Archive for March, 2016

Chile and Patagonia – Easter Island Part II

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Dates Explored: January 31st – February 1, 2016

Going back to my last post about our Chilean travels, we arrived late on January 30th and settled into our cabanas, went out for a quick bite, and hung around the Tapati Festival grounds for awhile.

January 31st, our first full day on the island, was spent at the beach in town, where I got a really bad sunburn everywhere I didn’t apply sunscreen. Luckily, SILly had a long-sleeved button-up shirt to lend me as a cover-up because I only packed sleeveless cover-ups (bad idea; take a long-sleeved light blouse to avoid sunburns). I also got caught up in a riptide with DH and SILly, but they are both strong swimmers and saved me. To avoid getting slammed into the rocks in the area we were caught in, “I” (as in they partially dragged me) “swam” toward the marina and used the ropes from the boats that were out on the ocean (so no boats docked) to drag myself back to shore. Well, it was an adventure.

What the marina looks like when the boats are in and waves aren't trying to bash me against rocks. See the ropes? When SILly and DH saved me, we made our way to ropes-without-boats and, hand-over-hand, thusly we dragged ourselves to safety.

What the marina looks like when the boats are in and waves aren’t trying to bash me against rocks. See the ropes? When SILly and DH saved me, we made our way from a bay to the left to this bay with ropes-without-boats and, hand-over-hand, thusly and thisly and frustly and fristly we dragged ourselves to safety.

We had wonderful weather for our first full day. Down at the nearest beach, after I'd avoided drowning, we walked around and saw several Moai and this lovely little swimming area where children would not be swept to sea.

We had wonderful weather for our first full day. Down at the nearest beach, after I’d avoided drowning, we walked around and saw several Moai and this lovely little swimming area where children would not be swept to sea.

These Moai are walkable from town. The Moai were carved in the Quarry (which we would visit the following day) and somehow transported to near the ocean. There is a lot of information about the Moai on the Interwebs. I'm just gonna show pictures to entice you to visit.

These Moai are walkable from town (as in you can walk to them from the beach area, not that they walked TO the beach, although legend says they might have). The Moai were carved in the Quarry (which we would visit the following day) and somehow transported to near the ocean. There is a lot of information about the Moai on the Interwebs. I’m just gonna show pictures to entice you to visit.

An example of what the Moai might have looked like before the folks of Easter Island began warring with neighboring tribes, which entailed trying to smash as many of other tribes' Moai as possible, or at least knock them down.

An example of what the Moai might have looked like before the folks of Easter Island began warring with neighboring tribes, which entailed trying to smash as many of other tribes’ Moai as possible, or at least knock them down.

On the morning of February 1st, we rented this cute little Crossover from Jorge for two days. We didn't go on tours, We'd done the tour thing in wine country. We took our little map, BILly, being a "professional driver," took his spot behind the wheel, SILly was the "tour guide," and DH and I got to boss everyone around or just sit back and soak it all up, depending who was "in charge" that day.

On the morning of February 1st, we rented this cute little Crossover from Jorge for two days. We didn’t go on tours. We’d done the tour thing in wine country. We took our little map, and BILly, being a “professional driver,” took his spot behind the wheel, SILly was the “tour guide,” and DH and I got to boss everyone around or just sit back and soak it all up, depending who was “in charge” that day.

Honestly, we had very little clue what we were doing. We hopped in the vehicle and drove to the first site we could pinpoint on the map (it was a knocked down Moai). But before we arrived at the first of a multitude of sites around the island (which are best explored by renting a vehicle, IMO, even if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going), we had to stop and simply drink in the freaking BEAUTY of the island. It was breathtaking. DH, here, is orchestrating the waves.

Honestly, we had very little clue what we were doing. We hopped in the vehicle and drove to the first site we could pinpoint on the map (it was a knocked down Moai). But before we arrived at the first of a multitude of sites around the island (which are best explored by renting a vehicle, IMO, even if you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going), we had to stop and simply drink in the freaking BEAUTY of the island. It was breathtaking. DH, here, is orchestrating the waves.

Aside from the reconstructed Moai guy shown in a photo up top, this red chunk of rock was the first of a lot of "topknots" (representing a hairstyle) that we saw knocked off around the island.

Aside from the reconstructed Moai guy shown in a photo up top, this red chunk of rock was the first of a lot of “topknots” (representing a hairstyle) that we saw knocked off around the island.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, when visiting Rapa Nui, is whether or not to go on a guided tour. I’m pretty sure Jorge had suggestions for tour guides. It’s not like you have to book the guides in advance. You CAN book a guide in advance or just wait until you’re there. I read advice on Trip Adviser to take a tour first and THEN rent a vehicle. But what’s the fun in that? If you take a tour first, yes, you get to learn a lot more than we did. If you simply rent a vehicle and head out, though, there’s more of a sense of adventure. So take from that what you will. There’s really no wrong choice; there is just what is best for you as a traveler. The island isn’t large. In two days, we felt were able to see a ton of sites simply having a rental vehicle and then walking into town at night for dinner after a hard-earned siesta. It’s an awesome way to explore Easter Island!

