Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Exploring the crooked streets of Valparaiso

Just two hours northwest of Santiago is the port city of Valparaiso. It was built on dozens of hills right at the ocean's edge and is basically a cartographer's worst nightmare. The streets curve up the hills like snakes, and everywhere you turn there are narrow, graffiti-adorned stairways that wander off... somewhere. There's really no such thing as a direct route in Valparaiso, just lots of urban adventures.

The city is full of color, with brightly painted buildings, crumbling Spanish architecture and gorgeous street art on every surface imaginable.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Devil in the Wine Cellar

One of the more popular day trips from Santiago, is out into the vineyards surrounding the city. The best known and most tourist-y of them is called Concha y Toro and is located right on the edge of Santiago, making it easily accessible via the Metro and a short taxi ride.

Concha y Toro is an old estate house surrounded by vineyards, tucked away at the bottom of the foothills of the Andes. It's famous for having been the discovery place of a grape that was believed to be extinct, after it was killed by disease in Europe. But a few plants survived, sheltered in Chile, and now you can try them at Concha y Toro.

I visited with a group of fellow English teachers and we took the basic tour, which costs around $15 and includes two wine tastings and a souvenir wine glass. We got to see the vineyards and the wine cellars, and there was a fun story about the "devil in the wine cellar", according to which a devil protects the wine from any would-be thieves.