Tag Archives: visitors

Santiago Summer Staycation – Week 5 – Parents Visit!

After United Airlines fixed their computer system and delivered my parents to Chile a day late (Jan. 24), we hit the ground running!

Or not … The first order of business for my mother after an international flight is always a foot massage. Reduces ankle swelling, she says. So I led them on a quick tour of our school – The International School Nido de Aguilas – before heading down the hill to Sala Ananta, a lovely Thai spa.

School is pretty different with no students around!

On the way back to our apartment, we stopped at the neighborhood supermarket, where my mom went bananas over this giant corn. Husked, it didn’t look very appealing. Not sure how the locals eat this, but I doubt they gnaw on the humongous cob.

The next day, Wednesday, we drove about an hour to Casablanca Valley to visit the Emiliana organic winery for a tour and tasting. I had been there in late August (see that post here), when the weather was cold and dreary and the vines were naked. On this visit, the sun shone brightly, and rows of lush leafy grapevines displayed plump bunches of grapes. We had the same friendly and informative tour guide as last time – Ramon.

At the tasting, we were served two whites (2016 Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc and 2016 Novas Gran Reserva Chardonnay) and two reds (2014 Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere-Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 COYAM). Tony, not much of a wine connoisseur, said, “Watch me mix all mine together and make a rosé!”

Afterwards, we drove next door to the Tiraziš winery for lunch at House-Casa del Vino. Remembering the lip-smacking pink ravioli I enjoyed on my first visit, I ordered it again and was not disappointed.

On Thursday, we all boarded city bus 517 to check out La Vega Central produce market. As predicted, my mom went bonkers over the giant corn and bought another ear (with healthier looking kernels than last time). We stocked up on peaches, strawberries, mangoes, apricots, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. Like me, my mother gets giddy over fruit or vegetables she’s never seen. So we bought a pepino dulce and some physalis.

I didn’t get a picture of the pepino dulce, which translates to “sweet cucumber” but lacks the crisp crunch of the more common veggie by that name. The outside, greenish-yellow with purple stripes, looked more like a small eggplant, and the inside was soft and pale yellow. Mom and I agreed the flavor was icky. Thumbs down.

The physalis looks like a tiny tomato in a dry husk and tastes like a cross between a tomato and a kiwi. Thumbs up. Here’s a photo of one I encountered earlier this year as a garnish on my ice cream.

We spotted this guy selling produce outside the market. Mom tried to explain that we lived in Michigan, but I don’t think he realized the word on his shirt was a place.

Mom was pretty confident that we could eat the dried peaches the same way we would eat a dried apricot, but I knew they were meant to be reconstituted in a traditional drink (see mote con huesillos, below). I think I won that argument.

A few market shots taken by my dad …

After a big salad for lunch at home, we ventured forth again. Time to tackle the hill! We took the gondola up Cerro San Cristobal, and although I have done this countless times, I always underestimate how many steps lead from the gondola station to the very top. But we did it!

Most of the way up, we paused at the church.

People leave fascinating prayer offerings at the small chapel.

Smoky haze from forest fires limited the view of Santiago.

The Virgin Mary statue is the cake topper.

The reward was another “first” for all of us: a traditional Chilean summertime drink called mote con huesillo. Mote is cooked husked wheat, and huesillos are dried peaches. Those ingredients are added to a sweet sugary liquid. After our sweaty little hike, the drink was refreshing and surprisingly yummy. The wheat adds a strange chewy experience to what otherwise tastes like syrupy fruit juice.

We took the old funicular back down the hill to Barrio Bellavista and caught a taxi home. Dinner was at one of our favorite restaurants, Tiramisu. Mom and Dad enjoyed their first pisco sours, Chile’s delicious signature cocktail.

