The Central Coast of Chile – Valparaiso, Vina del Mar & Algarrobo

Valparaiso is a Port City about 2 hrs west of Santiago. It sits along the coast between two favourite beach towns, Plata del Mar and Algarrobo. A rather run down dirty place, Valparaiso redeems itself with colourful street art and multihued homes that climb the steep hillsides from the harbour. So steep are the streets that there are many funiculars to help the locals move up and down.

Valparaiso is a great walking place and with a good map and good shoes you can wander the busy narrow streets that zigzag up and down the hills. Crowded with tourists, shoppers, diners and vendors there are plenty of shops selling art and various types of memorabilia, each sporting a bright coat of paint. The city has made such an effort to make itself attractive, it has been named a UNESCO world heritage site.

Again we were able to find a flat that was high above and streets and gave us a good view of the ocean and the city. The Chilean Navy is evident in Valparaiso and it is a major port for goods coming and going on large freighters. It is also a cruise ship port with a long malecon but there aren’t any really nice beaches in Valparaiso itself. We discovered a tourist map, outlining all the major sights and we were able to follow the map and see what we wanted to see in one day.

Having a car made it easy to drive north along the coast to Vina del Mar. We were hoping for a beach day but it was cool and foggy and instead we enjoyed a road trip. Vina del Mar is pretty swank compared to Valparaiso. There are huge new developments and shopping malls and high end looking bars and restaurants. Vina as it is know in Chile has long been known as Chile’s tourist capital but the wide boulevards, lined with palms and mansions might make it glitzy and exciting but it also looks like many other places in the world and their is little to none of the character and charm that you find in less frequented places in Chile.

A third day saw us driving down the coast to the city of Algarobbo. Here we found the beaches of the “people”. In spite of the lack of sunshine and a chill in the air we were able to walk the beaches and enjoy the crowds who lay expectantly in the sand as if the sun would appear any moment and as the day wore on and the fog wore off they were rewarded for their patience.

We discovered Pablo Neruda, Chiles favourite poet in Valparaiso, and when we were in Isla Negra we wanted to visit his house but it was closed. Neruda wrote “Ancient night and unruly sea beat at the walls of my house.” Neruda was a collector and his houses, three that I know of, were all stuffed with interesting memorabilia.

We took boat tour out to a sanctuary for Humboldt Penguins which are small but cute and plentiful. The island was home to many other types of birds as well, including the ubiquitous pelican. Several small bays shape the coastline and as January and February mean summer vacation for families it was very crowded. There are huge complexes of apartments and condos for vacationers and so many activities and adventures to be had.

Food on the coast was good and we had several nice dinners out in restaurants that ranged from family style to fine dining. Of course we found many seafood dishes but we also tried some local specialties. Although our “beach” vacation failed to materialize out of the fog and chill we found the area in and around Valparaiso to be well worth a visit no matter the weather.

Wander with Stella

This is the post excerpt.

Welcome to Wander with Stella. I hope you enjoy this blog about my travels and adventures. I love all the beauty and life I encounter as I roam the world, either solo or together with friends. I never miss an opportunity to explore even if it means going alone. When I wander, I do so relatively slowly so that I can savour all that an area has to offer; natural beauty, history, culture, politics, food and new friends; all find themselves captured in my minds eye and of course my camera.

Walking in the English Countryside

Not my first walk in England but my first on the South Downs Trail which stretches a long way from Winchester to Eastborne on the south coast of England.

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Map of complete South Down’s Trail

With only three days to walk I was limited to but a small portion of the trail.  I started on the outskirts of Brighton and walked eastward toward Lewes covering about 5o km of beautiful countryside.

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Devils Dyke the longest dry valley in England

Unlike other walks I’ve done in England and Portugal, this one was not organized by a walking company. I visited the South Downs walk web-site, got some maps, made a first night reservation and set off. Most importantly I packed very light, small back pack and a camera.

I followed the trail with a slight detour (OK so I got a little lost) along the ridge of the Devil’s Dyke enjoying the warm sunshine and the slight mist of low lying fog. On I went, up and down, through villages and farmers fields until I arrived at Pyecombe where I had arrived later than planned. I politely called my accommodation to say I would be late and Sally Brown owner of the Shepherds Hut offered to pick me up at the local pub which rescued me from the dark. Only ten or so minutes from Pyecombe, her lovely farm would have been difficult to find so I was very grateful for the ride. Sally is a great hostess and served an emense full English to get me started on day two.

Day Two

I walked about 16 km through fields and up and over the Downs and back down into the valleys. Lots of other walkers and plenty of livestock to keep me company. Although it was the last of September there were still beautiful gardens and wild flowers and walking along the ridges of the Downs allowed me to look down on the misty fields below.

