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!