Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Weird Structure

Our Keuka neighbor Julie and I went on a short hike on the Finger Lakes Trail south of Hammondsport NY. Julie had just returned from a 100-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park, but this was going to be just 3 miles—more my speed, or rather distance. Julie is an expert planner for outings like this. Read about her approach on her PlanPackGo site. Following her advice I put on some Off bug spray to keep the mosquitoes, gnats, black flies and other pests away.


Notice the Chinese writing on our can. This is Off from our time in Hong Kong, 1995 to 2001. Despite being almost as old as Patrick, it still worked.

During our hiking chatter we found out that in our youth we were both Trixie Belden fans. Nothing like a good mystery! If you don’t know the name, Trixie and rich girl neighbor Honey inhabited a parallel universe with Nancy Drew. They lived in upstate New York and found more jewel thieves, antique thieves, and all-around bad guys than you can find in Chicago today. In every book Trixie, Honey, and the Bob Whites solved a mystery, escaped some danger, and were exceptionally conscientious about doing their chores at home.

So we happened upon a mystery that Trixie and Honey would have spent a full book solving. This is it. What is it?


Very odd to see this kind of standalone structure at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere.

Spoiler Alert: The answer is coming. Scroll to the comments and make a guess before you keep reading.

Our first guess was a drying rack, possibly for hops. This wasn’t all that likely since there wasn’t any hops in sight. Maybe we were just thirsty and thinking about having a beer. (These photos are hops from our trip to Washington/Oregon last year.)

Maybe the mystery structure was for drying marijuana, although the area seemed too exposed for something that is still so illegal. Tobacco? That doesn’t grow this far north. And where are the crop fields? Of course it could have been a drying rack for clothes. But as we got closer it seemed obvious that it was too large and too high, not to mention too far away from a house, to serve this purpose.

We continued on and found another clue. This blue stone, obviously manmade, was just off a trail at the edge of a field in the middle of nowhere near a wooded area. It could have been a piece for a mancala game or a collapsed marble or a decorative stone used for flower arranging. But why here?


Not a diamond, as in Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery, but a blue stone.

At the top of a hill was a very nice bench with a spot overlooking a small lake next to a farm. Several colored flags stood in a circle. Another piece of the mystery.


Beautiful spot to rest. What’s with the flags?

Trixie and Honey probably would have figured out everything from these clues, but we were stumped. We decided to take the easy way: Walk down to the farmhouse and simply ask. No one seemed to be around until we poked our heads into a greenhouse and met Kevin O’Brien, who explained it all.


Kevin O’Brien wearing a Wegmans apron.

Kevin was tending microgreens (which looked delicious). For eight years, he’s worked on this site, which includes an organic farm, Thunder Mountain Foods. They provide microgreens and wheatgrass across upstate New York (including our favorite store Wegmans) AND they have a CSA, with an option to do a work share: Work at the farm for a few hours a week and take home fresh organic produce. We’re on it for next summer!


Microgreens in the greenhouse just beginning to grow when the rest of the area’s crops are at the end of the season.

That didn’t clear up the mystery of the odd structure, but Kevin explained the second function of the site, hosting PeaceWeavers, a community formed when the drums of war beat in the 1990s for Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East. The group’s spirituality draws on Buddhism and Lakota Native American tradition. The sanctuary hosts retreats, seasonal gatherings, and in some years a natural building colloquium, NBC.

Among other materials, the natural building process uses mud and straw.


Which little pig built a house of mud and straw?

On this hot day, it was cool and pleasant inside. One mystery was solved as well.


The blue stone is one of the decorative pieces placed in the mud.

The group built a meeting house several years ago, a Round House.


Inside the meeting house, very cozy.

Nearby is one of the simplest and most essential structures, an outhouse.


All it needs is a half-moon cutout on the canvas door.

The retreat includes a sweat lodge, although with the hot weather this summer, a fire in an enclosed structure wasn’t really needed to work up a good sweat.


Sweat lodge looking in


Sweat lodge inside

We found out the flags we had seen above the lake were part of a medicine circle. Finally we came back to the mysterious structure. Its function became more clear when we saw the fire pit at the center. When PeaceWeavers hosts events, the structure becomes a shaded arbor. Pine boughs are placed on the overhead lattice and participants gather in the shade while the group creates a sacred circle for silent meditation. Mystery solved!


Imagine a group of like-minded folks weaving a circle of peace around the mysterious structure.


Here they are! The Peace Weavers (Photo from their website)

We were happy to find such an interesting spot. You don’t have to travel around the world to find something worth visiting.



Our return home brought even more surprises. Who would have thought that smelly old shoes could be repurposed as containers for succulents?


This is only about 10% of the garden of hens and chicks in shoes. Note the greenery popping out of the roller blade.

We may have stumbled on the world’s smallest church, on Robbins Road outside Bath.


Where is the rest of the church?

We ran into Jim Robbins (yes, related to the road), who explained what we were seeing. At one time, in fact for over 100 years, a Methodist church stood on this site. Some time after the church roof fell in, the building was removed but the steeple was left standing. This wasn’t dropped from a rooftop; it is the original position of the steeple. Jim and his family plan to repair the steeple, probably next year. We’ll be back to take a look.


Foundation stone inside the steeple

Julie and I enjoyed our outing so much that we’ve decided to write a book together about Keuka Lake. Watch for its publication next summer!

Meanwhile, Michael and I still have more to publish from our trip this spring, specifically Mexico. That will come soon.




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Costa Rica plants, animals, volcanoes and a quetzal

If Costa Rica doesn’t bring visions of lush forested jungle, it should.


Hibiscus in the wild

We visited Monte Verde Bosque Nuboso, not a rainforest, but a cloud forest.


The distinction between rainforest and cloud forest wasn’t clear until we hiked to the viewpoint and found that there wasn’t one, viewpoint, that is. We were just 30 miles from the ocean, but in and above clouds so all we could see were the treetops fading into haze. No rain, but 100% humidity.


The moisture in the air helps the foliage grow…BIG!

Monteverde is described as one of the most likely spots to see Costa Rica’s interesting wildlife.


Our first sighting: a friendly face, complete with protruding tongue.

We were on the watch for koati, tree frogs, and howler monkeys. But they all evaded us. Guides we met along the trails suggested we needed to tiptoe along so as not to scare away the wildlife.


This owl butterfly was huge, close to six inches wide. The “eyes” on the wings deter predators.

