Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Chilean Roadtrip to a Winery then Valparaíso

I'd given up trying to hide the fact that four of us are in the room at the Ritz-Carlton Santiago. Ultimately the cost won't be on me so I'll let the others deal with the responsibility. Being a spy is hard work.

We booked a tour for the day so I got a nice long bus ride of the city and the countryside. Now that Christmas has passed the city has come back to life. The most interesting sight were the really long yet orderly lines of commuters waiting for the bus.

Our tour guide Javier was annoying me majorly. Not because he was doing a bad job but we got conned into yet another bi-lingual tour. A tour company thinks "hey we have half a bus of English speakers and half a bus of Spanish, let's just combine them and give them a bilingual guide. Profit!" It's sucky for us though because then we effectively are getting half a tour. I got the feeling that there were times when we were rushed because we'd wasted time listening to the same speeches twice every over and over. I spent most of the drive napping so I missed a lot of the riveting Chilean trivia. 

Also, Chile's Atacama Desert is the driest in the world.

Chile is a big wine exporter because they produce a ton of it but Chileans don't drink much of it themselves. Javier listed a few of the cocktails that the local wine is tortured with. One was red wine mixed with Coke. One that actually sounded interesting was melvin. A portmanteau of melón and vino, melvin is a cantaloupe with a hole cut out of top and filled with white wine and sugar. It sounded like a nice summery concoction.

Emiliana Vineyards had me at organic. They lost me again with burying moon crystals.

Organic I get. No chemicals, better for you, yada yada. Biodynamic was a word that I was not familiar with. Well on our tour of the vineyard we got an education. It's like gardening mixed with astrology. They plant things depending on the stars and the phases of the moon. I did some good guffawing when our guide told us they bury quartz in the vineyards because it soaks up the moon energy.

It was too bad these people were nutjobs because it really was a beautiful place full of flowers, vines, and animals.

They had various flowers planted between the rows of vines to attract/repel various kinds of insects.

They also had chickens running around everywhere on bug eating duty.

We got a doggy bag at the gift shop.

All of that bus ride time gave me a lot of opportunity to write down the well crafted story that you are currently reading. Meta!

After the winery we were herded back onto the bus to Oda Pacifico for lunch. I thought the place seemed decent but it was soon apparent that this was less a restaurant than a warehouse for tourist bus cattle.

I wanted to sample as many foods as I could so I ordered a ceviche as an appetizer for everyone to share. That was a mistake. The waiter brought it and sat it in front of me when bringing out everyone else's food. When my entree didn't show after some time I knew they were going to bring it after everyone was finished eating and screw me. I flagged the waiter down and asked him to cancel the entree and his annoying reply was "I'll ask the chef". Like I'm not asking for permission to not buy the food that you refuse to bring me. I better not see that plate and I better not see it on my bill.

I was determined to tip this doofus negative dollars but the tip was already added on the bill. Someone had already paid the group's tab before I realized what was happening. My wrath simply transferred to the tour company for taking us there in the first place.

On the bright side one of the girls we sat next to while I was busy not eating an entree works at Facebook so I had fun chatting with her. She said she has a weekly budget of some sort where if she say, takes some friends out to get their nails done, and she posts a picture of it on Facebook with a special hashtag then Facebook takes care of the bill. Not too shabby! She had a disappointing lack of insight into whether Zuckerberg is going to run for president. Specifically she worked at the Oculus Rift division that does the cool virtual reality headsets. She seemed like a good person to connect with and I was kind of kicking myself for not exchanging info with her. Networking without seeming like a douchebag is hard to pull off.

The whole encounter reminded me of when we were on that tour in Belize with a woman who worked at Google. On the plus side when she asked me what I did I was happy I could say "something something Anheuser-Busch" instead of "hard to explain business I run from my couch" or "school you've never heard of" or whatever other lame answers I always seem to have.

Walmart apparently ate a local retailer.

The next stop was actually pretty cool. It was another of Pablo Neruda's houses named La Sebastiana. You know a house or sword is going to be legendary when it has a proper name. Neruda seems like a big deal poet but I found every explanation of why he was important to be pretty weak, If you're a businessman or a soccer player success is all about the numbers. A guy kicked 800 sticky wickets in the absolutely not pointless game of water-hiking. Awesome for you. Neruda did win a Nobel Prize which is impressive but who knows what it takes to win one of those? Maybe I need to read some of his stuff for myself. I guess a lot of his writing was devoted to macking on the ladies which does makes some sense. 800 ladies macked on in one season. One of the lines he wrote that I saw somewhere was "I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees." So smooth.

I respected the "no photos" rule in the house but it was really interesting inside. It had an insane view of the harbor and I could see several warships and some commercial ships. Neruda once spun some yarn about a naked lady who'd climb from the beach to his window and his friends bought it so well that they would stay up late at night searching for her.

The house was a hodgepodge of cool junk he'd collected from auctions and flea markets.

Lydia said he reminded her of me because he liked to drink whiskey straight, took naps, wrote stuff, and collected weird things from cool places. I'll take that as a compliment.

While I didn't take any pictures in the house I am not above using one of Zoe's.

Afterwards we had some time to tour the city of Valparaíso. 

The city was a really important port in the time period before the Panama Canal was built and people had to sail around the tip of South America to get from one ocean to the other. Once the canal was built though I think the party was over and the city went into decline. As a result the place has a sort of hip, crumbling former glory that reminded me a lot of Havana.

I noticed a strange amount of antique Coca-Cola signs in the city.

When standing at a viewpoint I could see multiple funiculars hauling people up and down the steep inclines of the city.

There was an amusing skirmish between a hobo and some feral dogs in the middle of the street. I assume it was over one owing the other an old sandwich.

Back in Santiago Lydia found a good place for dinner called Bar Nacional. It had all sorts of the Chilean specialities I'd been searching for. In particular they had the local Christmassy cocktail cola de mono, or monkey's tail. It had coffee, cream, and aguardiente in dimensions reminiscent of a White Russian. It sounded very festive and I felt honor bound to try one. We were also excited to see melvin on the menu but the waiter responded that they were out of melon. Embarrassing!

I went for a steak but I got it "a lo pobre", or poor man's style, which caused it to arrive covered in fried onions, fried eggs, and french fries. It was really good but way too much food for one person. Poor guys really know how to eat around here.

We hit a convenience store to stock up on water but as is my custom I was on the lookout for some weird local stuff. I happily walked out of there with a bottle of water and some Chilean horse jerky.

El Golf is the funny name given to the upper scale neighbourhood of Santiago that the Ritz is located in.

Take it from me: nothing goes quite as well with horse jerky as a bottle of Chilean moon-beam wine.

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