4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the category “Chile”

Northern Migration (by Nathan)

Recoleta Cemetary

In January I began my southern migration. I escaped the constant 60 degrees of San Francisco for the sun and summertime of South America. I was excited to begin work on improving my Spanish and I was ready to live and travel through countries and cultures of which I had only a cursory knowledge.  The plan was to roam from city to city with an open mind, a loose pocket book and a constant curiosity to explore and enjoy the differences in these countries.  After four months of adventure, Carmen and I would return to California ready to embark on another journey.

Fugazza and Faina Pizza

Açai breakfast

Our trip began in Buenos Aires with food, activities and cultures that stood up to any great city. The fugazza pizza was deliciously unique with thick doughy crust, creamy cheese and heaps of oven caramelized onions.  El Cuartito was the best, and I think Rick agreed. I would return for the pizza and empanadas and all the beautiful streets that BsAs has to offer.

Sunset on Ipanema Beach, Rio

Carmen and the sands of Rio

We traveled through Uruguay and into Brazil. Rio de Janiero was everything that I love in a travel destination. Beaches stretched endlessly with the urban landscape pressed right up against the sand.  The culture is vibrant with dance, music and tropical foods.  The açai and fresh fruit drinks stand out as an epitome of fresh summertime delights. The country is a mix of indigenous, Europeans, Africans and Asians, a familiar mix to the United States so we felt welcomed as foreigners.  We could swim, climb a mountain and go dancing all in one day.  I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of the favelas as well as peering down into the city from the many vistas.

Fun at Lapa steps

Iguazú Waterfalls

We worked our way through Brazil’s vast landscape.  We visited the breathtaking waterfalls in Iguazú that roared unbelievably over the cliffs edge. We baked in in the sun on Ihla do Mel on coastal Brazil and we jointed friends in Santiago Chile.  We bussed our way over the Andes into Mendoza for a day or two (or three) of wineries, biking and empanadas. We explored German settled villages and the bigger cities of Córdoba and Salta. It was the canyons that really captured my heart.

Fun light fixture at our hostel

El castillo en Quebrada de Cafayate

Another one of my favorite cities was the charming Cafayate in Argentina.  We sipped wine at several walk able bodegas. We hiked through beautiful canyons and cliff formations.  And most often, we enjoyed strolling through the cozy town.  With a simple town square and food market our time here was relaxing and satisfying.

Jumping off rocks at valle de rocas

Fun on the salt flats

Another bus brought us into Bolivia. The country is poor with struggle, but thriving with cheap delicious food, unforgettable sights and nice helpful people.  One of my favorite experiences of the entire trip was the four day trek into the Salar De Uyuni.We visited brightly colored lagoons, spectacular volcanic rocks and salt flats that made us act silly with our new friends. The home-cooked Bolivian food was excellent and every day I wanted to take the little woman home with me to teach me everything she knows in the kitchen.

Painted desert in Bolivia

Salt harvesting

We continued high into the mountains. The cities of Potosí and Sucre were wonderful places to learn about Bolivia, South America and the indigenous people that lived here for thousands of years.  La Paz contained the best market that we experienced in South America.  This was because the stalls could not be contained by any building and instead flowed out on the streets in every direction.  It was mayhem and delight simultaneously. I loved it!

The best market streets is in La Paz

We biked down mountains in La Paz and hiked islands of Lake Titicaca. A festival in Copacabana engaged our feet and sent us running for cover from fireworks.  Bolivia has a rustic, untamed, and raw quality to it that flaunts colorful traditions with people that are genuine and kind.

Street in Arequipa

When we had finally made our way into Peru our bellies began being stuffed to the brim with constant feasts of amazing food.  Arequipa was the best food city we went to in South America.  There was ceviche, alpaca, rocoto rellenos, chicharrones and fresh fruit smoothies. We found something delicious everywhere we went.  The city had beautiful architecture and the nearby Colca Canyon was great for hiking.

Arequipa food market

Our history lesson continued when we finally arrived in Cusco.  The city is packed with nearby ruins and a brutal history where the mighty Incas were decimated by the Spanish. One downfall of Cusco and Peru is that very few sights have accessible tourist information.  There are an abundance of guides, that costs, entry fees are high and there are many sights to see which makes Peru a challenge for tourists on a budget.  But with friends it is all worth it.

Machu Picchu

On our Machu Picchu trek we went all out with excellent cooks, porters, equipment and a guide.  I think I liked the walking and hiking just as much as the ruins.  We walked for six days climbing snow covered passes, jungles and high altitude wetlands.  We stuffed ourselves on Peruvian favorites and we laughed until we hurt playing card games into the night.  We wondered around countless ruins out doing one another in jumping photos and we caravanned up and down the mountainsides. Machu Picchu in itself is a spectacular piece of history and archeology.  We combined it with Salkantay, the Inca Trail and friends for an unforgettable adventure.

Carmen patiently waiting for me to finish the photo

Our final city in Peru was LimaThe time spent there was brief, but the amounts of ceviche consumed copious.  Ponte de Azul ceviche stands out as one of my favorite meals.  The fish was firm and fresh and the juice sour and spicy.  In the blink of an eye Lima was over and we were boarding a plane saying goodbye to this Lima, Peru and South America.