We were far from alone at the reserve. This is a birder’s haven. Guides carry high-powered telescopes on tripods and help visitors spot dozens of varieties of birds. We met one visitor from the U.S. whose business was painting Audubon bird images. Another group of more amateur birders excitedly showed us their excellent photos, all taken by holding iphones up to the eyepiece of the telescope. We scouted the area on our own and heard a lot of birds and spotted a few.


Toucan Sam holding a Froot Loop in his mouth?

We were on a quest for a quetzal, not the national bird of Costa Rica (which is a very bland-looking clay-colored thrush), but possibly the most famous. Our friend Francene from Brisbane said she saw it not in the wild, but on the currency during her Central American trip. The quetzal note not only appears on the Guatemala bills; it is the country’s unit of currency!


The quetzal flies across un quetzal.

We were lucky to arrive in Costa Rica during quetzal mating season. In fact, when we purchased our tickets the folks at the reception desk showed us a likely spot for a sighting where one quetzal pair had established a nest. We were in luck. Later we saw another pair in a different area, but far from the trail. We circled back to this spot later and watched the colorful bird grooming and chirping.


The resplendent quetzal in all its splendid glory

On the very last trail before we left, a short loop that probably rarely had visitors, Nancy did see an animal. Four guides provided four different names for this gray snake, but all agreed it wasn’t poisonous.


Just in case I misunderstood the Spanish assurances that this snake was NOT poisonous, I stayed away.

Outside the park is an information area with a gallery of hummingbird art and an outdoor gallery of live art as dozens of hummingbirds flit about from one feeder to another.

Lots of international visitors come to Costa Rica and stay at the full-service luxury resorts. We had one unscheduled night and thought about staying at one of these resorts, but that one night would have cost as much as the whole week at our guesthouse. It had a bigger pool but not worth the extra price. However, Michael did play golf and met up with some friends.


Is an iguana considered a movable hazard?

From Monteverde we traveled back to one of the San Joses of Costa Rica (There are multiple San Joses, some with an accent, some without. Very important when booking travel!) and visited an active volcano just over an hour from the capital city.


Imagine coming across this sight on a hike through the mountains.

Here too we found clouds at the top of the mountain obstructing our sight, but this time we did a hike and circled back just in time to see the clouds move from the crater of Poás Volcano to reveal the mudpots and steam rising from a lake. It is so acidic it has been measured at a pH of -0.87. This hot lake is appropriately named Laguna Caliente.


Laguna Caliente in Poás Volcano

The last eruptive activity was in 1954 and scientists say the volcano could blow at any time. As in Hawaii, the volcanic soil is very fertile. The road down the mountain is lined with shops selling fresh strawberries with melted chocolate and sweetened condensed milk (a new treat). We sampled some: quite good! We ate them too quickly to get a photo.

Like Panama, Costa Rica is another country where expats flock to enjoy retirement and get off the grid. The lovely guesthouse where we stayed has been owned by a Swiss refugee for nearly 20 years. Next door a grandmother had emigrated from Canada a similar number of years earlier.


Visiting with the Canadian grandmother who lived near the guesthouse. She was waiting for the tide to fill her own private pool.

One of the best restaurants in the area offered up-scale French cuisine and was run by a chef from L.A. and his family. These very happy refugees had all found locations along dusty, rutted gravel roads many miles from a supermarket or mall.


This was a main road from our guest house to the restaurant. Not too bad if you avoid the deep ruts and drive during daylight.

The local residents all seemed to know each other too. Enrique, the young bartender at the restaurant at our guesthouse, was the son of the bartender at the French restaurant and his surfing buddies were our waiters at two different restaurants a few miles (but many minutes over rutted roads) away.


The  beachside restaurant where all the surfing boys worked is called Lola’s. This is Lola, not the original, but the descendent of the pig for which the restaurant is named.

We discovered a new international drink perfect for hot weather, the BBC (Bailey’s banana colada). Enrique had never heard of it but gave it a shot and succeeded. We’ll see if the bartenders in Palm Springs can recreate it!


Enrique created the BBC just for me.

Although our trip to Costa Rica was in March, time has flown (like the resplendent quetzal) and we will be off to Mexico on the blog and Palm Springs in real time. For now, here is a Costa Rican sunset.


Buenas noches, Costa Rica!


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A man a plan a canal Panama (and a hat)

Our location at a Hyatt Place in Panama was easy to find. All we had to do was tell the taxi driver “Iglesia del Carmen” and he (or she) would bring us to this beautiful gothic church around the corner from our hotel. Like many of the other churches we visited in South and Central America, it had special activities for the Jubileo de la Misericordia, Jubilee of Mercy. This diocese celebrated 500 years of faith in 2013.


Church of Our Lady of Carmen

Illuminated at night, it looked like a Disney fairy-tale castle as much as it did a church.


Iglesia del Carmen at night

Panama is famous for at least two things: panama hats and the Panama Canal. Michael traded in the Made-in-China panama hat that he bought in Buenos Aires for a legit white panama hat handmade in Panama.


Michael in his infinitely foldable Panama hat in front of the iconic Panama Canal.

With hat in hand, the place to be in Panama City is the canal, truly a logistical marvel. Without the canal, these container boats with precious cargo would risk the treacherous Drake Passage and long timeline to travel around South America’s Cape Horn. Alternatively, rail and truck traffic across the U.S. would be much higher.


This might look like a stack of Legos, but it’s actually a giant ship full of railroad-car-sized containers.

Viewing canal crossings is a big deal. The Miraflores Visitor Center is equipped with four floors with stands, ongoing live descriptions in English and Spanish, and plenty of ice cream to withstand the heat. Construction of the canal was started by the French in 1880 but didn’t get far. That effort went bankrupt and the designers, including Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower, were indicted. President Teddy Roosevelt stepped in with support of Panamanian independence with strong economic interest of achieving this quick and inexpensive route between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The canal was completed in 1914 and more than 25,000 workers died in the two construction efforts, mostly from mosquito-borne disease. More than 1,000,000 vessels passed through by 2010.

Giant ships move from the Atlantic to the Pacific for half the day, making an 8- to 10-hour voyage. Then the canal direction changes to allow passages from the Pacific to the Atlantic.


Note that the canal actually has two parallel sets of locks so two large boats can pass through at the same time, but only in the same direction.

The dimensions of the canal explain the shape of large oceangoing ships. In 1914, the first large oceangoing diesel ship, the Selandia, was 53 feet wide. The canal was built 110 feet wide. Engineers probably believed they had plenty of safety margin, but they didn’t envision the size of modern watercraft. While pleasure boats generally have rounded hulls, modern container ships and cruise ships have straight up and down sides. This is specifically to enable the largest possible dimensions that will pass through the canal with a small safety margin, the Panamax limits. An oil carrier 106 feet wide has squeezed through.


