Monday, 3 May 2010

Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda's house and Pomaire

I enjoyed another wonderful tour organised by OTSI yesterday. This time I had company; my colleague Kerry from York St John University took the tour with me - also when we got on the bus it turned out there there were 10 of us on the tour and we all turned out to be OTs here in Santiago for the Congress! Our tour guide gave his commentary in English and Spanish as we comprised 2 OTs from the UK, 3 from USA and 5 from Argentina. I was surprised to discover that a couple of my American colleagues had been following my tweets and this blog - it made writing it feel worth while.

Our tour guide gave a very good commentary about buidings in Santiago as when drove round the city picking up the gorup. As we headed out of Santiago he continued to tell us about copper miningand lithium (I didn't know so much lithium came from Chile). Then we had detailed information about wine production as we drove through the Curacavi and Casablanca valleys.

After seeing Pablo Neruda's house 'La Sebastiana' in Valparaiso and falling in love with it - I looked forward to seeing his house at Isla Negra with anticipation. I wasn't disappointed. It is a beautiful setting right by the Pacific ocean and his garden goes down to the beach. His house is built so nearly all the rooms have amazing sea views and it is filled with light. Inside the house contained an amazing collection of objects and had a really magical feel.

Pablo collected many things including ships' figure heads, masks, shells, stained glass, pictures and ornaments. One of my favourite stories about him relates to a life size paper mache horse. Apparently this horse stood by a shop that sold tack near where he grew up and he tried several times to buy it - but the owner wouldn't sell. Pablo waited 40 years to purchase this horse and when he finally acquired it he built a new room to display it. When it arrived he invited his friends to a celebratory party and instructed his guests to each bring his horse and present! I can see why he felt inspired to write here and you get the sense that it must have been a lot of fun to be his guest.

The spot where Pablo and his last wife, Matilde, are buried is lovely - they face out to the ocean and you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks and beach. The grounds to his home are filled with interesting objects too - an old engine, fountain, boat and campanile (with bells hanging off a star shaped construction in wood).

After our visit to Isla Negra we drove for about an hour to the village of Pomaire - our guide called this a 'typical village' but it felt like a hub of activity for selling local crafts. It was very busy on the Sunday afternoon and more with Chileans than tourists. There was store after store selling the local pottery - and it is a shame that I have a 14 hour long haul flight, and then a connection on from Paris to the UK to get home and a 23kg weight limit on luggage - as I was very tempted to acquire one of the beautiful big vases. Most of the pottery is dark brown, but some stalls have beautifully decorated things in bright glazes which caught my eye. Comapred to England the pottery was also very reasonably priced. Instead I settled one a small ornament for my daughter and a pottery whistle for my son.

In Pomaire we had a very tasty lunch. We asked our guide for suggestions of typical Chilean food and ended up with a corn pie which was very different to anything I have had before. It was baked in a casserole dish and comprised minced meat, mixed with onions, sultanas and chopped egg and topped with corn which had sugar spinkled over the top. At the botton of the dish was a leg of chicken. It was a mixture I would have never considered putting together and was very sweet for a main course - however, it was very tasty and mine was eaten up! It was accompanied by a salad and I was keen to try the local avaocado - which was delicious.

If you are also in Santiago for the WFOT Congress and have a day to spare I would definitely recommend this tour.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Did the earth move for you?

Well it has for us! Tremors have been felt in the Santiago region both yesterday and today. Yesterday some colleagues from the UK had just arrived and we were up in the restaurant on the 14th floor of our hotel when the tremour was felt at around 11am - quite a welcome to Santiago for my jet-lagged colleagues! The whole room really wobbled for what felt like around 20 seconds. The hotel staff behaved very calmly as if nothing was happening - which was quite reassuring. Apparently there was another tremour today of around 5.9 - but Kerry and I were on the coast at Isla Negra and felt nothing.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Cerro San Cristobal

Day off on Saturday so I was able to recharge my batteries after 6 full days of WFOT meetings. Saturday 1st May is a holdiay in Santiago so a lot of shops and restaurant were closed in the Las Condes neighbourhood today and it was very quiet in the area around our hotel. Several colleagues have arrived from the UK - so I took them on a little walking tour of the area to point our the supermarket, convenience stores, laundrette, banks and restuarants.

