New Year’s in Southern Chile...
The Rest of the Story
By Dianne Boate and Robert Meyer
New Year’s Eve, 1998
Here is a picture for you: A good-looking man is sitting in a chair
on a balcony located on the second story of a hotel that overlooks a
lake. He has a glass of Torres cava* (champagne) in his hand and he
is staring into the distance. His companion, also with a glass of
champagne, suddenly exclaims, “Aha! I know what you are thinking!
You are hoping that while you sit there the volcano is going to
erupt right in front of you!” Indeed, the snow-capped Volcano Osorna
was just on the other side of the lake. Far enough, but then, maybe
not far enough. The lake is called Lago Lanquihue (pronounced loggo
yan-key-hay), and we had driven 13 hours in two gulps from Santiago
to be there for New Year’s in what is called the German Settlement.
In the 1850s, around the time California was
having its Gold Rush, representatives from Chile went to Germany
with incentives the Germans could not refuse: transportation, 75
blocks of land, wood for buildings, even nails. Oxen, monthly
allowances, and free medical assistance were part of the package,
too. It was ideal for those escaping religious persecution at the
time (212 German settlers). A very large and impressive German
monument has all the family names inscribed. The Germans still
prosper there, the evidence being their vast farmhouses, livestock,
and farm fields looking lush and just plain beautiful. The abundant
clusters of blossoms and tiny green forms were promising a great
The most unusual aspect of the place is that a lot
of people are tall, Spanish-speaking blondes with blue eyes.
Restaurants feature “kuchen” (cake) on the menus. Our hotel had a
picture of Kaiser Wilhelm in the foyer and the following words in a
sampler on the wall: “What our faith says today will settle the
question of what we are to be tomorrow.”
This is what could be called the vacation from the
vacation, for up to this time we had spent 15 days driving for hours
to wine regions, visiting wineries, going to wine tastings, meeting
people, sharing California wine that we had with us, and although
this might be your idea of fun, it is also a lot of work.
*The Torres are famous winemakers from the Catalan region of Spain.
We have a family member in the Bay Area, Marimar Torres, who
specializes in Burgundian-style wines (check out
www.marimarestate.com). Her brother, Miguel Torres, runs the family
business near Barcelona and the winery in Chile where we sampled
wonderful wines and received the bottle of cava. Here are some other
Chilean wine brands we recommend: Santa Monica, Los Vascos, Santa
Rita, Concha y Toro, Valdievieiso, Vera Monte, Montes Alpha M.
Errazuriz. (Try saying that with your mouth full of peanuts… ee razz
A lot of our time in Chile was spent on the road, so we present
From my journal
.....I would like to make a collage out of this one: A pickup truck
piled high in the back with furniture but there was also a donkey,
and on the donkey’s back sat a dog.
.....a smaller pickup truck piled high with watermelons and one boy.
.....at a gas station, a pleasant looking man came to my window with
a Canon camera. He wanted to sell it. “Better show him your camera,
Dianne,” Robert said. I reached down for my twice-as-big Minolta
with a long lens. When he saw what I had, he started to laugh, then
we all laughed together.
.....lots of individuals walking on roads and highways far from
anything. Brightly colored bee hives. Folks sitting on edge of road
with their backs to the road. “Candelabra” pine trees.
Observations and Notes
.....Coffee: Except at San Cristobel Hotel in Santiago, all coffee
so far has been instant. Nescafe is generally the plan. In Fruittar
hotel, on table were two covered jars. One with sugar, one with
instant coffee. Now, think about this for a minute. No coffee beans,
no coffee grinders, no coffee percolaters, machines, or makers. No
espresso, latte, no coffee shops, no coffee houses. No Peet’s, no
Starbucks, and best of all, no coffee nerves.
.....Chile is the Israel of South America, meaning multinational
.....National character formed by early Spanish Basque settlers.
.....In South America, countries that are friendly to each other are
those that do not share borders.
....lapis lazuli (tons and tons of jewelry places with silver and
lapis in Santiago) is abundant. The mining of it so difficult; Chile
and Afghanistan are the two main sources.
.....pan pipe music is Andean, meaning all the countries that share
the Andes have this music.
More Roadside Entertainment
.....We had noticed Pastel de Choclo signs everywhere on the roads
we traveled. We found out it was kind of a corn pie, so on the way
south we decided to try it. Delicious!
....That day we saw several parts of a circus on the road. One truck
had the little cabs for a ride all painted with big tigers; another
with big sides and no back, with all kinds of goods, plus one
black-and-white pony and several small children. Last part of the
caravan was another old truck loaded to the brim but this one was
also pulling a small flatbed. On it was a cage and inside the cage
was a lion. Since we had stopped for the pastel de choclo, we passed
everything twice. Second time, the lion was yowling. I saw its mouth
Upon Returning to the Bay Area
We had a pastel de choclo party on a houseboat in Sausalito with
buckets of Margaritas and Chilean wine. If you would like the
recipe, please contact
Happy New Year!
Dianne Boate is a freelance photographer, writer, and designer in
San Francisco. Her work can be seen at www.danielakart.com. Robert
Meyer is a consultant to the wine and spirits industry. This year
marks 26 years of agreeing and disagreeing about the merits of red
wine vs. white.