Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Beginning of the End of the Vacation

Here's the problem with the last few days of vacation. If you're anything like me, you probably start vacation with a list of things you put off until you have some free time. I'll write a blog post. I'll read that book I meant to read for work, but it was too boring and I was too tired to stay awake while school was in session. I'll teach my daughter to read. Then, the free time rolls around, and I feel like I've earned some time to do absolutely nothing.

For two months.

That's right. The most productive thing I've done this summer is clean the turtle tank.

Don't get me wrong.  We entertained guests and traveled to new parts of Chile. It's been a blast. But, now I feel like I need to have this burst of productivity to make up for being a huge slacker.

So, in order to get my ass back in gear, I'm going to tackle one of the jobs I had laid out for myself, which is to share some of what we learned and experienced this summer.

Looking back, it was a lot. I'm positive that it was considerably less than what most of our friends did. But, after the year we had, it's a miracle we got out of bed these last 8 weeks. My parents and sister visited, so we did out best to run them ragged. Rob went to New Jersey for 9 days to prepare our former summer house for rental. Because we're in the Southern Hemisphere, our summer is now January and February, and there's no way we're spending our summer in New Jersey when it's ten degrees outside. Rob's mother visited for 9 days. She just left this evening, and I'm pretty sure she's officially done enough adventuring to hold her for a while.

I tried to think about my favorite part of the summer. What would I take off tomorrow to do again? I have to say the wineries. I haven't found the Chilean beach that I truly love just yet, although I'm more than happy to keep looking. Valparaiso is great, but I feel like I need to go again to learn more about the best way to experience it. There's so much trial and error in visiting a place for the first time. But, the wineries are fabulous every time, regardless of how many times you've been to one. Yes, the presence  of wine helps, but the whole package is fantastic.

When my parents were here, we went to Santa Cruz, mostly because a colleague of ours runs a hotel and restaurant there. It's a family operation. Her daughter is an amazing Italian chef, and they work together to keep everything running smoothly. Both the restaurant and hotel are called Vino Bello. If you live in Chile or are planning a visit,I recommend the trip to Santa Cruz.

We really weren't thinking about wineries when we booked that trip. Once we were there, though, it dawned on us that we should find something to do besides play in the pool. We ended up taking a tour of Viu Manent. We knew very little about growing wine grapes, so the tour was perfect for us. The tour of the vineyards is in a horse-drawn carriage. The guide was personable. We tasted wines at the end. If you've visited wineries anywhere, I'm sure you know the drill. We did the same thing in Italy years ago, and it was similar, so we had an idea of what to expect.

But, I have to say, there was something especially enchanting about Viu Manent. The grounds are welcoming, green, and lush. It truly feels like an estate. There's a restaurant adjacent to the main building, so you can follow up your tour with a leisurely lunch under a trellis covered with grape vines. I really respond well to food and wine in a gorgeous setting. This lunch was  straight out of my fantasies of how I'll live when I have a big house in wine country with a long table out back, laid out with food and wine for all my friends and family.

When Rob's mom came, we toured Vina Undurraga. It's about an hour south of Santiago, so it's a perfect day trip. Again, we had a great guide who know the business inside and out. It was interesting that on both trips we had very knowledgeable guides, but there was very little repetition in the information.

Undurraga is still on the original site, where the Undurraga family home was years ago. The buildings and gardens are fantastic.

There was no carriage ride or lunch, but it was still a trip I would do again.

I won't even begin to analyze the wines. My knowledge is limited to my personal preferences. I have yet to try a Chilean wine that wasn't great. For me, late harvest wines are too sweet, but other than that, I've enjoyed everything that I've tried.

Instead, here's Maya sneaking grapes at Undurraga.

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