In the afternoon I took the metro from El Golf to U. de Chile metro stop downtown to meet up with my colleague, Kerry, from York St John. Another WFOT delegate had recommended the park in Santiago - Cerro San Cristobal - and I thought this might be a good place to go when a lot of places were shut for a holiday and when the weather was so nice - it was hot and sunny. Kerry and I took the Metro from La Mondea a few stops to Plaza Baquedano and walked to the park from there. It was such a great place to go for the afternoon. Residents of Santiago were out in force enjoying the holiday with their family. There were loads of people with rugs spread out along the pavements selling scarves, children's clothes, ornaments, jewellry and toys. The market was buzzing, little craft shops were open and there were loads of places to eat. It was such a contrast to Las Condes - which felt as if it had gone to sleep - here their was music, chatting, laughing and a really vibrant feeling of life at it's best - people occupied in leisure, fun and enjoying socialising with friends and family.

The ride on the funicular to the top of the park to see the stautue of the Virgin Mary didn't disappoint either and the views of Santiago from the top were fantastic. We stayed up their until it started to get dark and so got to see Santiago light up gradually beneath us.

Went to a great resturant on the way back - delicious calamari, shrimp and salmon - washed down with a glass of pisco sour - perfect!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

WFOT Focus Day - Sunday 25th April

The WFOT Focus day was held at Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago. Focus day is more informal than the Council meeting and provides an opportunity for member countries to contribute to the direction of WFOT in the future and share ideas to change priorities into actions.

The University is supporting WFOT by providing a venue for our Focus day and Council meeting. Buses collected delegates from hotels and brought us out to the Campus. The views of the mountains from the campus are spectacular. It is a very picturesque setting and a lovely campus. The Focus day was held in a large auditorium but as the weather was so lovley we did our group work outside. For small group work we were divided into 4 groups by continent; so I am part of the European member associations group.

We started with introductions from the WFOT Executive Management Team and with a few presentations. This included a presentation of the results of the Human Resources project which has been led by Ritchard Ledyard a Program Co-ordinator on the Exacutive Management Team - Ritchard had had his flights to Santiago cancelled twice owing to the volcanic ash clouds so he wasnt able to join us in the mroning to present his results and finally made it to the university at lunchtime. All the members of the Executive Management Team have now made it to Santiago, but the EMT meeting had to be conducted via Skype all last week. The Human Resources project is a very important peice of work which collates data from member associations including numbers of occupational therapists in each country, which countries have a registration system for occupationa therapists (i.e. in the UK we have to be registered with the Health Professions Council), the number of education programmes and of these which education programmes are WFOT approved, how many occupational therapy students are currently training in each country, and where there are shortages in occupational therapists in different fields of practice.

In our first group discussion in the morning we shared current trends and issues from our countries and how these are impacting and may infleunce and impact occupational therapy services and practice. There were a lot of common themes shared within the Europe group. The needs of an increasing ageing population and a drive towards more health prevention and promotion focus within health service were common themes. The need for occupational therapists to make clear business cases for services and be able to cost our services and articulate the evidence on which they are based also was highlighted. We heard about changing health care systems in a number of countries and how these are impacting on occupational therapy. In some cases this has led to more recognition of the value of occupational and we heard of a few countries where new education programmes are being set up and more occupational therapists trained - which was very encouraging.

In the afternoon we reviewed the current WFOT mission, vision, objectives and priorties in light of our earlier discussion on trends and issues and started the process of considering what the next WFOT strategy (from 2012) should contain.

It was a very interesting and stimulating day and provided an opportunity for me to be introduced to a lot of the delegates from other countries and, in particular to start to get to know other delegates from Europe.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Santiago Metro system - I am a fan

I braved the Santiago Metro system yesterday. Julio advised it is easy to negotiate, safe, clean and has trains that run on time - this was quite a 'billing' so I thought I'd see for myself.

I've been on quite a lot of metro systems in cities around the world and I have to say Santiago's impresses. I took a metro from El Golf, in Las Condes 10 stops to downtown Santiago at Moneda which comes out at the Placio de Gobierno. The man at the ticket office didn't speak English but a few words of spanish, pointing at my map and some hand signs did the trick and got me the outward and return tickets I required.