At Housedean Farm I caught a bus into Lewes which is off the South Downs but I really wanted to see this lovely old village. It is well worth the detour to see the medieval castle, the Tudor buildings and the town garden. I stayed at the White Hart Inn on High Street so I was close to everything I wanted to see. Henry VIII gave Anne of Cleve’s a house in Lewes before he chopped her head off and I even spotted Frida in a shop window sporting a very unenglish unibrow. An interesting display of pre-war children’s books and magazines caught my eye as did Dutch pottery and doors for very short people.

Day 3

On my last day of walking, I managed to return to the South Downs Trail from Lewes. It had rained in the night and some of the paths were muddy but the sun was out and things soon began to dry.

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I walked to Rodmell, the town where Virginia Woolf and her husband had a cottage near the river Ous. This is where Virginia waded in with her pockets full of rocks. The National Trust has opened the house and visitors can see where Virginia spent her last days before her suicide. It was quite stirring to realize that she lived in a time when women were very devalued and those attitudes combined with her immense intelligence must have made life unbearable for her.

Having short distances to cover each day meant I was able to visit and enjoy many of the sights along the way. Definitely something to consider when planning my next walk.

Glasgow – Lancashire

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Museum of Modern Art Glasgow

Flying to Glasgow takes less than an hour from London and the flight was cheap as chips as Dawn would say. In no time, we were off the plane and in a rental car and motoring our way to Dawn’s cousins’, Robert and Julie. In our honour Julie held a kitchen party with all her good friends and it was so much fun meeting so many interesting and wonderful Scottish women.

The next day saw us downtown shopping in all of Dawn’s old favorite spots and although we had only a day we managed to see many of the highlights of Glasgow central and had tea in an old tearoom at the top of a department store. I tried cheese and pickle sandwiches and scotch broth. Sunday night we took Dawn’s cousins out for dinner at the Old Brothy, beautiful interiors and fabulous food. We had a great time and it was late before we got home to Robert and Julie’s lovely row house. It is a good size and they expanded the kitchen to make it one with the dining room. These old houses are cold but with the sitting room door closed and the family cozied up on the couches it is warm enough with a sweater.

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Singer Sewing Machines came from Glasgow

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Christmas time in Glasgow

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Police call box, there when you need them.

Monday, Dawn and Robert went to visit other relatives and Julie took me around to the art gallery. My ignorance of Scottish art and artist is huge and I wish we had spent more time there, but it only means that I have to go back and I have a added Scotland to the “longer visit” list.

Lanchashire

Two years ago I met a mother and son from Lancashire in Nicaraugua. I have kept in touch with Emma Jane and her son Archie and when she saw that I was in the UK she invited me to overnight on my way back to London. Dawn was flying home from Glasgow and I had decided to take the train and so the invitation fit well with my plans. EJ kindly drove 1 1/2 hours to the town of Preston to pick me up and take me home to Lawton her village next to Colm (pronounced COWON). As I arrived early in the afternoon she took me to see the local sights including a castle ruin where the Bronte sisters were said to have frequented as it was within walking distance of their home. The old manor house is said to have served as a model for the manor in Wuthering Heights. Emma was most gracious and made a lovely tea in her terrace house kitchen dating back to the early 1900’s. The area was mainly for wool production and weaving. I met Emma’s parents and they have lived in the area all of their lives. They have a back to back duplex with lovely furnishings and carpeting.

Three weeks in the UK have flown by and now I am winging my way home to what I understand is a frosty, snowy weather system. Kunal is picking me up at the airport and I will fly back to the island tomorrow morning.

 

Brighton by Storm

The wind swirled, the leaves danced and the English Channel erupted onto the beaches of Brighton last night. I know because here in Heathers lovely little flat the windows rattled and the rain hammered. Sounds not unfamiliar for someone from the West Coast of Canada, and just like at home they make for a cozy comfy feeling as you drift off to sleep.

Debbie Huddlestan thank you for having such a warm and welcoming daughter. Heather greeted me at her flat in Hove, had a whole slew of things for us to do and was gracious and fun just like her mother. We cried a few tears in her mother’s memory but we also had some good laughs and we forged a friendship that will last for years to come.

Heather, who was once a student of mine, has been very adventurous. A little girl from Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada, population 5000, she crossed the North Atlantic and has made the UK her home. With a good job and her own flat and a gang of great friends she has built a life for herself full of interesting places and events. I’m so proud of her and I know her mother would be too.

While Heather was still at work on my second day in Hove I was invited to her friends home in Brighton to accompany them to a record shop extravaganza. YES a record shop, as in all vinyl! Alison’s flat was gloriously English. Street level, very narrow hallway leads to office and bathroom and the rest of the space is taken up by very narrow stairs leading up to bedrooms and down to kitchen and sitting room. Of course the building is hundreds of years old and who ever thought some fool would want to wrangle a queen size up the inches wide stairs of a row home. Down the stairs is the kitchen and living area with a beautiful little garden patio for summer. Inside a low ceiling and a gas fire and typically English fittings we returned from the Record store bash for a delicious lamb dinner and plenty of Prosecco.