I really wanted to take my parents to the coast, but they didn’t want to bother with staying overnight. I also wanted my artsy mom to see the murals of Valparaiso, but it’s a hilly city best seen on foot and she has a wonky hip that precludes taking long precarious walks. Friends had warned me that traffic was out of control at the shore, where holiday-goers from Chile and Argentina flocked to frolic in the surf. I spent quite a lot of time thinking about how to make this day special without overdoing it, and I think it worked out!

On Friday, we drove just under two hours to Valparaiso and parked at the Ibis Hotel, which also houses the metro station. We left the car and rode the metro a short distance to Viña del Mar, a resort town on the Pacific coast.

The walk was longer than intended, but we ultimately arrived at Tierra de Fuego, a beachside restaurant. (Every mistake is a learning opportunity, right? For future reference, get off at the Miramar stop, which is closer to the beach.) After lunch, we hopped across fiery sand to stick our toes in the icy water. Glorious!

Mom insisted on picking up a piece of driftwood as a souvenir, but then she left it at our apartment when she returned to the States, much to the chagrin of Tony.

We returned to Valparaiso by metro and walked a short distance to the El Peral funicular, which took us up 52 meters to Plaza Yugoslavia on the hill called Cerro Allegre. I didn’t want to make my mom walk too much, but she was lured by the art on the walls and the artsy products in the shops. We strolled a bit and then rode the funicular back down and drove back to Santiago.

On Saturday, we spent the whole day at Los Dominicos, an artisans market spotlighting arts and handicrafts from all regions of Chile. Mom was in Heaven. Tony bailed after about 30 minutes. Dad and I had fun … for the first few hours. Finally, just as Dad and I were about to sneak away, my mom experienced the ultimate shopping buzz-kill: She ran out of cash, and the vendor wouldn’t take a credit card. But do you think that stopped her? Heck, no! My dad and I walked out of the market, across the plaza in sweltering heat, and down the metro stairs so I could withdraw money from my peso account. We’re such enablers.

For their last day in Santiago, we took a quick driving tour through some historic parts of town, including Plaza de Armas, and then stopped for lunch in Barrio Italia at a quaint restaurant called Le Jardinera.

And, just like that, they were gone. My dad always says, “Fish and houseguests start to stink after a week.” So I guess it’s just as well they didn’t extend their stay. Still, I miss them already and hope they come back soon!

Everything old is new again … Old Delhi through the eyes of visitors

Tony’s sister Liz arrived March 30 and hit the ground running! No time for jetlag…

Although Old Delhi is a must-see attraction, it can be pretty intimidating. A bicycle rickshaw tour is marginally safer and less scary, so that’s how we kicked off Liz’s India tour. Theresa, Tony, Liz and I climbed aboard two rickshaws, disembarking to visit the spice market, Jain Temple and sari market, essentially following in the same footsteps as our first Delhi rickshaw tour.

Ratan gets ready to chauffeur Tony and Liz.

Off we go, straight into traffic.

A view from the top of the spice market. I’m not sure what those yellow things are drying in the sun.

Stringing streetside flower garlands.

Theresa and me. Dang, I forgot our driver’s name!

Barely squeaking by a watermelon salesman.

Driving through the wedding market.

That’s my handsome groom!

Tony takes the wheel (handlebars?).

Following lunch at McDonald’s (Theresa got the McVeggie, a paneer patty), we walked to the Red Fort.

A colorful crowd heads in to the fort.

Emperor Shah Jahan (the same guy who built the Taj Mahal) constructed this fort starting in 1638 after he moved his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad, in what is now Delhi. (Remember when Theresa and I visited the FIRST city in Delhi? This was the SEVENTH!) It served as the Mughal Empire capital until a failed uprising against the British in 1857. At one point, up to 3,000 people lived in the fort complex.

Love those Mughal-style archways! This was the Diwan-i-Aam, a pavilion for public audiences with the emperor.

The Diwan-i-Khas was used for private audiences with the emperor.



Yes, yes, we know … we’re fabulous. But how many photos of sweaty foreigners do you really need?

