Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Garden Renovations: Ready For Asado Season

If you've been reading this blog for a while (that's a pretty big 'if', I know), you'll know that I bought my house in Santa Cruz and renovated it. It's a job I really enjoy, despite the stress and hassle it inevitably causes (get in touch with me if you're interested in real estate in Chile and I'll take on all that stress and hassle for you.).

Occasionally, I do things that, with hindsight, I would have done differently. Within the house itself, I got pretty much everything right. The garden came out well also but there was one thing I think I got wrong, mainly due to the fact that the little well I have doesn't contain all that much water...

Growing up in England, I always thought that a garden without real grass wasn't really a garden. So when I designed the garden here in Santa Cruz, I decided to lay down some turf. And I wanted to keep the dogs off the grass so I designed a wall to go around the grass, with the idea that I'd spend the Summer lounging around on it.

Things didn't turn out that way though...all the happened was that, in a place where it doesn't rain for 7 months of the year and the temperature is 30C every day, the grass quickly turned an ugly shade of brown and the only things that grew were weeds. It didn't look pretty and I was losing over half the garden in terms of the space I actually used.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to rip up the grass and open up the space by taking out a couple of the low walls. The grass was a slightly expensive experiment that didn't go as planned and I'm much happier now with the cobble-stone style I replaced it with.

To break up the cement & stones, I put in a bit of brick. It was going to be in straight lines but because of the old antenna, the only way we could get it symmetrical was to do an X. So I took advantage of that and put an old tin under the X filled with a few old coins and a deliberately confusing note for future generations to wonder over when they dig it up. X marks the spot and all that...

I also bought a few old wine barrels to plant things in. Those are Wisteria plants that will climb up the antenna.

I'd already planted this cherry tree in a barrel when I first moved in. In early Spring, I threw some compost on it and a few weeks later, a dozen tomato plants grew out of it.

I'm really pleased with how it all turned out. There's much more space for having people over for asados and the whole back patio just looks so much cleaner and more open. And the dogs now have much more space to run around in, which is better for everyone...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Elqui Valley: Awesome

I haven't blogged much recently. I just can't really be bothered- I love my life here but it's not all that exciting. It's usually just a mix of walking the dogs, hanging out with friends and going to Santiago every now and again. I would be blogging about the flat renovations in Santiago but they're on hold for about a month, so we'll probably restart when I get back from England after Christmas.

But I went last week to Elqui with a lady friend and it's such an awesome place that I really thought I should share.

It's a bit of a drive to get there from Santiago, which is where we started out from on Tuesday morning. It's even more of a drive when you decide to take the scenic route through Ovalle and over the mountains direct to Vicuna, instead of the 5 Norte via La Serena. Still, it was worth the extra time and the 140km of single track dirt road with sheer drops to one side and goats running around trying to force you off the edge every now and again. The views were amazing the constant changes in the colour of the ground was interesting.

See- pretty.

We arrived late afternoon in Pisco Elqui, the last village in the valley with paved roads and a really gorgeous little place full of well-maintained adobe houses.

There's lots of accommodation around as well and we got lucky with the first place we tried. Los Datiles has pretty decent cabanas but the grounds and the garden are incredible, a real oasis of loveliness.

We didn't really do all that much apart hang out, relax and admire the stunning scenery. The green vines against the backdrop of the dry mountains, which look like cardboard cut-outs is just amazing.

But we did make it the 5 km down the road to Montegrande, birthplace of one of Chile's two Nobel Prize winners, Gabriela Mistral (the other being Pablo Neruda, obvio). The museum/house devoted to her is pretty poor but the Plaza and church are nice for a few minutes.

And a few more minutes down the road is the valley's only winery, Cavas del Valle (well, Falernia's also in Elqui but much closer to La Serena. The rest of the vines are all to make Pisco, for which the valley is famous). They make an interesting Syrah which I enjoyed enough to buy a bottle of and a couple of less than interesting whites, both of which I found to be almost undrinkable (although some people really like them). It's well worth a drop in as there are very few truly boutique wineries in Chile and they need to be supported.

We also spent a few hours in La Serena- a very pretty historic centre and a windy as hell beach.

That's Coquimbo giving La Serena the finger.

And that's about all for now.