TRAVEL: Easy to Warm to Chile; Fiona Ennys Goes Exploring in Beautiful South America

Article excerpt

Byline: Fiona Ennys

EXCUSE me, but we're looking for Everton football clubThe two garage mechanics looked at me and shrugged. It was pretty obvious they had no idea what I was talking about.

But then, I wasn't asking the question in downtown Liverpool, but in Vina Del Mar in Chile, South America.

The rather plush casino resort of Vina - just down the road from the thriving navy port of Valparaiso - is the home of the `other' Everton, nicknamed los ruleteros (ruletero is Spanish for roulette player).

Blues fans will already know about their South American namesake. But a part-time supporter like me was chuffed to not only track down Everton South America, but to also walk out on its hallowed turf - via the players' entrance!

OK, the ground - Vina's Estadio Sausalito - was empty at the time and the only players around were a couple of youngsters warming up with their coach. But hey, we'd found it, thanks to a persistent taxi driver who had amiably joined in our hunt-the-club project.

Everton (Chile) was formed in 1909, taking its name from the Goodison Park club which had just completed an unbeaten tour of South America.

Eight Anglo-Chileans - who had met up in Valparaiso where ships from Liverpool docked - founded the club and decided to play in blue just like their heroes.

Our trip was two-fold. Not only did we want to track down the Blues, but we also wanted to follow in the footsteps of my husband's grandfather who had visited Valparaiso as a young seaman back in the early 1900s.

And I'm so pleased that we did. It's an amazingly col ourful place spread over 44 hills surrounding a huge bay - the home of a very imposing Chilean navy.

The Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Naruda had a house there in the 1960s, now opened as a museum. Neruda called it his `house in the clouds'. As I stood in the glass-walled living room taking in panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean below I could understand why.

One of the more eccentric aspects of the town are the rickety, but functional, wooden funiculars that take passengers from the bay up to the top streets, past brightly painted houses and hillsides tumbling with col ourful flowers - and all for the equivalent of just a few pence.

It's an exciting port. All the more so when a well-organised protest at a presidential visit spills over into the city streets, forcing drivers to take a detour around burning tyres and bouncing crowds.

Chile is a country still in the throes of a new democracy: just 30 years ago, those who would have protested like this against the then military junta of General Augusto Pinochet were tracked down, arrested in their homes and `disappeared'. …