Like trying to put size 4 jeans on a size 14 body. Is there really a chance they will fit? (photo from the Panama Canal History Museum)

Ships are picked up by small guide boats in the manmade lake that holds rainwater to serve the lock chambers. We couldn’t see this process from the viewing platform, but it consists of throwing a lead rope between the two vessels and engaging a towline. Then a Panamanian pilot boards the large vessel, hoisting the Panamanian flag, and steers the vessel through the canal. Like the mules along the old Barge Canal in New York, small vehicles travel beside the canal pulling the ships forward through sections of locks.


A modern-day mule. This vehicle has a bit of a roller-coaster ride up or down as it travels on the track beside the two sections of the lock.

Like so many other things in the world, the canal has been pressured to be “super sized.” The existing Panamax constraints on maximum boat dimensions no longer work. Wishes for a new, bigger canal began in 1939. Construction of a new canal just beyond the existing one finally began in 2007. Our announcer speculated that it might open as early as July 2016 but final agreements have been slow to be completed. This new canal will operate in parallel to the existing one, but it will be 180 feet wide and long enough to allow two boats to enter the single lock simultaneously.


The basin for the new canal is above the existing canal in this photo.

As we write this in September, the new canal has been open since June, 2016, notwithstanding some problems. At least three ships have had some damage, hitting fenders of the locks.

Interestingly, Panama City is not an enclave for Americans. If Panama has 25,000 American residents, they’re not here. The beaches northeast of the city and on the Pacific Ocean are popular retirement spots. Most of our taxi drivers in the city spoke only limited English, but seemed to enjoy engaging with tourists and patiently tried to understand our Spanish. One particularly helpful driver took us on a side trip to see a small section of Panama near the canal. Here he said all the wealthy expats lived. He showed us the cemetery where American servicemen from the Spanish American War through to the building of the Panama Canal are buried.


Corozal American Cemetery

Donald Trump has made a name for himself in Panama. His Trump Ocean Club is a residential property that bears his name but has had only a management company connection to the Donald. Recently residents sued the Trump management company for improperly paying themselves large amounts of money. Trump has countersued for millions for damage to the Trump name. Based on happenings in American politics, he doesn’t seem to have suffered much. We ate here…meh.


Another monument to Trump that has left locals in a bind.

There isn’t a natural segue from the Donald to our next Panama experience unless it is by contrast. Donald Trump is a loud, larger-than-life character with a huge presence. This sloth was so quiet and small we would have missed it if we hadn’t noticed others gazing up in a tree. Maybe there a couple similarities between the sloth and the Donald. They both have small hands and odd hair.


The sloth or the Donald?

The two things Panama is known for became three after our visit. The country made it big in the news with the publication of the Panama Papers revealing big names in world politics who have very large and questionable offshore accounts in Panama and elsewhere. Mossack and Fonseca had a big legal firm at the heart of the fray and just a few blocks from our hotel. Let it be known that we did not go to Panama to visit our investments. The only Panama papers we associated with were Spanish-language newspapers announcing the goings-on of the American presidential campaign.


Near our hotel, the F&F Tower, right across the street from Mossack Fonseca.

Note: Our Panama trip was in March. We took the slow route around South America to bring this to publication.



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Lima, the city not the bean

The Old Town of Lima, Peru is filled with buildings from its development as a colonial capital beginning in the 16th century after the Spanish explorer Pizarro overtook the region from the Incas.


The Government Palace at Plaza Mayor, built in the 1930s on the spot where Pizarro established his adobe palace in 1535.

We watched the changing of the guard in front of the palace. How do these men function in their long-sleeved tunics, helmets, heavy boots, and gloves in the equatorial heat? We were dying in shorts and t-shirts.


Different colors, but the same high steps we’ve seen in ceremonies like this around the world.

The country is about to see a changing of the guard in its political leaders. Peru has close to 30 different parties and they all had giant billboards along the main streets of town.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from

Looks like the U.S. Republican Party candidates before the winnowing process.

As in other South American cities, old churches are among the largest and most significant buildings. The Monastery of San Francisco, with a bright yellow facade, sets the color scheme for the whole Centro Historico.


Twin towers of the Monastery of San Francisco


The monastery’s ornate interior

Inside we visited the catacombs where an estimated more than 25,000 bodies were buried.  Walking through these dark passages deep underground is a bit creepy, partly from the presence of all these bones and skulls, but also because of being under a massive structure in  the heart of earthquake country. Not to worry, according to our guide. The church has withstood many earthquakes in the past. It’s the safest place to be in town (but still creepy).


This is just the top layer of bones and skulls. People were not decapitated and buried this way; it’s an artistic design made by the archaeologists who have explored the crypt over the last 70 years.


Imagine trying to do DNA testing and skeleton reconstruction on all these bones.

After coming out of the crypt, we took a tour of the old town at night. An earthquake hit Lima in 1746 destroying many of the original buildings. Newer buildings were added to the site with a similar neo-colonial design and bright colors, making the buildings around Plaza Mayor simply glow.


Lima after dark.

San Martin has a big presence in Lima. After his travels from Argentina over the Andes to Chile liberating the region from Spanish rule, he continued his path north to Lima and liberated Peru in 1821 in front of the Government Palace.


The site of this fountain in Plaza Mayor was once the city gallows.

Moving forward in history, Lima’s mayor made an inspired investment in the city in 2007. A section of the Parque de la Reserva was reinvented as the Magic Water Circuit. Admission to the site has a fee (equivalent to $2 US) and lines of thousands of people formed to access on the Friday night we visited. The park has 13 fountains, some timed with lights and sound, similar to the fountains at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.


Brilliant color and motion in the fountains

One of the attractions of the fountains is the opportunity for a hands-on experience, or perhaps foot-on. Visitors come with bathing suits and a change of clothes and join hundreds of others standing on the fountain platform with sprays shooting up and drenching them. While the idea for the fountain park was originally criticized by other civic leaders, the outcome has provided significant affordable pleasure for local residents looking for a fun escape from the heat.


Step in…

Besame mucho! (Kiss me a lot!) That’s a good description of one of the most famous attractions in Lima, a sculpture of “The Kiss” next to a pleasant walkway along the ocean in the Parque del Amor (Love Park).


The ocean along Miraflores

People arrive for a romantic sunset with the sun streaming over the wrapped arms and legs of a couple. The artist (and barefoot subject with his wife) is Victor Delfín, who created the sculpture  to celebrate the lovers who come to this romantic spot in Miraflores.


