Grapes in Texas

In France, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, Oregon, and South Africa we visited wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards this year, so, when we saw that we were in Texas in time for the Grapevine Grapefest, we knew we could not miss it.  Boy is an expert on grapes, now, and the event promised a free kids activity area.


To avoid the 90+ F/ 35+ C temperature, we got there in the morning when the gates opened.  We enjoyed the festival music and food, playing some games of skill to win a few prizes before trying any wine.  The event featured areas spotlighting Oregon wines, Argentinian wines, and USA sparking wines from various regions.  The main area, however, was the Texas producers.  We wandered through the festival and sampled a variety of Texas wines.  Many were very sweet, as Texas wines traditionally have been, but some winemakers have been experimenting with Spanish varietals to make a dryer wine.  After our year of vineyard experiences, we decided Texas wines were not our favorite, but we still found a glass to enjoy with lunch.

Easter Island

We are a few days behind on blogging as our internet access was limited on Easter Island.

Rapa Nui, also called Easter Island, or Isla de Pascua, is the most remote inhabited place on earth. Five hours by air from Santiago, it is officially a part of the country of Chile. Settled by Polynesians about 1500 years ago, the island was mostly abandoned by the 18 th century. Now, home to a few thousand residents, and a lot of tourists, the 11 mile long, island has one town, Hanga Roa, where we landed at the airport about 10 PM, midnight for our body clocks, still on Santiago time. Our hotel picked us up at the airport and drove us the 5 minutes to the hotel. Boy couldn’t keep his eyes open another minute, and was asleep before we arrived.

We joined a group tour for a couple days which took us to the major archeological sites of the island. We started with the 18th century stone houses and petroglyphs of the bird man cult at the site of Orongo. These images were incorporated into the 19th century Catholic Church in town, leading to some very odd looking angels. The volcano crater at Rano Kau was another highlight of the first day.

The next day, we focused on the Moai (big heads), viewing the quarry where the red hats were obtained and the larger quarry that was the source of the stone heads, themselves. The quarry at Rano Raraku still holds hundreds of large Moai, in various stages of carving, some still embedded in the rock. After viewing the source, we saw the reconstructed platforms at Ahu Tongariki where the standing Moai overlook the island. While circling the island, we also saw dozens of fallen Moai, left where they fell during the islanders civil war in the 17-1800s.

Disappointingly, the local museum was closed until further notice due to legal problems, so we missed the only Moai with original, intact eyes, but we saw plenty of reconstructions to give us an idea. After our archeological studies, we enjoyed a few days at Anakena beach, before returning to the mainland.

Our school work this week has included several videos from Nova and National Geographic on the topic of the Moai (big heads) of Easter Island. We also enjoyed the picture book “The Day The Stones Walked.” We have been without Internet access, so our online Spanish lessons and spelling games are on hold until we return to Santiago. Instead, we have done lots of old fashioned reading and writing on paper.

Our books:

2015/01/img_27431.jpg Fresh bananas all over the island

2015/01/img_2789.jpg The Moai




The most confusing airport gate in the world

We have flown in and out of dozens of countries. Some airports are clean, calm oases, while others are dusty, crowded places. Regardless of the language, all have an expected flow and order to the system, however structured or lax that may be.

Checking in for Easter Island has been our most confusing flight ever.

Easter Island, while a Pacific Island, and a significant length of flight from the mainland, is part of the country of Chile, as Hawaii is to the USA.

Flying from Santiago, we expected to check in as a domestic flight. The airline personnel, however insisted we had to go to the international check in desk, so we did. The check in desk then directed us to the international security line. On arrival at security, the checkpoint director turned us away, sending us to the domestic security check line. We went through domestic security and followed the signs to our gate, noted on our ticket as gate 20. Gate 20 is in fact, gate 20 A and gate 20 B. While it is not uncommon, in many airports to have an A and B gate, this one was divided by a glass wall, with an unmanned, locked door. Our flight was listed on the signage for gate 20 A. We were at gate 20 B, on the wrong side of the locked door. Our gate, 20 B, had no signage for any flight. We and a dozen other passengers, all walked up, tried the door, and stood frustrated and confused. Gate 20 A was in the international terminal. Passengers were not allowed to cross the glass barrier.

Someone finally tracked down an airport employee, who said, that even though the flight was posted at Gate 20 A, on the other side of the wall, we would, in fact, be leaving from Gate 20 B. “Trust me!”

He was correct. We did board from gate 20 B. Passengers also boarded from Gate 20 A, onto the same flight. They had gone through Chilean immigration, as the flight would continue on from Easter Island to Tahiti. Both A and B sides of the gate shared a jetway, that led to the same airplane. Despite the lack of signage, the flight left on time, and we made it to our destination.

