Friday, November 2, 2018

A California Tango?

California has a long and illustrious history of contacts with Chile, about which I’ve regularly written, but its relations with Argentina have been less conspicuous. Perhaps the most infamous episode was an invasion by the Franco-Argentine privateer Hipólito Bouchard, who occupied the Presidio of Monterey for six days in 1818, when the area was still under Spanish rule.
The sheet music for La Reina, Francisca Carrillo Vallejo's tango
Last week, though, I found a new and somewhat enigmatic connection when I accompanied a Buenos Aires visitor to the Oakland Museum of California. There I found, behind a vitrine in the Gallery of California History, the sheet music to “La Reina,” described as a California tango by Francisca Carrillo Vallejo. Published in 1925, when Carlos Gardel was at his peak, the song probably reflects the early 20th-century globalization of this distinctively Argentine music and dance.
General Mariano Vallejo, grandfather of the tango composer
There is scant online information about this piece of music, but the museum's Program Administrator Eileen Hansen informed me that the author was the granddaughter of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a Californio who spent his life under Spanish, Mexican, and US governments. Ironically enough, Vallejo (born 1807, d. 1890) would have been a boy in Monterey when Bouchard occupied the Presidio. Unfortunately, Ms. Harris could not access the sheet music from the vitrine on short notice, so I’ve been unable to see the lyrics.
This house on San Francisco's Filbert Street was the home address for the song's publisher.
From the limited genealogical information available, I’ve not been able to determine Francisca’s exact lineage, but there were three Vallejo sons who might have been her father (there were also several Vallejo daughters, but their children would have had different surnames). The señorita depicted on the sheet music would appear more appropriate to a Mexican ranchera than an Argentine tango but, coming from an apparently Anglo publisher—Dudley and Barrett—that stereotype is perhaps unsurprising.

I look forward to reading the lyrics, eventually, and learning more about this topic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Neruda & His Daughter

This mosaic in Santiago's Bellavista neighborhood suggests the reverence in which Chileans hold Pablo Neruda.
As a Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda is revered in Chile—even by many who abhorred his outspoken Communist politics. His literary and political fame, though, overshadowed what was often a messy personal life, a topic that Dutch poet Hagar Peeters tackles in her first novel, Malva, named for the handicapped daughter that Neruda neglected during her short lifetime.
Malva is Dutch poet Hagar Peeters' first novel.
Born in Madrid in 1934 to Neruda and his first wife Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang (known as Maruca), whom he met while serving in a diplomatic post in the Dutch East Indies, Malva Marina Trinidad del Carmen Reyes suffered from hydrocephalus. She died in 1942, spending most of her life with a foster family in the Netherlands after Neruda ignored her and her mother took what jobs she could after their 1936 divorce. Half that time was during the Nazi occupation of Holland, when birth defects denoted genetic inferiority at best.

Peeters tells Malva’s story through a sort of magical realism, with Neruda’s daughter as an omniscient post-mortem observer who, in the afterlife, acquaints herself with the children of other creative fathers who neglected their offspring: James Joyce’s schizophrenic daughter Lucia, Arthur Miller’s son Daniel (born with Down syndrome), and, oddly, Günter Grass’s fictional dwarf Oskar Matzerath of his novel The Tin Drum.
After the 1973 coup, the Chilean military vandalized Neruda's Santiago home, which is now a museum.
Neruda may have been a neglectful parent, but there’s a bit of autobiography in Peeters’ account, as her own father spent extended periods in South America during the tumultuous 1970s (Neruda died, and may have been murdered, less than two weeks after the military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973). Born in 1972, Peeters acknowledges using her father’s diaries in reconstructing Neruda’s last days (as told by Malva). The account of Neruda’s funeral, in the house vandalized by the military, is especially eloquent.