Dozens of paragliders flying over The Kiss.

We saw one couple who looked to be celebrating their wedding accompanied by a young girl, probably their daughter, photographing them.


THE place to be for romantic moments

Surrounding the sculpture is a serpentine wall of mosaics with deep thoughts and whimsical romantic pairings. These include Romeo and Juliet, of course, but also Ursula and Tito, Cecilia and Alberto, AND Delicia and Alberto. (That Alberto gets around.)


Cecilia and Alberto have a porthole to a beautiful sunset…although they may have an issue. “You are on one side and I on the other, like two oars.”


Delicia and Alberto will again hold these cut feathers.


Alberto Vega – “My dream is a lost island.”

A beautiful way to end our stay in Lima.

Note: This visit was actually in March of 2016, with an extended blogging hiatus before the write-up. Too much life going on in the meantime.





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Santiago, a modern city with fascinating recent history

After visiting the old town of Buenos Aires, the wilderness of Patagonia, and the wineries of Mendoza, Santiago seemed different. It is a modern city, with highrises and chic neighborhoods.


Built in 2012, the Costanera Center, at 64 stories, is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.

…and every U.S. chain imaginable. TGIFridays remains TGIFridays here, not TGIViernes! There are also Domino’s, KFC, and McDonald’s. In fact, the interiors of the large malls are practically indistinguishable from those in Charlotte, North Carolina. The world has morphed toward sameness in many respects.

View of Santiago, sprawling into the haze.

We climbed to the top of a mountain right in the city for that view. It’s Cerro San Cristobal with a 60-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary.

Rio de Janeiro has Christo Redentor and Santiago has His mother.

Like all the other cities we’ve visited, Santiago has a fresh market.


The sights and smells (but no sounds!) of fresh fish at the market in Santiago.


Michael enjoyed fresh watermelon on the street corner.

Chile is on the Pacific Rim, earning its position on the Ring of Fire with regular earthquakes. One of the biggest earthquakes in history was in Chile in 1960. Santiago has seen significant damage in recent quakes in 2010 and 2015. Yet the city continues to rebuild and thrive. There were many museums. Some are quite old, such as the National Museum of Fine Arts, established in 1910.

A twilight view of the Palace of Fine Arts.

The temporary exhibit during our visit was interesting: (En) Clave Masculino, a play on words of both enclave and key to the masculine gender. It included works of male identity and power and submission. Not your typical still lifes and landscapes.

Fernando Botero’s statue The Horse is strikingly modern outside the Palace of Fine Arts.

We visited a museum without art, but rather a history focus, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights.  Memory is important in issues of human rights. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This museum is focused on the atrocities during the reign of Auguste Pinochet, and it includes an international section highlighting more than 20 recent and ongoing human rights struggles across the world.

The Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago Chile

The Museum of Memory and Human Rights was initiated by the one-time and current President of Chile, Michelle  Bachelet, who was one of thousands detained and exiled during the Pinochet regime, while in her early 20s.


The Palacio de Moneda, seat of the Chilean government as it looks today.


The changing of the guard at the palace is on horseback.

On September 11, 1973, the Palacio was attacked in a military coup. Salvador Allende was the president, a Marxist who had lost the support of his legislature and was seen as ruling by decree, trying to gain absolute power.


A statue of Allende near the palace (no statue of Pinochet)

By 7 a.m. the Chilean navy had captured Valparaiso and tanks surrounded the palace in Santiago.


Palacio de Moneda on September 11, 1973. Note the smoke from the windows.

By 2 p.m. the coup was complete and President Allende had committed suicide (or been assassinated. Conspiracy theorists continue to debate this.) An audio timeline of this fateful day is one of the primary exhibits in the museum. The lead-up to the coup was aided by U.S. economic  warfare and CIA intervention under Nixon’s direction.

The photo we would have seen in the papers in 1973.

However, Chile jumped from the frying pan into the fire when Augusto Pinochet took over after the coup. His was a brutal rule of torture and disappearances (and probable deaths) for those who opposed him or presented supposed threats.  The museum records that in September 1973 there were 598 dead, 274 missing and 19,083 detained and tortured political prisoners. The Truth Commission’s final report documented 3,428 cases of disappearance, killing, torture and kidnapping between 1973 and the end of Pinochet’s rule in March 1990.

Pinochet’s known victims are cataloged in the museum with names, photos, and any available information on disappearance or torture. ¿Donde estan?


Since Pinochet’s departure 25 years ago, Chile has recovered a strong democratic position. In The Economist’s  assessment, Democracy Index 2015, Chile is ranked 30th of 165 countries. Interestingly the United States is at only 20 in the rankings and dropping dangerously close to the “flawed democracy” category over the last 10 years. The lowest contributing factor in the U.S. ranking is political participation. So in this major election year, get out and vote!

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Valparaiso = Colorful in Spanish (not really, but it could)

From the modern city of Santiago to the old cobblestoned streets of Valparaiso is only a couple hours by car, but the differences are huge. Google Maps led us up twisting, turning narrow streets that reminded us of the nearly impassable lanes in St. Tropez, only these were at 45 degrees (and in a manual transmission car!)


The colorful cityscape of Valparaiso built nearly vertical from the sea.

The whole town of Valparaiso is drenched in color. Like the bright pastels on the attached homes in Cinque Terra, these buildings seemed to have varied colors to make it easy for one building to stand out from its neighbors when viewed from the sea.


Do you have a favorite color? Blue, red, orange. OK, that’s what you paint your house.

While some buildings have a single color, any open outdoor wall space seems to be covered with creative artwork.


Step out onto your balcony and into the rainforest.


Could this be Frida Kahlo on the side of a building?

It’s important to look all around, side to side, up and down, and behind you so you don’t miss any of the artwork.


It’s a long hard climb, but at least it’s a colorful one on the way up.

Some art work is functional.


Pulso Taller is a clothing and handicrafts workshop.

Much of the art has some symbolic meaning, whimsical or serious.


Can you find middle C?

At the top of the piano-key stairs were some musicians.


We overheard a tour guide saying the woman was Whitney Houston. Maybe. Not sure who the others are.

These stairs also led to the Lutheran Church (not too many of those in Catholic Chile). In a five-minute walk we saw the next three:


A man pushing his head uphill on a skateboard while he bites on a blue rope. What is the meaning?


Wait. It’s not a blue rope. It’s an octopus tentacle. Now the meaning is clear, right?


Tigers for Patrick.

As Valparaiso is often described as an artists’ colony, it has attracted folks from around the world to live and create here.


We wonder if someone from California’s early hippie days escaped the U.S. and set up a home here in Valparaiso.

