Friday, December 8, 2017

Santiago and Valparaíso for Chilean Culture, then a brief stop in the US

After our cycling trip in Patagonia we flew to Santiago, the capital of Chile, for a few days. We met our cycling friends Connie and Günter for dinner at La Calma, a wonderful seafood restaurant.

Kristina ordered caldillo de congrio, delicious conger eel chowder, a favorite dish of Pablo Neruda’s. (We’ll include more on Neruda later in this blog.)

We had read about a new restaurant named De Patio and were excited to try the chef’s 11 course tasting menu.

We knew we were in for a treat when the drinks we were offered included house made komboucha with chicha morada, a Peruvian drink made from fermented corn. It was very carbonated and tangy.

This is Benjamin Nast, the Chef at De Patio. He spent a lot of time with us, sharing the details of how the dishes were made and answering all our questions.

This photo shows the first four dishes in the tasting menu. Benjamin’s humorous take on ‘cotton candy’ was made rich by including caviar and beef fat. We loved the salad of shiitakes, smoked cherry tomatoes, snails and a coastal succulent that was juicy and salty. Pete especially liked the salt-cured covina fish, cucumber and daikon pickled in egg-white because the flavors were very fresh. We were both delighted with zucchini 'spaghetti', clams (poached for 30 secs), and Asian chimmichuri topped with frozen avocado shavings.

We sat at the bar so we could watch the cooks in action. Here they are plating the shiitake and snail salad.

Benjamin worked with a disciple of Ferrán Adriá in Spain, so he’s got some amazing cooking chops. This merluza pil-pil was a new take on the Basque classic pil-pil. The sauce was made of salted and dried merluza fish that was cooked to release its fat, then emulsified into a silky foam. A freshly poached piece of merluza was served atop the pil-pil sauce, wow!

The portions were small, giving us enough to really taste each dish without feeling stuffed. Kristina looks happy to try the pork belly slider. The pork was cooked sous-vide then grilled, and served with pickled cabbage and Chilean smoked peppers on house-made brioche bun.

It takes a lot of cooks to make the complex dishes at De Patio.

The dish we had read about that made us go to De Patio was bone marrow topped with oysters and pickled shallots. We are bone marrow fans, and the inclusion of the oysters added a fresh taste to the rich marrow.

We finished with dessert that was rich but not overly sweet. Benjamin's humor came out in his fried egg on toast with a sausage link.

We went to Piso Uno, Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant that offered a set lunch menu. This is the salmon salad appetizer.

Kristina had merluza over risotto with egg as her main course.

And Pete enjoyed the tiny trés leches cake for dessert.

We noticed that hot dogs are very popular in Chile, so one day we decided to try some. Called Vienesas here, they are offered with a dozen different toppings, including with eggs and onions, red peppers, avocado and mayonaise.

Only a few historical buildings from the Spanish colonial period remain in the city, because Santiago – like the rest of the country – is regularly hit by earthquakes. Teatro Municipal was built in 1857 in a neoclassical style includes where operas are preformed.

We got inexpensive tickets to see Aida, and we enjoyed it.

Our Airbnb was in the charming Barrio Lastarria neighborhood.

We noticed this sign on the apartment building that said the Socialist President Salvador Allende had lived here.

We took a tour of Palacio de La Moneda, where the Chilean President lives and conducts the business of running Chile.

We surreptitiously took a selfie to get a photo of one of the guards while we were waiting for the tour to start.

In 1973 there was a US backed military coup d'etat and Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende’s socialist government to start a 17-year dictatorship. 

La Moneda was bombed during the coup, and Salvador Allende chose to commit suicide rather than be captured and humiliated by Pinochet's troops. Outside the Presidential Palace was this memorial to Allende.

We went to Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, the Memorial and Human Rights Museum. We were able to listen to Allende’s last address to the nation that he broadcast nationally on the last non-compromised radio station during the air-raid attacks on the Presidential Palace. It was a very moving speech.

The museum opened in 2010 to show the timeline of Pinochet's dictatorship and the human rights violations committed by his regime during his 17 year rule.

At the Santiago Cemetery we went to the memorial for the more than 38,000 victims of Pinochet's terror.

Known as Patio 29, it was an unmarked mass grave while Pinochet was the dictator of Chile.

There were still graffiti commemorating the victims.

There was also a huge memorial for Salvador Allende.

The cemetary is one of South America's largest with over 2 million burials and covering 85 hectares (210 acres). There were many mature trees including these Araucaria Araucana (monkey puzzle) trees like we had seen in Patagonia.

