Inspired by Chileans – My ‘New’ New Year’s Resolution
I went to the airport to pick up our group of “interesting, imaginative and adventurous” travelers (that language was from our brochure). It was the first time I’d met some of them and instantly knew we would be a good conglomeration of personalities.
Standing in the international arrivals area waiting for the group, one thing became perfectly clear – Chileans really know how to welcome friends and family home. With enthusiasm and passion. With love. With excitement. Just once I would like my family to wait for me at the airport and when I come through the arrivals door – run to me, throw their arms around me, rock back and forth, cry with joy that I am safe and here and in their arms. Wait in a line to take turns to hug me, take pictures of me, give me flowers and toys and kisses all at the same time. My newest New Year’s resolution? To welcome my family in this manner all the time – when they come back from a trip, when they come home from school, when they leave one room in the house and come into the room where I am. I shall greet them the Chilean way – and leave no room for doubt that they are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me.
Needless to say, I was quite taken with the scene I saw over and over again in the 1.5 hours I was waiting for the group to arrive. Which they finally did – and I still feel a bit bad about not welcoming them in a way I knew was de rigeur in Santiago. Next trip. Next group. I swear.
One gal’s luggage did not show up (after traveling to London, it finally caught up with us 3 days later). She was an extremely good sport about it – a good sign. A quick hotel check in and lunch and we were off to see the city and have our first “date” with one of the stars of the trip – Pablo Neruda. We visited his Santiago home “La Chascona” (the wild haired woman) and began our little journey into his poetry by seeing this house built like a ship and filled with his collections of everything from bottles to statues to his Nobel Prize.
From there down Avenue Bernardo O’Higgens (the leader of Chilean independence and, let’s face it, one of the all-time great names for a South American hero), to La Moneda, to the Plaza de Armas square it was a quick tour. We went up the hill to Parque Metropolitano and walked around to see the views of the city – though getting up by funicular didn’t work out (too long a line) and getting down by cable car didn’t either (too long a line). One thing that did work was our first introduction to the wines of Chile at the restaurant on San Cristobal Hill by a charming, young sommelier. It was here we heard our first, but certainly not last, passionate wine lover/expert/maker/promoter of Chilean wines. We learned and tasted and got the first tiny taste (pun intended) of how important wine was to Chile. We were hooked. Dinner that night was at Casa Neruda – out in the candlelit garden (I’m sure the poet would have loved it – and would have romanced someone there if he had the chance). But instead of the poet, we got the restaurant owner, a former actor – who brought us into he cellar and read “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” (a.k.a. Puedo Escribir los Versos Mas Tristes Esta Noche) in Spanish. “I simply cannot read Neruda in English – no matter – you will understand the meaning from just hearing the words” which was actually true. Dramatic, romantic, sexy – an apt description of the poem and the interpreter as well. Ahhhhh. Another fine introduction to Neruda – helped along by (quite) a bit of Chilean wine.