We left off last time with a promise of food for this post and yet here I am instead with a recap of our trip this past Christmas and New Years. Please forgive me. I hope you enjoy this eye candy instead.
After 6+ months in Paraguay Jon and I were ready to start exploring the land beyond our new home. During Thanksgiving, with Isaiah and Allison, the idea of a Christmas trip was mentioned. Quickly thereafter out came a map of Argentina and adjacent countries and with that the planning had officially begun.
On the day of Christmas Eve we flew off to Mendoza, Argentina, the largest wine producing area of South America, most famous for its Malbec. Maybe I am too easily impressed in life, but I quickly fell in love with Argentina. There is a great variety of cuisine available (including seafood paella!), fun/cute shops, and pedestrian walk signs. Ah, yes, you folks living the fancy life in the first world should say a small prayer of gratitude thanking whatever higher being you believe in for that flashing walk sign that tells you when to cross the street, because it’s worth gold. Ahem, back to Mendoza.
During our trip there was a recurring theme of climbing hills and Mendoza was no exception. Our first hill was Cerro Las Glorias, which is located inside a gem of a park, complete with a lake, gardens, lots of glorious fountains, and families out on picnics, all with a view of the Andes Mountains. At the top of the hill there is one very impressive statue, an epic view of Mendoza and the surrounding desert.
As we learned through many a wine tours Mendoza is in a desert so all of the wineries siphon water from the snow melt in the Andes Mountains. Because they have great control over how much water their vineyards receive, along with rich soil, they have the perfect climate for growing grapes.
I also conquered my fear of biking. I might be married to the best biker in the world, but I am most certainly the worst biker in the world. When crossing the street I am the biker that gets off the bike, crosses the street, and then gets back on. It’s much safer this way, I promise. Although it sounded like a good time for my fellow travelers to get on bikes and bike to vineyards, I was unsure, to say the least. I conquered my fears, told myself I wouldn’t die, and biked, very slowly. We made it to the vineyards, even got to bike through vineyards, went on tours and I lived to tell the tale. And oh, since I love food, I must mention that we ate lunch at a lovely winery with, of course, lots of wine.
After our rendezvous in Mendoza we crossed the Andes Mountains by bus to Santiago, Chile. The views out of the window continued to amaze me, which made the 9-hour bus ride go much quicker than expected.
I was excited to visit the city named after me and Jon was full of lots of jokes in regards to me being in my namesake. For example: “If Nalena gets cold, she’ll be a chilly Santiago in Santiago, Chile.” He is one funny man.
Santiago didn’t disappoint. It was a grand, metropolitan city, with even more cosmopolitan food than Mendoza, lots of great museums, and majestic plazas. I have never been so excited to be eating sushi again. We made it to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, created in remembrance of the years that Pinochet was dictator of Chile. The building itself was a work of art; the architecture student in me was maybe a little too excited. Hello! The plaza goes underneath the building! How cool is that!?!?
Whenever I travel I am always on the lookout for the local foodstands. In Chile there was one that seemed to be at every corner, it sold the drink Mote con Huesillos. I was unfamiliar to such a thing and the adventurous eater in me was a little startled by the word huesillos, meaning bones in Spanish. I finally asked on our final day in the city a lady what it was, purchased it and was pleasantly surprised. There were no bones to be found in it. It consists of a sweet drink, cooked wheat berries in the bottom and dried-and-then rehydrated peaches. Have some for me the next time you visit Chile. (Also, don’t be surprised to find mini-firefighters in the middle of a plaza honing their skills.)
Being on the coast, Santiago has a bustling Central Market full of seafood. I am pretty sure it’s trying to compete with Seattle’s market (I should send them a memo that they are lacking the flower stands). Inside there are also lots of seafood restaurants where we got to try some tasty and lime-y Chilean ceviche.
We also visited the Museo de Moneda y Cultura, where the special exhibition was a portion of the private art collection of Peggy Guggenheim. I am pretty much a renowned Peggy expert now; did you know her father died on the Titanic? The museum is another architectural feat seeing as it is three stories tall, all underground.
During our stay in Santiago we did a day trip to the coastal town, and a UNESCO world heritage site, Valparaiso. In Valparaiso everything is located on one or another of the city’s many hills. Due to this, homes are stacked on top of each other. This, along with the brightly colored buildings on the meandering roads makes it quite the endearing town. Oh wait; it also has funiculars, which assist you in going up said hills. (Seattle, this is what you need, funiculars, forget the flower stands).
As you might have noticed, another recurring theme during our trip was the graffiti art. Jon kept snapping pictures left and right of all the amazing art that adorned the streets of these cities. They also made a great backdrop for the classic “jump” photo that I am so fond of.
On our last day we went up our final hill, to find Mary up above and a view of Santiago, with the Andes in the background once again. I hate to repeat myself, but it was epic. And to repeat myself once more, it was an epic way to start our travels through South America.
(Also, cheers to our amazing traveling buddies and amazing guacamole makers Allison and Isaiah — more pics of the trip on their blog!)