Compared to the London tube system the Santiago metro is very light, bright and clean. I saw several people cleaning platforms and stairs. The platform areas are engaging with bright tiles and art work. The metro map is easy to follow. Stations have good signs. Each stop is announced over tanoy as the train draws into the station. I didn't have to wait long at all for trains there or back. On the platform there are also lots of maps on the wall, including detailed street map for the local area around that station. There are video screens on the platform which were showing music videos and helped to while a way a moment or two whilst waiting for my train.

Outside the Metros are easy to spot. They have big oval white signs with three horizontal red diamonds in the middle. I came travelled from Santa Lucia station to El Golf as easily as I travelled there - after spending several hours exploring downtown.

So my assessment is that Julio wasn't exagerating - Santiago does have a great Metro system. I would definitely use it again.

Settling into the Las Condes area

I don't feel jetlagged but my body isn't quite on Santiago time yet - hence a new post at 5am! I spent yesterday in Santiago. In the morning I managed to connect with my husband and children in a video call via Skype - which was lovely. Then I went to the Laundrette around the corner with a small load of washing; took clothes I wore on the flight over as a 'test' run of the laundry prior to using it for my work clothes next weekend. The lady spoke no English and I speak very little Spanish - but we got there in the end! I can collect my things after the WFOT Council meeting on Monday evening and at $3000 pesos it is much cheaper than the laundry service at the hotel.

I also found somewhere that would exchange my sterling travellers cheques on a Saturday. That took more broken Spanish and some negotiation too!

I asked the reception staff at Time Suites where to buy stamps and was able to pay there and they take the post-cards to post for guests - now that's service!

The local suerpmarcado is less than 10 minutes away and quite big. It was my second visit so now I know I have to take my bread rolls to be weighed and priced and where to go to do that before I go to the check out. The first time I hadn't weighed my rolls or fruit, but the staff were very kind. They closed the till (becuase half my shopping was already scanned) and sent the lady who was packing my shopping bag to ecsort me around the store and show me who to go to for getting things weighed and priced. I also bought some washing powder and washing up liquid. I have a very good daily maid service in the apartment I'm staying in and the left dishes were washed up when I returned from my tour yesterday, but it doesn't feel quite right leaving my washing up for a stranger (odd really as I have no compunction leaving it for my husband or mother-in-law to do at home!!!).

I sat out on the balcony of the apartment for the first time yesterday for my lunch - it is quite a quiet street with lots of trees so felt peaceful. The best bit is that from the balcony I can see the Andes mountains in the distance.

So by lunchtime yesterday I felt settled in the area and orientated to the main parts of Las Condes I need for my stay: I can buy food, get cash, launder clothes, and have seen the farmacia and the British Embassy (I have registered with the FCO on-line Locate service for this trip so they know where I am in an emergency).

With the local area 'under my belt', I decided it was time to venture further afield into downtown Santiago - and of that - more later...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A wonderful day at Valparaiso and Vina del Mar

I really recommend the one day OTSI tour to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. If you are also coming to the WFOT Congress in Chile and have a day in your itinerary for sightseeing it is well worth the time and the money. I had a truly wonderful day and really felt I got to see a different side of Chile by venturing outside of the city of Santiago. I am sharing my day in this blog to inspire others to go too!

I was due to be in a group, but when the other booking was cancelled they didn't let me down and I had a driver, Ricardo, and a tour guide, Eduardo, all to myself for the day. Eduardo had excellent English and was very knowledgeable about Chilean history and the places we were visiting. Both Ricardo and Eduardo took very good care of me and I felt very safe on the tour. Eduardo explained it has been a very quiet season for tourism as so few people have come since the earthquake - so he hadn't taken a tour to the coast for some weeks. He knew so many people along the way and they all seemed so pleased to see him and a new visitor.

Chile has so much to offer and tourism has been badly hit by the earthquake - yet evidence of the eathquake was very limited in the places I visited. A few older builidings in Valparaiso had scaffolding and were being repaired, and a couple of others had cracks which Edauardo pointed out to me as signs of earthquake damage, but if I hadn't known the cause of these renovations, then I would not have known there had been an earthquake here so recently.

