Chile has been treating us very well. In fact, had we not pre-purchased our return ticket we likely would have imposed and stayed a bit longer. That said, we managed to pack the time we had here with good fun, great company and lots of sightseeing. On our final day, we stayed in Villa Alemana to check out the scene here. It´s a small place with a real local feeling and we lazily spent the day having a traditional Chilean "tea" with Margarita - mostly beans of all sorts and the obligatory peeled tomato slices. On that note, the tomatoes and especially paltas (avocados) are insanely tasty here, unlike any we´ve had before.
Later, we hit the streets with two goals: to visit with our new-found friend Carlos and sample some of those famous homemade empanadas. Carlos is a shopkeeper whom we met within two minutes of arriving in Villa Alemana. We immediately made a connection with him as he used to live on Main & 49th in Vancouver - right in our neighbourhood! We spoke at length about Vancouver, his working travels in 13 countries and what he´s up to here in Chile. After showing us a bag full of photos from his time in Canada over gaseosas (soft drinks) we asked where to find The Best Empanadas in town. Before we knew it, he was locking his office and personally guiding us to the place. He paid for 6 of the largest empanadas we´ve seen (and we´ve seen quite a few) and they were indeed delicious. Chau Carlos! Muchas gracias por su compania y las empanadas - mucho gusto!
After a short siesta, we were in for a great surprise. Javier and Marie took us to Valparaiso that night for what we thought was a tour of the cerros and some picture-taking. Instead, we arrived on Cerro Monjar at the home of Javier´s brother Mauricio (Coco) and his wife Paola and their daughter Tamara. Their house is perched on the side of the cerro, overlooking the city and sea, sparkling in the distance.
We sat on the patio admiring the view and imbibing in bebidas including Sandra´s new favourite Pisco Sour Mango (a spirit made with the skin of white wine grapes in northern Chile and infused with fresh fruit - it is delicious). We chatted, again in that funny misunderstood understanding kind-of way, until early in the morning.
Such warm, friendly people and we were encouraged to come back again and stay in Valpa with them. It was sad to say goodbye to the Ruiz families - they made our trip to Chile - and we know that when we are in the area again, we´ll have some friends to visit.