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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Love is in the air in Santiago - Day 456

We arrive in Santiago on Valentine's Day and visiting La Chascona we could feel that love is in the air in Santiago, this marvellous city.

We have arrived in Santiago, the capital of Chile, dropped off our bags, had some breakfast and walked to La Chascona. This is one of three houses that were owned and loved by Pablo Neruda, which he had built for his lover Matilde Urrutia. Being Valentine’s Day, it seemed appropriate to visit here.

On the way we passed some great street art, there’s plenty in this great city. And at La Chascona, its blue, grey and white abstract mural front we realised somehow connected with this poet and politician. Pablo Neruda loved poetry right from an early age and wrote ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair when he was 19 in 1924. This book is still the best selling poetry book in Spanish and has sold more than 20 million copies. In 1971, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Pablo travelled the world as a diplomat, serving as a Senator for the Communist Party for one term. When communism was outlawed in the late 1940s, he had to go into hiding as there was a warrant for his arrest. He met Matilde Urrutia when she was a student and had a wild fling, then bumped into one another years later in Mexico, ending up with a secret love affair for six years. It sounds as if he had the passionate Latino heart in bucket loads; later leaving his second wife to marry Matilde.

The house is on the edge of San Cristóbal hill. Over the years Pablo added to it, so it seems more like three different houses connected by a beautiful serene garden; Matilde’s project. Pablo was a collector, picking up interesting objects during his travels. From reading about his houses, I thought that the rooms would be cluttered and messy; not at all. This place was very stylish with small collections neatly placed on shelves or in cabinets. His love of the sea showed, with a long dining room, like a room on a boat with a group of Toby jars. His aim was that the house had intimate surprises, and he successfully created this with secret passageways and curved paths leading up to other parts of the house.

We each had an audio guide pointing out various paintings and artefacts in each room as well as inform us of Pablo and Matilde’s life together. There was a painting of Matilde with two heads by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, He knew of their love affair and perhaps portrayed this by showing two sides her life. In the waves of her red hair, there is cleverly hidden a profile of Neruda.

Pablo died just after the coup d’état led by Pinochet. He was suffering with cancer, but the shock of the political situation made him worse and he ended up in hospital. He suspected that he had been injected with a deadly substance, knowing that Pinochet wanted him killed. While he was in hospital, La Chascona was vandalised by soldiers, including obstructing the stream, causing the house to be flooded. He died a few days later in September 1973 and Matilde still held his funeral in their home, despite the broken windows, furniture and mud. Thousands of grieving Chileans crowded the streets for his funeral, demonstrating their love for this man; even though Pinochet had placed a curfew on this gathering.

Later Matilde repaired the damage of the house that she and Pablo loved, and lived there until she died in 1985. I am so glad she did. We both thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about these two fascinating people. I don’t think my writing has given the house or these fascinating people justice, so please do research for yourself more about them if you feel inclined.

Further along the lane we popped into a sweet little shop which smelt divine with heavenly scent of lavender and other relaxing aromas. Here we met Drus Nur who makes soaps and creams as well as creates some fabulously whacky felt hats. We shared our experience of felt making; my one and only time with the incredible Eve Marshall; Artisan Felter. Drus (not her real name) shared that they don’t get much passing traffic along this road; Tim then came up with the idea of Urban Knitting to entice people down the street. She seemed intrigued. So if you ever hear of a great Urban Knitting extravaganza in Santiago, you know who instigated this.

We wandered around and came to the Funicular built in 1925, taking people to see the 14m high statue of the Immaculate Conception that was inaugurated in 1908 thanks to private donations. After queuing for a good 30-minutes, the old wooden carriage took us up the 485m to Cerro San Cristobal and the most incredible panoramic views of Santiago. Small stalls selling the usual touristy stuff, plus a couple of food stalls were near the top and we then walked further on to see the icon statue of Santiago. It reminded us of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, just not quite as imposing.

It was time for us to head back as I had a coaching session with a client. We reached our next Airbnb, this must be over 70 now, and wow, we have picked well. When Tim saw that the Wi-Fi is 200Mbps, I thought he was going to wet his pants with excitement. And as it is Valentine’s Day, we treated ourselves to our usual tuna and avocado salad for dinner. Oh yes, love is in the air here in Santiago.

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