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.

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