Every vacation involves exploring new places, having adventures and creating memories.  The challenge and fun of any vacation for Carmen and me is that we leave with a longer list of places to see and immerse ourselves into next time.  Our next trip to South America would focus on exploring the natural side of this continent.  Patagonia tops our list of “must sees.”  We did not want to lug around our carpas and sacos de dormir (tents and sleeping bags) this trip.  So next time we plan on several weeks of hiking and back-country camping.  We want to see the coasts of Peru and Colombia known for beautiful beaches.  And finally we want to see more of Brazil- Belem is supposedly vibrant and bountiful with Amazonian foods and culture.  In no way did we calm our enjoyment of Brazilian rhythms and dance; we want more samba!

Outside the airport, our last minutes in Peru

There are so many places to visit; each city or village opens new possibilities of adventure.  We walk everywhere and we eat everything; that is what 4feet2mouths is all about.  Our love for travel has taken us to the other side of the world.  And as fall sets on South America we land in Los Angeles ready for new adventures, more exotic countries, more tiring hikes and street food that will leave our mouths searing and tingling.  Traveling is too much fun to stop now.  Do you want to join us?

One of my favorite photos: Congresso reflection, BsAs

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The Best Bus Ride Ever (by Carmen)

Valley and creek

Valley and creek

Long bus rides come with the territory when traveling in South America.  Extremely long in some cases – I’m talking 24 hours or more!  Nathan and I have avoided such journeys, keeping our trips to 10 hours or less.  On some of our longer journeys we take an overnight to save on money and time.  These can actually be quite comfortable with seats that recline nearly flat.  But there are some bus rides worth being awake for. Such is the case with the trip from Santiago to Mendoza.

Andes cliffs

Andes cliffs

A few years ago my cousin traveled around South America.  She endured numerous bus hours but one trip in particular stuck out in her mind: Santiagoto Mendoza. Ever since, I’ve actually been looking forward to the eight hour journey.  (Thanks Adri!) The two cities are separated by the Andes. It’s a mean job for the bus to get up and over these mountains, but for us it made for spectacular views. 

A ribbon of road

A ribbon of road

Glacier in the distance

Glacier in the distance

As the bus trudged up switchback after switchback our eyes were practically glued to the windows.  We were enveloped by high cliffs carved by the swift river running alongside the road.  Glaciers peeked out from distant mountain peaks.  The drama of it all made the ride feel much shorter than it actually was.  Bring on the 24 hour bus trip!  Ok, not really but we are looking forward to more scenic drives through northwest Argentina.

Valley with mossy river

Valley with mossy river

Tall Andes valley

Terremotos in Santiago (by Nathan)

View from Santa Lucía

View from Santa Lucía

Sometimes the best way to see a city is with friends by your side.  When those friends live in foreign countries, even better!  Santiago is a flourishing city wrapped with steep mountains and bustling with 50% of Chile’s population.  Many of the best sights and food are only known to locals, so we were excited to temporarily move in with our friends Bobby and Stephanie.

Vinyards and Chilean flag

Vineyards and Chilean flag

Lunch at Bodega Isidrio

Lunch at Bodega Isidrio

The last time we were together we had a great time exploring the wineries of Napa Valley.  For our first day in Santiago, we decided to repeat the experience with a day trip to visit the Casablanca wine region as well as the coast.  There are few better Saturdays than sipping on wine and going to the beach, so we had a perfect day planned.  On a beautiful morning we rented a car and ascended from Santiago to find a valley lush with grape vines.  Our first stop was Emiliana Organic Vineyards.  The excellent tasting took place in a beautiful glass, wood and stone building.  We bought two deliciously inexpensive bottles and we were on to the second winery.  Cerro San Isidro is a modern, bleach white villa perched on the hillside.  Overlooking the valley we enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Viña Beach

Viña Beach

Back in the car and we were on our way through the mountains and then dropping in the colorful beachside communites of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso.  We enjoyed a walk along the beach boardwalk of Viña.  We sipped pineapple juice, ate churros and admired the local crafts.

Valparaíso Streets

Valparaíso Streets

Valparaíso overlook

Valparaíso overlook

A short subway ride away (yes, they have a subway) and we were in Valparaíso.  This small town has a colorful charm, steep hillsides with boxy buildings clinging to the slope.  The streets are cobblestone and every visible wall and surface is artfully painted with murals.  The art was political, scenic, cultural and sometimes just tagging.  But the graphic images gave the city an intriguing sense of place that was fun to explore.

Backyard Asado

Backyard Asado

A late night drive brought us back to Santiago.  We were able to experience an excellent day trip only possible with local friends.  The next day we tagged along to a backyard asado (BBQ) and birthday party that rocked our world with a wonderful home-cooked meal.  First there was pisco sour made awesomely pink and delicious with imported Arizona tuna (cactus apple).  The main course was a fall off the bone lamb cooked in an stone oven then finished over coals and a brine bath.  Sebastian and Laura were excellent hosts.  Great food and a chance to speak Spanish with some interesting Chileans made for a special afternoon.