In this part of the cemetary were the simple graves. We noticed so many flowers and colorful decorations, and we felt it was the most living cemetary we had ever seen.

We visited the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile campus to check out the modern architecture. Architect Alejandro Aravena’s Siamese Towers building, a workshop building for the School of Architecture, was completed in 2003.

This is the Innovation Center that was also designed by Aravena and built in 2014. Aravena won the Pritzker prize for architecture in 2016, and he was the first Chilean to win this award.

Santiago has plenty of contemporary architecture.

This is the Great Santiago Tower, the tallest building in Ibero-America that is part of the Costanera Center complex.

We discovered street art around Santiago. These two huge murals were done by INTI. He is Chilean and his street artist name is in homage to the Incan sun god and his Chilean ancestry. 

Barrio Bellavista neighborhood had several street artworks by James Murosky. We have an affinity for bird street art like this cool Kingfisher.

We liked this quote and mural by Murosky, "If they can, why can’t we?"

We walked up the Hill San Cristóbal to visit Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago, There we saw several artworks featuring him, including this mosaic tile piece by Paula Guerra.

This whimsical mural was at the top of the hill.

Kristina is in front of the entrance to La Chascona, one of three homes of Neruda’s. La Chascona is a Quechua word meaning tangled mane, and is named after his third wife Matilde Urrutia.

Diego Rivera was friends with Pablo Neruda, and he painted Matilde’s portrait, which hangs in the living room.

When Neruda left his second wife he bought the land next door to La Chascona and built on to the house. The living room was especially charming with its egg-shaped fireplace and support columns of logs.

We noticed Pablo and Matilde’s initials as window guards, along with the La Chascona suns. 

Outside and inside Neruda’s house we saw his ‘logo’. 

And there were fish paintings on some of the walls. Neruda loved the sea, and his two other houses are near the ocean.

We liked this quote about La Chascona: "It appears as a house of fairytales, an enchanted garden hanging over the city."

Across a courtyard was another building that housed the bar for socializing.

The house was filled with lots of quirky artifacts collected by Neruda throughout his life, like these huge shoes.

The stonework was wonderful, as were the unique doors.

Kristina posed by this miniature door, but we weren’t allowed access to the reading room through it. We watched the movie Neruda and learned about his life in the ’50s when he was a senator who was impeached for his socialist views and exiled from Chile.

This is the reading room, a cozy space with a stone mosaic fireplace. Neruda returned to Chile in 1952. He won the Nobel Prize in 1971. He's one of our favorite poets.

Neruda had homes in Valparaíso and Isla Negra. We made a day trip to Valparaíso, which is located 120km west of Santiago. Kristina is in front of the Arco Britanico gate that was erected in 1910 to mark the centennial of Chile's independence from Spain. 

Valparaíso is often called Valpo for short, and was built on 41 hills.

Pablo Neruda loved the peace of Valpo, and behind us is his second home that he bought in 1959. The house was named La Sebastian after the original owner. Here's another quote we liked, "The same spirit that brings Neruda’s poetry to life is also present in his houses. The houses of Neruda spill over into his poetic works.”

This is the view of the Pacific Ocean from La Sebastian.

His study had old maps on the walls. We learned that Chile gets its name from the British settlers, because it was chilly.

The house because a museum in 1991 and they installed this bench out front so that each visitor can stop for a ‘chat’ with Neruda.

Nearby were public artworks of Neruda.

Pete even got to shake Neruda's hand.

These days Valpo is home to 300,000 residents. We enjoyed our time roaming the chaotic, hilly streets, and taking in the views and ambiance. Everywhere we looked we saw interesting murals.

We saw this enormous mural of Violeta Parra in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday. She was one of the most influential Chilean artists, a folksinger, writer and painter.

We saw several huge murals by Un Kolor Distinto. This one was sponsored by the National Council of Arts and Culture.

The corner walls of this Valpo school were also painted by the duo. They are Sammy “Jekse” Espinoza and Cynthia “Cines” Aguilera who have been street artists for almost 20 years.

We especially liked the choice of colors and the strong females in Un Kolor Distinto's murals.

Brazilian artist Muzai created this painting named El Xama, which is in tribute to indigenous Andean people. 

Giovanni Zamora, known as Giova painted the next two murals in just two days. This running woman is an "homage-criticism of gender equality". 

We read that Giova created this mural to show the many people who are dissatisfied with their work. The Chilean flag tie represents their bondage, which culminates with them retiring with an inadequate pension. "This mural is an invitation to take off your tie, so that we realize that there are things that are not going well, things that we must improve," said Giova.

