We are now in Chile having made the trek with a hired driver and guide over the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile. The ride up to the summit on this one and only pass from Argentina to Santiago was a very relaxed ride. The view of the pre-Andes and the Andes are very spectacular. At the summit is the border crossing station. Argentina and Chile are not on the best of terms so maybe that is why it is a big pain to cross. In a very old fashion way, we fill out documents and then get are bags inspected. Janelle’s two bags show something that resembles seeds and so that means a full inspection of her bags and another 30 minutes of delay. It turns out that the “seeds” were lemon drops. On the descent into Chile, the first ten miles have 29 hair-pin switchbacks. It reminds us of the Crookest Street in the World, Lombard St. in San Francisco, but on a grand scale. The road is heavily traveled by trucks and this portion is so steep that many of the trucks travel very slowly in 1st gear so they don’t burn their brakes. Once down, the road is two lanes and passing trucks and slow cars make for a rather nerve-racking adventure.
The city of Santiago has a population of around 5 million. We are staying in one of the newest areas of the city called El Bosque. This is an area of high-end shopping and many business offices. To get acquainted with the city we take a tour that enables us to hop on and off at any of the ten stops. We get off in the Bella Vista area and venture a few blocks to the Pablo Neruda museum. This was a great tour of his house and if you’ve seen the movie “Il Postino”you can very much relate to this house that he built to spend time with his mistress.
The next morning we leave Santiago to continue our wine tour and we travel to the town of Santa Cruz located in the Colchaqua Valley, home to the most famous wineries of Chile. We are staying at the hacienda style Hotel Santa Cruz. Most of the people staying at this hotel are in some way related to the wine business. The hotel has recently been refurbished. It has two restaurants, a beautiful swimming pool, a massage spa and a fitness room. The town is very small. The food at the main restaurant in the hotel is wonderful and very inexpensive. A gourmet dinner complete with some of Chile’s finest wines is about $60 a couple. Any comparable meal in San Francisco will easily be twice that amount.
The setting is quite beautiful with the Andes to the east and a series of hills on the west. The Colchaqua Valley is only 70 miles from the Pacific Ocean and the fog, breeze and valley provide an environment perfect for growing grapes and other delicious fruits and vegetables. Each morning we help ourselves from a beautiful buffet of these fresh fruits. The blueberries are spectacular in flavor. I’m very fond of avocados and here in Chile there are everywhere. They are much better tasting here, quite rich and creamy. I may end up staying just because of these fabulous avocados.