More piccies next time! Because we visited the Quarry on February 1st, and because we were not on a tour, coming upon it was a bit of a surprise. Topped with lotsa Awesome Sauce.

Do you like to rent a vehicle when you travel, or go on tours, or a combination?

Listify Life – The Books I’d Want to Live in for Awhile…

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

It’s Week 2 of the #ListifyLife Spring Challenge! I am posting every Tuesday.

The topic this week? The Books I’d Want to Live in for Awhile… My picks, in no particular order but with some degree of rationalization, are:

Listify2Books

When I thought about this topic, I decided to go with the books that most enthralled or otherwise inspired me as a child. The ones I identified with. I didn’t read Gone with the Wind until I was 21 or so, but I chose it as my most “adult” book, because I’d love to stand near Scarlett O’Hara and whack her on the head every once in a while. But I’m getting ahead of my nominations…

My list is missing Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Fat Policeman. I (well, my older sister but I stole them) had 5 or 6 in the Raggedy Ann and Andy series, but the one starring the Nice Fat Policeman really piqued my interest. Who doesn’t want to live the life of a rag doll? I had my own Raggedy Ann and Andy, and I remember declaring to my dad that I would name a kid Andy, which turned out to be his middle name (Andrew). Years later, I actually DID name my first son Andrew, after my dh’s brother, Andy, who passed away at 25 from an asthma attack. But we didn’t actually call our son Andy, because that was Andy’s name. His legal name is Andrew, though.

Hmm, why isn’t Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Nice Fat Policeman on my list then? Quite simply, I ran out of space in the cute graphic box. This is the book I also read to my grade one class, so it stuck in my memory.

Back to my nominations:

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This one is simple. I’m Canadian, and so is Anne. Anne is a little quirky and odd and has great friends and great adventures. Plus, I’ve never visited Prince Edward Island. Living in Anne of Green Gables for awhile would give me that chance.
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. Hmm, I seem to have a penchant for stuffed animal stories, but, honestly, stuffed animals come to life? I’m there! Not scary like Chucky. Being a Wednesday’s Child, I always identified with Eeyore, although others might classify me more like a Tigger. But really I want to steal Winnie the Pooh’s honey while he’s stuck in that hole.
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I could have chosen any of the LIW books for this “living in awhile” list, but I didn’t really want to be caught in a long, cold winter and On the Banks of Plum Creek left a lasting impression on me as an 8-year-old finally realizing  actual people actually wrote actual books. That writing books was actually something an actual person might actually get to do some day. This blew me away! I learned to read peeking over my older sister’s shoulder when she was in grade 1 (we didn’t have kindergarten or more than 2 TV channels, and the family lore goes that perhaps I was bored – or a genius; the jury is still out). I was 4, maybe closer to 5 because it would have been in the fall. I learned to read via Dr. Seuss and likely my sister’s grade 1 readers, but our grade 3 teacher read us the LIW books every day. Laura had dark hair and always had to wear pink, like me (honestly, my mother!!) whereas Laura’s sister had blond hair and got to wear blue (like my sister – Mom!!!). Laura had an adventurous life, and she got to live in a sod sorta house in this book. This greatly appealed to my imagination, because until the age of 5 I grew up in a tiny farming community where 95% of the residents were related to each other (but not intermarried – we had scruples), and my grandparents were pioneers. Laura’s dad was a pioneer. One + one = Budding Writer whose first attempt at a novel was a grade three project, a little paper pamphlet book I called “On the Shores of Mable Lake.”
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I doubt this one needs an explanation. I mean, come on, a wardrobe with a magical passage to another world where you get to ride a huge lion? The wardrobe itself is reason enough. I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child trying to figure out what a furniture “wardrobe” was.
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I had some hesitation choosing GWTW because although it’s one of my favorite character reads, it’s set during the U.S. Civil War, which feels like an odd era to want to “live in for awhile.” As a Canadian growing up in a not-very-diversified period of time, GWTW captured my imagination and enthralled my emotions. I wanted to know the characters, to whack them on the head if necessary, to see what it was like to sew a dress from curtains, to learn the history of our neighbors to the south, to find out what grits really tasted like. In other words, the world of GWTW was as different and foreign to me as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I didn’t identify with Scarlett, but she was spoiled and headstrong and fascinating to explore through Margaret Mitchell’s writing….

What books would you choose to Live in for Awhile?

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Easter Island!

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Dates Explored: January 30 – February 4, 2016

This post is information-oriented, for those who might be interested in traveling to Easter Island and want to know a bit about the ins and outs. Pretty photos are forthcoming in future posts, I promise!