Luna Lee, a Chilean illustrator and street artist created this mural in 2012 but it's still in pretty good shape. We were suprised to learn that graffiti is illegal in Valparaíso, but that murals are used as an ingenious way to avoid unwanted tagging on the walls. 

Ella Y Pitr
are two artists from Saint Etienne, France. They painted some really striking and different figures on houses in Valparaiso. 

This is the Plaza Sotomayor. Valparaiso was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

It was obvious that the city has not had enough investment in recent years, and it looked shabby in places.

We walked through the Port Market with its colorful vegetable stands.

There were many cats in the market and we saw several merchants petting them, so perhaps the cats are welcomed because they keep the mice population down. Kristina stopped to pet a tri-colored cutie that reminded us of our long gone cat Wilma.

We happened upon a nice lunch spot with a pleasant interior.

Named Espirtu Santo, they specialized in rock fish so we each ordered a different preparation. This dish had quinoa, farro and roasted vegetables with the rock fish.

We ordered the molten chocolate cake with coffee ice cream for dessert, and reflected on our interesting experiences in Chile.

After three months in South America we flew back to the US. In Los Angeles we saw Shepard Fairey's show DAMAGED. We had seen some of his latest art at The Women's March in January.

We had seen another solo exhibition of Fairey’s in Malaga, Spain in 2015 so we were excited to see how those pieces had led to DAMAGED. The photo below shows some of his 'celebrity portraits' (such as Ai Wei Wei) that we had seen in 2015. 

In DAMAGED he includes a newspaper, along with the printing press and plates for printing his art (on the left wall).

In the huge warehouse exhibit we spotted a newspaper box and grabbed our copy of THE DAMAGED TIMES.

The newspaper stand had several themes from Shepard's early street art days, including OBEY. He had created the iconic Barack Obama HOPE art during the 2008 election.

We usually understand 'wake up' in the Buddhist context as the path to enlightenment, but Shepard is referring to waking up from the US 'consumer trance' that is fueled by greed and indifference.

His piece entitled Proud Parents resonated with us because for as long as we have paid US Federal taxes, we have been opposed to the ridiculous levels of military spending.

From LA we drove south to spend Thanksgiving with Kristina's family. 

Kristina's sister Debby and her husband Steve served a lovely, traditional Thanksgiving meal with many delicious dishes.

When we are in the US we usually cook Thanksgiving dinner for Pete's family, and we hadn’t been to a San Diego Thanksgiving since 2000. 

It was a special treat to share the holiday with Kristina's family and to be spoiled with the delicious meal. Our favorite dishes were the sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts that complemented the turkey, gravy and cranberries.

We celebrated our niece Megan's recent engagement to Sean, whom we've known for many years. It was great to see them so happy and excited!

Next we went to the Bay Area. We met our nephew Jeremy for dinner and celebrated his birthday with a sweet potato pie made by Kristina.

We visited Sean and Paul in Sebastopol. This photo was taken of Paul and Pete while we caught up over lunch.

It was great to see their house remodel project in process. It's really coming along, and by spring they expect to be done.

Sean and Paul have an annual tradition of dressing in drag for Halloween. This year's costume theme was trailer trash women (note the beer can curlers) because they've been staying in a fifth wheel trailer during their remodel.

We went to the Rauschenberg Retrospective at the SF MOMA with Kristina's cousin and best friend Cynthia. Behind them is Automobile Tire Print, a collaboration between Rauschenberg and John Cage. The three of us had seen the Cage Retrospective and this piece at the LA MOCA 25 years ago.

Cynthia suggested we try Ici Ice Cream. Kristina enjoyed her raspberry and hibiscus sorbet on their house made cone.

It was hard for us to visit all our family and friends in three locations in just two weeks and we felt rushed. We apologize if you were short-changed this visit. Next we went to Las Vegas to visit Pete's Mom and his sister Denise. Denise took us to the Neon Boneyard. La Concha hotel had donated their cool lobby (designed by Paul Williams) to the Boneyard.

Here's the original La Concha neon sign.

It was windy and cold the night of the tour so we bundled up. The three of us are in front of The Ugly Duckling, a sign from a used car dealership that was only in business for a few months. Their elaborate duck used to rotate to show both sides and it was estimated to have cost upwards of $200k.

The icon Stardust sign was so huge that it took Pete several tries to photograph the whole thing.

Kristina's favorite neon sign was Yucca Motel. The next day we hopped on a plane for Bangkok to start our next trip.

We'll be traveling in Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Japan until mid April.