Sometime before leaving on my grand adventure, I had contacted Tona, a friend of mine who grew in Chile to see if she might be around to meet up while I was in Santiago. Unfortunately, she’s currently studying in San Francisco. I guess that’s what I get for letting my friendships go idle. However, she did put me in contact with a friend of hers that lives in Santiago, Esteban, whom agreed to host me and show me around a bit. After arriving, I hopped a taxi into town and soon after, met up with my host. We were both hungry, so he took me to the Harvard Bar, a bar right outside the campus area for a beer and some Chorillana, a Chilean bar food consisting of fries topped with meat, egg, onion, and sausage. We discussed my plans which included heading to Valparaiso in a couple of days. Luckily for me, Esteban would be heading there the next evening to be with his girlfriend and offered to meet up with me on Sunday to show me around. Valparaiso is Esteban’s favorite city in the world which not surprisingly is the place that he grew up.
The next day, I first got my bearings by locating the tourist office in Providencia, and then I was able to track down a dealer of EBook readers in town and replace my stolen Nook. I’ve felt so lonely the last month not being able to go someplace and read the many books I had selected for my trip. Afterwards, I decided to seek out the Japanese garden located at the Santiago Metropolitan Park. After walking all day, I was exhausted. I stopped by a small food store and picked up some Empanada’s and a Danky. It would be dinner at the apartment and then off to bed. Esteban arrived later, collected his things, and then was off to Valparaiso.
The next day was spent checking out Santiago where I took in most of the tourist sites. I started by checking out Barrio Brasil and the Concha y Toro neighborhood. It’s a street with late 18th century / early 19th century buildings. It’s a peaceful neighborhood with park benches, water fountains, cafes, etc. While looking for a cafe, I stumbled upon Hostel Tales, where Scott, the attendant greeted me at the door and invited me in for a cup of tea. Scott, originally from the US, looks to be in his early 50’s. We talk about Chilean culture. He moved there, because, as he describes it, the people are much more welcoming and “dating” after your 30 is a joy, rather than the chore he perceives it in the US. I also make the acquaintance of Kherfia, a French traveler of Arabic descent. I’m overjoyed to be able to practice my french with her. Scott invites me to join a group that he’s taking down to the Lakes region in Mid-February. I take down his information but do not make any promises.
I spend the rest of the day checking out La Moneda, a site of historical significance in Santiago. It’s a building that was originally built for producing and distributing Chile’s currency but later became the site for politicians. It’s not much of a tour, and I found it mostly uninteresting. Afterwards, while searching for a place to sit down and have some tea, I stumbled into Cafe Bombay, a coffee shop that Chileans commonly refer to as “Cafe con Piernas” or “Cafe with Legs”. It’s a new thing popping up in coffee shops around Santiago where the waitresses are dressed very provocatively. Coffee and Tea never looked this good.
I finished off the day by eating lunch at Mercado Centro and later having dinner at the MosaiCafe in the Patio Bellavista. I went home soon after, ready to take a bus to Valparaiso in the morning.
The bus ride to Valparaiso from Santiago is roughly 2 hours straight through Chilean wine country. If you have the time, you can stop off and tour some wines in the Casablanca valley. I arrived in Valparaiso and after locating my hostel, La Casa Volante, I met up with Esteban for a quick tour of the historical part of the city. Valparaiso seemed in many ways similar to Naples, Italy for me. It’s a bit dirty but there’s culture and art all around you. The city is filled with brightly-painted staircases leading up to all the cerros. Walls throughout the city are painted with amazing murals. This isn’t graffiti. It’s art where many creations are of the caliber found in many post 20th-century, contemporary art museums. And of course there are the walkways and balconies that cover the city, overlooking the harbor filled with all kinds of shipping and naval vessel imaginable. After walking for an hour or two, taking photos of every kind of art or vista imaginable, Esteban takes me to Los Portenos in Plaza Sotomayor for lunch. It’s completely packed and we arrive just in time to get the last seat before a line starts to form outside the door. It’s popular for a reason. The seafood here is amazing. Esteban and I order the seafood chowder and talk over some wine. After lunch, Esteban and I say farewell and we go off about our own adventures.
The next day, I start off my day attending a tour of Valparaiso run by Tours 4 Tips. It’s an organization that does tours around Santiago and Valparaiso for only tip money. It was highly recommended to me by people that had been to Santiago and Valparaiso before me. Afterwards, I enjoyed lunch at La Belle Epoque Cafe, an art gallery and cafe overlooking the harbor. In the evening, I sought out Empanadas las Famosas, a restaurant famous for, you guessed it, making amazing (and cheap) Empanadas. For 600 pesos, it was the best and least expensive option I’d encountered in Valparaiso so far.
My last day in Valparaiso was spent visiting the Maritime Museum and lazing around taking in La Belle Epoque Cafe one more time, as well as trying some pasta at Pasta y Vino. Pasta y Vino changes up their menu most every day. I was fortunate enough to have some of their spinach gnocchi with 2 glasses of Chilean Carmenere wine. It was a fantastic way to end my trip in Valparaiso. In the morning, I’d be off to accomplish a dream of mine that I’ve had since I was a young child.