Last we left off, we were booked into the Hilton Garden Inn by the Santiago Airport. We had no problem booking and catching the shuttle (done at the hotel’s front desk) to the airport for our departure to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), but the airport was an absolute zoo once we were inside. We didn’t know it at the time – we thought so many Chileans were traveling because it was their summer –  but we had, quite by chance, decided to travel to Easter Island during the annual Tapati Festival, during which the Rapa Nui-ans celebrate their culture, traditions, music, dance, and athletics, some of which are quite unique. This link has photos and videos to show you.

Arriving during festival time was a surprise for us, but it’s a cool time to visit the island because every night you can go down to the festival area and see the competitions, mingle with Chileans, or arrange to watch some events (we were there to see the Moai, so only attended one event – more on that another day – but you could organize a trip around attending several events if you wished). I had heard about the festival, but we organized our trip around a 4-night cruise through the Patagonian fjords (to come!). We planned backward and forward from our cruise departure date of February 13th, much further south in Punta Arenas. So we happened to book flights to Rapa Nui during the festival as part of booking backward from our cruise.

The festival explained the busy-ness of the Santiago airport! Also, our flight was delayed six hours. There wasn’t really an explanation for this, other than there are only one or maybe two flights a day to Rapa Nui, and if one is delayed (they’re about six hours long), then the next is delayed, and so forth.

So if you’re planning on traveling to Rapa Nui, be prepared to be flexible (and cheerful during your wait in the airport). Also, I’ve never quite encountered this before, but when you board your LAN flight (or United Airlines coming back from South America), be prepared that someone might already be in your seat. I have no clue why – they’re trying to get a better seat and think the person who bought the seat won’t notice? This happened to us on United coming back during a red-eye and happened to someone else on our leg to Rapa Nui. If it happens to you, the flight attendants will quickly get things sorted out.

Travel Tip! I have no clue why, but we booked our flights through Expedia and on LAN airlines, and for reasons completely unknown to Moi, my husband and I were able to score Business Class seats (the kind that recline into little beds) round trip for $600 LESS than Economy seats. My sister-in-law booked a couple of days after I did, and their seats cost $300 more than ours and were only Business Class one way.

So…check flight costs often and be prepared to pounce when you see a deal! This was the first time (and so far only time) my husband and I have traveled Business Class, and it was quite the treat.

The Rapa Nui airport was every bit as chaotic as the Santiago airport. Travel Trip! You can buy your Park passes (which you need to visit the Quarry and Orongo – the main two archeological sites – at the airport. Look for the kiosk after you get off your plane and before you enter the airport arrival area to fetch your luggage.

Our first taste of Pisco Sours, Rapa Nui style (with a fruit juice). Steve and I had tasted Pisco in Peru six years earlier, had even brought some home to give to unwitting guests--but that was straight out of the flask. On Rapa Nui (Easter Island), we quickly learned we preferred the lemon Pisco Sour. We had to sample a different restaurant or bar's Pisco Sours every night to determine which was the best. Better than wine-tasting, IMO....

Our first taste of Pisco Sours Rapa Nui style (with a fruit juice), very late January 30th. Our group walked from our cabanas to the main street and popped into the closest restaurant for a meal of French fries, chicken, and gravy (like a sort of Rapa Nui poutine). Steve and I had tasted Pisco in Peru six years earlier, had even brought some home to give to unwitting guests – but that was straight out of the flask. On Rapa Nui, we quickly learned we preferred the lemon Pisco Sour. We had to sample a different restaurant’s or bar’s Pisco Sours every night to determine which was the best. Better than wine-tasting, IMO….

There are plenty of accommodation choices on Easter Island, but during festival time things can book up very fast. We wanted to be walking distance to town and not spend $300 a night, so we chose Cabanas Tautira, which perfectly fit our needs and was very economical for all the space you get.

Jorge, our host, met us at the airport, which was utterly chaotic. My luggage was one of the last pieces to deplane, so we were there for awhile. Jorge greeted us with flower necklaces (quite common practice, we noticed) and drove us around the town to orient us before settling us into two adjoining “cabanas,” which had two bedrooms each (one with two single beds, which we used as a large walk-in closet), the large bed facing the yard, a living room and kitchenette, and a bathroom. The walls of our living room/kitchenette abutted the walls of BILly and SILly’s cabana:

Rapa_30_Cabanas

That’s BILly sitting at their table. My only quibble about the cabanas was that I have a lot of hair on my head and could have used a change of towels during our five nights there. Now, I could have asked Jorge for a change of towels and I am sure he would have provided one, but I didn’t, so those towels were a little, uh, crusty by the time we left.

The other thing to be prepared for is when they decide to mow the lawn at the cabanas, because they do so with a weed-whacker type thing. 🙂 The grass is pretty dry in summer, so if your sliding doors are open you might find grass and twigs and such flying into your bedroom or all over your drying rack with your freshly handwashed laundry. But, honestly, that’s part of the charm of the cabanas.