According to Peeters, in fact, “Any resemblances between Neruda and my father, Maruca and my mother, and Malva and myself are entirely and mischievously deliberate.” In the end, there's an ambivalent admiration for them all.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Backroads Lakes of Chile

Chile’s Benjamín Subercaseaux famously described his country’s territory as “a crazy geography,” just as British author Sara Wheeler recounted her experiences there in Travels in a Thin Country between the Pacific Ocean and the high Andes. For much of the country’s history, travel has been a unidirectional venture, with few alternatives by sea, train or road—rather different from Argentina, where there’ve been multiple routes suitable for road trips.
Lago Llanquihue at Puerto Varas, the southern starting point for this road trip.
This occurred to late last year, when a New York reader wrote me about an upcoming literary trip to Chile—his book club takes it on the road—and asked me for recommendations for a trip between Puerto Varas and Pucón that would avoid the Ruta 5 freeway, the quickest (but least interesting) route between the two resorts.
New highway signs mark the Red Interlagos.
Not so long ago, that wouldn’t have been possible but, in recent years, the Chilean government has linked and improved a series of roughly parallel easterly roads that provide a more scenic alternative along the lakes of the Andean front range. The Red Interlagos stretches from the town of Inspector Fernández, north of Temuco, south to the village of Puelo, southeast of Puerto Montt. I recommended an itinerary to my client and, when I next returned to Chile, I decided to follow the route—more or less—myself. It bears mention that the Interlagos is not a single highway, but a network of interconnected routes that pass through smaller towns and villages, not all of which are resorts, so there are multiple options.
Roadside frontage of the Hotel Awa
My client started in Puerto Varas and so did I, spending a couple nights in the new design Hotel Awa, a multi-story concrete, glass and girder structure on the city’s eastern outskirts. With views over Lago Llanquihue to the perfect cone of Volcán Osorno, it’s the area’s most technologically sophisticated hotel, but with rustic touches such as hiding the TV in an old steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. At night, I dined on truffled pork loin, complemented by a barley-based risotto from its own vegetable garden and garnished with a hazelnut sauce.
Grounds of the Museo Colonial Alemán, Frutillar
From Llanquihue’s south shore, there are two ways north, on the west side via Frutillar or the longer east side route via Ensenada. At the former, there’s the remarkable Teatro del Lago and the outstanding Museo Colonial Alemán, a tribute to German colonists that reminds me of in situ museums in Scandinavia.
A cycling event on the easterly route along Lago Llanquihue, beneath Volcán Osorno 
Puerto Octay, on Lago Llanquihue's north shore
I chose the longer route, which offers a detour up to the volcano’s ski area, which is open for hikers in summer, and then proceeded to picturesque Puerto Octay, a small north shore town with a metal-clad church and turreted houses that evoke Mitteleuropa. On Octay’s outskirts, my choice for the night is Hostal Zapato Amarillo, a Swiss-Chilean B&B with sod-roofed cabins, personalized attention, and fine dinners.
Hostal Zapato Amarillo is a cluster of sod-roofed guest rooms just outside Puerto Octay.
Hotel Termas de Puyehue is one of Patagonia's grand hotels.
For my client, though, I recommended continuing to Hotel Termas de Puyehue, a classic grand hotel at Parque Nacional Puyehue, about an hour north of Octay on the highway that runs from Villa La Angostura to Osorno. For visitors coming from Argentina, this sprawling hot springs hotel, with nearby hiking trails, makes an ideal overnight or multi-day stay in what may be the closest analogue to Bariloche’s Hotel Llao Llao. Along this highway, there’s still abundant evidence of the 2012 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption that covered much of the area in ash.
Volcanic ash still covers parts of the shoulders along the highway between Argentina and Chile.
North of Entre Lagos, parts of the route are still unpaved but being improved.
I didn’t stay at the Puyehue this time, instead heading north through the town of Entre Lagos toward Lago Ranco, a lesser visited destination in the heart of Mapuche country. Along this segment, the Interlagos road signs say “Norpatagonia,” and, on a gravel surface with signs of improvement, muddy potholes splashed water onto my windshield. As I approached the south shore town of Lago Ranco, I could spot Isla Huapi, an offshore island inhabited almost exclusively by Mapuches.
The route around Lago Ranco is completely paved.
Here, in an area far more popular with Chileans than foreigners, I stopped for a sandwich before continuing east along a smooth paved road with plenty of scenic overlooks. The last time I had visited, a cable barge was the only means of crossing the Río Nilahue, but now modern bridges ease the route around the densely forested east side to the north shore town of Futrono. Here, almost opposite San Martín de los Andes, I spent the night at the Cabañas Nórdicas, a cluster of spacious and seemingly Scandinavian structures on a bluff overlooking the lake.
Sunset over Lago Ranco from my accommodations at Futrono
North of Futrono, the route’s a bit better trod, approaching the Ruta 5 town of Los Lagos but then veering northeast to Panguipulli, the entry point to a “Siete Lagos” route that resembles Argentina’s in Río Negro and Neuquén. Panguipulli fancies itself the "City of Roses" for its gardens at the east end of its namesake lake, but the area’s big attraction is its hot springs resorts. My client raved about the Zen-inspired Termas Geométricas—an isolated canyon of waterfalls, creeks and naturally heated pools linked by boardwalks near Coñaripe that’s open for day visits only—in the shadow of the fuming Volcán Villarrica.
The Termas Geométricas is a secluded hot springs venue south of Pucón.
Volcán Villarrica, as seen from Pucón, on the opposite side of Termas Geométricas
After a leisurely day at the Termas Geométricas, nearby accommodations options include the
Termas de Coñaripe—a hot springs hotel in its own right—and the town of Lican Ray, with its black sand beaches at Lago Calafquén. Termas Geométricas, though, gets many day-trippers from Pucón, the uber-resort city that’s just over the hill (mountains, that is) on Lago Villarrica. There, the place to stay is the hillside Hotel Antumalal, a Bauhaus-inspired masterpiece that, arguably, set the stage for Varas’s Awa. Still, there are many cheaper but still outstanding options here, and great hiking in spots like Parque Nacional VillarricaParque Nacional Huerquehue, and the Santuario Cañi, a private conservation effort aimed at protecting the area’s Araucaria forests.
Queen Elizabeth II and other big names have stayed at Pucón's Hotel Antumalal.
At Parque Nacional Huerquehue, the Sendero Quinchol leads to dense upland forests of Araucarias and southern beeches.
For visitors from Argentina, it’s easy to return by the Paso Mamuil Malal to Junín de los Andes and thence to Buenos Aires or back to Bariloche. The road goes on forever.

