|We had to hike up a steep hill to get this shot of the cathedral with Volcano Osorno behind it but we think it was worth the effort
Where We Be
|Puerto Varas sits at the edge of Lake Llanquihue, with snow-capped Volcano Osorno in the distance
We settled in for the month of March in a room in a
house with a German landlady in a Spanish-
speaking town. Our monthly rent came to all of
$250. This proves it is possible to find inexpensive
lodgings in small towns overseas if you wait until
you get there and work with the locals. In this case,
it meant looking for signs saying "Hospedaje,"
indicating a room for rent in someone's home or
hostel. Ours had its own bathroom and was in a
convenient location close to downtown.
Puerto Varas is located in the popular Lake District
of Chile. A snow-capped, conical volcano on the far
side of Lake Llanquihue (pronounced "Yankee
Way") adds a touch of drama to the town. Plenty of
restaurants serve up "plates of the day" as well as
flaky empanadas, and small fruit stands sell fresh-
as-can-be Chilean fruit at bargain prices. Two
supermarkets keep prices low for groceries, and a
good bottle of Chilean wine costs about $3. Still,
this is a popular tourist destination in Chile, so
prices at restaurants and hotels are higher than in
most parts of the country.
We bought a space heater for our room because it
was chilly and cloudy most mornings, but by
afternoon the sun usually popped out and it turned
quite warm. On sunny days, we took long strolls
through town and got to know our environs.
There were enough sights in the region to keep us
busy without being too busy. And that was good,
because the focus of our month here was to
improve our Spanish. An extra perk of our location
was the Spanish school just across the street. I
took conversational Spanish lessons with Malva, a
native of Talca, Chile. I met with her on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5-7 pm and worked
on relearning the many things I had forgotten
since my Spanish classes, lo, these many decades
ago. Robin focused on self-study (plus practicing
with me), and by the end of the month we could
have simple conversations with each other in
Spanish. We also met twice a week with a couple
who run a hostel nearby to trade free English
lessons for Spanish lessons. The fact that few
people spoke any English at all gave us extra
incentive to learn the local tongue!
Our month in Puerto Varas is (so far) the longest
we’ve ever stayed put in one place overseas. We
liked having a home base and enjoyed the slower
pace of life that becomes possible when you aren't
changing locations every other day. We did make
trips to Chiloe Island and the nearby town of
Frutillar but were otherwise content to stay put.
|View of Puerto Varas from a lookout point near some of the most lavish homes in town
|Beautiful flowers abound in Puerto Varas
|Robin stands in front of our simple lodgings for the month, called "Hospedaje Las Dalias"
|The northern outskirts of town. We hiked up to Parque Phillipi (where the cross is located on top of the hill) for a panoramic view.
|We walked down this hill each day to get into the center of town
|The town's German roots are reflected in its architecture
|Volcano Osorno with the swankiest restaurant (and boat) in town in the foreground
|Panoramic view of Volcano Osorno & Volcano Cabulco from our favorite perch above the lake, a five-minute walk from home
|View of the cathedral in Puerto Varas, which broadcasts hymns for all to hear on Saturdays and Sundays and rings its bells daily at noon
|The inside of our room where we spent lots of time studying Spanish
|This restaurant was right next door to our home and offered delicious oriental cuisine
|This "pichanga" offers a ridiculous portion of fries hiding bites of
steak, chorizo, pork, cheesy bread, boiled egg, olives, pickles...
|Sunday at the beach on Lake Llanquihue -- the locals savor the last Indian days of summer as autumn fast approaches (in March!)
|It's no great surprise that fruit stands in Chile are plentiful and the fruit delicious
|Cafe Dane's is our favorite place in town for flaky empanadas
|Signs of American culture are everywhere, especially in music and ads
|Craving a little taste of home, we ordered a hot dog at a cafe and this is what we got --
a hot dog covered in guacamole. It's how they eat 'em down here. Viva la diferencia!
|Our friends Andreas & Tania, with whom we traded English-for-Spanish lessons twice a week
|Here's the little school across the street where I studied conversational Spanish
|My wonderful Spanish teacher, Malva, with her husband Alex -- the best!
|We spent a day in the nearby town of Frutillar -- quaint and quiet
|A tempting display of "kuchen" (German pastries) in Frutillar