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Sunday September 16th – Santiago, Valparaiso, Isla Negra.
We were to meet in the lobby at 9, so when we didn’t awaken until after 8 it was a bit of a rush to eat breakfast and get ready. Larry ran across the street to an ATM to get pesos. Hernan and Marcos brought a larger van so there was plenty of room for all 10 of us. They also put a Canadian flag in the window of the van “so everyone will know we’re not Americans”. We drove toward the coast through beautiful misty valleys lined with vineyards. At a pit stop we saw other tourists having a wine tasting even though it was only 10 am. The fruit trees are in bloom and most others are just faintly green. We admired prolific orange and yellow small poppies along the roadside and bright mauve flowers on otherwise naked trees. Many eucalyptus and pine groves – soft, fast-growing wood exported to China to make paper. Our first stop was Isla Negra, the home of Pablo Naruda, right on the edge of the Pacific. Cathy had been reading us translations of some of his beautiful poetry on the way. It’s a fascinating place and he was obviously a very interesting man. He collected everything from ships’ figureheads to wine bottles to snail shells. He built the house to resemble a ship or a train. He and his third wife are buried overlooking the sea, on the grounds. From Isla Negra we moved on to a lovely restaurant in Vina del Mar, where we enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner with a panoramic view of the ocean. After a stop at Faba, a lapis lazuli store, and a short tour of Valparaiso we headed back toward Santiago through wine country as the light began to fade and the western sky lit up with pink. Somehow, once again, we’ve arrived in a country at the time of the national holiday. September 19th is Chile’s Independence Day and most people have the whole week off for one long party. We had to detour through a parking lot in one village where the main street was blocked off by a huge crowd. There were food stalls and entertainment. We saw a guy in a clown suit performing in a busy intersection, hanging off the side of a taxi as it drove by. There are flags everywhere.

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