Friday, September 21, 2018

At the Awa

Some seven decades ago, the Hotel Antumalal broke the mold of classic Chilean “Lakes District” hotels with a Bauhaus-style structure on a hill overlooking Lago Villarrica, on the western outskirts of Pucón. In the interim, it’s become a landmark that’s drawn famous clientele including Queen Elizabeth II, King Leopold of Belgium, Barry Goldwater and Jimmy Stewart (and me?).
Pucón's Hotel Antumalal introduced Bauhaus-style architecture into Chile's lakes region.
In fact, I’ve stayed several times at the Antumalal, most recently in March. A few days later, though, I had the pleasure of spending two nights at the recently opened Hotel Awa, whose bold contemporary design comparably contrasts with the Mitteleuropa style of nearby Puerto Varas’s emblematic architecture. The Awa occupies a similar lakeside setting to the Antumalal, but its multi-story concrete, glass and girder exterior is more conspicuous—perhaps, in part, because the Antumalal’s had so many decades to cultivate its elaborate gardens.
Hotel Awa, as seen from the lakeshore
View of Lago Lago Llanquihue, when I finally got the curtains to rise
While the Awa’s exterior is imposing, its interior is cozy, with regional woods and other local decorative touches, but also large picture windows looking onto Lago Llanquihue. The rooms are also contemporary, with more electrical outlets than I’ve ever seen despite rustic touches that include hiding the flat-screen TV—accessed by opening the lid of a leather trunk. For me, the room’s most confusing aspect was the remote control that raised and lowered the curtains—I never quite got it right, and I recommended that the manager leave written instructions for using it.
An old steamer trunk hides the flat-screen TV at the foot of the bed.
While the Awa is happy to entertain overnight guests with bed and breakfast, it also offers excursions in the area and all-inclusive packages, including meals in its restaurant. On my first full day, when it was pouring rain in a Marine West Coast climate that resembles the Pacific Northwest—“Awa” means water in Mapudungun—I took a guided hike to Laguna Cayutué, on the southern edge of Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales. The trail, through dense Andean forest, often resembled a stream, so it took extra effort to avoid muddying boots and clothing and, at the end of the day, I returned soaked.
The weather doesn't always cooperate with hikes in the area.
Diners at the Awa's restaurant
The truffled pork loin ended the day more than satisfactorily.
So, I decided to take a soak in the spacious Jacuzzi before descending to the Awa’s restaurant for a truffled pork loin complemented by a barley-based risotto from its own vegetable garden and garnished with a hazelnut sauce. And, of course, there were a pisco sour and a glass of Carménère to accompany the main course, before a white and dark chocolate parfait. The next morning, I awoke to clearer weather with views across Lago Llanquihue—after I somehow managed to raise the curtains.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Argentina's Heroic Forger