Parque Forestal

Parque Forestal

Ice cream from Emporio La Rosa

Ice cream from Emporio La Rosa

There are more than enough activities to keep busy for a few days here.  We were staying in the Las Condes area that had a beautiful rose-lined park. Close to the center the slender Parque Forestal offered Parisian-like strolls and locally crafted ice cream.  We enjoyed frutas del bosque (forest fruits) and thai ginger. 

Santiago and its smog

Santiago and its smog

There are a few vistas in the city, but be warned that the air quality is pretty bad.  Santiago is surrounded by mountains that offer crisp snowcapped views in the winter, but in the summer the smog and dust becomes trapped, entombed by the mountains waiting for a storm to clear it out.  Unfortunately our timing in Santiago was one of those bad air times.  With our throats raspy and our skin scaly we climbed the Cerro de Cristóbal.  We were surprised to find that we could only see a third of the city.   In the center of the city we walked to Cerro Santa Lucía and we found an urban look at Santiago under the smog.

Kai hidden Thai restaurant

Kai hidden Thai restaurant

There were many great places that we found only because of our friends Bobby and Stephanie.  Kai is this vibrantly colorful and ornate Thai restaurant   There was no sign, no entrance, but we walked through an unmarked doorway and found some deliciously spicy food.  It’s funny how I miss certain flavors, and finally after weeks of travel Bobby and Stephanie showed me a place to excite my spicy taste buds.

First round of terremotos

First round of terremotos

From one hidden door restaurant to the Chilean drinking hall of La Piojera we were welcomed into a new community of expat and Chilean friends.  It was an initiation into the Chilean culture with cheek kisses and a round of terremotos (earthquakes).  La Piojera definitely makes the ground feel like it’s moving as they scoop an iceberg of pineapple sorbet into a goblet of white wine and top it with a downpour of syrupy mead-like liqueur.  The end result: an off-the-richter drink!

The name terremoto is very apt and almost taunting because, like California, Chile has its share of ground shaking.  To our benefit they have a good grasp on their earthquake engineering.  One shaker caught us on the 25th floor of Bobby and Stephanie’s apartment.  We stood there frozen and watching the building sway against the horizon.

The politically exciting Bar Clinic

The politically exciting Bar Clinic

But the earthquake didn’t stop us from enjoying a few more drinks.  Bar Clinic delivered an excitingly political atmosphere and a few local draft beers for us to enjoy the afternoon sun in downtown.  The walls were decorated with odd parodies and humor reminiscent of “The Onion.”  Close by there were a few nice museums and plazas that dotted the city.  Unfortunately the pre-Columbian museum that we were excited about was closed for renovations.  We settled on the eye opening Botero exhibit on Abu Ghraib which coincidently enough was on loan from the Berkeley Art Museum.

Sizzling shrimp and garlic

Sizzling shrimp and garlic

Santiago has a culinary dish that we frequently spied on other tables.  They grill up tiny shrimp in butter, garlic and optional chili peppers in a small cast-iron pan.  It is delivered sizzling on the table.  Each shrimp turns bright red, perfectly cooked and succulent.  We liked it so much that we ate it twice, once at the excellent restaurant Galindo and then again at the seafood market.

Fresh seafood market

Fresh seafood market

The fresh food market in downtown Santiago is enormous.  Carmen and I spent hours roaming the aisles of meats and produce and we did not nearly see all of it.  The first of the markets is the fresh seafood.  Fifty or so vendors and another fifty or so restaurants called out to us as we walked by.  They held up huge pieces of salmon and others showed off their practically alive mackerel.  We settled for the tiny, perfect little shrimp.

Vega herbs

Vega herbs

Vega vegetables

Vega vegetables

Across the street is where the craziness of fresh food begins.  The first building is relatively empty and almost fooled us, except that this is where we found all the locals eating their farm to table fill of local meats and vegetables.  Further on there are a series of buildings and warehouses each with dense stalls of vendors.  This area is called La Vega (the field).  We found a vendor selling thirty types of peppers, another tomatoes, and another showed a seemingly life-cycle display of the onion.  He had mounds of chives, perfect green onions and even bright purple and plump onions, to complete the family huge leeks overflowed their crate.  We were most excited for the paltas (avocados) which were tender and ready to eat for only $1/lb.  There were dried fruit vendors, grains in bulk and, of course, meat.  Huge sections were devoted to poultry or beef and occasionally we’d see a rack of lamb.  All cuts were displayed their glass cases and ready to take home to cook.

Back in the kitchen

Back in the kitchen

Chilean avocados

Chilean avocados

We wandered through the fresh food market gaining inspiration for a delicious meal.  We picked the spiciest peppers, colorful quinoa, and a mix of plump veggies.  Back at the apartment, we cooked a feast and shared some wine.  A home cooked meal that was perfectly fitting end to our days in Santiago.  Thank you to our wonderful hosts, Bobby and Stephanie!

Shrimp over quinoa and fruit salad

Shrimp over quinoa and fruit salad

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