In addition to its artsy lifestyle, Valparaiso is also a maritime city. The beautiful building of the Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy), stands tall near the center of the town.


Looking out from the Navy building, you don’t see a pretty sailing port or beach, however. Instead, it’s a busy cargo port.


Not the greatest view.


But a very important port for bringing goods into and out of Chile.

On our trip to Valparaiso, it wasn’t boat transportation that caught our attention, but bike transportation. Actually not so much transportation as competition. We were there on the day of the Cerro Abajo, which means”hill down” and is an amazing downhill bike race. (See some good videos at Cerro Abajo.) Crowds gathered in one of the town squares at the bottom of the hills to see the bikers. Some riders are quite the celebrities. Not yet knowing what we were watching, we expected to see the bikers leave from the square, pedal up the hills, and race back down. Not so. They were taken away by car and truck in a caravan parade to the top of the hill.


What goes up will come down.

We were left to find our way uphill to see some of the action coming down. If the stairs are too much, it’s easy and affordable to find a funicular or ascensor.


About 60 cents to ride this “train” up the hill instead of taking the steps. And well worth it at the end of the day!

We hadn’t quite reached the top when we heard loud banging noises. Fans “rang” their support with pieces of pipe inside metal wheels.


Look closely. This guy doing a wheelie has artificial legs.

They rode down steps.


Biker with flowers on one side and colorful mural on the other…and stairs underneath.

They made sharp turns.


Quite the banked turn added to prevent crashing into buildings.

Organizers added little touches in case the natural layout wasn’t exciting and challenging enough.


Go up and down a ramp and ride sideways for a bit. One enterprising biker chose to jump the tape instead. He cleared it.

Some streets of Valparaiso are literally above adjacent streets by 20 or 30 feet. No problem for the bikers. Organizers install take-off and landing ramps and the bikers sail through the air. (Like watching the bike scene of E.T. when the kids floated up in front of the moon.)


Oops! There’s no more street here.


Whee! Or maybe OMG What have I done?

The grand finale brought the bikers back into the square. But first they had to jump the curb and maneuver into this small garden space, and fly out over the gap for their final down ramp amid the cheering crowd. With the main street down blocked for the racers, we were still up the hill watching and trying to find a way down without having to climb up numerous steps first. (Valparaiso is all hills.)


Between one night when this ramp was installed and the next day when the race was to be held, some artist had spray painted white images onto the black. Sponsors didn’t like that so one pre-race activity was repainting the ramp.

A short distance from the naval building is the cemetery. This too is colorful. While some of the flowers are plastic or fabric, most are fresh flowers. We were there on a Sunday and many families were in the cemetery tending the graves, replacing flowers, and having little picnics with their deceased family members.


The dead in Valparaiso have a peaceful setting overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean.

Some of the crypts in the cemetery are more than 100 years old,


Pretty fresh flowers on many of the more recent crypts.

But many of the graves on the lawn are more recent. This was the grave of a seven-year-old girl. It appears that her favorite color was purple. She has dozens of Disney characters and flowers to keep her company forever. Someone loved this little girl dearly.


In eternity, surrounded by playthings and words of love that brought her joy.

By the way, “Colorful” in Spanish is “Vistoso.” Change a few of the middle letters and it is Valparaiso.

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The Chilean Connection: cows, wine, and Michigan Tech

We visited just one winery in Chile, Kingston Family Vineyards, and we think we picked the best one!


The Kingstons visited Hotel Tierra Patagonia in Torres del Paine several years ago. They liked the hotel and the sign and hired the carpenter to make this sign for the winery.

Kingston was identified as one of the best Chilean wineries to visit and it was on our route between Santiago and Valparaiso. Surprisingly we found out we had a personal connection by way of Upper Michigan. We also discovered excellent red wines and the best Chardonnay we’ve tasted anywhere in the world.


The wines are named after the family’s original horses.

The connection story starts with Carl John Kingston, a mining engineer who graduated from Michigan Tech (Nancy’s alma mater) in 1906 when it was known as the Michigan Mining School.

cow at Tech

CJ’s granddaughter-in-law Louise provided this photo of a cow on the campus around the time Kingston attended Michigan Mining School. MTU is now in this location.

Kingston could have stayed in the Keweenaw Peninsula to work at Calumet and Hecla Mining Company or Quincy Mine (which overlooks MTU campus). After all, the Houghton area was and is Copper Country. These Michigan mines were among the world leaders in copper production in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Quincy Mine, once a booming enterprise, now one of the most recognizable sites near Michigan Tech.

Instead of staying close to home, Kingston traveled more than 4,000 miles as the crow flies to Peru to work as an assayer at Cerro de Pasco Mining Company (in the news recently). Several other Michigan Mining School graduates were already in Peru. Their travels in the days before modern air transportation took months and included passage by boat around the southern tip of South America, a much longer and more treacherous journey than our jet flight.


Carl John Kingston passport, around 1920

Kingston’s intent was to find copper or gold. After his investment in a gold mine didn’t “pan out,” the land in Casablanca Chile, 12 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean (and more than 6,000 miles and worlds away from Houghton Michigan) became the Kingston Farm. The gold is underground, so the Kingstons believe, but mining hasn’t been economically viable. (Perhaps Michigan Tech should set up a remote research project in Casablanca to develop new methods of extraction. MTU has had many successes in innovation!)

CJ had met and married an American woman, Caroline Los Kamp, while working for the mining company. On their Casablanca farm they raised their family and dairy cows.


Third-generation Kingstons, Michael, CJ II, and Peter, and their horses whose names would become famous as great wines.

Carl John’s granddaughter, Sally Kingston, returned to Chile after college and married Enrique Alliende. Enrique’s Chilean university studies were in agribusiness. Sally and Enrique now live in Santiago, but every week they spend time at the casa patronal on the farm, managing the overall operation (dairy, beef herd, etc.) Their daughters and families also live in Santiago. So the Kingstons are very much a bi-national family. Now the large farm is 8,000 acres and the family has 2,500 cows.


Kingston dairy cows. Perhaps the cow on the Michigan campus foretold greater success with dairy than with copper.

Several generations of Kingstons have lived part-time on the farm and part-time in the US. Carl and Caroline sent their son John Carl to Harvard. The next generation went to Yale, Princeton, Vassar, and Sweet Briar. In the fourth generation, Courtney Kingston attended Stanford for her MBA. Living near the Californian wine areas and appreciating the environment of her family’s large Chilean farm, she created a business plan to establish vineyards and a winery on the property. We hope she earned an “A,” for it has turned out to be a great success, one might say “a gold mine”!


