POSTED ON March 23, 2009 | IN Argentina | BY joe

Our wine touring is over and now we begin the second phase of our three-week trek. We fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt, a small village in Chile in what is known as the lake district or northern Patagonia. Here we will take a boat ride across the lakes taking us from Chile to Bariloche, Argentina.

We have been in Chile for six days and have learned much about the people of Chile and their culture. The main meal of the day in Chile is lunch, lasting as long as two hours. It can start as early as noon or later depending on the area. In the town of Santa Cruz people stream onto the streets at noon to begin their lunch. They spend their lunch in the electronic game arcades, cafeterias, tucked away cafes, or just talking on the street with their friends. At 5 or 6 pm, Chileans will also have some tea or milk, and a snack. Dinner begins at 8:30 or later, but it is a much smaller meal than lunch.

Seafood is abundant in Chile. We are happy that Salmon is plentiful and fresh and on all the restaurant menus we have visited. We certainly have had our share in Chile of their tasty Salmon, expecting never to see fresh Salmon at home again. Chile also has many types of shellfish including abalone. There is also a delicious white fish called Congrio that is prepared with a batter and deep fried. It is very mild and tastes like sole but much better. Chile is a mecca for fresh fruit and vegetables at this time of the year. We often eat salads with tomatoes and avocados. One of our favorite accompaniments is plancha de vurduras, assorted vegetables grilled on a pan.

There are fruit stands along every highway and country road, mostly small and owned by a husband and wife. One of the most intriguing types of produce we see are these very large, softball-sized onions sold by the sack. We wonder what people do with all these onions. There are very large table grapes both green and red that quite scrumptious. In addition to the wonderful avocados, there are very tasty red bell peppers.

There are many beautiful and famous wineries in Chile that produce thousands of cases of premium wines each year. Almost all of this wine is exported. To our surprise, we learned that Chilean people do not drink much wine. Wine is mostly drunk to celebrate special occasions. Premium wines are expensive to most Chileans, especially for those that live in the little farming towns.

Although most of the people in Chile do not have much money, the Chilean government is well to do. Unlike the United States, Chile has a surplus budget. The government owns the copper industry and the demand for copper by China has made Chile a rich country. One day we spotted long lines of people waiting to get into a bank. Later we found out that the Chilean government is giving some of this surplus reserve back to people with families. The amount is based on the number of children the family has.

The Chilean people seem to be very content and gracious. They seem to do a lot as families. Most importantly for us, they all seem to love Americans. They have been very helpful to us on numerous occasions showing the way and putting up with our very bad Spanish.

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