Three visitors, two weeks, too much to say!

Yikes, I just looked at that little calendar over there to the right of this post. See it? Whenever I post something, the date changes to brown. Until today, April had no brown dates. I haven’t written a single post this month!

Sometimes a dry spell stems from ennui. Work, home, sleep, work, home, sleep … my usual schedule often lacks substance worthy of a blog post. The last few weeks, however, blurred with activity and left little time to capture it all in writing. Faced with a few free hours for the first time this month, I am ready to make up for my excessive blog neglect.

In the weeks preceding our spring break, we made arrangements for three visitors:
* Tony’s sister Liz,
* Theresa, a friend from my old journalism days, and
* Flat William, a paper version of a friend’s son.

Liz had never traveled outside the U.S., and I worried that India might make her climb under the covers and refuse to leave the house. Theresa was a seasoned traveler, but her emails suggested an overbooked itinerary and I stressed that we would run ourselves ragged. But, surprisingly, Flat William was the most high-maintenance guest of all.

He never made any demands or complained about getting squashed in my backpack, but I felt a codependent, obsessive need to photograph him everywhere I went. Unfortunately, because of his reticence, he would sometimes stay buried in my bag while we toured an Indian hotspot, making me smack my forehead with frustration later when the realization hit. I entrusted him to Theresa’s care on her Rajasthan side trip, but I experienced three days of anxiety that she would lose him or forget to take pictures with him. (I had nightmares of the time my mom fed a Flat Friend through the paper shredder on accident.) Theresa did forget to snap him in front of the Taj Mahal, but at least he got to see it. I sent him home with Liz, who informed me yesterday that he was returned safely to his family. Whew!

Flat William hanging out with Ganesh at the American Embassy School, New Delhi.

For years, Tony has dreamed of his family visiting us overseas. Finally, he convinced his sister Liz to make the trip to India. When I told people this would be her first international journey, the incredulous responses often sounded something like this: “She lives in KANSAS? And she’s never been out of AMERICA? And she’s coming to INDIA?” I began to panic. I carefully crafted a list of “Delhi Light” sight-seeing excursions. In the weeks leading up to her visit, Tony and I often found ourselves in the midst of an oppressive Delhi crowd, glancing at each other nervously and saying, “OK, we won’t bring Liz HERE.” However, from the moment she stepped off the plane, Liz amazed and inspired me with her willingness to take risks, move far out of her comfort zone and reflect on the sensory overload of India. She barely rested during her week here, dragging Tony all over town to see the sights, making observations that were acute and full of compassion. Tony and I both feel deeply grateful for this time with Liz, and we’ll never underestimate her again!

Tony and Liz at the Taj Mahal.

Theresa and I worked at the American Academy of Family Physicians in Kansas City way back before I made the career switch to teaching. We hadn’t kept in touch much over the years, except through occasional emails, Face Book updates, and links to online photo albums. When she turned 40, she emailed and said she wanted to celebrate with an international vacation. We were living in Laos at the time, and although I do love that country, I felt compelled to say, “If you’re only going to take one big trip every 40 years, maybe you should pick a country with more on offer…” When Tony and I moved to India, she quickly proposed a visit. There’s no denying Incredible India has more on offer … maybe too much! As Theresa and I planned her trip via email, the biggest challenge was picking the places to go. Knowing Theresa was eager to see the Himalyas, I met with our travel agent at school, who pointed out certain destinations would still be blanketed with snow and unprepared for tourists in April. We finally settled on Dharamsala, home of the exiled Dalai Lama. Theresa packed a crazy amount of sight-seeing into her two-week visit and took about 47 million fabulous photos. Although whacked with a mysterious illness on the flight back to the States, she certainly made good use of her time here!

Theresa on the rooftop of Ashoka restaurant in McLeod Ganj with the Himalayas in the background.

It’s going to take me awhile to post everything we did during the last few weeks! But stay tuned…