The location couldn’t be beat. We could walk to town, and Jorge rented us a very clean vehicle for two days. Vehicles are just as easy to rent “downtown,” but it just made things simpler to rent them from Jorge.

If you popped by to see pictures of the Moai, do not despair, they are coming! Just not today. I know, I’m bad. The next Easter Island post should appear Thursday, March 31st.

Any questions about Easter Island? Just drop them in the comments thread and I’ll do my best to answer.

#ListifyLife Spring Challenge – Spring for Me Is…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Week 1 of the #Listifylife Spring Challenge presents that most perplexing of issues…. What is Spring for You?

Listifyspring1

To me, Spring is…

  • Birthday Season! Between March 31st and June 3rd we celebrate at least eight family birthdays I can think of, between parents, brother-in-law, daughter-in-law, son, niece and my DH.
  • Planting Flowers I’ll Forget to Water Last summer we did masses of outdoor renovations, completely tearing up our “Fred Flintstone” driveway (complete with decades of frost heaves), taking away loads of natural clay, replacing with clean fill, paving with asphalt, and replacing our old carport with a beautiful new one that goes much better with our house. Along the way, we lost the two gardens outside my kitchen door. We have a nice new pathway I’ll line with flower pots this spring. Let’s see if I’m any better at remembering to water pots than I am at gardens….
  • Counting Down to Seeing my Eldest Son Again in July! I only get to see E.S. in the summers, because he teaches at a B.C.-curriculum high school in Shanghai. I try to forget the countdown from September until March, because otherwise it gets too depressing. But now that spring is upon us, I’m counting down to early/mid-July when he’ll be home for his annual visit.

What is Spring for You? 

Leave a comment or link to your own blog.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – More Valparaiso!

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Date Explored: January 29, 2016

Continuing on with the street art of Valparaiso, a don’t-miss stop if you’re around Santiago. Do yourself a favor and go! Stop at a winery along the way.

Oh, a puppy! Okay, not street art. But this pooch followed my group of four and our guide around the skinny streets of Valparaiso on our morning walking tour. Street dogs are abundant in Valparaiso. We were traveling with my sister-in-law, and her younger brother (my husband's older brother, so the middle child) died of an asthma attack when he was only 25, way back in 1981. A couple of months before Andy died, he traveled Europe with me and my then-boyfriend-now-husband. So I told SILly that Andy's spirit had slipped into this street dog for the day. She liked that. :)

Oh, a puppy! Okay, not street art. But this pooch followed my group of four and our guide around the skinny streets of Valparaiso on our morning walking tour. Street dogs are abundant in Valparaiso. We were traveling with my sister-in-law. Her younger brother (my husband’s older brother, so the middle child) died of an asthma attack when he was only 25, way back in 1981. A couple of months before Andy died, he traveled Europe with me and my then-boyfriend-now-husband. So I told SILly that Andy’s spirit had slipped into this street dog for the day. She liked that. 🙂

These dogs might not have "real" homes, but here and there you'll find these community dog houses, and that's where some of the lucky street dogs get to stay. A stray dog could do worse!

These dogs might not have “real” homes, but here and there you’ll find these community dog houses, and that’s where some of the lucky street dogs get to stay. A stray dog could do worse! Oh, and there’s Antonio, the most cheerful tour guide in the world!

Let that just soak in for a bit. This art was near the street dog housing.

Let that just soak in for a bit. This art was near the street dog housing.

I love this big giant head! It's an old woman painted on the corner of one of the corrugated-iron-clad buildings. If you've even been to Newfoundland, before they started changing the brightly colored wood houses to white vinyl, well, the bite of the sea air would quite destroy the wood, requiring tons of maintenance. In Valparaiso and other parts of Chile, they use corrugated iron for siding because it stands up better than wood against the salt air.

I love this big giant head! It’s an old woman painted on the corner of one of the corrugated-iron-clad buildings. If you’ve ever been to Newfoundland, before they started changing some of the brightly colored wood houses to white vinyl, well, the bite of the sea air would quite destroy the wood, requiring tons of maintenance. In Valparaiso and other parts of Chile, they use corrugated iron for siding because it stands up better than wood against the salt air.

Painted at the top of one of the MANY steep, steep roadways.

Painted at the top of one of the MANY steep, steep roadways.

A gate to colored stairs. I think this is my fav photo of Valparaiso. It reflects the gorgeous color and character of the old part of the city.

A gate to colored stairs. I think this is my fav photo of Valparaiso. It reflects the gorgeous color and character of the old part of the city.

Along with cool skinny streets and all that lovely art, Valparaiso boasts several “funiculars.” I’m not quite sure how to describe them, but they’re like taking an outside elevator/gondola up a hillside. You can google for images and/or visit this link. We only had time to ride one funicular, so we rode the longest. I rode a very short funicular in Quebec City once. It descended us from one street to the next. The one in Valparaiso stretched quite a distance. You could stay another night in Valparaiso easily just to explore the city via funicular. One night quite simply is not enough.

