Chasing street art and Pablo Neruda in Chile. Also empanadas!

Santiago and Valparaiso are outdoor museums for lovers of street art. Turn a corner and be astonished by trompe l’oeil painted facades, political humor, delicate faces, musical tributes and some sheer creativ wierdness. Every step, wall or window is a kodak moment.

We spent hours daily just wandering the streets and exploring. The big difference between Santiago and Valparaiso is the geography. Santiago is a flat city like L.A., Santiago a coastal, hilly city like SF. But SF on steroids. We have been huffing and puffing our way through funky Valparaiso. When google says a destination is 30 minutes away that usually means we get there in 20. In Valpo (as the locals say) a 30 minute walk breathlessly took us 60 minutes…cuz I had to constantly catch my breath…and I thought i was in good shape! (Lisa and Nina could probably climb it in 30 or less!)

Both cities were also home to Chile’s nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda.  Neruda built his first house, Charascura, on a hillside in Santiago for his secret lover Matilde. He built his second, Sebastiana, for Matilde when they married. This home is in the hills of Valparaiso. The houses (and a third  in Isla Negra that we missd) are completely idiosyncratic as Neruda collected contlss objects and art from his travels around the world from playing cards to Fornasetti’s whimsical dishes to high art and low.

Neruda’s main gig  was as an ambassodor to France and Spain during Chile’s democratic years under Allende and he died shortly after the brutal military coup.

But it is his many books of  poetry that brought him acclaim and national love. Perhaps most famous is “Ode to an artichoke “which begins…The artichoke with a tender heart /Dressed up like a warrior /Standing at attention…

And now for the food! We have been eating well. Yummy little breakfasts and coffee at our artsy little hotels. Then grabbing empenadas from various panaderias in search of the perfect pollo stuffed pocket .  Mostly fish for dinner and always starting with ceviche. After A’s beef orgy in Buenos Aires, this is a tasty respite.

Oh, and I forgot to mention our stops in the Casablanca wine valley between both cities where we  tasted more of  Chile’s wonderful white wines directly en terroir,

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