On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter
By Tom Blake columnist
September 16, 2022
Close encounter with a future king and queen consort
On March 1, 2009, Greta and I flew from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile, to begin a three-week land tour of South America. Because we were unfamiliar with Santiago, we booked a tour guide named Mauricio Yanez Mora to pick us up at the Santiago Airport and transfer us to the Orly Boutique Hotel, where we would stay for three nights.
We also scheduled Mauricio to show us around the city on a half-day tour the following day.
Greta and I were so impressed with Mauricio that we hired him to drive us on a day trip to view the Casablanca Valley wine country and the port city of Valparaiso on March 3. Valparaiso is 75 miles from Santiago. (See the brochure from 2009 above).
Our first stop in the gorgeous Chilean countryside was at Emiliana, an organic winery, about an hour west of Santiago. The autumn leaves were starting to turn; the scenery was breathtaking.
There were only a few other visitors at the vineyard that morning. We walked 45 minutes around the grounds, seeing geese, roosters, hens, and other birds, which ate the bug pests, instead of the winery using pesticides. There were llamas around the vineyard. We were able to sample some wines in the wine shop.
When we returned to Mauricio’s car, he discovered his car battery was dead. The winery had no battery charging equipment. Mauricio borrowed a phone and summoned a truck from Valparaiso to fix the battery problem. We’d be on our way in a half hour or so.
And then, a bizarre event occurred that startled Greta, me, and Mauricio as well. Seven green and white police motorcycles came into the vineyard with lights flashing and flags flying, followed by two army trucks, also with lights flashing. The motorcycles and trucks turned in our direction. There were three sharpshooters standing in the back of each truck, holding high-powered rifles and machine guns.
The three of us looked at each other. Had we done something wrong? Were we going to jail? Would we be victims of a military coup? The trucks and motorcycles passed within 20 feet of us and in less than two minutes, they disappeared into the vineyards. They appeared to be looking for someone in hiding.
Mauricio asked the vineyard employees what was going on. We were relieved to hear that it was merely a security check by the police and military in advance of a visit to the winery by Prince Charles and Camilla from the U.K. who were visiting the vineyard on March 5. Apparently, Prince Charles’ hobby was organic farming.
Not to be political, but I didn’t care that Prince Charles and Camilla were visiting the winery because I wasn’t a big fan of Prince Charles at that time.
Before long we were on our way to Valparaiso, a bit relieved that we weren’t in handcuffs in the back of an army truck. And, Mauricio’s car had a new battery.
Fast forward to last week, September 8. The airwaves were filled with the news that Queen Elizabeth had died. Prince Charles became the new king, King Charles III, and Camilla became the Queen Consort.
Upon hearing the news, Greta and I looked at each other. I said, “Think about it, 13 years ago, we missed having a nearly private encounter with a future king and queen consort in an organic vineyard in Chile. Not many people can say that.”
We both smiled. In our travels, we’d come upon some firsts for us. Among them, almost seeing Prince Charles and Camilla at a Chilean Winery in 2009 and being at the ABBA Museum in 2013 in Stockholm on the museum’s opening day. Events like these are rewards of travel.
Now, Emiliana is the largest organic vineyard in the world. In 2021, more than one million cases of wine were sold.
If you are traveling to Santiago, Chile, and want an incredible tour guide, contact Mauricio. Read the below review about Mauricio. I am confident this is the same Mauricio who drove us around in 2009. If you book him, remind him of this story at the Emiliana Vineyard in 2009. He probably now has a spare battery in his trunk.