The Wrong Villa Alegre
The Wrong Villa Alegre
A Road Journey through Central Chile
Days, I had spent planning our route from Santiago back to Valdivia. I thought I had found the perfect itinerary, interesting places not too far apart to break up the longer road sections. The Rough Guide to Chile says: “stray a few kilometres off the Panamericana and you’ll catch a glimpse of an older Chile abounding with pastoral charms. Chief among these are the region’s small, colonial villages, with their colourful adobe houses topped by overhanging clay-tiled roofs. Among the prettiest examples are Villa Alegre” …
Shortly after San Fernando, we turned off the motorway. Green vineyards, lush orchards and people on bicycles, it was idyllic. Somewhere ahead was Villa Alegre with its sun drenched Spanish style square and two elderly gentlemen sat on a bench waiting for time. The song of the cricket and the clinking of coffee cups would be the only sounds to break the silence. I could smell the coffee …
One more bend, we must be nearly there. The road narrowed, turned to dust and ahead was the river. No village, no public square, Villa Alegre was just a few scattered houses along a dusty lane. With difficulty we turned the car around.
The closest village (with a square) was Placilla so we stopped off hoping to get some food. Julie and I headed for the post office. “Stamps? I only have seven!” Reluctantly the post mistress agreed to sell Julie her whole stock. We chatted away and she told us that the family running the café were from Switzerland.
Franco has last been seen heading towards ‘El Suizo’ but when we got there he was nowhere to be found. I banged on the door and in my best Genevan accent “I hear you are from Switzerland!” Roger welcomed us warmly. He is originally from Zurich but his wife Maria Cecilia is local. She inherited the building and they decided to make the move. They have done an amazing job restoring it with adobe and turning it into a café with rooms out the back.
Franco appeared, puzzled. He had been told the café was closed for the day.
As only two of the six Chileans booked for lunch turned up, we stepped into the breach and ate their pastel de choclo (a kind of shepherds’ pie with maize mash replacing the potato topping). A good deal for Roger and for us.
Swiss Connection: Roger, his daughter, Kath and Maria Cecilia
P.S. Julie, Angie, my sincere apologies, the Villa Alegre of the Rough Guide was south of Talca. We passed the turn-off a few days later.