After summer camp, I went to the home of my new friend Paulina’s house on a whim. Upon learning that I did not have any particular plan of what to do after summer camp, she immediately invited to come out to Casablanca to stay with her at her parents’ house for a few days (Chileans are the best, y’all). She lured me with promises of wine and beach, and after spending all week in bustling Santiago it was an easy sell.
So we went out to Casablanca, which I probably would have never made it to on my own because getting a bus to stop there on the way from Santiago is a disaster. You would think no one ever goes there, but by the end of our hunt for tickets we had formed a little pack of people looking to get off there. Apparently all the buses head straight to Valparaiso or Vina del Mar and don’t want to be bothered with stopping on the way (and they did not seem excited that I would be bringing a suitcase that would need to be unloaded either). But we found someone who would leave us on the side of the road and we finally made it after “un taco terrible” – taco, as I have learned, is the Chilean term for traffic jam. Much less appealing than my understanding of tacos.
I spent five days enjoying the small town of Casablanca. We went for some lovely walks in town and around the countryside, hung out drinking beer in the square, and went out for some lazing on the beach at Algarobbo. I also got to hang out with her parents, and we would have lunch or tea together every day. Her parents seem totally fine with her bringing strangers home, and in fact probably prefer it. They just finished hosting a Japanese foreign exchange student into their home for a year, and have been known to welcome couchsurfers into their home as well, so they seem to enjoy the international flavor.
Fortunately for me, Casablanca is also home to vineyards and wineries. I am a lover of all things wine, and Chilean wine is known to be some of the best in the world. You can go to any supermarket or store here in Chile and get a good bottle of wine for less than $5. However, I would have to say that the Chilean winery experience leaves some to be desired. Although Virginia is far from being the world-famous wine producer that Chile is, I would say our wineries offer a better experience. I love going to wineries at home. You show up and get a tasting to sample everything (sometimes with a cheese or chocolate pairing), then buy a bottle and sit and sit and enjoy live music, play some cornhole, or otherwise enjoy the environment.
This is not the case in Chile. From the first moment their wineries are not particularly welcoming. You have to pass through a guard at a gate to enter. We went to three wineries near Casablanca, and they all had a guard. You want to do a tasting? Well, that isn’t really all that possible here. You have to make reservations to do a tasting, and it lasts like an hour and costs a small fortune to taste four wines. If you just show up, they do not seem that interested in helping you.
Kingston vineyards were not able to help us at all – they only offered us the option to buy wines by the glass. We tried to order one off their menu… and they didn’t have it. So we just left. Vinamar had a couple of “tastings” by which I mean you could order a set of three or four full glasses of wine, most of which were not produced by Vinamar. We got the only tasting set that included Vinamar wines, and it ended up being free since all the staff just left. At Casas del Bosque we were finally greeted by a welcoming staff that hosted us for a free tasting of a few wines in the shop and told us about their process. All three had spectacular grounds, though.
Even worse, I even tried to go to a winery in Santiago because I was intrigued that there were wineries you could access on the metro. I checked the website for the hours before I left, and they were supposed to be open and welcoming visitors. Well I went all the way out there to be turned away by the guards at the gate saying the winery was closed. When I asked why, the answer was because everyone left. Ok…
But enough whining about wine. The five days I spent in Casablanca were amazing, the scenery gorgeous, and the company couldn’t be better. I feel really lucky to have a new friend in Paulina, who I am traveling with in Patagonia for a few days after I spent a few days in Santiago. More on that in the next post!