Chile annexed Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in 1888, and the only way to fly in to there is on the Chilean national airline, LAN. So we were obliged to stop over in Santiago, Chileís capital, on the way to Rapa Nui.
We were pleasantly surprised. Though many aspects of Santiago were similar to large cities in other South American, or even European, countries, one thing that stood out were the multitudes of stray dogs which, despite being homeless, seemed very well cared for. Apparently this is the nature of the Chilean people (we saw it on Rapa Nui too), and I find that somehow very comforting. The people we encountered on the streets seemed very friendly and genuinely concerned, though their main message was usually "be careful or youíll be pick-pocketed!"
We were in excellent hands following Greg and Vickiís lead throughout this entire trip. Greg had been in Santiago and Rapa Nui before, and Vicki always does her homework, so no matter where we went and no matter what we ate or drank, it was always great!
A prime example of this was our side trip to Valparaiso, about an hour and a half northwest of Santiago. Valparaiso, one of Chileís most important port cities, is built on dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each hillside is covered with narrow, winding cobblestone streets with colorful "graffiti" murals and even more colorful, eclectic houses. The few pictures we have posted do not begin to do it justice.
In Valparaiso we visited the ultimate colorful, eclectic house: Casa de Isla Negra, which was owned by Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda. The house was built to resemble a ship, in a quirky sort of way, each room housing a different collectible theme. Neruda was clearly a passionate (some say obsessive-compulsive) collector of objects as diverse as glass, seashells, butterflies, maps, even actual ship figureheads. I think we all came away feeling a lot better about our own houses!
Throughout the trip we enjoyed excellent food and beverages, including amazing coffee everywhere. To avoid "travel problems" with fresh milk, we were careful to drink our coffee black. I was surprised and pleased to find myself really enjoying it. However, when we got home I tried to drink black coffee at the office, and I almost gagged. Apparently, it has to be really good coffee!