the Paris/London section of Santiago – which is really just one intersection of two short streets!

While this may not be the most flattering pic of Nic, it’s a great shot of the graffiti covered wall in ‘El Caramaña’

Paris St, Santiago

There are three other couples from Australia staying for a few days, so we joined them downstairs for drinks and epañadas before indulging in one of the very tasty meals prepared by our hosts. Walter and Marcelo had the bottom terrace table beautifully decorated with candlelight and other romance-inducing bits and pieces. It really was quite lovely, and while the props and set dressing were appreciated, they so weren’t necessary. Who knew we would be even more in love 11 years on?

John looking all relaxed for our romantic dinner at Casa Moro

The dogs watching Marcelo working in the kitchen

The next day we did some metro hopping to the markets at Los Dominicos. We visited here in our first days in Santiago, but didn’t buy anything – we didn’t want to be hauling stuff all over South America knowing we would return before our flight home. We bought some trinkets and souvenirs before going to lunch at the famous ‘Astrid y Gaston’ in Providencia. SO glad we did that. The food and wine were superb, and all still so reasonably priced compared to home. We had a seafood medley in a sweet curry sauce accompanied by a quinoa risotto, some seared scallops with ‘citrus air’ and ceviche, and finished with cannoli and peanut praline, with fruit lasagne. Just hope that the pants we plan on wearing for 27 hours of non-stop travel will still button up!

Our dessert at ‘Astrid y Gaston’ – fruit lasagne and cannoli

Our final day in Santiago was incredibly relaxing. Our flight was not until 11pm, so we had the whole day to play. We didn’t leave Casa Moro until lunch time, when we walked to a left wing political café called ‘The Clinic’ (suggested by Walter), and had a really fun lunch. Even though it was in the middle of the city, there was a garden terrace haven, shaded by big trees, with a fountain and lots of political cartoons in Spanish lining the walls. Our waitress was incredibly patient and sweet, and spoke slowly and clearly in Spanish, which actually helped our understanding immensely! We had probably the best prawn risotto we’ve ever eaten, as well as some tasty, easy to drink, Pisco sours (but, really, aren’t ALL Pisco sours “easy to drink”?). It really was a perfect last meal in Chile.

‘The Clinic’ – the left-wing restaurant where we had our final meal in Santiago

…And inside, with the great band and cool plates, that are soon to be covered in excellent food!

The afternoon was spent trying to catch up on the blog. We had indulged in some non-food guilty pleasures of late – watching the final episodes of Survivor and the red carpet special for the Golden Globes – which impeded the blog productivity. Then we made our way to the airport for our 27 hour door-to-door journey home. See you soon.

Coming in to land at Sydney

About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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