Late last year, I briefly noted the publication of Sarah Kaminsky’s Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life, the tale of her father’s service in the French Resistance of World War II. That interested me, partly because Kaminsky is an Argentine, and partly because the Resistance provided forged identification that helped my 94-year-old uncle, who lives in Los Angeles, escape the Nazis after being shot down over France in November of 1943. His own account of traveling across France and into Switzerland is positively cinematic.
The English and Spanish-language versions of Kaminsky's story
I received a copy of Kaminsky’s book from the US publisher but, on my recent trip to Buenos Aires, I purchased a copy of the Spanish-language edition Adolfo Kaminsky El Falsificador, primarily because it includes a prologue about Kaminsky’s boyhood in the Argentine capital. Though he spent only five years there before his parents returned to Europe, he offers surprisingly vivid memories of a free-range boyhood in an immigrant neighborhood that sounds like the edge of Barrio Norte (he mentions living on Calle Ecuador, apparently near Avenida Córdoba, but is not more specific than that). 
The intersection of Ecuador and Paraguay is roughly where the Kaminskys lived in Buenos Aires.
Kaminsky’s mother, born in Tbilisi, married his Russian-born father in Paris during World War I. Given the disorder in Europe, heightened by the Bolshevik Revolution, the family had moved to Buenos Aires, where Adolfo was born in 1925. Interestingly, when the family returned to France, what struck him was the contrast with Buenos Aires, the noise from the cars, trams and trucks that crowded Parisian streets—“It was so different from Calle Ecuador!” In the ensuing century, Buenos Aires has more than caught up.

The return to Europe didn’t go as expected because the French would not grant the family immediate residence, and they spent two years in Turkey waiting for permission to return. The lack of papers, Kaminsky implies, may have inspired his interest in falsifying documents: “Nothing destined me to become a forger but, however, those papers that my family needed when I was a child were going to govern my life.”

Only 14 when World War II broke out, Kaminsky (and his Jewish family) survived the earliest years of the German occupation because of their nationality—Argentina remained a neutral country until nearly the end of the conflict. Adolfo, meanwhile, had acquired skills in printing, dyeing and photography that allowed him to produce passports and other papers that saved as many as 3,000 Jews from the Nazis.

Eventually, the Kaminskys themselves had to scatter and hide—with the help of Adolfo’s bogus documents—but after the liberation of Paris he provided Allied forces with new forgeries that helped them infiltrate German lines. After the war, he assisted European Jews in reaching Palestine—though he deplored Zionism—and then helped figures in the Algerian independence movement move between North Africa and Europe. He prided himself in never charging for his services—everything was pro bono for causes that he either supported or saw as a better alternative to the status quo.

Kaminsky did his last forgery in 1971 and lived in Algeria for a decade, marrying a Tuareg woman, before finally returning to France in the early 1990s. His daughter’s persistent inquiry into her father’s murky history eventually resulted in this book, presented as a memoir from a hero who, accustomed to staying in the background, refrained from boastfulness.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lands of Fire and Ice

