Rest Stop At The Bottom Of The World

Rest Stop At The Bottom Of The World

If you happen to find yourself driving through Patagonia’s untouched wilderness toward the spectacular Torres Del Paine, you may work up a powerful hunger with little hope of taming it. But keep your eyes open for a desolate old road stop and you just might stumble upon uncommonly good eats in the middle of nowhere.

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Fiestas Patrias Outdoors

Fiestas Patrias Outdoors

It was that time of year again recently, when the whole country stops to celebrate its heritage and the coming of Spring: it’s Fiestas Patrias. So it seemed only natural that this year’s national celebration take place outside. And the perfect location was less than a couple of hours away -- in Cajon Del Maipo.

It was that time of year again recently, when the whole country stops to celebrate its heritage and the coming of Spring. It’s Fiestas Patrias, highlighted by the Big Day: Dieciocho de Septiembre (September 18). And I’ve been here long enough now to know that one of the great loves of most residents in this geographic wonderland called Chile is the outdoors. So it seemed only natural that this year’s national celebration take place not in the confines of my well-worn quincho (BBQ pavilion) or at one of the many public festivals honoring everything Chilean (see prior post: Chiles Festivals of Festivals), but rather outside. The only challenge: where to go to relish in Chile’s great outdoors while still avoiding airport crowds and heavy highway traffic. The answer was less than a couple of hours away; Cajon Del Maipo.

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Meet The La Vega Family

Meet The La Vega Family

The first time you meet the La Vega family of markets they’ll spin you on your heels. But once your mind adjusts you’ll shake you head and murmur the only two words that make sense at that moment: “LA VEGA."

There is a simple fact of life that makes traveling to distant lands a guaranteed pleasure despite how arduous the journey or unfamiliar the place: everyone has to eat. Which leads to that always-special travel experience no matter the locale, climate or body politic: markets.

In Santiago there are markets, or ferias, in nearly every neighborhood. Some are open daily; others only on selected days each week. But of all markets in this city of 7 million one market stands in the center – like a pulsing heart through which the lifeblood of all other markets pass –  La Vega. Carrying nearly every kind of food produced in Chile, from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes; the Atacama to Patagonia; La Vega has it all. From fruit, veg, dairy, meat and fish – if La Vega doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it.

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¡Chile’s Festival of Festivals!

¡Chile’s Festival of Festivals!

During Fiestas Patrias it's easy to see how standing among crowds of proud Chileans, chewing a slice of flame-roasted cordero to the traditional rhythm of the evocative Cuenca, brings the nation back to its Andean roots. 

Nearly every country in the world has a national festival that brings its people together for a common party. On National Day, Singapore has a grand pageant of lights, jets, fireworks and dancers celebrating their history at Marina Bay. In the US, neighborhoods across the nation hold local Independence Day parades of walkers, cyclists and patriotically-festooned wagons crowded with kids and pets pulled by parents. Polished fire trucks and police cars are on display, local dignitaries make appearances and for a day everyone puts aside their political differences, looks to the night sky for fireworks and feels pretty good about their country. It’s a beautiful thing.

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