Saturday, January 16, 2010

Summer in Winter

Seth and I just got back from 3 weeks in the southern hemisphere, in Chile. Although I knew intellectually before I went that it would be summer there, and managed to pack some sandals, I still took my long johns along! It turns out that Solstice in December means SUMMER Solstice with the really long days and nice weather and all. It really does. Wow. Now, I realize that many of you contend with real winter unlike those of us spoiled enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, but soggy, foggy, cloudy, soggy, foggy, cloudy, rainy weather is still not SUMMER. It was pretty darned cool to experience it for really truly.

I can't fit all 535 photos that I took on here, so I'll try to pare it down a bit! I may only be able to do a section of the trip at a time, or you will be completely overwhelmed. I can go onandonandonandonandon about it.

We stayed with a wonderful couple, Kate and John, who we know through Seth's dad Charles because they are scientists.

They are much more than just brilliant developmental scientists however. They are also incredibly fun, funny, generous, thoughtful, active and creative people with an excellent aesthetic sense (art pieces shown individually were created by Kate) whom I feel privileged to consider true friends now after spending so much time with them (it was that or arch enemies after that much time I guess).

They live in Valparaíso, a crazy steep, crazy colorful and generally a bit rough and tumble port city. It's Chile's largest port and was extremely important for trade ships in Pre-Panama Canal Days. It has astoundingly beautiful old homes, though many are in fairly poor condition.

Kate and John restored a 1910 (?) house which was built largely of Douglas Fir (they call it Pino Oregón there) which came down in empty ships from the Pacific Northwest as ballast!

You think it's hard to restore a house here, try doing anything quality construction wise in Chile.

To top it all off, Kate and John decided to put in this big solar heated water/ thermal mass system so they could have some heat stored up for winter (which theoretically does happen there also--similar weather to San Francisco). Kate learned how to do it and taught the maestros (carpenters). A woman in a plumbing store is pretty darned radical there. A woman teaching the maestros what to do is unheard of.

Chile, meet Kate.

Valparaíso would have gotten pretty short shrift from us if Kate and John hadn't been there to give us pointers and the calm oasis of their gorgeous home. "Valp'o has it charms, though they are rather hidden at times," as John put it. The view over the bay was certainly charming. you could watch the container ships being un/loaded from Kate and John's cupola room.

They have a dry dock ship that sinks down 12 meters for the ships needing fixing to float in or out. The ascensores (inclines) reminded me of Pittsburgh, but there are 15 instead of two or three. They are all about 100-120 years old, and several don't function anymore, but the ones that do are SO much fun.
You really need them too, because walking up the steep hills over and over just ain't gonna happen.

I could go onandonandonandonandon, and we have barely gotten started. If you want to see a few more photos, click on the flickr link to the right under "links I like."

Chao for now.


R said...

Hi Laura & Seth
Loved seeing blue sky! Diane and I are heading for Isla Cozumel in Mexico - we'll be there for Valentine's Day and can't wait to be warm. We'll all have to get together and share photo slide shows and lasagna.

bob & diane

Jodie said...

Thanks for sharing your trip! Lovely photos. They definitely give me the travel bug.

Mel said...

wow! How fantastic to see those photos of Valparaiso and read about your friends there. I have always wanted to go there ever since reading Isabelle Allende's Daughter of Fortune. Love your friends' house. Please do go on and on and on, because I wanted to read more, like why you would you not have liked it if you had not stayed with friends? Thank you for sharing!