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South America » Chile » Valparaíso Region » Isla Negra
January 2nd 2009
Published: September 30th 2017
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The balcony outside of our hotel room - I was afraid that if I stood on it, kids would show up and throw rotten tomatoes at my face. Or a crowd of angry villagers would form, with torches and pitchforks in hand.
Geo: -33.2042, -71.705

Today I woke up, hopeful of a better day, and an even better tomorrow. But then I looked in the mirror - still hideous! As I showered, I was concerned at the alarming rate of skin loss from my face - I was worried that I would clog the shower drain ...

At least I came up with a plan to treat my face - but unfortunately, I can't buy the required tools, because I don't know the Spanish words for "bench grinder" and "sandblaster". But seriously, the only things more horrific than my face are these Pablo Neruda translations! Depending on the translator, some of the English versions can sound beautiful. But it's disappointing when you read a brilliant verse in Spanish followed by the English version that sounds like it was written by a child in kindergarten!

My face is getting a little bit shaggy because I haven't shaved in a few days, but I was afraid to do so this morning - with the skin damage I've suffered, my face is now a bit like reinforced concrete, with my beard acting like rebar. It's the only thing giving my face any structural integrity - shaving it might
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A new part of my morning ritual - wake up, look in the mirror, scream, brush my teeth, shower, eat breakfast, and slather my face in aloe vera.
cause my face to completely disintegrate!

Breakfast was the usual crap. I considered taping leftover slices of bread to my face, to keep from traumatizing any children that might cross my path, but they don't give us enough bread to eat, let alone for that! We all popped over to an internet cafe, and it was an amusing sight - all four of us, sitting side-by-side, all checking Face Book, probably posting on each others' walls. Welcome to the age of technology, where people who are physically together prefer communicating using electronic methods!

Off to the bus station, and Isla Negra, one of Pablo Neruda's homes. It was quite the comedic adventure trying to buy our tickets - we stopped at the bus company's office on the outside of the station, only to be told "You need to buy your tickets inside." We find the inside office, only to hear "Go buy your tickets down the hall." We go down the hall to yet another office and ask the guy for tickets, and are directed to a girl sitting two feet from him, in the same office ... sigh ...

Ben and I seem to be having stomach problems - not
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A restaurant named Calgary.
good! He's had them for a while, but I first got them today. Could it be something in the water? Or maybe the chorrillana I ate on New Year's Eve is making a comeback!

There was talk today of spending New Year's Eve in Australia next year - earlier this morning, we were watching the news in the hotel room, with coverage of various New Year's Eve celebrations around the world. The fireworks in Sydney looked spectacular, with an intricately-coordinated show. So much for Egypt!

The bus ride to Isla Negra featured some beautiful scenery, with a stunning coastline. We arrived and made the short walk to Neruda's house, and had lunch at the café inside. There was a bit of a miscommunication while ordering wine - an earlier waiter told us that you could get all wines by the glass, so Ben later asked a different waiter for some sauvignon blanc, and requested a glass. Ben ended up getting a whole bottle and a single glass, so we asked for a few extra glasses and decided to help out!

The bathroom had the most bizarre urinals - many bathrooms in Chile don't have individual urinals, but rather, a single, long
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View from the cafe in Pablo Neruda's house.
trough. Well, this one had the trough, but urinals had been retrofitted. The funny thing is, the urinals didn't actually drain into any piping system - they drained directly into the trough below. What a waste of time to install urinals that aren't even needed!

We wrapped up lunch and started our pre-booked tour. The house is neat, but nothing special, since none of us is overly familiar with Neruda's works. I could see this being quite the pilgrimage for somebody whose life has been touched by his poetry.

We spent a little time on the beach before heading back to Santiago. I was careful to duck behind some large boulders and stay out of the sun, and also out of view of people. I don't want to scare anybody on their vacation!

It was a bit of a scorcher today, so it was quite hot waiting at the bus stop. Once on board, I was trying to hide from the sun by placing my daypack over my arms, and contorting my neck at an awkward angle to shade my face, using the brim of my cap. It was quite an uncomfortable position to nap in!

Back at the
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Lunch at Neruda's house - some melon juice and warm, moist, delicious buns started things off. Perfect with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, we ended up asking for a couple more baskets.
hotel, the lovely Liszett was once again manning the reception desk. How fortuitous - another chance to practice my Spanish! I originally planned on only staying two nights here and then moving on to Vina del Mar, but for some reason, I seem to really like this hotel and am staying an additional night ...

We had run out of toilet paper, so I was able to use a variation of my infamous "Do you mind if we move the beds apart?" line - I can't decide which is worse, that line, or asking for more TP? This was a moot point, however, as this line was no more successful! Perhaps she would've accepted my invitation to join us for dinner had I tried something ... less horrible ... or if I had some of Darkman's synthetic skin.

Off to dinner - sick of the crap breakfasts here, we picked up some bananas, peaches, and plums for tomorrow. After that, I couldn't resist having another cherimoya gelato - so refreshing, that I was tempted to smother it all over my painful, sizzling face.

Back up to Cerro Concepcion - this seems to be the best neighbourhood in town for
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As an appetizer, we shared a crepe filled with shrimps and razor clams in a cream sauce, and garnished with a healthy dose of slivered scallions. Delicious, once a bit of salt was added.
restaurants. One of the top restaurants in town is Pasta Y Vino - I had earlier called to make a reservation, but was told none were available tonight. We figured it was worth a shot to see if they could take a walk up, since we knew there were other good options nearby, if they couldn't accommodate us.

There was no room, so instead, we tried Café Turri, a restaurant featured in our guidebooks, and also highly recommended by Brent, from Santiago. It was interesting that you need to ring the doorbell to gain entry to the restaurant - we wondered if there was a private function going on?

