When we left for this trip last winter, my parents were set on coming to visit. We talked a lot regarding timing, country preference and general activities. We finally ended up with a solid plan for them to spend two weeks travelling 1200 miles around Chile with us. I apologize in advance for the daily info and lots of photos, this post is more for them than anyone this time.
We picked them up in Santiago the first morning and they were more than ready to adventure. Bob called riding shotgun fair and square but was tasked with discovering the intricacies of our terrible GPS (nonexistent streets and a serious lag time, just to name a few) and we spent the first 45 minutes of the vacation mapping through central Santiago while Linda and I sat in the back enjoying the “tour”. We had found a great little Airbnb rental in the city and spent two days enjoying the small neighborhoods, great food and wine and finding empanadas each day. While in Santiago, we took a northern detour to the small town of Los Andes. Bob had requested from day one that we find the best view of the 22,837 foot peak of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia, all without crossing over into Argentina.
After Santiago it was wine time! We drove south to the Colchagua Valley to the town of Santa Cruz. We stayed at the most beautiful B&B on the outside of town, with a river on the back of the property and blueberry fields out front. We ended up having the four bedroom home to ourselves and were able to hang out on the terrace, cook our own meals and fall asleep and wake up to a glowing fireplace every day. That Sunday we toured and tasted at three wineries, Montes, Lapostolle, and Viu Manet. The tasting was broken up by a long lunch on the grounds of Viu Manet, before the third tour. The weather could not have been better and all the wineries differed in style and wines, but were wonderful. The night continued on with pasta, more wine, and talks of politics, future and family. We even snuck in some family photos. Sorry Mark, you were there in spirit.
From the wine region we drove to the coast, to Pichilemu. Our hotel had a main building decorated with rough woods, linens and local goods and each little bungalow had a beach front porch. We spent two slow days talking about house plans, walking along the beach and, of course, enjoying the wine we had just bought. And clearly we ate a lot of seafood. It was a last minute decision to go to the coast and we were all so happy to have found the little oasis in Punta de Lobos. It was pretty hard to pull Linda away from her beach bungalow.
Our drive days for this leg of the trip were always limited to about 3-5 hours max. With the two extra bodies and luggage weight we didn’t want to overdo it for Pedro and we wanted to keep everyone comfortable. That being said we planned on a night in Chillan to cut down the driving hours on our way south. The road from the coast to return inland was beautiful countryside. We stopped in San Javier for a quick lunch and an impromptu tasting at Balduzzi’s vineyard in town. We really enjoyed the wines and Bob bought one grand reserve cab on a whim. It turned out to be a 2010 and $11 so they decided as we drove down the street in Pedro that we needed to open the five year old bottle to see if we should buy more before getting any further. Eric ran to get empanadas as we sat in the back drinking and deciding whether or not the wine met Bob and Linda’s expectations. Turns out we purchased a half case. In Chillan, our hotel was the same place where the under 18 World Cup team was for the night, so there was no surprise when Eric and Bob opened the elevator door to find it stuffed to the brim with jerseys, team members and equipment. That evening we went to a small café for pizza and beers. After chatting with the owners it turned out that they were from Concord, a neighboring town of where I grew up in Northern California. The world seems so small sometimes. It was really fun to hear the story of how their family got into the blueberry farming business and how their passion for baking turned into a full service café in Chillan, Chile.
The next stop after Chillan was as far east as we would go with the Szymanski’s. Before heading out of town we stopped at a large market in Chillan. It was really fun for them to experience the market environment, pick up some gifts and walk through the food stalls. Along the way we stretched our legs at a waterfall right off of the highway. We discovered a gem of a place in between Curacautin and Lonquimay. We found the Hotel Suizandina on iOverlander and we were excited to spend a few nights camping in Pedro while my parents were cozy in their separate bottom bunks. We stayed two nights in the area. The property itself was beautiful with great staff, llamas and alpacas roaming the grounds, and amazing Swiss food choices for dinner. We taught Bob and Linda a new card game, Cambio, and sadly dad was cursed with a losing streak which got funnier with each game. We hiked around in the Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello for some beautiful views of Volcan Lonquimay. Also we drove to the town of Lonquimay on a hunt for a specific artisan shop, but mainly just to go through a really long tunnel and enjoy the views of the lush, green valley.
Our next and last stop was our longest. We planned four days in the Lake Villarica and Pucon area. We rented a two bedroom cabin with a wood burning stove and an incredible view of the lake. We truly enjoyed just hanging out, having wine and cheese every evening, and talking and playing cards. Our first night in the cabin we went outside after dark to view the Volcano Villarica and were so surprised to see a red glow coming from the top. It was a sight none of us had ever seen. About an hour later we felt an earthquake and at that point started wondering about our current location and the best route for escaping lava. In reality we were obviously fine, but it was an unnerving feeling to be that close to such an active area! The next day we went for a hike around Villarica National Park. Our first trail started at the Ski Pucon lodge and ended where the dirt and mud turned to snow. The second hike was around the base of the volcano with a view of the other side. The roads were a bit rough for backseat passengers but the perfect weather and vistas made up for it.
Pucon itself is a really great little town, with a lot of good restaurants, boutique hotels, cafes and cabins. It was fun to walk around for many hours and see how many yarn skeins Linda could purchase and try to fit in her bag. Eric took it upon himself to set up an official tasting for our second to last evening in the cabin. We had three bottles, an appetizer feast and lots of laughs. For our last night of the trip we moved over to a beautiful retro hotel right on the lake. The rooms were dated but left that way on purpose, with photos of Queen Elizabeth and other older celebrities on the walls. We also took a small day trip to a nearby waterfall. Dinner that night was a celebration of the trip as a whole and also Bob’s birthday, as it was the next day. We soaked up the last time to spend with my parents until we return home and also squeezed out the last bit of spoiling at a lovely spa and hotel for a while!
Overall we were so happy to have visitors. To spend 14 days in close quarters with your parents, and in-laws for that matter, can be taxing but I know each of us had an amazing time. Bob and Linda were generous, fun and up for most anything. While Pedro did get pretty jam packed with luggage and items at the end, it was still a time filled with memories we won’t forget.
Now they’re back at home and jealous as we are continuing south to Argentina!