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23 October 2005 Entry: "Searching for Pablo Neruda"

First of all, I don't really spend my life travelling, it's just that I suppose they are the most interesting times to update the diary!
I am now in Santiago after spending five days in Argentina. I've been in Chile for nearly a week, visiting the Curico Valley which is where some of the fair trade wine sold in the UK comes from. Tomorrow I am heading for Valdivia which is further south, but this weekend I am off and am steeped in Pablo Neruda. I've already visited his Santiago home, La Chascona, which was amazing. Built like a ship, with so many turns, stairs and even a secret door, plus a living room like a lighthouse and another room with a squeaky, squint floor so he would feel as if he were at sea. And so many collections of things. Today I am going to his homes in Valparaiso on the coast and also Isla Negra.
Amazingly, one of the women I met through work in Santiago has many Neruda connections. The craft groups that sell products through her organisation (Fundacion Solidaridad) made many things to mark Neruda's centenary last year, so I now have a suitcase packed with beautiful souvenirs, including cards, a shoulder bag and an amazing cushion cover - thank you so much Winnie!
I've found that very few people here speak English (apart from the few I'm meeting through work) so my little phrasebook is well-used, although the accent is very different from Spain. Lots of bits of words missed off, so it's pretty confusing. But there's no confusion about my name. Fiona is instantly recognised, usually followed by a smile and "Shrek!""

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