After the wedding, the lovebirds took off for a honeymoon in Patagonia, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Israel’s mom and siblings still had two days in Chile, and John and I and our parents had three more days, and we weren’t about to waste the time. Sunday morning our entire group of 8 arranged for a private tour led by a really awesome tour guide named Al Ramirez. He arrived with a driver and 15-passenger Mercedes van, and a plan to keep us busy all day.
First stop: the home-turned-museum showcasing the collections of a famous Chilean poet named Pablo Neruda. (Nope, I’d never heard of him before either!) He collected seaglass and figureheads and seashells and all sorts of other beautiful and strange things including a full sized wooden horse with 3 tails. Umm. Yeah. I most loved the mosaic work– there was a mosaic stone wall around a fireplace in the house that was just stunning. (No photos allowed, sadly. Ah well.)
Next we visited a local winery called Casablanca. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and we opted to sit out on the terrace visiting and sampling a bit of wine and nibbling cheese from the fanciest cheese tray I’ve ever seen. (I’m saving this photo in case I ever want to put together a really swanky cheese tray for a party– it was really fun.)
Sitting there in the sun at this gorgeous winery in Chile-of-all-places, chatting with some exceedingly nice people, I just had to smile. The experience was so far from my normal life that it seemed surreal. And, hey, I think I could get used to going on trips with a bunch of photographers. The trip pictures rock, and some of them actually include John and me together!
After Casablanca, we headed for Quintay, where we planned to eat lunch. Tiny Quintay was a whaling town at one point, and has sweet little houses going up steep hillsides, as well as several restaurants all in a row along a little wharf. Kids were kneeboarding in front of the restaurants, and there was a man selling polished-stone jewelry at a little stand nearby.
The restaurant where we ate lunch got mixed reviews. Some people were delighted with their meal– others, not so much. The crab soup that I had was wonderful, but so rich that I blame it for any weight I might have gained on the trip. (Thankfully not much– we walked a lot!)
After Quintay we headed for a bigger town along with Pacific Ocean: Valparaiso. Here’s where our tour guide and driver really showed what patient people they are. Valparaiso is built on hills, and has some of the most personality-filled architecture I’ve ever seen. I don’t think we drove more than a few minutes at a time without someone asking to get out to take pictures. I suspect that some of the less camera-happy people in the bunch might have been getting tired of it, but everyone was very good natured about it.
We had fun walking up and down hills and taking pictures of the town, and the weather — sunshine, blue sky and temps in the 60’s– just made you glad to be alive. Although it is actually getting on towards fall in Chile, it felt like spring to me.
There was a long sidewalk overlooking a port where big ships were coming in. Here a lot of the people of the town seemed to be gathered, sitting on benches or walking around enjoying the beautiful day. A bit further on there were some touristy stands that sucked me in. I found a couple of scarves to bring home to remember the day by.
By this time the sun was starting to get lower, and we still had one more town to see. Our tour guide and driver obligingly smiled as I turned the camera their way. Then soon we were off to Vina del Mar, for a few minutes at the beach. Some folks grabbed some ice cream. John and I waded in the ocean and took just a few more pictures before the end of the day.
Then it was time for a long drive back to Santiago. The driver amused us with 1980’s music videos shown on a huge TV that hung from the ceiling of the van. I’m not 100% sure how he made his video selection, given the diverse age range in the van. David amused us by singing along at times, and John and I alternately laughed and cringed at the discovery that we still remembered way too many words to many, many songs that we hadn’t heard for years.
When we finally made it back to our hotel, Marcia and Ann. headed off to bed. John and I and my folks headed for the grocery store to forage a bit of late dinner. (I also did a bit of shopping for a dinner party I was planning for the next evening.) David and Sandra hung out in our room for a little while, where we all ate grilled cream-cheese and tomato sandwiches and chatted. Then Sandra wandered off to bed. David, John and I proceeded to stay up insanely late rehashing the loveliness of the wedding, talking about kids and families, and just about everything else under the sun. All in all, a crazy-good, crazy-full day.