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Published: August 26th 2014
Banos del Corazon
Early morning peace, heavenly setting
I awoke in my part of a town-house chalet; many chalets perch on a hill to form this luxurious spa hotel
. My bed area and bathroom are a few steps up from the little sitting room and second bed. As guests are supposed to be relaxing, breakfast was at 8:00, which was fine for me but not others.
Pablo gave us a three-part presentation for the whole morning. With great good humour he delivered an abbreviated history of Chile, plus basics such as currency
and agricultural production
. After a short break he verbally toured us through fruit and vegetable uses, condiments, and meats as consumed in ordinary households. After another short break, we assembled in another room with a long table filled with dishes of ingredients and prepared foods. A chef and his assistant demonstrated preparing local specialties, and we volunteers copied. Having learned it is more fun to participate than watch, I made Pastel de Choclo
(Meat and Corn Pie): cooked chopped beef and onion at the base, and hard boiled egg, raisins (as big as dimes!) and olives for the next layer, covered by a corn mixture, sprinkled with sugar to caramelize in the oven. (video
These dishes were followed
Pastel de Choclo
With gentle instructions, anyone can learn!
by an explanation of the desserts, most based on Chilean butterscotch. These we got to sample, along with an array of fruits, plus a bit of meat. The dishes were more properly served upstairs for lunch, where we could really enjoy the flavours. I was glad because my first bites of Paste de Choclo seem too sweet, with the sweetness of the corn and the sugar, but I finished by enjoying it for lunch.
Three of us who wanted to had literally 30 minutes to swim and turn up at the bus ready for the next excursion. The pools are required by law to have lifeguards; all the staff have lunch from 1:00 – 3:00. We arrived in our swimsuits at 3:00; the spa staff cooed repeatedly through a crack in the door for “Carmelita” to open the door for us; we bought our mandatory swim caps (2500 pesos or $5); I dipped into the warm thermal pool for seven minutes, then robed and rushed back to the room, showered minimally, dried hair and arrived at the bus on time! I felt really relaxed once sitting and gazing at the scenery.
Our destination was Viña Sánchez de Loria
, a winery that
Vine ripened! Warm from the sun!
has been revitalized and is producing new and very fine wines for restaurants and hotels. Rather than the wine vineyards, however, they took us to the table grape arbours. Instead of hanging at the bottom of severely pruned bushes as wine grapes do, these grapes hang above the head, fully shaded by a “roof” of leaves on plants trained into arbours. Thus the grapes become juicy and plump. What a dream to stroll under the eating them from fully ripened warm bunches! Only to be exceeded by walking under the arbour of red Globe grapes – my favourite variety! Our fingers were covered with juice and dust.
The vineyard manager walked us through the display of their old, traditional winemaking process. Although oak barrels can be used only for four to six years, their fermentation vats were original wood built in the shape of huge barrels. The press was mechanical and looked like a Rube Goldberg machine. The buildings were also built by the first owners in the 19 century. The winemaking area flowed into the house by way of the small laboratory and two sitting rooms barely restored and furnished with original tables, chairs, paintings, etc. Sanchez de
Andes from the vineyard
Avocado orchards in the distance
Loria himself, now 92, came out for a stroll and greeted us. He is now a tiny, frail gentleman with soft hands who embodies obvious joy in his wine business (actively run by two sons).
On the terrace was an assortment of chairs for us, facing an heavy old wooden table covered with wineglasses and bottles. The white (Sauvignon Blanc) and two reds were excellent – proof that people in previous centuries did drink good wines, even though made with less sophisticated equipment. Finest of all, however, was the “port”, called Cabernet Sauvignon Liqueur. This was the first production of a new product, and fine enough for me to buy a bottle (10,000 pesos, $20) to take home.
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