In California, this summer’s been a hot one and, perhaps, the worst wildfire season in our history. Here in Oakland, our worst was the 1991 firestorm—which came close enough to our Rockridge residence that my wife and daughter stayed with friends—but this year’s events have occurred mostly in rural wildlands and we’ve only seen occasional ashfall from them.
Until last Friday, I'd never seen Argentine plates in California.
Coincidentally, though, I received a reminder of another “land of fire” when, walking the dog last Friday, I turned the corner to see a Citroën Xsara Picasso with Argentine plates—the first such plates I’ve ever seen in California—that was decorated with a map of the Americas and the legend “Todo por América, Ushuaia – Alaska.” When I stopped to speak with them, the owners were a bit surprised to hear someone speaking (more or less) Argentine Spanish, but I invited Eduardo Ybarra and Emilia Florencio (and their Australian shepherd Ona) around the corner to meet my (Argentine) wife.
Emilia sips yerba mate, with Eduardo in the driver's seat and Ona in the back.
Eduardo and Emilia, though, had car problems—the starter had given out on their 2012 vehicle and the Citroën itself is almost unknown in this country except, perhaps, for a few collectors. Parking outside, they had to leave the car running (and locked) because they could only start it on an incline. After a brief visit and a thermos of mate, drunk while Ona cavorted with my daughter’s boxer mix in the garden (my elderly and arthritic malamute could only observe), I accompanied them to our local mechanic, who told us they couldn’t work on the exotic French vehicle (Citroën have not been sold in the US since 1974).
In 1991-2, our Peugeot 404 was a frequent guest of Patagonian mechanics.
Fortunately, using the mobile app iOverlander, they located a Guatemalan mechanic who managed to repair the starter, but their situation suggests a greater problem worth the attention of anyone who takes a Pan-American road trip. I myself have driven extensively in southernmost South America, first with a rattletrap Peugeot 404 that belonged to my late father-in-law and somehow survived the ruggedest stretches of Patagonia’s legendary Ruta 40—with help from talented street mechanics—in the days before that highway was even partly paved. In some cases, the surface was not gravel, but rather stones the size of my first.

I have even shipped cars from California—in one case an aging Datsun pickup and, in another, a more versatile Toyota Xtra Cab. In Chile, I now own an SUV, a 2007 Suzuki Grand Nomade with relatively low mileage, and I’ve occasionally encountered other gringos who’ve traveled the length of the Americas, though not necessarily from Alaska.

The type of vehicle makes a difference precisely because of parts availability and mechanical assistance. If, for example, you drive a Prius to South America, finding replacement parts would be nearly impossible, as these hybrid vehicles are only now starting to appear in Argentina and Chile. In my opinion, our new Argentine friends were fortunate to find a capable mechanic willing to tackle their problem—I expect he had to improvise—but if something gives out on the remote Alaska Highway, will they be so fortunate again?
If you're northbound from California, keep an eye out for Eduardo and Emilia.
I’ve never driven to or even visited Alaska, though I suspect that anybody along the route will lend the help they can in case of breakdown, but I still feel the Citroën is something of a ticking time bomb. Alaska also has a short summer, and I would hope they get started soon, as a long drive remains. You can follow their progress at Todo por América.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Finding the Forest For the (Monkey-Puzzle) Trees

