And still more Chilean wine country

Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
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Trip End Jan 14, 2008


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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, October 19, 2007

Valparaiso sits on the coast with its' busy port just on the other side of the coastal mountains from the wine country.  The town itself is the destination.  The town exists on two levels.  The lower section lies for several blocks along the coast with a collection of colonial and modern buildings.  Rather abruptly, the town's elevation changes and turns into a maze of steep twisting cobblestone streets that ascend into various "hill neighborhoods."  The change in elevation is so dramatic that over 100 years ago, elevator lifts were installed to carry the citizens up the sides of the hills to the various barrios.  The lifts are still in operation today and don't appear to have had any retrofitting since their creation.  Tiny tin shacks with wooden benches rest on steal cables and are your ride up the steep hill sides.  

The hill neighborhoods are where the action is in Valparaiso.  What were once residential neighborhoods now double as destinations with hip restaurants and art galleries to lure tourists down twisting alleys and stairwells. 

We settled into our guest house high on the hill and met our host, Rene.  Rene's guest house is not your typical hostel.  Rene's house makes you feel like you are home.  Upon our arrival, Rene sat us down in his kitchen and suggested an itinerary for the next three days.  With a detailed written guide he sent us off on a walking tour of the city.  You could spend days wandering the alleys and staring at the neighborhoods.  Rene's walking tour included wine tasting stops, art galleries and recommendations for eating and drinking.  Intent on making sure we enjoyed our stay, we were served local "specialty cocktails" in the evening.  

We spent our evenings with the other house guests sampling different bottles of wine and enjoying a great barbecue with Rene as the chef.

One of the destinations that Valparaiso offers aside from wine tasting is a tour of famed poet Pablo Neruda's home #3.  This is allegedly the home in which the least amount of time was spent; however, he was always present for the celebration of the New Year. 

Who is Pablo Neruda?  I had never heard of Neruda until one of my ex-coworkers named her cat after him.  She explained that he was a poet with strong political beliefs.  I didn´t share her politics and naming your cat after a political poet just seemed weird, so I never bothered to look him up.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say about him.

...Chilean writer and communist politician Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. Having his works translated into dozens of languages, Pablo Neruda is considered one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th century. Neruda was accomplished in a wide variety of styles, ranging from erotically charged love poems (such as "White Hills"), surrealist poems, historical epics, and overtly political manifestos. Some of Neruda's most beloved poems are his "Odes to Broken Things," collected in several volumes. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez has called him "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language". In 1971, Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature, a controversial award because of his political activism.

So it would seem that he is a "somebody," and a communist somebody at that and we should visit his house "for the people" even if we don't really see the point in visiting a poet's house.  I can understand visiting an artists house since it will probably have a collection of their work, but a poet?  So we went and toured the rooms and looked at his possessions.  It seemed like he was a fun person, and definitely enjoyed his cocktails in addition to being a communist poet.  When he wasn´t busy trying to change the world, he did take the time to write a collection of poems called Ode to Everyday Things.  Yes, in his world, there was poetry in everything.  Here's an excerpt from Ode to Potato.  Try to read it with William Shatner's voice in your head, and be sure to apply the Shatneresque "dramatic pause."  Poetry is always better this way...

Spud,
sweet
matter,
dusty
almond,
the mother
beyond
did not cradle
dead metal.
There in the dark,
insular softness,
she did not prepare
copper and submerged
volcanoes,
or the blue severity
of manganese,
but rather, with her hand,
as though in a nest,
in the most tender wetness,
she deposited your balloons

Do you feel poetic now?  I thought you would. 
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