Warning: Picture-heavy vacation post ahead. If you don’t like vacation blog posts, or if you don’t feel like scrolling through lots of photos, skip this post. I promise I won’t be offended. On the other hand, if picture-heavy vacation posts are the peanut butter to your jelly, read on my friend.
As of yesterday, Arturo and I have been home from Chile for two weeks. Two weeks out, I’ve finally had time to sort through all our photos and organize my thoughts from the trip. In a word, it was incredible. We spent almost all day every day visiting with Arturo’s family, getting to know the amazing people who make up his family tree. Though we’ve been married for over five years, I met nearly everyone in his family for the first time on this trip, except for a very select few family members who live in the US. Arturo savored every moment, making up for 13 years of time away. If you’d like my first impressions of our trip, read this post, written just 3 days into our 2.5 week stay.
The interior ceiling of the Santiago Cathedral
A statue of Pedro de Valdivia, located in the central square in downtown Santiago
One major highlight of our trip was due purely to the timing of the trip: Arturo’s birthday is August 30, smack in the middle of our trip. As a result, he was wined and dined by his family even more than he would have been anyway! He had at least 3 birthday cakes and 3 dedicated birthday parties during our stay …. and I say “at least” only because I lost count after the third.
Arturo’s first birthday cake, made by Ximena. It was full of Chilean candies and pastries. Delicious!
Arturo’s final birthday cake (I missed several in between), a “tres leches” (three milk) cake. Tres leches is Arturo’s favorite cake flavor, and I always make it for him on his birthday … except for this year. Luckily, Arturo’s family was more than happy to fill in where I couldn’t.
Carola shoved the cake in Arturo’s face right after he blew out the candle. hehehe!
Arturo with his birthday gift from his father. So beautifully wrapped!
After a few days getting our bearings in Santiago, we spent nearly a week at the family’s country house in La Quebrada. It’s a quaint little town nestled in the coastal mountains west of Santiago, and the country quietness was enchanting. Arturo’s uncle, Tio Pedro, and his wife Ximena live in the countryhouse year-round, and Arturo’s great-uncle, Tio Queco, and his wife, Tia Yunia, live next door, along with their son Queco. They are such lovely people! Queco, who worked for many years in the US as a fashion stylist, gave us GORGEOUS sweaters for Shawna and Seth that Arturo and I hope to give them on the day we take custody of them, as their very first clothing items that are entirely their own. Such a special gift!
A huge clan! I had no idea how close-knit Arturo’s big family is. It was wonderful to meet them all! Back L to R: Gonzalo (Carola’s husband), Marcela (Fanky’s wife), Fanky (Arturo’s brother), Arturo, Arturo’s father, Jopi (Arturo’s sister), Gus (Arturo’s brother), Carola (Arturo’s sister), me, Ximena (Pedro’s wife). Front L to R: Lolol (Pedro & Ximena’s lovely puppy), Pedro (Arturo Sr.’s brother), Helena (Carola’s daughter), Pamela (Arturo’s stepmother), Antonia (Carola’s daughter).
Arturo’s father and Tio Enrique cooking a birthday dinner of Chilean BBQ
Tio Pedro and Tio Enrique
I love this picture just because of the look on Pedro’s face.
While everyone was together, we called Alicia, Arturo’s sister who lives in the US. She was the only one of Arturo’s siblings not there for the family gathering, so it was great to have her join us virtually.
Gus, in uniform, talking to Alicia.
Arturo’s brother and sister, Jopi and Fanky, having fun with Helena, Arturo’s niece (Carola’s little girl)
Jopi and Helena
Gus and Pamela
Queco and I eating empandas. Sooooo yummy!
Tio Guillermo and Arturo
L to R: Ximena, Queco, Guillermo, Pedro, Arturo, me, Arturo Sr.
Arturo’s father came to La Quebrada with us, and we spent hours exploring the countryside with him. One afternoon we walked to a creek bed adjacent to the family land, where Arturo played and swam as a child. It was a magical week.
examining the creatures in the stream
There were cacti EVERYWHERE. This picture doesn’t begin to do the wealth of cacti justice. This was my first time seeing cacti growing wild, and I loved it.
Many of the plants native to Chile are very hostile. The tiny little barbs on this flower are coated in a poison that stings like CRAZY if you even barely touch it. While taking this photo, my hand lightly brushed one of the leaves. My hand was stinging for hours.
Another hostile plant. You can’t tell from this photo, but each of these barbs was about 4 inches long. These spikes belong to a tree that grows everywhere around La Quebrada.