Luckily for us, there was a table free, though in the smoking section - we didn't care, because it was out on the terrace, with a great view of the lights, surrounding hills, and the water down below. Some live jazz lent a nice ambiance to the place - it was fairly fancy so we were definitely under-dressed.

The menu was interesting - it was done in the style of a newspaper, with tourist maps and information listed. Perhaps this was a sign that this place was overly touristy,
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My entrée was a simple conger eel soup, filled with potatoes, tomatoes, and shrimp. The broth was excellent, flavourful, but not overly complicated so as to detract from the sweet flavour of the eel.
and made me wonder as to the quality of the food ... my fears were assuaged when some buns came out, accompanied by butter and ... pate??? A first for me, as pate isn't a common accompaniment for bread in any restaurant I've been to.

We chose a Chilean Shiraz for the meal, a first for us once again, The predominant varietal here is Carmenere, and our waiter told us Shiraz is relatively new in Chile. While I'm a big fan of Shiraz and thought it was a nice wine, I couldn't help but wonder if Carmenere would've been a better choice tonight.

The live jazz was quite enjoyable, especially since sitting outside meant that the music was just loud enough to provide a subtle backdrop for our conversation, without drowning it out. At one pointe, the singer played a bizarre little instrument - it was a plastic little keyboard that you powered by blowing into it through a plastic tube. It looked like something that Fisher Price would make!

We're finding that traditional Chilean food leaves a lot to be desired (even more so than Spanish food), but that the top-end, contemporary restaurants can put out dishes
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Needing some vegetation, I also asked for a side Greek salad - big enough to be shared by two, it was mostly lettuce with feta that tasted more like bland, spongy tofu. Bad! There was no real Greek dressing to go with it either, so it was lacking in the flavour department.
that would hold their own against top restaurants in any major gastronomic centre around the world.

Ben was the only one that opted for dessert, but of course I helped out 😊 It was an assorted platter, with a chunky, burnt crème brulee, some so-so ice cream, and a very good chocolate mousse. The fourth item was suspiro limeno, a traditional Peruvian dessert that translated, means "Sigh from Lima". It was a vanilla custard, that was excellent for one bite, but was simply too sweet to finish.

We finished off the meal, and chatted about the one-eyed man that wanted to hook up with Monica. Funny, but true - when we ran into DH&M last night, they also mentioned coming across a one-eyed man. We laughed, because maybe the one-eyed man is really some supernatural being, after all!

My meal came to $44 CAD, including my share of the wine - unreal! This was less than half the price of the equivalent meal back in Calgary! Feeling too full, it was fortunate that we had to go downhill, because BH&M simply rolled me all the way back to the hotel ...


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Dessert was a fruit platter featuring terrible oranges; nothing else on the platter was that great, the offering at Café de Iris was significantly better. Though surprisingly, the coffee was decent - it wasn't Nescafe! Ben went with a crepe filled with a sweet fruit cream, the name of which I can't tell you because it was a local fruit I'd never heard of before, and have no idea what the English name would be.
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Interesting - sugar substitute here in Chile comes in a tiny pill form.
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Oh, the horror! After lunch, we wondered if perhaps I had been bitten by a vampire, and maybe that's why I'm melting in the sun. I really hope that's not the case, because I love garlic ... how would I cook if I were a freakin' vampire???
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My face has improved with the massive amounts of aloe vera I had been applying to my face, but afterward, the combination of my very dark complexion, and sheen of the aloe vera makes me look a lot like a freshly-fried donut. Crispy and golden brown, but still shiny with grease! At least the glare hides most of the skin damage.
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Isla Negra definitely has a beautiful location.
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Not having a good selection of fridge magnet's at the gift shop, I settled for this one, featuring a verse from one of Neruda's poems. The translation is "I loved her, and at times, she also loved me."
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Neruda's house had some interesting design elements.
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A personal note from Neruda that says "I returned from my journeys, I sailed, building my happiness." Beautiful words that strike a chord with any traveler.
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Neat little statue.
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Cool momument, with Neruda forever gazing out at the ocean that he loved so dearly.
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A closer look at the beach in front of his house.
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Dinner at Cafe Turri - the buns were delicious and strangely, I think sexy is the best way to describe them! The pate was phenomenal with crunchy and flavourful crostini; the pate was incredibly light, as if it had been whipped with something to lighten the texture. Great taste, and not too heavy or overpowering, as pate can be. Unfortunately, it was too good, and I ate far too many crostini, making finishing my main course impossible.
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Ben started with a gorgonzola, gruyere, and parmesan cheese soufflé - excellent, with the flavour of the three cheeses working together nicely, though it was denser than you would expect from a soufflé (though this wasn't a bad thing).
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I had originally considered ordering souffle, but didn't regret choosing the baked camembert, instead. It was perfect with the raspberry coulis, and more of the croutons. Both starters were great; I don't think you could go wrong choosing either one.
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Main course - Filete Meridien, a lovely piece of beef served with crab meat and a port sauce, which lent a sweetness that was a bit excessive for my tastes. The meat itself was juicy, tender, and delicious, cooked to perfection, and served with a massive medley of assorted veggies - bell peppers, carrots, corn, and zucchini. The veggies were great, but being so full of crostini, they were the items that I barely touched. They were much better than last night's travesty of soy sauce-soaked veggies. The steak was so beautiful that I shed a tear, as this cow had died a valiant death in providing me such a fine cut of beef ... sniff ... sniff ...
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I barely finished my steak and after, looked like I was about to give birth. And that's exactly how I felt! In the immortal words of Tam, "I ate so much that I need a C-section!"
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Some more cool stencil art, in the hills of Valpo.


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