I was fortunate with the weather for my day to the coastline by the Pacific Ocean. It was the temperature of a hot English day, but with a breeze from the ocean that made it really pleasant.

My guides collected me direct from my hotel and pointed out key sights in Santiago as we drove out of the city. Valparaiso is over a 100 km from Santiago but there was so much to see en-route that the journey passed quickly. We took route 68 through the Coastal mountain range and passed through two beautiful, fertile valleys. The first valley is called Curacavi and is used to grow fruits and nuts. We passed a lot of avacado and lemons trees.

After about an hour we stopped at a cafe on the road side. There was a llama and horse to see in the back and delicious sweet cakes to eat inside. My guides had toasted bread spread with avocado and recommended I tried the Chilean sweet cake. I was given a little sample to taste before choosing. There were several types, some filled with caramel, some with a kind of marmalade, and some covered in meringue. I asked which was the most tradional and was guided to a delicious cake made of caramel sandwiched between very thin layers of biscuit and entirely coated in meringue. I have never had anything like it before and it is lucky I have a sweet tooth - because it is indeed very sweet cake! I would definietly have it again! (I have posted a photo of inside the cafe on my Facebook page).

After our stop we drove on through a tunnel in the mountains to reach a second valley called Casablanca - and now we were in a wine producing region, with vine after vine for miles to see punctuated by the buildings and signs of different vineyards. It is autumn here and the colours of the vines from different grapes were beautiful and made a rich and vivid patchwork of colour as we drove pass. All the way I could see mountains and hillsides in the distance.

We started to climb and the road wound round and finally there was the ocean and Valparaiso stretched out in front of us. The port is built on many hillsides - over 40 hillsides - and most of the population of Valpariso live on the hills. The houses are painted beuatiful vibrant colours and jostle close to each other in an almost random, higgledy piggledy way, many are tall thin houses built into the slope. Bright bourganvilla flowers caught the eye. It felt a very vibrant place and had a real 'seaside' feel.

Our first stop was one of the homes of Pablo Neruda (one of Chile's most famous authors who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature) - Case Museo La Sebastiana. Throught the day my guides let me choose what I was interested to see and how long I might wish to stop in anyone place. So I was given time here to take the full audio tour of the house, enjoy the view from the terrace, visit the art exhibition next door and brouse in the shop. The house has been beautifully kept as he lived in it and the audio tour was very informative and well worth the price of $3000 pesos (which I paid as the museum isn't part of the tour package but something I was very interested to do). The audio tour explained how Pablo came to acquire the house, the people who visited him here, and highlighted particular pieces of art, furntiure and artifacts within the home. It was also punctauted by his writings translated into English. I found his home very inspiring. As a lover of the Arts and crafts movement in England and of designers like William Morris, it really resonated for me. I felt there was nothing there that was neither beutiful or useful or both. It was such an eclectic mix of pieces from many different periods in history which just worked somehow! The use of colour in the decor is very vibrant and joyful and the house is full of rescued and renovated stained glass doors and windows. But it is the views that are the most striking aspect of the place. Light spills into the house from so many windows and all the views are breathtaking - whether it is out across the Pacific ocean to watch the big ships crawl into the port of Valparaiso or over the bustling city below or the houses on the hillsides to either side. I could really see how this home and placed inspired him. The house is tall and thin and as I ascended each floor the views got better and better! Now I am really inspired to visit his other two houses in Chile! (Perhaps I shall take the Isla Negra and Pomaire tour next weekend?)

After a leisurely stop at Casa Museo La Sebastiana I was diven through the windy, little streets of Valparaiso for a few minutes and then Eduardo asked if I would like to walk though the older part of the city for a while. We took a delightful leisurely stroll through little lanes where I could admire the architecture of many older houses, take photographs and hear from Eduardo about the history of Valpariso.

As the city is buillt on many hills it has several unusual public elevators and we got to ride down one of these and came out in the main sqaure of the city by the Naval head quarters and naval monument. This was a very different Valparaiso. Grand, formal and still a very active port - with a sense of the formality of the navy and the bustle of industry.

