Valparaiso (Chile)

I was definitely ready to see Valpo after what was, to me, a less exciting than expected time in Santiago…

We were in Valpo for about a day and a half (arrived Sept 8, left the morning of Sept 10), but we really didn’t understand how to appreciate the city until the next day when we had our tour with The German Pirate!

Our first half day in Valpo was not bad. We arrived in the afternoon after a 2 h bus ride from Santiago and checked into The Yellow House, a cute b&b on the hills overlooking the port and the city. We took one of the infamous ascensors (kind of like an outdoor elevator?) down to the city after checking, ate lunch at a seafood restaurant (not worthy of mentioning), and got lost in the city for a few hours until dinner. The streets were very charming with the colorful houses, and the street art created a pleasant surprise every time we turned a corner. As dirty and dusty as the downtown was, the hills were beautiful (but also still kinda dirty…) and full of color.

 

The next day, we took a tour with the German Pirate, Michael Arnold. We picked up another couple to join us on the tour, and we set off. We walked around on the hills, and Michael described the culture, history, and life of Valpo to us. He also showed us the highlights of Valpo’s street art. Wow, these artists are talented with a spray can!! We also visited some of the more colorful streets of Valpo. I loved seeing all the houses in different colors. It made the foggy morning a bit more cheery 🙂 We even picked up a few stray dogs who followed us around for the duration of the tour!

Michael had a really special treat for us: we got to see inside the home of an elderly Chilean couple. It was a really unbelievably unique experience. The old man is a magician who used to perform regularly but is now retired and only perform occasionally. He showed us a few tricks, and it was obvious that he as quite the performer in his day. His wife was in the kitchen, cooking away. Their house was decorated with a variety of knick knacks, but what made it interesting was all the pictures off Marilyn Monroe scattered around! Senor was so cute!! I thought it was a really unique experience to get to see inside a native Chilean’s home; that’s definitely something I wish I could do in every foreign city. I didn’t take any pictures of inside his home just in case that was rude.. After lunch, we wandered along more streets and took a ton more pictures of beautifully done street art!

Oh, we also tried our first “completo” in Valpo. A complete is basically a hot dog covered with sauerkraut (not as flavorful as the German sauerkraut though), tomatoes, avocado, and mayo. A lot of mayo. So much that even Anthony Bourdain was overwhelmed when he had the completo. I was pretty excited to try this thing because I like hot dogs, but unfortunately this one was underwhelming 😦 Even with all those toppings on it, the hot dog didn’t have much taste… Sad. I don’t have any pictures on this because the ones I took were on my phone, which I’d lost 😦

Santiago (Chile)

We only spent about 2.5 days in Santiago, but I think that was more than enough for me…

Santiago is an interesting Latin American city, don’t get me wrong. It sharply contrasts with Cusco in technological advancement and fashion sense and in general, the attitude of the people. Cusco is interesting in that it revels in its antiquity–tourists come to Cusco for that reason; they want to see the traditional outfits and the ancient ruins and the llamas, while Santiago is more of a bustling city of international business transactions and universities.

The Lion and I went to the “rich neighborhood” where all the high-rises and business buildings are (Los Dominicos), and there was this HUGE mall. Six stories including a theater on top and a food court on the fifth floor. The food court spanned the entire width of the mall- it wasn’t just a steak, Chinese, sandwich, and pizza place, it had all those and maybe 10-12 more food stands to choose from. The mall has a bunch of stores that I recognized, like Zara, Free People, Steve Madden, North Face, Mountain Hard Wear, Gap, H&M, and even Top Shop (totally jeal, I wish TS would open back home..). Of course, as big as the mall was, it was slammed with people (and that’s an understatement!).

The day before, we climbed Santa Lucia Hill, which was a volcano turned lookout point, cemetery, and park. It was kind of cloudy that day, so we didn’t get to see much of the city, but it was still a cool view nonetheless! At the top of the hill was a maze of steps and bridges that led up, down, and around the hill.

We stayed in Plaza Italia, which is surrounded by one of the coolest neighborhoods I’ve seen: the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood. Bellavista is very hipster; it has a lot of really old but neat-looking buildings, some really cool dive-looking bars, and a variety of restaurants, all of which look really unique atmosphere and decor. Pablo Neruda, a Nobel prizewinning poet, has a house in this ‘hood that he had purchased for one of his mistresses. Bellavista reminded me a bit of Deep Ellum in Dallas, Texas, but with more street art and graffiti.

While I enjoyed Santiago, I can’t really say it did much for me as a tourist destination. It was too… Similar to daily life. In a way, that speaks volumes for how developed this city is. It was certainly a nice change from the ruggedness of camping along the Inca Trail! I just had trouble figuring out exactly what tourists DID in Santiago. Which, I think, is enjoy a home away from home 🙂

EDIT: I forgot to mention, on one of the nights we were in Santiago, Chile won a futbol match against Venezuela and the whole city went nuts! We were actually staying right near the plaza where futbol celebrations are always held (Plaza Italia), so we went over to check it out. Holy mackerel, the streets were filled with people screaming and chanting and drivers honking and vuvuzuelas (sp) blowing and stray dogs yelling and the policia whistling and teen girls humping the policemen… People were climbing on statues, pissing on the streets, and literally all police forces were on duty with their tank vans posted all along the streets. It was insane!! It got to be a little too much for us and we headed back to the hostel for some r&r, but I found it hard not to get excited when there’s so much energy going on around you! “CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, CHI-LE, CHI-LE!”