Oh, to be a vineyard owner...

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
Trip End Dec 11, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, October 6, 2006


Having caught the very comfortable night bus back from Puerto Varas to Santiago (if travelling in South America, ALWAYS choose a Cama seat. Anything less is like travelling cattle class on a Britannia charter flight), we were taken once again to the Hotel Neruda in Providencia. The reason for our return was to meet Alejandro, who had worked with Richard's Aunty Katie in London for a few months. He had very kindly offered to take us out for lunch on the Friday afternoon and then up to his family's beach house for the weekend.

Alejandro met us at the hotel and took us to his office so we could have a look round a Chilean law firm, before taking us, along with Franciso and Lucy, two of his colleagues, to his golf club for lunch. The golf club was like a beautiful oasis in the middle of Santiago and we had a fantastic lunch in the sunshine accompanied, of course, by a couple of pisco sours. Alejandro had to go back to work for a few hours after lunch so we killed time in the internet cafe as usual. By 8pm we were on the road to Zapallar and a couple of hours later we had arrived at Alejandro's amazing beach house, perched on the cliffs overlooking the crashing Pacific Ocean. We were also introduced to Julio and Alicia, who worked at the house and looked after us wonderfully for the whole weekend. We were all quite tired after the journey so, after some dinner and some of Alejandro´s fabulous family wine (his father owns a vineyard), we retired to bed.

We had a great night's sleep - so good that we didn't wake up until 11.30am! The house and garden looked even better in daylight and we couldn't wait to get out and see Zappallar. After some breakfast, Alejandro pointed us in the direction of a coastal walk that would take us to the main beach. So, we set off and had a lovely couple of hours wandering around the coast along the clifftops, while trying to contain our envy of whoever owned the amazing mansions (and helicopters!) along the way. The beach was in a beautiful cove and was ridiculously picturesque. To complete the picture-postcardness, there were people out in fishing boats, flamingos and I even spotted a dolphin. We also spotted Alejandro and one of his brothers, Christian, braving the icy cold sea. After another hour or so, we had a late lunch in a little fish restaurant by the beach with Alejandro, Christian and another of Alejandro's brothers, Ignacio. We tried abalone for starters, which was amazing, and then had another Chilean speciality, conger eel, for main course which was also delicious.

Laziness was consuming us again so we retired to the house for a laze by the pool until the sun went down. And then it was time to prepare for the party! Alejandro and his brothers had very kindly organised a party for us with all of their friends who also came to Zappallar at the weekend. We kicked off with a spectacular BBQ - little sausage sandwiches were passed round to keep you going until the main event was ready - huge slabs of beef, blood sausages (I passed on these), normal sausages, lamb ribs, rice and veggies. It was fabulous. What was slightly less fabulous was the popular local drink, "piscola". This is a mix of pisco, a local brandy and coca cola. Seems harmless enough, unless you let the locals pour it for you. There's a bit more "pis" than "cola" in every glass, and as it only costs about GBP2 for a litre, it's also pretty rough. I realised the enormity of the measures early on and insisted on pouring my own drinks, but Richard was at the mercy of the locals (and a girl with incredibly large eyebrows, but that is another story) and was knocking it back with the best of them. We had a fantastic time but really felt our age when, at 2.30am, we were heading off to bed while people were still arriving!! I understand that they all carried on until 6.30am...

The next day, Alicia and Julio were a godsend. Richard was feeling a little "off-colour" and they seemed to sense that carbs would be the solution. Breakfast and lunch were provided in quick succession in enormous proportions and we were soon feeling up to spending the rest of the day lazing around in the sun. Alejandro managed to go down to the beach for another bracing dip in the sea (it is allegedly a cure for a hangover), but Richard and I could see no reason to leave our luxurious surroundings.

But, all good things must come to an end and, after homemade pizza for dinner and a few rounds of a great dice game that I hope we can remember when we get home, we were given a lift back to Santiago ready to fly to our next destination, Peru. The only slight hitch was that our lift didn't arrive until midnight, and once you factor in the 2 hour journey, not much sleep was had before our 4.30am pick-up to go to the airport...

Tiredness aside though, it was a wonderful weekend and we are really grateful to Alejandro (and his brothers) for looking after us and being a fabulous host(s) to us.
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