From here I was driven along the costal road that divides Valparaiso from Vina del Mar. Once two separate places, these now are built right up to each other and Eduardo pointed out a small street where Valparaiso ends and Vina del Mar begins. Vina del Mar has a very different feel and is predominately a place where people from Santiago own holiday homes and apartments and come for the summer and weekends. The beaches are sandy and the Pacific Ocean crashes impressively against the shore in great waves. I could see instantly how intcing is would be, as a resident of Santiago , to escape the city and drive for only an hour and a half to get to the Ocean!

An option with the tour was to spend an additional $40 US on a lunch. I am fortunate that my husband has given me my birthday present early this year and gave me money so I could afford to take a couple of tours during my 17 days stay in Chile and make the most of my opportunity of being here. So I 'pushed the boat out' and took the tour with the lunch included. I am so glad I did! We stopped at a restuarnt which is in an old house built as one of the first holdiay houses for a wealthy family when Vina del Mar was first developed. It is right next to the ocean with only the beach road dividing the restaurant from the waters edge. I thought it might feel a little strange dinning alone on my tour for one, but my waiter Alex was very attentative and Eduardo poppoed over between courses to check everything was to my liking . The view was amazing so there was plenty to occupy me during my meal. I had a reserved table by the window and the waiter asked if I would like the window open - this was lovely as I could hear the crashing of the waves and feel the sea breeze on my face. I really enjoyed the outstanding view across the bay to Valparaiso on one side and across the bay to Vina del Mar the other (I have posted a photo of the view on my Facebook page).

The service was excellent and the food didn't disappoint either. I had a starter of mixed seafood on salad, followed by a local white fish which I think they called a congrill with a seasfood sauce and finished off with an apple pie which had caramel glazed pastry and was served with a little dark chocolate sauce. They also served a Chilean national drink - an apperatif which I think they called pisco sour - it is mixed with lemon and is very light and refreshing - but I found very strong. I hardly drink alcohol and so it went straight to my head and I only had half a glass as I wanted my faculties about me for the rest of my day!

The restaurant has a gift shop attached which has a good range of local crafts and jewellry - and compared to some other places I went to the prices seemed reasonable and the quality of craftsmanship was excellent. I bought a little present for my daughter (I won't say what in case my son is reading this blog out loud to her and it spoils the surpise! But yes, Mumy does bring presents when it is a trip away that means going on an aeroplane!!). I also bought an enameled copper piece for our kitchen at home - o be my momento of this wonderful day.

Despite my feeling somewhat soporific and rather full we ventured on! Ricardo drove us along the coast road into the centre of Vina del Mar and then along the other side to its most famous beach. We stopped here so I could take off my shoes and socks and walk along the sand a little. The sun was hot, the breeze pleasant and I was able to amble along at my leisure while Eduardo and Ricardo waited in the car. It was a very peaceful moment and a time to take stock and recharge my batteries a little ready for the WFOT Focus day on Sunday and the WFOT Council meeting next week.

There was one final stop on our tour. The Museum in Vina del Mar has a Moai statue from Easter island outside and I was very keen to see this. I would love to visit Easter island but neither time nor resources enable me to go this trip - so seeing one of the amazing statues close up was a real bonus (I have posted a photo on my Facebook page).

The journey back in the late afternoon sunlight through the lovely valleys of Curacavi and Casablanca was very relaxing and gave me time to reflect on all I had seen. Although a lot of sites had been fitted into my tour it had not felt 'packed' but quite leisurely and taken at my own pace.

I felt very well cared for by my driver and guide. In particular, I have been struggling with a hoarse voice the last week or so (a side effect from some medication I am taking) and I'm concerned to get my vocal cods better in time for my presentation at the WFOT Congress!Eduardo talked about the strain on his voice as a tour guide when he has a big group to lead and a special remedy he uses which is made from a kind of 'honey' from a Chilean plant mixed with menthol in a spray for the throat. When we were in Valparaiso he asked if I would like him to take me to a Farmacia so I could buy some of this spray to try. It is called Propolgea Miel Mentol and so far is really helping!

So I really recommend this tour to you, I was made so welcome and one of the best ways occupational therapists attending the WFOT Congress can support the Chilean people following the earthquake is to take the tours as usual and bring tourism back to these beautiful places.... and then go home and share just how much Chile has to offer!