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Published: February 3rd 2012
TAKE A BOW!
A fiesta in Antofagasta
We have been looking forward to our visit to Chile with great enthusiasm as it is our first time. I always think of this country as a “downunder” version of California. Terry Breen put a map of Chile against a U.S. west coast map, and at 2653 miles, Chile stretched from the tip of Baja to the Gulf of Alaska. Down here it is called the "shoestring country" because it is so long and narrow. This thin ribbon of a country is only about 110 miles wide. Chile is a land of extremes from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, from Pablo Neruda to Augusto Pinochet and from the Mediterranean warmth in the north to the frigid glaciers of the south. Chile has the driest desert in the world and some of the wettest weather in its fjords. It is considered the most stable and prosperous country in South America. The first noticeable difference between Chile and its neighbors to the north is that Chile is much more European than either Ecuador or Peru. In past years, Chile had a very ambitious immigration program. I read that people of Italian heritage comprise about 47% of the population. Many Germans also
immigrated around 1850s. There are pictures of European immigrants crossing the pampas in covered wagons much like the migration that took place in the western U.S.
Our first stop was in Antofagasta. This industrial city with the not so romantic name was the base camp for prospectors who came to mine the nearby minerals. The setting is attractive as the city backs up to the mountainous coastal range. For us it was a place to get haircuts, pedicures and manicures. We walked the town from top to bottom and decided to have a pizza for lunch seeing as how there is such an Italian presence in Chile.Bad choice…we should have stuck with something more local… you know, like guinea pig.
Valparaiso is a large seaside city built on 45 hills and is the gateway to Casablanca Valley. This is the Napa Valley of Chile. Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, Valparaiso was a thriving port for all of the ships going around Cape Horn. Then it became a sleepy village until wine and tourism renewed the vigor of this pretty city. Our guide said that in Valparaiso the houses hang from the hills just like San
In the town square of Antofagasta
Francisco. Instead of cable cars climbing halfway to the stars there are 15 ascensores which are funiculars reaching up the hillsides. We heard about some of the passengers who were on one ascensore which broke down so they had to descend the steep hill on foot. We took a tour of Casablanca Valley and went to Casa del Bosque winery for a tasting. We felt like we were right back in Northern California. We are now out of the desert region of South America and in the land of forests and palm trees and weather that is much more conducive to viticulture. The priests brought the vines to Chile back in the 1500s and vineyards have been flourishing ever since. Recently there was a wine tasting in France and the Chilean wines took all of the top honors. The wine industry in South America has certainly come of age. We went to Vina del Mar on the way back to the ship. This is the sister city of Sausalito…so we felt right at home. There is a plaque in downtown Sausalito honoring that relationship and a football stadium in Vina del Mar named Sausalito.
We had a Cruise Specialists
sail-away party outdoors as we left Valpo, as the locals call it. We really lucked out with the weather as it had been quite foggy and windy all day. It cleared just as we were leaving port and everyone was able to enjoy the view of the city and its 45 hills from the aft deck as we made our way back out to sea.
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