It’s very hard to know what sort of weather we will have each day. Betting on rain is a longshot but knowing if the afternoon is going to be hot or cold would even leave Nostradamus scratching his head.
I went out to put up some more posters for private students. When I left the sky was blue and our trip to Viña del Mar looked like it was all systems go. Half an hour later I watched the fog creep in from the sea and suddenly wished I’d brought a beanie. Another thirty minutes later I was back home and we couldn’t even see the next cerro through the fog (niebla).
We rugged up ready for the possibility of fog and headed out for Parque Quinta Vergara. The parque was originally owned by the Alvares-Vergaras family, who were rather well to do in their day but had financial problems and had to sell the land to the city council. Their original home is still on the land but shows signs of decay and is cracked all over. It looks like it’s going through some sort of restoration.
There is a gigantic cement amphitheatre in the parque and it has this amazing suspended structure in the centre of the theatre. We can’t work out if it has any acoustic purpose but it is incredible how far the cables stretch out across the roof.
Viña only has three hills and it’s a welcome change to be able to walk without navigating an incline. There were several nice surprises for Indiana and Truce today. There were some horses in corrals, dinosaur shaped plants and a tree that the girls played in for a full hour before we decided it was time to find afternoon tea. A pair of humming birds flitted in and out of some lemon trees close by. We’ve spent ten minutes looking through one of our photos of them and we can’t find them anywhere. Hats off to the wildlife photographers who capture humming birds on film.
Vegetarians, cholesterol counters and fine dinners look away now. Casino Social J Cruz is an eatery shoved down the end of a little alley way in the middle of El Plan. Apart from a Coca Cola sign at the end of the passageway there is no way to know that this restaurant exists unless a local tells you about it.
It keeps the strangest of hours 10pm-1am Sunday to Thursday and 10am-4am Friday and Saturday. The place is always full and has two items on the menu, chorilliana and desmechada (stewed beef). The only thing that changes is the size of the servings depending on how many people are at your table. We went for the chorilliana and for CH$6500 you get a pile of chips weighed down by onions, eggs and fried pork on a plate for two people. The walls of J Cruz are covered in a mix match of memorabilia such has an old aeroplane propeller and a huge porcelain dog listening to his master’s voice coming out of a dusty gramophone.
The tradition seems to be that you have to leave something behind when you’ve finished eating. Passport photos, signatures, student ID cards and other personal effects adorn any reachable wall space. Indiana had a chatterbox in her pocket and she was keen to join the tradition so she left that on a shelf. We watched a teenage girl balance on a table and put her sunglasses on the porcelain dog, which was wearing someone’s hat, everyone in the room cheered when she had managed to dress the K9.
Silver service is yet to find its way to J Cruz and I think that is part of the charm here. There is free bread though. Even the most simple restaurants here give free bread. We shared the meal out and the waiter brought over an extra plate, complete with the crumbs from another customer’s complimentary bread. Our glasses were still wet telling us that they had been freshly washed. We only hope that soap was involved in the process.
With such limited wall space inside customers often sign the wall of the alley that leads back to El Plan. Our verdict of J Cruz? We’ll be back.