Monday, August 30, 2010

My Fin De Semana

After a few weekends in Valpo, I was itching to check out some other places.  And thanks to a glorious teaching schedule, I get Friday's off!  So TGIT for me.  This past weekend I set out to see some new sites. 

My first stop was Vina Del Mar to visit some volunteer amigas on Friday.  Vina is Valpo's neighboring city but it has a completely different vibe.  While Valpo is full of art, Vina is more touristy and has its beloved ocean-front casino.  People flock to the beaches and it even has a Starbuck's (this is very rare).  Craving a taste of home, I asked my friend to take me there.  It might just be the nicest Starbucks I've ever been to.  After I had my chai fix, we walked around the beach area and shopped around.  There were these two boutiques I fell in love with.  Each had one of a kind jewelry and handbags bursting with color.  Think Anthropologie with a South American flair and super barato.  

Saturday a few of us hopped on a bus to Isla Negra.  Isla Negra, which is not really an island, was a few hours away and home to one of Pablo Neruda's most cherished homes.  I always look forward to bus trips when I'm abroad because you have time to just stare out the window and reflect on your travels.

Once we arrived, we got a lay of the land, which took about 10 minutes.  Isla Negra is an incredibly charming and small town on the coast - the stores and restaurants are on one main street and somehow are all tied to something Pablo Neruda-ish.  When Pablo lived there, his friends all flocked to this town, making it an intellectual and artistic community.  It now has ginormous vacation homes inhabited by nearby city folk during the summer months. 

Before we jumped on the tour, we decided to take a food break.  I'll keep it brief but my Crab and Cheese Empanada and fresh squeezed orange and banana juice were A-mazing at the Vida Del Arbol Cafe.  Check it below!

Now it was tour time.  I can see why Pablo Neruda loved his house so much.  It overlooks a sandy beach with giant black rocks spread across it.  According to the tour guide, the ocean was pretty mellow which was insane to me because the waves reminded me of a scene out of Point Break.  We all decided that the water was best described as the color of mouthwash.  His house was pretty sweet too.  It was filled with artifacts from around the world but the most interesting were the large female figureheads obtained from old ships.  He suspended them from ceilings and walls giving it a very powerful and slightly dark feel.  Despite his poetic waxings he also loved to entertain and had a bar that well actually looked like a bar.  His poetry truly is amazing ranging from love to land to playful.  I can see why Chileans are so proud to claim Pablo as one of their own.

After much touring and an impromptu photo shoot on the beach, we headed back to Vina and I got ready to go to a friend's host family's birthday party.  We spent the night dancing to Spanish 80s music and what I think was Cumbia.  At one point there was a Chilean electric slide in action but thought it was best to sit that one out.

Sunday was a funday too.  What was meant to be a day of lesson planning, turned into a random day out.  My host mom asked me if I wanted to go with her and her mother.  Thinking it was a quick errand and as usual not entirely understanding but nodding, I agreed.  Six hours later I returned from my first visit to a Chilean mall in Vina Del Mar!  Que Rico (translates to how rich but is used nonstop to describe anything you like here)!  It was a giant mall and felt like being in Orange County.  The only similar stores I spotted were Zara, Aldo, Nine West and Columbia.  Esprit is big here which makes me giggle everytime I think about my giant t-shirt shorts and off the shoulder Esprit sweatshirt from middle school.  LaCoste also seems to be a hot ticket.  Anyway, after hours of window shopping and spraying perfume, we settled for a delish ice cream cone and people watched for a bit.  At one point we all chuckled as some obvious gringas passed by.  Somehow it made me feel like I was an insider for a sec or two.  "Silly gringas!"  Jajajajaja (that's how you write hahaha). 

And that is how I spent my weekend.

El Fin (with photos below)
Vina Del Mar - Sporting our new knock off Ray Bans

Gorg Isla Negra

Lunch at El Arbol De Vida

Artsy Shot of Pablo Neruda's bar (photo cred to Maureen)
Pablo's Ode to Vino - I like his style
The Isla Negra Girls (another photo cred to Maureen)

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