In the afternoon, filled with potato chips, nuts, cheese, salami, and bottled water, we explored a bit of Vina del Mar, where we stayed during our first night in wine country, just across the bay from Valparaiso. Honestly, our primary concern was finding a bank. But we hadn’t yet learned the ways of the siesta, and the banks were closed, even the ABMs.

We visited the newer areas of Vina del Mar as well as stopping at their famous floral clock. Then began the drive back to Santiago, where at least three transport trucks carrying flattened copper passed us. I’d never seen copper being transported before. Very cool.

We finally found working bank machines at a gas station, where we filled up on ice cream bars and set out on our way again.

Antonio dropped us off at the Hilton by the airport, because the following morning we were flying to Easter Island! We liked the Hilton fine. We like staying as close to the airport as possible the night before a flight we really don’t want to miss. There was also a Holiday Inn, I believe, much closer to the airport! Now I know why the Hilton was cheaper–it’s not a great distance but nowhere near as close. But it had great showers, and the meat lasagna was to-die-for.

Travel Tip! If you like to be super close to the airport, maybe try the Holiday Inn. It’s just across the road. Getting TO the airport from the Hilton via shuttle was a cinch. We just booked it for the morning of the 30th once we arrived on the 29th. Getting BACK to the Hilton from the Santiago Airport following our days on Rapa Nui was a bit more of an adventure….

We said goodbye to Antonio at the Hilton. My husband gave him a little gift he had packed from home. My husband packed two of these gifts to give someone who we felt had gone the extra mile for us, and the first of those two people was Antonio. Tears shone in eyes and big hugs were squeezed all around as he departed. What a great guy.

We wouldn’t see another tour guide until we boarded the Australis cruise for our adventure through the Patagonia fjords two weeks from this point….

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Valparaiso

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Date Explored: January 29th

This was our third day with Antonio from Private Tours Chile. After our wine tour ended on the 28th, he drove us to Valparaiso on the Pacific Ocean. About seventy miles from Santiago, Valparaiso is a popular embarkation point for cruise ships traveling around South America. Valparaiso is one of those cool cities you could get lost in for days. We had one full night and morning of exploring the twisty narrow streets on the hillside before proceeding to Vina del Mar and then winding up back in Santiago for our next leg to Easter Island.

In Valparaiso, we stayed at The Fauna, a funky boutique hotel in a fantastic location for walking around. No air conditioning, but if you pack earplugs and open the windows you’ll be fine. The staff was great about allowing us to move our luggage from two rooms into one in the morning until we returned from our walking tour.

Valparaiso has a LOT of street art. It’s one of the city’s charms. It’s a vibrant, colorful place worth a longer visit than one night. I took so many pictures and have found it difficult paring them down, so I’m posting over two days. My pictures are great (if I do say so myself), but for an overall impression of the city do a browser search for Valparaiso “images.” You’ll see more fantastic examples of the graffiti.

Valpar_1

I snapped this mural from the open window of our room. My husband and I had a room directly across from the reception desk. I can’t remember the room number, but it was large and had amazing views. Our companions were in a room the same size on the lowest level. The Fauna only has a couple of rooms per floor.

After settling in our rooms, we walked around on our own and pretty quickly came across this graffiti.

After settling in our rooms the previous night, we walked around on our own and pretty quickly came across this graffiti. I love how this mural curves with the building.

A funky doorway.

A funky doorway.

We didn't know what we were doing. So it was cool to pop around a corner and see kids and moms sliding down these ramps.

We didn’t know what we were doing. So it was cool to pop around a corner and see kids and moms sliding down these ramps.

We didn’t “dine out” in Valparaiso. We pretty much snacked in the touring van and then ate upon our return to Santiago. But we did search for bank machines in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. The Canadian dollar was in the toilet during our trip, improving a little bit while we were there, but overall our experience was that Chile was pretty darn expensive for tourists. Our bank at home has a presence in Chile. We did find a branch in Vina del Mar on the 29th, but it was closed until 3 p.m. and we had to get moving.

Travel Tip! We took $1000 CDN in Chilean pesos purchased before the trip per couple and figured we’d handle the rest of our withdrawals through ABMs. I would suggest, if you are comfortable doing so, to take more Chilean pesos bought from your bank at home than you think necessary (remember, Canadian dollar in the toilet). And charge to your credit card when you can. I say this because, unless we happened upon a bank in our bank’s network (and in four weeks we came across ONE), our bank at home charged us $5 per transaction. That sounds acceptable, but the Chilean banks (those which accepted our cards, like Santander–the more local the bank, the less chance we could even use our cards) not only limited withdrawals to an amount approximating $200 CDN per transaction but then charged a tax on top that went to the Chilean government. Between Canadian bank charges and the Chilean tax on small withdrawals, we wound up paying $10-$15 CDN every time we took out money (it was even worse in Argentina, because the withdrawal threshold there was even lower).

