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Published: September 24th 2014
Anfiteatro Quinta Vergara
Imagine this full of people and music under the stars
Eduardo presented about all things marine this morning, from Chile’s maritime sea claim to Easter Island to fishing life in the archipelago. He reviewed the key points about the various disputes with Argentina and Bolivia without getting too serious. His knowledge of fish was limited.
We got on the bus for what I expected to be a fairly routine city tour. Quite fun actually. We were soon off the bus, wandering through the gardens of a hacienda that once belonged to the father-in-law and subsequently the daughter of the founder of Viña del Mar, Jose Francisco Vergara
. His daughter had a fraught life and the family all died out. The hacienda became the property of the municipality. This is a remarkable common story in Chile, supplying the municipalities with some beautiful buildings for museums, libraries and galleries.
To one side of the park is the Vergara Amphitheatre
, an extraordinary outdoor structure that looks like a gigantic water tank from afar. Two sides are open for spectators to enter into raked seating, accommodating thousands. After 30 years, the annual music festival is world-famous and attracts acts such as Elton John, Sting and Shakira.
On the way out Pablo stopped to “introduce” us
Eduardo Gato Alquinta
Los Jaivas, Chile's most famous musical group
- in statue form - to one of Viña’s premier musicians, Eduardo Gato Alquinta
. He was the founder of a band called “High Bass”, said with English pronunciation. All over Chile people heard “Jaivas”, which means lobster. Eventually the group changed its name to “Los Jaivas
Our drive continued through the affluent, treed neighbourhoods. We ended at the sea on one of their best beaches: Ed, who is from Hawaii, poo-pooed the beach, but as a non-beach resident, I thought it wonderful. To get onto the sand we walked past several small restaurants still waiting for the lunch hour to fill their colourful outdoor tables. The sand was fine and very dry (like most things in Chile), except where the waves washed up. Swimming is rare in Chile, because the vast length of coastline is rocky, the drop-off is very close to shore, and the water is so cold a good wet-suit is required. We did watch two surfers try to catch waves unsuccessfully. Walking in the sea air was good enough for me.
Our lunch was at a spectacular restaurant jutting over the rocks and sea. To start we were introduced to “vaina
”: brandy, port, chocolate, and sugar syrup, with
Congrio for lunch
This huge portion came from a "snake like" fish - what size?
cinnamon sprinkled on top. A delicious drink, but not before food! My lunch was too large, thick fillets of “congrio”, a white fish synonymous with Chile. Neruda
is reputed to have said that if visitors haven’t eaten congrio, they haven’t been to Chile. I drank Cabernet Sauvignon, the premier wine of the southern central valley and always deep and round.
The bus treated us to an extended, slow drive along the waterfront with its jagged rocks and crashing waves on one side and luxurious apartment complexes on the other. At the city centre, we traded the bus for horses and buggies to enjoy a fun ride in “Victorias”, as they are called here. The faint breeze caused by the motion was exhilarating, the clip clop of five horses was pleasing over the sounds of moderate traffic, and seeing the smaller middle-class houses and gardens gave us a sense of town life. As a choice, several of us walked back to the hotel along the nearly dry river, past the small stores we are beginning to recognize.
My mind was on a scarf I had seen yesterday in a small tourist market near the supermarket. Plus, I wanted to
find the rich fat raisins and fresh walnuts we ate at the wineries. I took along some notepaper and a book, ready to sit on the main plaza for an hour. The selection of scarves had diminished a bit, but I found a lovely mauve one for me and a warm brown one for Isabel’s Christmas gift. The grocery store was absolutely packed (at about 6:00); however, no raisins and only ordinary walnuts. Very few baking supplies were on the shelves, possibly because cake and bread bakeries abound on the streets. On the nearby main square sunlight was dimming, and the breeze was persistent and cooling - not good for sitting and writing. My eye wandered around a few stores, including a bookstore. It was doing a roaring trade in school texts. All the books in Chile are sold sealed in plastic, and as they are all in Spanish, browsing is limited.
Our dinner was at the upscale TXIPIRON
in a private room. When we were seated, we were served Pisco Sours and hors d’oeuvres; then, an authentic paella
was carried in on its pan and served for each person. Wonderful seafood! Oddly, the wine was served quite late,
Everyone buys baked goods - the bakery was packed!
so not really while we were eating. Our group is a pleasant one, so nobody complained, and we all enjoy endless conversation no matter who is our table companion.
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