Kingston grapes as far as the eye can see.

Courtney partnered with California winemaker Byron Kosuge to establish Kingston Family Vineyards. While much of the Casablanca region offered white wines, the pair decided to introduce Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes in 1998. The first Kingston wines were produced for sale in 2003.


Kingston grapes today just about ready for harvest..

Kingston selects the best of its grapes for its private label wine and sells the rest of the harvest to 19 other high-quality wineries. As a boutique winery, Kingston has a few operations that are different from some of the big wineries we’ve visited.


Each of these cubic tanks is used for individual “block” fermentation rather than giant steel tanks. (It’s in the direction of  small batches and LEAN manufacturing.)

At harvest time the blocks are brought inside for a few days of cold fermentation and then held and tested individually. I asked, and yes, there is some footstomping to break up the grapes for optimal fermentation.


Sauvignon blanc is aged in steel barrels rather than large tanks.

The civil engineers at Michigan Tech who participate in concrete boat racing would be impressed by another practice. Kingston uses concrete eggs to ferment some of the Chardonnay. The shape means no dead spaces as in traditional tanks and barrels. Some of the grapes are fermented in French oak barrels for rich flavor. Then the two portions are blended in specific percentages to give optimum flavor. It’s good, we agree wholeheartedly!


Nancy with Huevo 1 and Huevo 2


The tanks, pipes, and other equipment in the winery would fit well in Doc Bredekamp’s chemical engineering unit operations lab at MTU.

The tour was excellent and the tasting superb. The Kingston wine was so good, we purchased 2/3 of 0.1% of the output, a couple cases to be shipped to the US. The vineyard produces about 3,000 cases with the Kingston label and is on its way to doubling that amount.


A tasting of Kingston wines with “hand-made” quality. We know Kathy would like the full-bodied reds.

The vineyard is planning on organic certification within a year or two. Currently one invasive beetle without any natural predators requires a small amount of pesticide. There is an organic solution. Chickens will be brought in to eliminate the beetle. The result will be organic grapes fermented in huevos and organic huevos made alongside the grapes.


Nancy, a “woman of Michigan Tech,” visits Chilean lands handed down from a “man of Michigan Tech.”

The Kingstons are very generous in sharing their story. In one more “small world” connection, we learned that just a week or so before our visit, a dozen Global Studies students from Bentley University visited Chile and spent some time at Kingston Family Vineyards. Michael graduated from Bentley (as did his brothers Stephen and Tom) so it’s a double alumni connection.

Bentley at Kingston

We certainly enjoyed our visit and would love to be able to return to Kingston Family Vineyards on a regular basis. If only it weren’t so far away!


Grapes, roses, and palm trees in the Kingston Family Vineyards.

Reluctantly, we leave the palm trees and grapes of Casablanca to explore more of Chile.







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Crossing the Andes, then and now

The distance from Mendoza Argentina to Santiago Chile is only 111 miles “as the crow flies.” But not many crows could follow the flight path over the high Andes. For us, making this crossing by car was relatively easy, though it’s been calamitous for other groups in the past. The drive starts along the Rio Mendoza and follows several of its tributaries.


These cliffs along the river look almost like the glacier fronts we saw in Patagonia, only red rock instead of blue ice.

With the exception of one section of water, all the rivers we saw were dark and thick with silt. With enough time, this constant erosion will wear the mountains down to nothing. Much of this silt collects in a pretty blue lake formed by the Portrerillos Dam, so much so that the reservoir has lost about a third of its capacity since it was completed in 2003.


Clear waters run down the mountains, but the river is dark and thick as boiling milk chocolate pudding.

This part of the Andes was formed by tectonic shifts when the land mass of Pangaea broke up more than 200 million years ago. Those initial events and subsequent changes have left fascinating examples of varying geology.


Mountains are barren, but the valley shows some vegetation.

We almost didn’t get to drive through the mountains. Route 7 which originates in Buenos Aires suffered a bridge washout southwest of Mendoza a few weeks before we arrived.


Where is the bridge?


Pieces of the bridge pavement are in the river.

Fortunately a temporary bridge was in place that was sturdy enough for the heavy cargo-laden semis crossing the Andes. Route 7 is the main passageway for commercial travel between Chile and Argentina in this part of the Andes.


We saw (and drove behind) many trucks slowly climbing the hilly road.

At low elevation, the landscape is a red and arid sight.


From a distance these looked like giant sand dunes.

Appearing markedly different from the giant red mountains is Puenta del Inca, a rock formation creating a natural bridge over the Cuevas River. Long before the Spanish arrived in South America, the Incas used this bridge for their crossing through the Andes. In the 1920s a spa hotel was built here to take advantage of the health benefits from the mineral waters.


Puenta del Inca, once a resort spa

As we drove along this route we saw occasional piles of plastic bottles. Many looked like simple littering or even collections for recycling. Not far from the Puenta del Inca we saw a huge pile of plastic bottles, far too many to be unintended. We learned that this represented a shrine similar to the red clothing shrines for Gauchito Gil. In this case, these plastic bottles are full of water for Difunta Correa. She was a young mother who followed her soldier husband and brought her infant child. Unfortunately, she died during her travels, but her baby was found still nursing miraculously from her dead body.


Difunta Correa shrine along Route 7.

The Andes mountains are large, with snow on the peaks, even in the height of summer. One mountain in particular will be familiar to anyone with the goal of climbing the seven summits, the tallest mountain on each continent. Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in South America and the tallest mountain outside Asia. In 2013, a 9-year-old from the US climbed it with his dad.


The beginning of the trek to Aconcagua.


Mount Aconcagua peeks out through the pass behind this cross.

Aconcagua is 22,838 feet tall. It’s such a well-known mountain that North Face has a jacket perfect for climbing it, named, appropriately, the Aconcagua. We walked just a couple miles in the park on an interpretive trail.


Our view looking south. The distant green rocks may have some copper in them.


Near Laguna de Horcones high in the mountains were ammonite fossil shells, remnants of the time this area was below the ocean.

Another cross appears at the summit of Aconcagua. We didn’t make it that far to take a photo. Even without making a challenging climb, the trails toward the summit are very tempting for long hikes.


Aconcagua looms north of our passage. In the distant past, parts of the glacier  visible in the photo have broken off and hurled snow and rocks down the mountain valley to spots this far away.

Our crossing of the cordillera from Mendoza to Santiago took about 5 hours for travel (plus some time for border crossing, photos, and road repairs.) More than 200 years ago, José de San Martín crossed the Andes in 21 days. He led Argentinean and Chilean troops to roust the Spanish from this part of the continent. He started with about 4,000 troops and lost about a third on the passage. (We did not lose either of our troops.)