But we were on holiday and felt lucky that some banks accepted our cards at all. Any money is better than no money, after all (which was our experience in Ecuador four years ago when only one of the four of us had a bank card that was permitted to withdraw).

More Valparaiso street art next post!

ListifyLife Spring Challenge!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

listifygraphicI’m participating in the #ListifyLife Spring Challenge that is the brainchild of Roni Loren, with beautiful graphics designed by Sierra Godfrey.

The #ListifyLife Spring Challenge is open to authors, readers, anyone, really. Just follow the guidelines on Roni’s site to participate and/or share your lists on social media.

There will be a different theme every week, starting next week, and I will be posting my lists on my blog and Facebook on Tuesdays, plus sharing on Twitter. That’ll give you something different to read between all my travel posts!

I love making lists. Do you? I needs lists to order my chaotic brain. They help me stay focused throughout a day of hopping between writing, editing, revising, doing office stuff for a couple small businesses, yadda, yidda, yuupee.

But the #ListifyLife Spring Challenge is just for fun!

Breakin’ it down:

listifyspringoverall

Are you ready to Listify your life? Check back with me next Tuesday for Week 1.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Day 2 of Casablanca Wine Valley

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Date Explored: January 28, 2016

Day 2 of our Casablanca Wine Tour consisted of three visits to very different vineyards. I kept a travel journal, and here is what I wrote about Day 1: “Late night, another early start. Three vineyards today. I feel the need for a relaxing night. Not so late and not as much booze.”

Hah!

You see, drinking gives me insomnia. It puts some people to sleep…

CasaDay2_WD

But it makes my mind too active. Too much brain activity, and I can’t sleep. I know, weird, huh?

Actually, that photo of my darling husband was taken while we were waiting for the first tour of the day to start . He was just pretending he was zoned out. It’s his “walking dead” imitation. Honest.

Because here he is at Casas de Bosque showing his true colors.

Because here he is at Casas de Bosque showing his true colors.

Casas de Bosque means Houses of the Forest and was the largest of the wineries we visited, especially in terms of being more of a production operation, from what I could tell. But then, we’ve already established that I’m ignorant in the ways of the grape.

Love the staining on the caskets in the photo below!

CasaDay2_barrels

Or are those barrels?

Well, if you drink enough of the contents you might find yourself in a casket…..

Just sayin’.

I learned during our 2-day Chilean Wine Tour and Beyond (as in my sampling of many future bottles of wine bought during our 4-week trip) that (1) Chilean vineyards are a heck of a lot more generous with their “tasting” glasses of wine than Canadian wineries. (2) That it doesn’t matter how many times I try to “cultivate” my taste buds, I can not stomach CabSav. (3) That there IS a red grape I actually like!!! It’s called Carmenere, and it originated in France but is now rarely found there. Chile grows masses of the Carmenere grape and uses it in red blends I quickly discovered were my favorite (if I have to have a favorite). I used to think “blends” were all the crappy grapes tossed together, but now, yes, now I have been educated. Blends are often the grape de la grape, the cream of the crop, especially when they include some Carmenere. I still can’t down an entire glass in two hours or less, but I can give it a good shot and make it about a quarter-way.

If you live in an area that grows some Carmenere (like California or Washington), give it a try.

Note, I discovered I love the “bouquet” of wine. The sniffing part. The swirling in the glass. It’s when I swallow the stuff that I have an issue. You know what they refer to as the aftertaste or whatever? That’s when it really hits me and I just…shiver. I guess I didn’t burn off enough of my taste buds at the back of my tongue as a kid to make an adequate connoisseur of wine. That’s my reasoning, and I’m sticking to it.

Our tasting at Casas de Bosque was held in a little room with folks from the U.S. and Europe. From there, Antonio (the designated driver) took us to Matetic Vineyards which, even by my picky standards (“Where’s the Pinot Gris?”), had some pretty good wine (but, alas, I could only sip, not quaff). Matetic is an organic winery, but a biodynamic organic winery, which means they have to adhere to very strict guidelines that a place like Emiliana from the prior day would adhere to, but then more standards on top of that. It really is very interesting and includes paying attention to equinoxes and solstices. Visit this link for more information.

We enjoyed lunch at Matetic. I had a fish dish with “bottoms of avocado” and olives. It was delicious.

We were quickly discovering that Chilean food is freaking fantastic.

I had ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime, etc.) for the first time at Matetic and quite enjoyed it. I am not at the point where I could eat a whole order of ceviche to myself, but I am certainly capable of stealing from others’ plates.

Winery #4 was very different. We nearly didn’t go, because we were all pretty wiped and Antonio still had to drive us to our hotel in Valparaiso, across the bay from where we stayed the night before in Vina del Mar. But we drew ourselves up by our sandal straps and continued on to Bodega Re, and I’m so glad we did, because this fourth vineyard was totally different from the rest. Bodega Re combines grapes and blends in unique fashions. Example, I liked the rose they called Pinotel, which was a combination of Pinot Noir (another red wine I can stomach, but usually gives me monster headaches) and Muscatel.

