Today (2 November) I arrived in Chile, my second visit to this marvellous country.
Despite overindulgence in the nightclubs of Valparaiso last year, my friend Sylvia Cava invited me to taste again at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles Chile, two days of tasting and awarding Chilean wines.
There are no direct flights from London to Chile so on Monday evening I flew to Madrid and then caught a midnight flight from there to Santiago. The journey from Europe to Santiago must be as far as it is possible for a plane to travel without refuelling – 14 hours I make it.
Jetlag necessitates that this will be a pithy blog entry – at the moment my eyes are a deeper red than a Chilean Cabernet – but I was keen to show some of the sights of Valparaiso that I saw this afternoon.
Santiago was a pleasant 30 degrees this morning. My fellow European arrivals and I were like lavender, desperate for the rays of the sun. We tried to get as much Vitamin D as possible before the drive south to Valparaiso, where the weather is much cooler and overcast, alas.
With most of my fellow Concours tasters, I am staying at the Gervasoni Hotel, which overlooks Valparaiso’s harbour. On the far left is a ship in a floating dry dock. The harbour seems busier than this time last year.
Valparaiso is a vertiginous city; like Monaco, it lies on a splendid coastline and then rises up into the landscape. Brightly coloured houses are scattered along the hillside roads like the balls on a snooker table.
Like Bucharest (in my experience), Valparaiso has a large stray dog population. But the people are a good deal friendlier.
On my first visit to Chile last year I was immediately struck by the amount of graffiti. I am assured that Mexico is even worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint).
Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus… Lutherans believe that God made the world, and some residents of Valparaiso believe that Lutherans made them. Like the Barossa Valley in South Australia, German settlers have left their mark here.
We went past Pablo Neruda’s house. In one of his poems Neruda wrote of “Day-coloured wine,/night-coloured wine,/wine with purple feet/or wine with topaz blood”. He must have been thinking of the Concours tasting.