Statues to San Martin are all over Argentina and Chile. He is a hero in both countries.

Another Andean crossing in this area was unplanned and had an even greater percentage of losses. A 1972 flight carrying a Uruguayan rugby team among the 45 people on board crashed into the mountains south of Mendoza. After more than 2 months in the cold and without food, 16 people were eventually rescued.  Nando Parrado wrote about the ordeal in Miracle in the Andes, including the 10-day climb he and Roberto Canessa made over numerous peaks of the cordillera to reach safety and arrange rescue for the others. We read this book before making a very easy crossing and were amazed at the strength and perseverance of these survivors under harsh winter conditions.

People magazine just published a story in advance of Canessa’s publishing of his own book, I Had to Survive. Both books provide quite a bit of information about the acts and the angst related to cannibalism of their fellow passengers that kept the survivors from dying. Interestingly, this is the People meta tag: Note the emphasis on cannibalism. It sounds a lot like the Donner party.

In the late 1800s, the narrow-gauge Transandine Railway ran from Mendoza Argentina high into the Andes. By 1910 work was completed to connect through the Uspallata Pass to Santa Rosa de Los Andes in Chile. It operated tenuously until 1984.


Imagine a train running beside the roadway on this bridge over the Rio Poncones. Most bridges are still in good shape.


Much of the tracks, however, are not in good shape, ripped apart or covered by avalanche debris.


The highest sections of the tracks were only about 3 feet in width.


Some railroad sections are covered by avalanche debris. Many protective sheds are in ruins.

In addition to its cargo function, the train served as an unofficial ski lift. As the pass through the mountains was under construction, engineers used skis to get around the work areas. A Nordic Pony Express-style mail service operated for a short time to get mail across the tops of the peaks. By 1910, recreational skiers took the train to the top and skied down the slopes. This led to the creation of the Portillo Ski area. In the early days Chilean Mountain troops groomed the slopes by packing snow with their boots.


Portillo Resort Hotel from the front. It overlooks Laguna del Inca.


Laguna del Inca’s blue-green waters come not from glacial particulate, but from the spirit of an ancient Incan princess (according to legend).

By 1966, the resort had such renown that it held the Alpine World Ski Championship that year. A young Jean-Claude Killy won two golds. Today the US Ski Team and others practice at Ski Portillo in July and August when the Colorado mountains are full of summer wildflowers. Seeing the area now with nothing but rocks, it’s hard to imagine snow-covered ski slopes.


A chairlift travels over one of many turns on the road down the Chilean descent.

Once over the pass, the Chilean road winds down 29 turns. Traveling this route was bad enough now in bright sun and with dry pavement. It must be extremely treacherous with snow. In fact, the passage closes for 40 to 45 days each winter because of impassable conditions.


This is the Google Maps view of the road!

Plans have been proposed to build Bioceánico Aconcagua, a 33-mile-long rail tunnel through the Andes that would allow rail transport of cargo containers as well as passenger train travel.


The detailed model in the airport shows the major advantages of a straight, flat border crossing without snow vs. the existing road.

Nominally, completion is scheduled for 2020; however, the biggest barriers are not necessarily the mountains themselves, but the financing and international politics. Locals told us they didn’t expect to see this happen for 10 or 20 years, if ever.


Almost like a watercolor painting…


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Argentinean wildlife, mostly in Patagonia

Here in the austral region (southern, not just Australian), we came across birds that looked like the ones we saw last year in Australia.


These are rheas, we think, not ostriches or emus. Rheas have three toes per foot and ostriches only two. We couldn’t get close enough to count.


The little pichiy armadillo was digging for his dinner. In the protected Laguna Nimez Reserve, he would not become someone’s dinner. Elsewhere he might be in trouble.


Llama, alpaca, guanaco, or vicuna, we’re not sure. We need to ask “Is your mama a llama?”


Most likely a guanaco, not a llama.

Where’s the beef? We had plenty of beef in restaurants, but as we drove around Argentina, we couldn’t find many cows. We did see lots of horses and a few gauchos as well as shy llama-looking creatures that ran quickly away from our cameras.

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A few sheep. Lamb and goats are popular when cooked on the asador grill.


Lots of burros. Some of the trekking into the mountains requires packing two-burro loads.


Many of the horses seemed to be roaming wild.


Modern-day gauchos rounded up their criollo horses for tourists to have cabalgatas rides.


Foxes are very common in Patagonia. This one was stretching in the sun right next to us with no worries we would engage in a fox hunt.

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A snowy egret at the Rosedal park in Buenos Aires.


Southern lapwing, gray from a distance and multicolored close up


Michael’s golf course buddies, maybe ashy-headed geese. They acted the same as Canadian geese on the fairways, leaving lots of droppings.

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Geese rousted from the 18th-hole water hazard at Llao Llao golf course.


A carancho or caracara bird of prey. We also saw condors high in the sky, too fast to photograph.


Probably upland geese, strolling through Laguna Nimez Reserve.


Black-necked swans. Who is the ugly pink duckling?


Chilean (pink) flamingos and their reflections on Lago Argentina in El Calafate


Plenty of bees to pollinate the lavender.

We did see trout too, but only on our plates. Trucha from the Patagonian streams is very popular and quite tasty.


These aren’t really wildlife, but whenever we stepped off the roadside in Patagonia, these little burrs “jumped” onto our shoes and clothes.


Just another day in Patagonia with a guanaco and a rhea in front of Mount Fitz Roy.

On to Chile…

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Wines of Mendoza, malbecs and more

It’s two weeks before harvest starts in Mendoza. Wine makers are a bit nervous about this year’s vintage because the area has had twice the normal amount of rain this season. Many of the vineyards have netting over the vines because the grapes are very susceptible to hail damage.


Acres and acres or hectares and hectares of grapes.

The vines and grapes looked fabulous to us. We’ve discovered a couple new favorite wines: Torrontes (white) and Malbec (tinto or red).


These grapes will be wine in a few weeks.

We’ve also, after a couple false starts, learned how to do wine tasting in Mendoza. It isn’t the rush-from-one-winery-to-another craze that we have in New York (for example, the Keuka Lake Wine Trail experience includes up to eight wineries in one day!) or even Napa and Sonoma. Instead, it’s a more casual tour and tasting and possible meal, spending several hours or a full afternoon at the bodega.


This looks a bit like the painted barrels at the Keuka wineries a few years ago.

