The Cousino-Macul Vineyards were an unexpected place to begin the Santiago leg of the trip. It has never been a socially acceptable behavior for me to start drinking at 10am, but this vineyard was exquisite and therefore an exception. The city of Santiago itself is very industrial and polluted. If you are standing in one of the wealthier parts of the city, it could be a city in any part of the world complete with a Starbucks and McDonalds. To travel 20 minutes to the edge of Santiago and tumble out of the bus to such dazzling surroundings is a bit of a shock. Before the tour begins, the smell of damp leaves and aged wood swirls around, reminding you that this is a very different part of Santiago. Cousino-Macul was founded in 1865 and is still run by the same family, who immigrated from Spain a very long time ago. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and very clearly love their job. The tour began with a walk through the historic room which housed wooden casks that would age the wine, easing into a room that houses modern equipment which create the wine we drink today. Following the stairway through a softly lit hallway to the wine tasting room was breathtaking. The wine tasting room uses the stone wall surroundings and incorporates the wood of the casks as the wine is also served on a beautiful wooden table anchored by Cusino-Macul casks, creating a very intimate, relaxed atmosphere. For anyone who has ever been on a vineyard tour and felt that it was an extended sales pitch, this was quite the opposite. Cusino-Macul has been meticulously taken care of and preserved while retaining its historical feel. For the readers who are stateside, one place Cousino-Macul Wine can be found at the DeKalb Farmers Market, outside Atlanta.
When I visited Southern Chile during the month of May it was the end of fall/beginning of winter. Translation: while my friends stateside were posting pictures of their time on the lake, I was layering pants. The hostel we stayed in had no central heating, instead my roommates and I would cozy up to a propane heater each night. By the end of our time in Temuco, all three of us were sharing a bed so we could be warm throughout the night. We each had unique ways of keeping our face warm at night—sleeping with hats and gloves on, wrapping a towel around our face, and sleeping facing the heater. Now, sharing a bed with two girls you barely knew before the trip is humorous, but taking a shower became a rare and thoroughly unenjoyable experience. If you were one of the lucky few to get hot water, you risked it turning cold between shampooing and conditioning. After trying to undress as quickly as humanely possible (remember, no central heating), and after the water either scalds you then proceeds to turn cold on you mid cleanse, you are warmed by your chattering teeth while seeing your own breath as you attempt getting dressed without catching hypothermia.
While in Temuco, I got to experience the extreme diversity in landscape that Chile has to offer. The country is cradled by the Andes Mountains. There are still dozens of active volcanoes like the one pictured in the South and a desert region in the North. One of the highlights was the waterfall we visited, the height of it took my breath away. The excitement of seeing this unknown thing had me sprinting like a child on the trail to it. All of a sudden, you can feel the pressure of the waterfall in your ears before you can see it. And then—there it is. It was completely magnificent, like something out of the Jungle Book. I stopped and blinked a couple of times just staring, trying to make sure I can’t forget.
One of the nights in Pucon finished out with a visit to some hot springs, an image I couldn’t even craft in my mind before actually seeing them. The springs were seated next to a river, nestled against the Andes, with the stars twinkling in the background. It was the opposite of a Four Seasons pool in Vegas or New York but so much better. The only unnatural part was the railing as you stepped on small boulders into the steaming water. It was a sandy floor, with mineral water and the sounds of the river a few feet away. Apparently, if you are superhuman and like to torture yourself you are supposed to soak in the hot spring and then jump in the river before returning to the spring.
Until the birth of the Panama Canal, Valparaiso was arguably the most important port in the Pacific Southern Hemisphere. Valparaiso began not as an entirely separate city, but rather the port to Santiago. Through time, Valparaiso has created its own identity rooted in art, intellectual pursuits and the still busy port. While in Valparaiso, I was fortunate to be staying with a host family in nearby Vina Del Mar (the more polished neighbor to Valparaiso), I quickly learned that my Spanish is horrifically rusty. Midweek I came home after a long day, and tried to excuse my weak conversation at the dinner table with fatigue. I said to the family “Yo casada” which was followed by raised eyebrows and 5 very long seconds of silence. The next morning I learned from another girl in my group that my intended “I’m tired” (yo cansada) translated mistakenly to “I married” (yo casada). Sometimes all it takes is on letter differenc e to really mess up a conversation.
The street art in Valparaiso is fascinating. The city officials have a unique relationship with the street artists, who have sometimes asked permission to claim the spaces they paint. The art is laced with political statements and cultural symbols. The street art documents the historical characters that have shaped Chilean culture while incorporating the very current student movement. One part of Valparaiso is called the Open Sky Museum, where internationally renowned artists worked together to paint about 60 murals that are a part of public space. The artists often will not sign their name on the murals, making them a common good for the city. As the art appeared, Valparaiso was able to use the art to transform the previously rundown historical neighborhoods into something that was not so typically gentrified.
Hello there! This is my first time in South America, but so far I can completely understand why some people list it as a must. My first city within Chile is Valparaiso, it sits on the Pacific Ocean and is cradled by hills and mountains. I cannot really compare it to another city in the United States.
Valpo has an artistic history and has been revitalized in recent decades. One of the most interesting visual aspects of Valpo is the amounts colors. The houses are as diverse as nature. In addition, the sea and the sunsets are unparalleled. Because Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is chilly here and the further south you go, the more snow there will be.
A historical building close to the shore.
Chile is a primarily Catholic country, when being colonized conquistadors created a Protestant cemetery to maintain a separateness as pictured below.
Most people live on hills here and neighborhoods are organized by which hill you live on.
A Chilean sunset.