New growth on an Araucaria branch, Parque Nacional Conguillío
In November of 1911, when John Muir climbed a ridge to camp among the “monkey-puzzle” forests of southern Chile, he marveled at “A glorious and novel sight, beyond all I had hoped for.” At the age 73, the legendary conservationist had sailed to South America, first exploring the Amazon and, after reaching Buenos Aires, he crossed the Andes in search of Araucaria araucana, the “monkey puzzle tree.”
Bark of a mature Araucaria tree
The present-day gateway to Fundo Ontario, where John Muir stayed in his search for the Araucaria
In Santiago—where even Juan Söhrens, director of the national botanical garden, had never seen the tree in the wild—Muir took a hint from a friend of the US ambassador and the train to the city of Victoria, just north of Temuco. Here, he made contact with the Smiths, a Canadian immigrant family, whose Fundo Ontario ranch was Muir’s gateway to the Andean foothills near what is today Parque Nacional Tolhuaca. It was here that sketched the forests and slept beneath the trees he’d come to observe—just as he did beneath the giant sequoias of California’s Sierra Nevada.
Parque Nacional Tolhuaca, with Araucaria trees in the right foreground and atop the ridge in the distance
Several times I’ve had the good fortune to see the area Muir visited, and several comparable areas on both sides of the Andes. The pewén, as it’s known in the indigenous Mapudungun language, has a narrow distribution between 37º20' and 40º20'S. In total, Araucaria forests cover less than 400 square kilometers, mostly in the Andean cordillera but with scattered stands in Chile’s coastal range.
A young ornamental Araucaria on the grounds of Oakland Technical High School
Where are the best places to see this distinctive tree, also known as the paraguas (umbrella tree)? It’s not uncommon as an ornamental—there’s one on the grounds of Oakland Technical High School, about five minutes from my California home—but Argentina and Chile are the Holy Grail. Following Muir’s trail toward Tolhuaca is one option, but access by public transportation is limited at best. Larger numbers see Parque Nacional Conguillío, to the southeast, which is more accessible from Temuco and the town of Melipeuco (though only by taxi).
A mature Araucaria forest at Parque Nacional Conguillío 
In terms of public transportation access, though, the best place to see the Araucariais the more southerly resort of Pucón. Two nearby national parks, Parque Nacional Villarrica and Parque Nacional Huerquehue, have frequent bus service. Personally, I prefer Huerquehue for easy access to hiking trails, dense pewén forests, and great panoramas that include the smoking, snow-topped Volcán Villarrica, which Spanish conquistador poet Alonso de Ercilla called the “great neighbor volcano.”
Araucarias on the Sendero Quinchol, Parque Nacional Huerquehue
On my most recent visit, though, I chose the Santuario Cañi, a private nature reserve that’s only 20 minutes out of town, and also easily accessible by public transport. I first hiked here in the 1990s as a guest of the non-profit Fundación Lahuén, on a sore ankle that caused me some difficulty. This time my joints were healthy, but the trail seemed even steeper than I remembered, and younger hikers were consistently passing me. At the end, though, I reached the plateau of Laguna Las Totoras, a marshy lake surrounded by monkey puzzle trees, but declined to climb to the El Mirador ridge. 
Hikers among the Araucarias in the Santuario Cañi
An Araucaria seedling has found growing space at Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta.
For my money, though, the best place to see the trees is Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta, in the coastal range near the city of Angol, where the trees even find growing spaces in cracks among its igneous outcrops. One of the best nights I ever spent was the campground here on Christmas Eve of 1998, when I had the entire park to myself. Nahuelbuta is scenic, with great hiking trails, but it doesn’t get many Chileans because it lacks water—there are no rivers or lakes suitable for swimming except outside park limits.
A panorama of the Araucaria forests at Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta
Along the trail at Argentina's Parque Nacional Lanín
I’ve barely mentioned Argentina, where the best site is Parque Nacional Lanín, across the Andes from Pucón, and easily reached from the cities of San Martín de los Andes and Junín de los Andes. It bears mention that the indigenous Pewenche—who take their name from the trees—gathered fallen forest nuts for their subsistence. I myself have eaten the toasted nuts and also consumed them in a pesto in a San Martín restaurant that is now, sadly, closed.
Pewén nuts on display at the Feria Masticar, an annual food fair in Buenos Aires

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sipping and Surfing? Colchagua to Pichilemu

Two hours south of Santiago, as I leave the freeway, trucks with bins of grapes slow the traffic on the westbound two-lane road toward the town of Santa Cruz, in Chile’s Colchagua valley. With the warm dry March weather, it feels like September in the Napa Valley, in my home state of California. This, though, is farther than a day trip from my house, so I’ll spend several days sampling the wines and dining in the country’s premier wine district—tourist-friendly Colchagua is due to host next year’s Congreso Mundial de Enoturismo (World Wine Tourism Conference).
The balconies at Hotel TerraViña have vineyard views.
My first stop is the Danish-Chilean Hotel TerraViña, nearly surrounded by vineyards on the outskirts of town, where I’ve stayed on previous trips. From here, it’s a short stroll through the vines to Viña Laura Hartwig, which now offers carriage rides through its grounds and new tasting facilities for an expanded wine list. They’re part of the Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes (MOVI), an alliance of smaller wineries with an increasingly high profile. I sample a Cabernet, a Merlot and a blend, accompanied by a plate of almonds, cheese, cold cuts and crackers.
Wines to sample in the recova at Laura Hartwig
View across the soggy lawn at Hotel Casa de Campo
The next morning, I move across town to the Hotel Casa de Campo, where the only drawback to my spacious room is its relative proximity to the highway. Fortunately, its French doors face a sprawling lawn with views of the Chilean coast range, though I’m a bit shocked to see the flood-style irrigation in an area where water's at a premium. I’m pleasantly surprised, though, when a gardener knocks on the door with a bowl of freshly picked prunes.
Santa Cruz's Plaza de Armas
From there, I head to Santa Cruz’s walkable downtown, with a lushly landscaped Plaza de Armas surrounded by low-slung buildings and a parish church that was totally rebuilt—on its original design—after severe earthquake damage in 2010 forced its demolition. On this visit I skipped the imposing Museo Colchagua, created by Iran-Contra arms merchant Carlos Cardoen, whose foundation also financed the church’s reconstruction, but the museum’s natural history and agricultural machinery displays are well worth seeing.
The Museo de Colchagua is part of a complex that also includes a hotel and a casino.