The biggest difference with these wineries versus those back home (in the US) is that you MUST have a reservation here. We met with “Lo siento” (I’m sorry), “Completo” (full), “Cerrado” (closed) at four out of five wineries we tried to visit on our first day. Fortunately, we did get in to Bodegas Salentein.


Salentein winery, designed to coexist with the natural environment.

Our very enthusiastic guide told us the history of the winery, in existence only since 2000. Even though the winery is relatively new, the wines are delicious. Our host was full of information about the region, the winery, and all things wine. He told us that Argentina has a zero-tolerance blood alcohol level for drivers…except in Mendoza, where it’s 0.05% (not supported by fact checking, but an interesting perspective).


Salentein winery, with the most informative wine-tasting ever.

At Bully Hill on Keuka Lake we learned “Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Swish. Swallow.” Here the instructions were a bit more instructive and suggested a leisurely pace. Smell the wine and then notice the difference when you smell after you swirl it in your glass. The first sip opens the palate. Swirling the wine in your mouth provides an acidic shock, especially strong on the sides on the tongue. The second sip causes salivation. The third sip finally provides an opportunity to taste the wine for a symphony of flavor. Try it. It’s true.


Speaking of symphonies, the Salentein cellar hosts piano recitals. Guests sit leaning against the barrels and appreciate fantastic acoustics.

Mendoza has three primary wine areas. Salentein is in Valle de Uco, about 90 minutes south of Mendoza. It’s the newest wine region. Much of the area around Mendoza is considered a desert, but the introduction of drip irrigation has allowed excellent controlled viticulture in the rocky soil. In fact, some of the best wines are now grown at higher elevations in the region, about 4,500 feet.


Leaving the space between vines untilled helps the soil to retain nutrients. Drip irrigation provides excellent moisture control, unless, of course, there is too much rain.

We stopped at Dominio del Plata in the second area, Lujan de Cuyo. Interestingly Google Maps failed us here, putting most of the wineries in odd places. After driving in circles on gravel and potholed roads we found our way around using a photo of this map, 100% accurate.


The best map we found for Lujan de Cuyo wine region.

The folks at Dominio del Plata were too polite to tell us we were arriving after the end of lunch and tastings and served us some complimentary wines, even though they were busily getting ready for a Valentines Day event that night. This winery is where we learned about torrontes.


Torrontes, crisp, fruity aroma, citrusy flavor

It’s a fruity, but dry and citrusy white wine. Interestingly, the wine owes its development to a lady vintner, Susana Balbo. She is known as the Queen of Torrentes for her efforts to develop and promote this special wine. This winery too is relatively new, formed in 1999.


We bought torrentes and rose malbec with the Crios label for under $15 for both.

On another day we were armed with reservations. We visited Bodega Catena Zapata, one of the oldest wineries in Argentina, also in Lujan de Cuyo. It represents a merger of Italian and Argentinean, the Catena and Zapata families, and was founded in 1902.


Winemaker Domingo Catena and his wife Angelica Zapata

A modern bodega and the characteristic logo was established using a Mayan pyramid design signifying that this is an American (as in “the Americas”) wine, not like traditional Italian wines.


Catena Zapata, possibly the best wines in Mendoza.

This winery too has a modern influence from a woman. Laura Catena is from the fourth generation of the wine-making family. Although she earned medical degrees from Harvard and Stanford and works as an emergency physician in California, she also visits the winery regularly to provide direction. Her scientific approach enabled a better understanding of the interaction of sunlight at high altitude with the grapes, which allowed the development of the “highest” wine, Alta, grown at 4,757 feet.


Looking down on one of the Zapata vineyards. This landscaping looks like it could be a Mayan symbol, a bird maybe?

All the Zapata wines are aged in oak barrels. US barrels provide a buttery flavor and French barrels invoke a spicy flavor. The barrels are toasted inside for extra flavor. Zapata uses a “medium” toast.


Thousands of oak barrels rather than steel tanks at Zapata.

Our next winery was Melipal. Second time was the charm here. We were turned away on our first visit late on a different day,  but the grounds and small dining area looked so appealing we had to come back.


Can’t pass up a winery with such pretty lavender (Melipal)

This time we did just a tasting with lunch, not a tour. Hardly a tasting, actually a five-course meal!

Collage created using TurboCollage software from

Lomo (beef) to postres (dessert) and everything in between at Melipal was delicious.


The not-so-glamorous side of winemaking, Melipal’s bottle-washing operation

After this, it was time for siesta, a nice nap after lunch before dinner at 1884 Francis Mallmann. A renowned Argentinean chef, Francis Mallmann is known for his cooking with open fire. Coming full circle, the restaurant is a joint venture with Zapata.


The outdoor “kitchen” at Mallmann.

The cooking with fire had several stations. The grill at the top left (in the photo above) was for steaks and other meats. The rounded hut at the right was the asador for roasting whole goat and lamb. The open fire at the front had vegetables and fruits roasting and sauces boiling…and added plenty of heat to the eating area.


The wood fire on the left drops down hot coals which are moved to the right to cook the meat on the grill.


Michael had the seven-hour roasted lamb, so tender he wasn’t even given a steak knife.


The dining area is outside. At the end of the night our clothes smelled like we had been at a campfire.

Our final day in Mendoza included a three-hour lunch at Bodega Familia Zuccardi, another of Mendoza’s best wineries. This is in the third Mendoza region, Maipu, although this winery also has some grapes at the higher altitudes.


Zuccardi Q for quality. Some of these wines are available in the US, even at Costco!

We bypassed the tour for a tasting lunch, quite a gourmet feast accompanied by six wines! (See the food photo below.) Courses in the three-hour meal included (clockwise from top): 1 basil, cherry tomato and garlic-fennel, blue cheese pear “snacks.” 2 garden salad with a basil sorbet (served in a closed jam jar filled with smoke!) 3  rabbit tempura with vegetables 4 tasting teas with delicious mini-alfajores. 4 vacuum-packed lamb with chard blinis. 5 corn cake, trout and avocado salad. 6 breads with olive oil cream. 7 basil rocks and frozen foam, watermelon, and caramelized tomatoes.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from

A “simple” lunch at Casa del Visitante at Zuccardi (click to enlarge)

One of Mallmann’s trainees, chef Vanina Chimeno, created an excellent restaurant that is a great alternative after meat overload. We had lunch and dinner at Maria Antonieta on our first day in Mendoza. Lovely, organic produce with a cleansing cucumber lemonade instead of wine.


The fresh produce as our centerpiece showed up in that day’s menu items.

We’ve heard there is good wine in Chile too, so that’s where we head next.



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