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¡Hola from Chile!

December, 2009
map_es2011
Hello, everyone, from HOT Chile!    You have to pronounce it Chee-lay, not Chili (as our guide said unless you want "chili con carne").   We are currently in Santiago, the capital city which has 6 million of the 16 million total in the country. Chile is 3,200 miles long (think Boston to San Diego) and (on average) 100 miles wide!  And we wrote HOT because it is hovering around 90 degrees. By the way, the dialect is distinct from traditional Spanish and is spoken very, very fast, PLUS English speakers in the restaurants are few and far between so far. 

The main drivers of their economy are: copper, paper/lumber, farmed salmon, fruits/produce/wine, and tourism.  Their government is fascinating... president has one four year term, they had a big election on Sunday but no one won a majority, so they are voting again next month (ah, if only we had had that chance in 2000). Posters of the candidates are everywhere, and one looks surprisingly like George Costanza. 

We arrived on Monday and had two amazing meals (no surprise). Chile (unlike Argentina and Brazil) puts an emphasis on fish (but the beef is still great!). My dear friend Natasha had forewarned me that what we call Chilean Sea Bass is not what they call Chilean Sea Bass.  Unfortunately, we forgot that and what we thought was sea bass was really conger eel (served like fish and chips) and very tasty.  who knew?  We have also discovered that the produce is amazing (I will never look askance at Chilean produce in the Whole Foods again even though it’s not local)... particularly the avocados, tomatoes, hearts of palm, and strawberries.

Yesterday we took a day trip to Valparaiso (Valley of Paradise) an old port city on the Pacific. Though it is on the coast, it is still very mountainous, with the houses built all over the mountainside (some similarity to Amalfi Coast).  Then a small town called Viña da Mar (Vineyard by the sea) which looked a lot like Nice, but not as nice. 

Today, we did a short tour of the city (not really much to see - though parts looked like Rome (with the obligatory river) or plazas in Spain and Italy - hmmm....wonder why?), and saw the changing of the guard at the presidential "palace" (it is called that, but the president just works there - all presidents actually live in their own homes!). So they had a big ceremony with soldiers and marching bands...



...and then the street was reopened to traffic.  Yes...the traffic actually goes right past the President' office. Our guide said there is no need here for the kind of security we have at home. 

Then a lovely ride toward the Andes, and a tour of a winery.  It was pretty much what we've seen before (giant tanks, rows of barrels, certificates of awards, etc.). The big difference was that they did NOT try to sell us any wine, how delightful. After the tour we were led outside and served lunch under a huge cork tree! OMG! It was soooo beautiful: the rows of grape vines, a pool filled with lily pads, Greek-style statues holding bunches of grapes,



...a perfect temperature, no bugs.....and the food was fabulous... papaya with ice cream for dessert and the wine kept flowing. Did we mention they use lots of salt and sugar... detox will be needed upon our return. 

Tomorrow (Thursday) we fly down to  Puerto Montt to start our Andes crossing. 


We will see a small waterfall in preparation for the big one at Iguazu. Puerto Montt is a town settled by Germans over 150 years ago--at the northern-most tip of Patagonia (which means land of big feet--hope they let us in).  

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