The bulbs at the top of this cactus leaf are cactus pears, and they are SO GOOD! Yummmmmm.
Avocados growing wild. Yummmm!
We found an almond tree growing wild on one of our walks and picked a few. Arturo’s father then found a rock, and we cracked them open to eat on our walk. Delicious!
Lemons growing in the yard of the family house. Chilean cuisine uses lots of lemon juice, and lemons from this tree were part of the meals we ate while we were there.
Can you find the frog?
The front door of the family house. El Gualicho means “Bewitched.”
A view of the family house from the bottom of the valley. The house is the small roof you can see in the lower left of the picture. This photo shows just how remote the house is!
Eucalyptus trees grow wild in Chile, and we found eucalyptus groves EVERYWHERE. The trees don’t smell too strongly on their own, but scratch a leaf and you can smell the distinctive eucalyptus scent for several feet around that leaf.
This flower itself didn’t have any spikes, but it was growing near a thorny plant, and I got several thorn splinters while trying to get this photograph. I’m not sure the splinters were worth it, but at least the shot came out!
Las Palmas is a tiny village near La Quebrada, and they have a special shrine for a small statue of the Christ Child, called Niño Dios de las Palmas. We visited the shrine one afternoon. It was a beautiful shrine and a beautiful little village.
From La Quebrada, Arturo and I made a quick daytrip on our own to Viña and Valparaiso on the coast before heading back to spend our last week in Santiago. Valparaiso is a World Heritage Site, and with good reason. It is a breathtakingly beautiful city. One afternoon wandering the picturesque streets wasn’t nearly enough, and we’ve already made plans to spend much more time there on our next trip to Chile. Since we knew we had limited time available, we chose our stops carefully. Arturo’s family vacationed in Viña and Valparaiso every summer when he was growing up, so we made sure to visit sites he remembers. We walked on the “beach,” which is mostly rocky except for in a few specific spots but is no less beautiful for being so rocky. We explored the city’s many hills and took in the beautiful city vistas that were just waiting to be enjoyed. We ended the day perched on rocks on the beach, watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. It was my first time to see the Pacific Ocean and also my first ocean sunset. Incredible.
Valparaiso has beautiful murals throughout the city.
Valparaiso has elevator inclines all over the city, and we rode several as we made our way around the city. The cemetery in the background of this photo is the military cemetery in which Arturo’s grandfather is buried.
The rocky “beach”
Even the sandy parts of the beach have rocks everywhere.
I love the reflection of the sunset in Arturo’s sunglasses.
After the sunset, we went to Tavelli, a coffee shop Arturo loved as a child. This drink is a very sweet iced coffee drink that’s usually only drunk by kids in Chile, and the waiter gave Arturo a very strange look when he ordered it. But he loved it as a child and wanted it despite the odd looks. It was just as good as he remembered.
Our last week in Chile was spent in Santiago visiting as many family members as possible. Some days we had breakfast with one group of family members, went to lunch with another, had “once” (the Chilean version of British tea) with yet another, and finished out the night by enjoying dinner with a fourth group of family members. It was a hectic schedule. My introverted personality was a bit overwhelmed and craved alone time during that week, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. We had precious little time in Chile, and we knew we had to pack as much as possible into the time we had. We ate more delicious food than we thought possible, enjoying every bit of it, and the people … oh the people! Arturo’s family is so warm and welcoming and friendly! I couldn’t have asked for a better first meeting with the many people who are so important to Arturo and who shaped the man he is today.
Arturo with his grandmother, Abuelita Fanny
Arturo, Abuelita Fanny, and Tio Enrique
Back L to R: Tia Gloria, Tio Enrique, Soledad (Arturo’s cousin), Enrique (Arturo’s cousin), Arturo’s Father. Front: Arturo & me
Soledad and Gloria writing in the front of the book they gave Arturo for his birthday. It will be a treasured gift for generations!
Tio Chago and Tia Patricia with Arturo
Tio Chago picked this gorgeous camellia for me from their front yard before we left. He is such a gentleman!
After dinner one evening, we had an impromptu musical session. Jopi is a great guitar player!
Helena wanted to play, too.
Arturo and his father. I took this photo about 2 minutes before we climbed on the airport bus to begin our journey back to Cincinnati.
Our last picture in Chile from this trip. Taken in the airport just a few minutes before boarding our flight. Until next time!
We left Chile on Sept. 2 and arrived back home in Cincinnati the next morning, tired and worn out but filled to the brim with the love of family. It was a wonderful trip, and while the timing of the trip with our adoption could have been better, I’m so glad we went. Arturo’s family is amazing, and I’m blessed to have met them.