You would think that with a regularly scheduled flight, this would happen often enough someone would post a sign to reassure the confused passengers.

We were just relieved that it all worked. “Trust Me!”



Summer days in Chile with the family

Above Santiago is Cerro San Cristobal, a high hill, topped with a statue of Mary. A funicular, or inclined railway, takes visitors from the bottom to the top, making a stop at the zoo, halfway up. Joining a line of locals enjoying a family afternoon at the park, we purchased our tickets for the ride to the summit. When we entered the car, a plaque noted that this was the same car used by Pope John Paul II when he visited Santiago in the 1980s. A few minutes later, we disembarked at the church of the Immaculate Conception, guarding the walkway to the foot of the statue. The fog limited our view of the Andes, but we had a clear view of the city below. Pan pipes serenaded us as at the souvenir shops and cafe while we waited for our return journey down the rails.

Continuing to follow the local families, we spent the next day at Quinta Normal, a large park, just a few metro stops from the center of town. Home to several museums, including the newly renovated Natural History Museum of Chile, and the entertaining but dated Museo de science y technologia, the park was full of picnicking families out for a weekend afternoon. Boy jumped up and down with excitement upon noticing pedal boats on a small lake in the center of the park. Dad and Boy pedaled about the pond while I fed the ducks from the shore. Finishing up with ice cream, Boy pronounced it “a great day!”

Another family find on our Chilean stop was the MIM, Museo Interactive Mirador. In the Mirador suburb, a dozen metro stops from the center of town, the shiny new science museum filled an afternoon for Boy. He especially loved the construction area, where kids could use small versions of cranes, and other construction equipment.

Just outside our apartment was Parque Forestal. This large green space had several large playgrounds, and a terrific cafe at the end near the Bellas Artes museum. Overlooking one of the playgrounds, the two level cafe was decorated with antique toys. Their menu featured lunch items, coffee and beer for the parents, and incredible ice cream sundaes for the small people.

We made a few grown-up stops as well, checking out the Pablo Neruda museum in Valparaiso and a winery in Vina Del Mar. These intrigued Boy less, but more ice cream and the beach made it a tolerable day.

Our school work this week has been focused on Spanish language practice and review topics, as we try and finish up our Language Arts and math workbooks, before starting on our Rainforest and Inca studies next month. We also picked up a book in Australia, that we are working through this month: Once Upon A Slime, by the author of the 13 Storey Treehouse. This book for elementary school kids, with lots of cartoons, is about the writing process: how to get ideas for stories, and how to make a writers notebook to help you improve your writing. Boy is a reluctant writer, but loves the 13 Storey Treehouse books, so this has been a fun find.

The funicular at Cerro San Cristobal


Top of Cerro San Cristobal


The Natural History Museum at Quinta Normal


The vineyards


The Flower Clock at Vina Del Mar


Sleepy in Santiago

It was Tuesday morning when we left Australia. A full day later, with many movies watched, meals eaten, and little sleep, we disembarked in Santiago, Chile, still on Tuesday morning. Perhaps it is repeating the day, but jet lag seems much harder to cope with flying in the westerly direction. We cleaned up, unpacked and pushed through our afternoon in our rented apartment, making it out to a cafe about 3 pm. Returning from our late lunch, we all struggled to stay awake till 5 pm, before collapsing into bed. Boy begging, “please, please can I go to sleep, now?” Not even extra computer game time could entice him to try to stay awake longer.

Up again by 3 am, we counted the hours till we could go out for sightseeing. By 9, fed, cleaned, and bouncing off the walls, we walked to the Plaza De Armas. Finding a cafe, we took in the morning commuters while we sipped coffee and juice waiting for the museums to open. Our first stop was the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino. The museum has a fine collection of antiquities from all over Chile, with a fair representation of items from Easter Island, Peru, Ecuador, and Central America as well. It was not overly crowded and took us about an hour to see all three floors. We enjoyed the museum, but were annoyed to realize later we were shortchanged on our ticket purchase, more than doubling our effective entrance price. Our sleepiness was affecting our processing speed.

We were disappointed to find the Museo de Santiago and Museo Historical Nacional were both closed for remodeling this month. With many locals out of town on summer holidays, this is the time they close for renovations. The tourist office told us they would reopen again in a few weeks, but not until after we have gone. We did venture into the Catedral Metropolitana (also under renovation, but still open) and the Iglesia de la Merced before heading to the Mercado Central for lunch.

Refreshed, we used our burst of energy to climb the hundreds of steps up the hill at Santa Lucia for a view of the city.

The fountain at Cerro Santa Lucia


A statue of the founder of Santiago


Boy practiced his Spanish by ordering ice cream after our hike up the hill. He got the message across, and we all enjoyed a cool treat out of the hot sun.

Now, we just have to stay awake until, at least, 6 pm.