Brighton itself is home to a famous Pavillion that combines French and Chinese architecture from the 1800s resulting in what became known as Chinoisierie. A synergy of styles, colour and form where the sum of the parts is greater than the hole. I didn’t visit this time as my time with Heather was short and we had lots of other things to do. After a great walk we met up with the “girls” at a 16th pub for bangers and mash, good comfort food for a dark November afternoon.

Sunday lunch is impossible to escape, nor would you want to. Heather and I found a great place after another long walk on the Hove Promenade and settled into roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. All slathered in a delicious gravy and washed down with a pint.

Goodbyes said and promises to stay in touch with Heather and my new friends from Brighton, I am now on the Hove to London Victoria Station train where I will stop up at a rented flat for the next six nights.

Around Oaxaca City

Around Oaxaca City

A Day Trip

The easiest way to see multiple sights in one day is on one of the many small van tours that hit the major locations around Oaxaca. In one day we were able to visit several towns, archeological sites and artisan shops where we saw the famous, green glazed, black and red pottery, tapestries, wood carvings, embroidered and woven textiles and a mescal factory. In addition we were fed a fabulous lunch and sampled several of the famous Oaxacan dishes that make the cuisine of this State some of the most popular in Mexico. We visited Santa Maria del Tule where we saw the 2000 year old Tule tree and later we walked along a mountain ridge overlooking valleys and distant mountains to see a petrified waterfall and to soak in mineral pools high above the valley below. We followed the route to Mitla to see the ruins there and stopped along the way at Yagul and Teotitlan de Valle where we visiting a textile shop where they demonstrated the making of natural dyes used in weaving and embroidery.
Santa Maria del Tulethe 2000 year old tree with faces and stories in the bark!
Tule Tree

Teotitlan de ValleA Visit to a Textile Plant

Carding the wool.

Mortar and pestle for crushing dyes

Woven tapestry

On the loom

Oaxaca State Pattern “Estrella”

Tree of Life

All Natural Colors and Traditional Patterns

Las Tortugas

Dyed Wool

Beautiful Colours

Beautiful Blankets

Modern Look

Frida Kahlo

Beautiful Countryside…Blue Skies and Mescal Making

Mescal Country

Pit for burying cactus.

Grinding the cactus.

Fermenting stage

In the bottle

Local costumes

 Mitla…. Archeological Zona

Oaxacan Cuisine – Moles, Soups, Stews

Part of the tour was this wonderful buffet style lunch at a roadside hacienda. The food was the best of ingredients colour, spicing, texture and flavour that Oaxacan food has to offer.
  

Hierve el Agua – Petrified Waterfalls

Spectacular vistas, mineral pools for cooling off and natural rock formations created by springs leaving deposits of minerals that overtime have created formations that resemble cascadas (waterfalls).

Oaxaca City

 

Windows of Oaxaca

Getting to Oaxaca is great fun in one of the smaller passenger vans that runs between Puerto Escondido’s to Oaxaca City. The ride is pleasant, not too long (about 6 hours) and the views of mountains and valleys are quite spectacular. The vans are an inexpensive and convenient way of getting there as the bigger buses take much longer to get to Oaxaca as they don’t bob and weave their way along the narrow mountain roads as the vans can. A lunch stop about half way breaks things up nicely and the road side eatery frequented by the vans serves good food cooked outside over a wood fire.
 


Oaxaca is magical; markets, museums, and plenty of colonial architecture surrounded by beautiful countryside. Five days in Oaxaca flew by and there was so much to do each day and of course we didn’t get to all the places we hoped to. Between visiting museums wandering the streets and people watching in the Zocalo and various coffee bars and restaurants, we fell in love with Oaxaca and I hope to return for a longer period of time. Nevertheless we squeezed in the main sights starting with the museums.

Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca

This is by far the best museum in Oaxaca and takes you right through the history and cultures of Oaxaca state from pre-Hispanic times.  The museum itself is housed in an old monastery attached to the Templo de Santo Domingo.



Model of the Monastery and the Templo

 

 
 
 

Botanical Gardens

 

 Pre-Hispanic Artifacts
 

 

The Streets of Oaxaca 

Traditional Needle Work Meets Contemporary Stylin

Alena and I

 

 



Dancing in the Zocalo Every Wednesday

Textile Museum

Although this museum has a sparse collection what it does have showcases the famous weaving and patterns that Oaxaca is noted for.

 

Markets Abound

There are many outdoor markets in Oaxaca that sell everything from artisanal crafts, to locally grown produce and natural medicines. Sadly the markets that I remember from the 1970’s are gone and the locally made goods have been replaced by made in China type daily wares and household good, but the markets are still fun to visit and spend time people watching and sampling local cuisine from the food stalls.

 

Zocalo and Cathedral 

 

De Los Pintores Oaxaquenos

A small collection of contemporary paintings is housed in the museum of The Oaxacan Painters. Not a spectacular museum but there were a few amusing paintings that I couldn’t help capturing.