.. spent the July of 2002 in Santiago Chile. But it was not the summer season there rather it was winter; a terse period of cold rain and temperatures in the 30s. My morning hours, I walked from an apartment hotel to the broad magnificent Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins and navigated my way, over the course of 25 to 30 minutes, to the Bellavista neighborhood for Spanish language classes.
One of my goals, while in Chile, was to visit the three houses of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda is considered a giant among Latin American writers; he died in 1973 two years after receiving a Nobel Prize in Literature.
The first of Neruda’s three homes is conveniently located in the very same neighborhood of Bellavista. I signed up to be part of a tour that the language school had organized during my first week in Santiago. The home, named La Chascona, is tucked on a quaint street in a trendy and artsy section of Santiago. The inside of the house connotes a maze-like feel as one rambles through irregularly shaped rooms that are crowded with rustic furnishings and folk art objects. A thickly grown garden hugs on side of the building. The house suggests a nautical ambiance; one oblong room, in particular, features a deep concave domed roof.
Not a week had elapsed, before another tour was organized by the language school, which I signed up for immediately, and this tour was organized to visit the twin cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar on the Pacific coast; this was an all-day trip on a Saturday and 90 minutes west of Metro Santiago. The visit included a tour of Neruda’s second home in the twisty hills of Valparaíso.
The La Sebastiana is a light and airy home with a staggering view of city and the bay below. An open patio greets visitors. As with the Santiago home, the Valparaíso house features a series of uniquely shaped and eclectically furnished rooms. An overall nautical ambiance is strongly present. A chance to view the actual Nobel Prize medal was a delightful highlight of the tour.
Neruda’s third home is Isla Negra which is not an island but a location on the coast; it is about one hour south of Metro Valparaíso. It is the most famous and most recognizable and the largest home of the poet. Neruda and his wife Matilde Urrutia are buried here. The house, which is sited near bluffs by the Pacific ocean, features quite large items of folk art, some interior limestone walls, and exterior nautical-related objects; including a dry-docked boat and oversized ship’s anchor.
I never saw Neruda’s third home, Isla Negra. I had wanted to sign up for an upcoming tour but it was scheduled for a few days after my planned return flight home. Curiously one day, during my last week, someone at the language school had asked me why I didn’t attend an earlier tour, to Isla Negra, that occurred during my first few days of residence in Chile. The person had indicated that a message had been left for me to join in. Later that same day, back at the apartment hotel, I inquired about the message with the receptionist. The receptionist looked and she discovered that there was a message for me that had been left during my first day in Santiago. The delayed message had invited me to join a tour to Isla Negra. Unfortunately someone had forgotten to delivered it to me.