Really, Bodega Re provides such huge portions for their “tastings,” it’s like drinking a bottle of wine all to yourself. While I enjoyed the wine, it being my fourth winery visit in two days I sampled very teensy portions and filled up on cheese. But we bought a bottle of the Pinotel for “Cindy” to enjoy later on….

A lot of words for this day. Sorry about that. But if you’ve read this far, here’s a nice picture of the cool Chilean fences we saw both on our way to Valparaiso and on Chiloe Island a couple of weeks later. If you’re looking for a “basket-weave” style fence for your yard, here’s a sample. Ain’t it cute?

CasaDay2_fence

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Casablanca Wine Valley, Day 1

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Date Explored: January 27, 2016

After recovering from three long flights to get to Santiago, including a 9-hour overnight flight, on Wednesday morning our foursome was picked up by the always cheerful Antonio from Private Tours Chile for a half-day tour of Santiago and a visit to Emiliana Organic Vineyards in the Casablanca Wine Valley. Our visit to Emiliana was the first of four vineyard visits over two days. If you’re thinking about touring around Santiago, be sure to check out Leo Cuzmar’s site. He’s the guy in charge of Private Tours Chile and they do a great job, but I found it a little difficult, after hearing about Leo’s business on Trip Advisor, to find the website. So now that I’ve provided it, bookmark it!

Let me say again that Antonio was amazing. Friendly, helpful, always a smile on his face, chock-full of information, the kind of guy you want to take to lunch (and we did). The half-day city tour of Santiago was just enough for me, especially considering that this was our third time in South America. I liked what Antonio showed us of Santiago, but really we were itching to get to wine country, and I don’t even like most wines. But I wanted to spread my wings, try to educate my taste buds, and my comrades were already way ahead of me in that department.

Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley felt like home! Vineyards are plentiful in the South Okanagan of B.C., especially around Penticton and Oliver. Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley was our first hint that Chile was more like British Columbia than any South American country we've visited so far (Peru, Ecuador, Chile and a taste of Argentina).

Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley felt like home! Vineyards are plentiful in the South Okanagan of B.C., especially around Penticton and Oliver. Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley was our first hint that Chile was more like British Columbia than any South American country we’ve visited so far (Peru, Ecuador, Chile and a taste of Argentina).

"Steven King" et moi at Emiliana Organic Vineyards. Emiliana is doing a great job of advertising around Chile. Wherever we went, we'd spot their name on restaurant awnings. Wines of Chile named Emiliana Winery of the Year for 2015. The vineyard was impeccable.

“Steven King” et moi at Emiliana Organic Vineyards. Emiliana is doing a great job of advertising around Chile. Wherever we went, we’d spot their name on restaurant awnings. Wines of Chile named Emiliana Winery of the Year for 2015. The vineyard was impeccable.

Before we could proceed to the tasting, however, we had to tour the vineyard. Emiliana employs a lot of different methods to protect their grapes, including growing flowers and shrubs that pests will attack before getting to the vines, keeping llamas to “mow” the lawn, and employing tons of chickens to eat the insects.

The roving chicken coop. The chickens are moved around the winery, as needed.

The roving chicken coop. The chickens are moved around the winery, as needed.

one of the chickens (well, I guess a rooster) in question. I snapped this guy as he was racing with a bunch of hens for an afternoon snack (of seeds or whatever they feed chickens once they are full of insects).

One of the chickens (well, I guess a rooster) in question. I snapped this guy as he was racing with a bunch of hens for an afternoon snack (of seeds or whatever they feed chickens once they are full of insects).

Voila! Les grapes! (Translate to Spanish at your leisure).

Voila! Les grapes! (Translate to Spanish at your leisure).

Wine tasting!

Wine tasting! Paired with different cheeses.

The Emiliana vineyard we visited doesn’t do any wine production. That was carried out elsewhere. So when you visit, you’re pretty much focused on the vineyard. The wine house, whatever you might call it (are we picking up my ignorance here?) was empty when we had our tasting. I enjoyed the tasting very much. I’m just not meant to quaff four glasses of wine in short order. Not to worry, the other members of my troupe were very, um, adept at picking up the slack for me.

The cheese was very, very good.

Everyone was very happy following this tour. We had already figured out that Chileans eat “lunch” late by North American standards. Our guide Antonio suggested we stop at a little local Casablanca eatery en route to our hotel in Vina del Mar, on the Pacific Ocean. We all had Pastel de Choclo, also known as Corn Pie, a hot casserole of chicken, boiled egg, raisins, ground beef and olives, topped with corn. It was excellent and hearty, but the portions were huge! (This was also going to become a recurring theme. Chileans don’t scrimp on wine or food portions. Honestly, you can get away with splitting a meal easily).