After severe quake damage in 2010, Santa Cruz's Iglesia Parroquial underwent  demolition for a total rebuild on the original plan.
Quinotto of scallops, shrimp, and squid at Casa Colchagua 
That afternoon, I eat on the patio at Casa Colchagua, a renovated adobe just a stone’s throw from TerraViña. Rather than bread, the appetizer is a sopaipilla enhanced by the savory tomato-onion-garlic salsa known as pebre. For the main course, there’s quinotto with shrimp, scallops and squid rings–Chile’s diverse seafood is world-class—plus a pisco sour with a touch of ají verde, and a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
José Antonio Bravo opens up his tiny adobe at OWM Wines
In the afternoon, I drive to the village of El Peral to visit OWM Wines, a low-tech operation that produces only blends and does much of the work manually, while bodega itself is a tiny adobe within a far larger garage full of heavy machinery. With a minimum of two guests (maximum of eight), winemaker José Antonio Bravo does the tours himself, and encourages guests to make their own blends. Later, back in Santa Cruz, I dine at Vino Bello—an established Italian option—for a seafood risotto.
Patio dining at Vino Bello
The patio and tasting room at Clos Santa Ana
The next day, an unseasonably rainy one, I meet British photographer Matt Wilson and his wife Andrea—a winemaker at Clos Apalta—for dinner at their house near the Viu Manent winery (whose wines are most readily available in California). We chat about travel writing, photography and the madness of Brexit, among other topics, and enjoy several glasses of Apalta’s wines (Apalta is not a MOVI member). The next morning, I moved to the westerly site of Clos Santa Ana, where Italian winemaker, art collector and dog fancier Luiz Allegretti invites me to a long Sunday lunch with his neighbors—one of whom is also a winemaker—and to spend the night in his sprawling colonial home, with its multiple interior patios. That’s a privilege, but Allegretti also has a tasting room for the general public.
At Clos Santa Ana, Luiz Allegretti has an eclectic art collection.
On the road to Pichilemu, there's a shrine to the Argentine folk saint Difunta Correa.
The next morning, I drive west through the coast range toward the beach town of Pichilemu, passing a large roadside shrine to the Difunta Correa (do Argentine surfers leave bottles of water for San Juan’s legendary folk saint?). Once an exclusive playground for the rich—its renovated cultural center is a Francophile structure built by the Anglo-Chilean Agustín Ross Edwards, whose name also graces the handsome waterfront park. The downtown’s seeing signs of rejuvenation, but much of the action has moved south to Punta de Lobos, which attracts a cosmopolitan surf crowd comparable to what comes to northern California during the famous Mavericks competition. Sacred to surfers, the point of the peninsula here is now a protected reserve under the aegis of the Fundación Punta de Lobos.
Pichilemu's Centro Cultural Agustín Ross was originally a casino.
Pichilemu's Punta de Lobos is sacred to surfers.
There, the budget crowd stays at La Sirena Insolente, the newest member of a small hostel chain that has comfy private rooms as well as dorms. At the other end, I stay at the luxury surf lodge Hotel Alaia, at a spacious room with ocean views and a private deck, not to mention its skateboard park, climbing wall, beach bar, a freshwater pool, and surfing lessons. I don’t ride the waves—at Punta de Lobos there are small monuments to surfers who died here—but I dine its stylish restaurant—primarily using locally sourced ingredients.
At Hotel Alaia, all the rooms have easy beach access.
At Punta de Lobos, I also find a cluster of food trucks offering some unexpected treats such as a Peruvian burrito—perhaps the ultimate in fusion cuisine? Unfortunately, when I arrive around noon the following day, the Peruvian’s hasn't yet opened, and I need to return to Santiago. That tantalizing burrito will have to wait.
When I first saw the Peruvian burrito trailer, I'd already had lunch.

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