Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday, February 11th, Valparaiso


Normally, I name the blog after the place we will be sleeping in on the night of that date. Today, I'm making an exceptionlan. Today, we drove through the Casa Blanca wine region and on to the cities of Vino del Mar and Valparaiso on the coast. Because of the historical importance of Valparaiso to Chile's shipping and commerce over the past 200 years, it deserves the blog title.

But first, an explanation of the penguin. It's carved from a cow horn, and we all thought it cute. And one member of the group is lobbying for it to become a micro loan project. Her theory is that tourists the world over would buy it. Just don't try to get the residents of countries which revere cows to get excited about it.

But on to the Veramonte Winery, and to the great wine hosting they put on for us. A tour of the winery and vineyard, followed by a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and a blend of reds - accompanied by local goat and sheep cheese. Augustin Huneeus, the owner, has raised the bar on Chilean wine. We definately plan on looking for his label back home.

The real treasure was on the coast. Vin del Mar and Valparaiso are two coastal cities which share 700,000 residents in a hillside bay and new coastal town that served as the required stopping point for sailing ships for 200 years - until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1922. We spent time in the plaza learning of local heroes in ship battles against Chile's neighbors, saw one of five original statues from Easter Island (a possession of Chile administered from Valparaiso), climbed hills on a 100-year old finicula, and visited Pablo Neruda's home to view his art collection and take in his balcony's spectacular view.

For a look at only a few more of the photos taken today, click on: Valparaiso

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