Antonio from Private Tours Chile, enjoying the Pastel de Choclo we had for a late lunch en route from Emiliana to our lodgings for the night in Vina del Mar.

Antonio from Private Tours Chile, enjoying the Pastel de Choclo we had for a late lunch en route from Emiliana to our lodgings for the night in Vina del Mar.

In Vina del Mar, we stayed at an old hotel on the rocks, right down by the water, called The Oceanic. I don’t know about you, but I like some character in my hotels, so we usually go for “boutique hotels,” and during this trip we really tried to mix it up. I don’t have any photos of The Oceanic, but you can check out their website. Or admire this sunset, taken from the balcony of our room:

We were all so full of lunch that we all to do for dinner was pick up some snacks and order an appetizer from the bar to enjoy with the wine purchased at Emiliana while we listened to the waves crashing against the rocks and watched the lights of Valparaiso sparkle to life across the bay. Ah, holidays!

We were all so full of lunch that all we had to do for dinner was pick up some snacks and order an appetizer from the bar to enjoy with some of the wine purchased at Emiliana while we listened to the waves crashing against the rocks and watched the lights of Valparaiso sparkle to life across the bay. Ah, Chile! You’re treating us right!

 

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Santiago January 26

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

It’s been a few trips since I did any travel blogging. The last time was Galapagos, I believe, 2012. Since then, my husband and I have traveled to China, Australia and Cuba, but for various and sundry reasons (beginning with the death of a family member in the days upon our return from China in 2013) I didn’t get around to it. Too bad, because I love organizing my memories this way, but blogging about travel when a loved one has just died seems in poor taste.

Fast forward to this year–we’ve recently returned from what we are looking upon as the “last” of our “big” adventures. The Aus trip was 4 weeks and so followed this year, a marathon of a holiday that took us from Santiago, Chile down to Patagonia and ending up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For the most part, I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves (let’s see how good I am at that).

It took 2 days to travel from B.C. via Calgary and Houston to Santiago, Chile, including an overnight stay in Calgary so we wouldn’t stress about missing the next day’s flight due to winter weather. We stayed in Santiago two nights, at a gem of a place called the Matildas. It’s in a pretty old neighborhood of Santiago, but what charm!

Old Steamer Trunk at Matildas

Look, Ma, I could fit into an old suitcase! I happen to know I can fit into a 1960s fridge as well, but let’s not broadcast that… Isn’t this travel trunk to die for? (Yes, I know, the fridge might have been to-die-for as well, but my brother let me out).

Matildas Exterior

After recovering from not-that-bad jet lag (it was a five-hour time difference, which is child’s play compared to China or Australia), we checked out the Matildas the next morning from the relaxing back yard. Our room was the top floor, the rounded room to the right with the open window. It was super cool.

I tried to capture the feeling of the curved windows and shutters from inside the room. Not sure if I succeeded...

I tried to capture the feeling of the curved windows and shutters from inside the room. Not sure if I succeeded…

Nothing planned for our first day, just some wandering around the neighborhood, admiring the old buildings.

Nothing planned for our first day, just some wandering around the neighborhood, admiring the old buildings.

There's a lot of graffiti in the neighborhood around the Matildas, some of it quite entertaining.

There’s a lot of graffiti in the neighborhood around the Matildas, some of it quite entertaining.

I'm so bad that I can't remember the name of the restaurant around the corner from the hotel where we ate dinner, but it was wonderful. I had cheese and empanadas and this "avocado and palm hearts" salad. I had never tried hearts of palm before, and I love them!

It’s too bad I can’t remember the name of the restaurant around the corner from the hotel, where we ate dinner, because it really deserves a shout-out, but it was wonderful. I had cheese and beef empanadas and this “avocado and palm hearts” salad. I had never tried hearts of palm before, and I love them!

Over the next four weeks, I would learn that when a Chilean menu says “avocado and hearts of palm,” that’s exactly what you’ll get. Nothing extra. I once ordered a salad to share with my husband that was described as “tomato, onion and Something Else.” Alas, I can not recall what the Something Else was, but dang if the salad contained tomato, onion and Something Else, and that was it. If you want a mixed salad, you have to order carefully. Because a description of “lettuce” will net you lettuce and only lettuce.

I also ate tongue this first night, just a bite, nothing crazy. We traveled with my sister-in-law and her dh. He ordered the tongue, so I had a taste. Not bad. If I hadn’t known I was eating tongue I might have barely noticed the spongy texture (texture can make or break food for me; I’ve never claimed to have sophisticated tastes). BILly claims his palate is much more adventurous than mine, but really I have more advanced taste buds capable of discerning a tongue from a rump (but that’s a debate best left for another time).

Our Fearless Foursome hit the sack early (11 p.m. or so, early by South American standards) because the next morning a guide was picking us up for a half-day city tour and transporting us to the Casablanca wine valley, where we visited four wineries in two days. A lovely time was had by all, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who remembers….