Ah, Valdivia. It’s a beautiful, small city, at the confluence of the Calle-Calle, Valdivia, and Cau-Cau rivers. The weather has been off and on again rainy, mostly in the mid-40’s to mid-50s during the day. This hasn’t bothered me, as I’m prepared with my cold weather gear and the rain has not been a hard downpour. It’s the type of rain that goes from mist to drizzle to a light rain, and then stops again. The sun pokes its head through the clouds every so often. So no day is ever completed ruined by the rain. One must simply wait for it to stop, or not mind getting a bit wet on the way.
The house where I’m staying is lovely and warm and dry – all crucial to surviving in such a climate. I arrived about 9 AM on Monday morning. It was raining (of course), and dark, so I scrapped my original plan to walk and took a taxi instead. How happy am I to be able to tell the driver where I’m going!
As always in Chile, I am welcomed at the door with a smile, an embrace and a kiss on the cheek. The husband and wife who run the house have children my age, and so I immediately feel as if I am a daughter. Patricia tells me to leave my bags in the hallways and ushers me into the kitchen for coffee and bread with butter and jam. There is a beautiful wood stove in the kitchen – a cooking wood stove! This I have never seen, but am fascinated watching her stoke the fire and wondering how she cooks with it. She’s obviously an expert, and the stove has the added benefit of warming the entire room.
Happily ensconced with coffee (ah, it’s Nescafe, but I cannot refuse), hot bread (yes, I know, but I simply cannot refuse her hospitality!) and a bit of conversation, I am feeling much better about the day. I admit I was saddened to arrive to a cold rain outside. A nice warm kitchen with friendly people and hot coffee was exactly the thing to life my spirits. I would later discover that the rain was only temporary.
It doesn’t take much to explore the city. I find the grocery store (critical) and a few other things. I take the next few days to check out the artisan market, the open-air fish and vegetable market (see below) and the History and Anthropological Museum. The open-air fish market was really fun. You can’t tell by the picture, but the shellfish were just incredible. They were selling two different sizes of mussels – I didn’t even know there was such a thing – with one size the usual mussels we see in the U.S. and Brussels, etc. The second was about three times as big – no kidding. I so wished that I had the facilities to try to cook them!
The museum was small, but did tell me that Valdivia was a major German settlement during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Chile actively recruited Germans during this time, and as all Germans do, they brought beer to Chile. The major brewing company still operates out of Valdivia. I also learned a bit more about the native people in the southern part of Chile, the Mapuches. They seemed to have had a significant silver smith capability, with jewelry developed to symbolize one’s family heritage and composition.
I made some friends on my daily run along the river (see below). Well, I think I made friends. I said hello to them each time I passed by, but from the sounds of it, they were more likely conducting a well-rehearsed familial argument with each other rather than bothering to greet me. 😉 Ah well, it was fun to see them just the same. They were there every day.
One afternoon, I indulged a bit by visiting a local seafood restaurant. I have rarely gone out to eat while I’ve been in Chile. I prefer to cook at home, and I’m not much for eating out by myself anyway. However, a friend in Vina del Mar highly recommended that I visit Entre Mar y Tierra (Between Sea and Earth, literally). So I went, and enjoyed an absolutely lovely salmon and shellfish dish with some white wine. (picture below) It was one of the three best meals I’ve had in Chile and I would absolutely go back.
Oh, and it is here that I decide there is one sure way to get someone to smile, and be a bit more patient with one’s faltering Spanish. Ask a sincere, targeted question about how to say something. In this case, I was asking about different sizes of wine bottles. Serious question, no? My waiter had been nice and helpful before that, but he was much more considerate after that. Full sentences, whatever they may be, really seem to make an impact on how much someone is willing to help.
Tomorrow, I am headed to Concepcion, and back to the coast. I have missed the Pacific Ocean, though it’s only been a short time. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!