The one thing you quickly learn if you spend any time at all with Isabel is that she tells a lot of stories. A lot of wonderful stories! I feel so lucky that I get to sit in on these stories, some of which are 100 percent true. Or at least it would appear so…Today, at lunch, Isabel told us a story about her recent trip to Uruguay. (It was a long journey for a speaking engagement that is secondary to the story I am about to retell.)
As she and Willie were being shown around the country, their driver suggested they visit a home of a painter named Carlos Páez Vilaró. It was a name Isabel was certain she’d come across before, so she agreed to the visit. Upon entering the house, she saw a photograph on the wall of a father embracing his son. Isabel immediately recognized the picture from a news story she had covered in Chile over forty years earlier, back in her days as a journalist. She remembered that in 1972 a plane had crashed in the Andes Mountains. Although everyone was presumed dead, the father of one of the passengers never gave up hope that his son was still alive. Although many weeks had passed, he hired a Chilean arriero named Sergio Catalán to go into the mountains and find the survivors. (As best as I can figure, an arierro is a sort of Sherpa. Or maybe a bloodhound. Yeah…he’s a Sherpa bloodhound.) The arriero headed up into the mountains and, miraculously, found a group of survivors, including the man’s son. As the arriero was coming down the mountain with the rescued boys, Carlos Páez Vilaró was climbing up, such was the strength of his conviction that his son was alive. The story is clouded in my mind by time and legend, but even I heard the story as a kid here in America. Read more here.
For Isabel, meeting this man, who is over ninety years old, was very inspiring. She told us his spirit was that of of a much younger man—Isabel said he was more like a fifty year old—and he is so in love with life and beauty that he and his wife sit on a terrace of their house each night and drink a toast to the setting sun. She said they applaud the sunset and drink champagne on the terrace overlooking the sea, which is named for Plácido Domingo, who sang there on one occasion.
Did I mention that Carlos built the house himself? It is a stunning creation, all constructed by hand. Carlos told Isabel that if guests were planning a visit he would tell them to give him a few weeks and he would simply add on a room so they would always have a place to stay. Carlos and his wife also told Isabel they have been fans of her books for years, and sure enough—there, on a shelf built right into the wall, was a collection of all of her books and a little plaque reading “Isabel Allende.” In some of the posted photos you can see the shelves, as well as a sampling of the art Carlos has created. Here is a link in Spanish about their meeting.
What a life, what a story! Lunch is NEVER dull around here.
Isabel also told us about Uruguay: the tiny country and the massive rivers that flow from the high mountains to the sea. I think she had a special time in Uruguay. It is definitely on my list of dream vacations.