Thursday, December 9, 2010

Puerto Varas rundown

Puerto Varas is a resort-y town on Lake Llanquihue. It appears to be full of French people, both tourists and expats (both hostels I stayed at are owned and/or mostly staffed with French people). It's heavily touristed, and from the way everything is called "[thing] Patagonia," it looks like it's a jumping-off point for trips to Patagonia. The lake is beautiful, and when the clouds clear (1 day of my 5 here) there are a couple lovely volcanoes standing watch.

The Lonely Planet book contains many lies: most of the listed restaurants are gone, specifically Sirocco, Govinda, Imperial 605, and Sushi Varas.

  • Hostel Melmac - Nice place, clean, comfy beds, CH$8000 for the dorm; no breakfast. It's across the street from a nightclub, which wasn't awful but could be quieter. Big kitchen, but there's only one inaccessible power outlet in the dorm, and not really any couch-enabled common space, just the office and the dining area.
  • Casa Margouya - I was here for one night. It's CH$9500, which includes a nice breakfast. The space is smaller, but there's a comfy common area with chairs (although one chair is usually taken up by Nutria the dog).

  • Café El Barrista - I spent at least half of each day here. It's a North American-style coffee shop with excellent espresso, desserts, and lunches, with wireless and plenty of power outlets. I didn't bother trying the other café in town, because really, why bother?
  • Cafe Dane's - This has a great reputation, and it's quite good, but it's a standard Chilean salon de té, serving the same stuff as every other such place in Chile. Depends on whether you want to eat typical Chilean food or not.
  • El Gordito - It's Chilean, but outstanding. I had the garlic salmon (salmon al pilpil), which, ignoring the warnings not to eat salmon in Chile (farmed, antibiotics, etc.), was delicious and garlicky. The congrio andaluza, conger eel with crab sauce, was possibly even better.
  • Pim's Express - Good, proper pizza! The full Pim's is an appealing pub on the water, carrying two of the local beers: the lager isn't very good, and the Marzen is good if you like Marzen (I don't). If you try the two local beers, don't like them, and order a Kunstmann Torobayo instead, be prepared for the disdain of the waitress.
  • Parentesis - I only had a bite of someone else's pizza, but it was conspicuously better than Pim's (which makes it very, very good by food-snob standards).
  • Mediterraneo - The service was slow and annoying--the clientele was gringo tourists, so I can appreciate where the staff would hate their life--but the vegetarian lasagna was top-notch. They served it in a bowl so it could be properly soaked in its tomato-cream sauce.
  • Vicki Johnson Chocolates - Excellent truffles. Nothing's cheap, but I'd wager it's all worthwhile.
Doing Stuff:
  • Honestly? I didn't do anything. Not exaggerating at all. I was here for 5 days and didn't leave Puerto Varas. I broke up my stretches hanging out at Café El Barrista and the hostel with visits to restaurants and short walks around downtown. If you want, though, there's volcanoes, waterfalls somewhere, kayaking, trekking, etc.
Overall? I'm glad to hang out someplace with good coffee and chocolate, but eating non-Chilean here is a bit more expensive than Chiloé, and the surroundings are not as pretty or interesting. I'm glad to have stopped here, but on a future trip I'll probably plan more time in Chiloé.

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