48 hours in Valparaiso
Nick and I headed to Valparaiso for a couple of days. We had heard a lot of great things and decided to see for ourselves while we were close enough (as it’s a little over an hour away from Santiago). Since we didn’t have Lemmy, we decided to ride the bus. We took the Metro to the bus stop and bought our tickets for the Turbus line. I must say, it was fantastic! The seats were super comfy so Nick and I took a little snooze. I had read a blog that these buses are meant for longer overnight trips, but commonly go to Valparaiso too. Bonus! We were there in under an hour and a half, it was great. And in the long run, I think it’s better we didn’t bring Lemmy – Valparaiso is a very hilly town and parking was hard to come by where we were staying. So we grabbed an Uber (it really is everywhere!) and headed towards our Airbnb.
Driving around Valparaiso (or Valpo) was like an explosion of color! There were murals and street art everywhere. I loved it already. We started up the steep hill and the uber dropped us in front of our building. It was so cute and quaint! Inside, it was completely refurbished but still had charm. We met our host and she was great; she spoke perfect English, got us checked in and sent us up the hill for a lunch recommendation called Tres Peces.
If I could have lived in Tres Peces forever, I would have. It was an adorable sustainable seafood restaurant with mismatched glasses and so many things to look at. We split a fantastic fish dish with garlic, tomatoes, and potatoes, along with some ceviche. What really surprised us was the dessert. We got a profiterole and it was humungous! Our host had warned their desserts are huge (but delicious!), and she wasn’t wrong!
We finished up at the restaurant and headed towards the meeting place for our walking tour. We did another free one through Tours 4 Tips. It was great – they brought us through the two most popular hills, or cerros. We learned about Valpo’s history as a port town. The area where we were was recently declared an UNESCO historic site, so the city has been doing a lot to maintain the history and has thus brought in many tourists. It’s a truly magical town. We wandered through some famous passageways of street art and rode the trolley car. We also learned about the funiculars, which are a fun way to get up the hills.
Something that I thought was interesting was that all of the fire stations are named after a different country (like the German fire station, the Japanese fire station, etc.) in honor of a patron who funded the building of the fire station. It all started with the very first fire station, called the American fire station, after someone who donated the money to build it. When it was finally complete, he had already left to go to another city and didn’t have any way to contact him, so they called it the American fire station.
The walking tour was great, but a fun little surprise is it brought us through this passageway where there was a little house with an alfajores sign. An alfajor is two cookies with a caramel-like filling, which is then dipped in chocolate. Yes, so delicious. You had to ring the bell and this cute little old man came out with chocolate covered alfajores. Really, a slice of heaven. I noted this for when (not if) we’d come back tomorrow.
We finished the tour and wandered around the town. It’s really fun to just wander around and get lost in all the little corridors and streets on the hills. We stopped in this place with a killer view over the bay called Fauna. Nick and I played rummy for a couple hours and ordered a sandwich. We also saw our first Catan sighting in the wild! I could tell Nick wanted to join them (but they already had 4 players, haha). We headed back to our Airbnb to do some research on car insurance for outside Chile.
In the morning, we had breakfast at the Airbnb. It was so simple and delicious. Cata, the host, was so nice and I loved to hear about her favorite spots in the city. After breakfast, we headed down the hill to meet our guide for a Gra-free-ti tour (get it?), same idea as the other one (tips only) but it was focused on grafitti and street art. It was my favorite tour so far, I really liked it. We learned about the history of street art when Allende was elected in the 70s, and the influence from Mexico with artists like Diego Rivera. Many have a political message behind them; we noticed a lot of them have ties to Mapuche and the struggle to regain their land. There’s this great respect for street art in Valpo. Technically, it’s illegal, but if the building owner asks you to paint (or agrees if you ask), you can create art there. Nothing is tied to gangs, and all the artists take it very seriously. There’s a mutual respect for other artists and not painting over their art.
The tour was just three of us (Nick and I and another girl from New Zealand) but we had a few joiners halfway through. They were pretty cute.
We ended at the top of Cerro Conception in the former city jail, but is now a cultural center. During the Pinochet era, the government took it over and used it to detain and torture those they captured. We learned a lot about that at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, as Nick mentioned in a previous post, but it became very real when you were at an actual site where these things happened. There was a mural honoring those who died and are still missing. The tour ended there and we parted ways with our guide, Sebastian.
After the grafitti tour, we walked down to this empanadas place called Delicias Express. A couple people had recommended it, so we wanted to try them. They were fried instead of baked (super healthy!) and had every kind of filling you could think of. I had the chorizo, tomato, onion, and cheese filled one; Nick had the meat, sweet pepper, tomato, and cheese filled one. Then, we split the mushroom, corn, and cheese filled one of course. Then topped our healthy lunch off with a stop by the alfajores house. SO GOOD.
We headed back to the hotel to finalize the insurance info. We came back to an email from Susana, our contact at the Chol-Chol Foundation. Nick and I were both mentioning earlier how we were excited to get to Temuco, get settled, and start the work at the foundation. It was like she was reading our minds!
She listed out all the things that she thinks she could use our help with, and said she has a translator for us for the first two weeks so we can hit the ground running. Nick and I were pumped; we both were excited to already have to-do items, and Susana said having volunteers of our age and business experience is unique, so she wants to get to work!
We responded to Susana confirming that her list of items sounds great and we’re excited to get started with her. We then headed down to the bay to take a boat tour. We were the only English speakers on the boat, and sheesh did the driver and guide speak Spanish fast. Our Airbnb host mentioned that she can’t understand them and Spanish is her first language, ha. The tour was only about 30 minutes, and it was really neat to see Valpo from that perspective. I was proud that I could pick up a few words of what he was saying, like “this is a scientific boat” or “this boat imports electronics”. We’re getting there.
After the tour, we headed up to take a funicular up the hill, but opted for the stairs. We went to a Spanish tapas place that had a great terrace and continued our game of rummy with some delicious small plates and paella.
Current score (end of round 3; 22 hands played):
We headed back to the hotel after dinner and bought some bus tickets back to Santiago so we could pick up Lemmy and head towards Chillán, where we got an Airbnb for the night. It was a good halfway point from Santiago to Temuco.
Quick Lemmy update: Thanks to our new friend Rodrigo, Lemmy was safely transported Friday afternoon from the mechanic and parked at the hotel for us to pick up Saturday morning!
In the morning, we took another luxurious ride in the Turbus (with most of it to ourselves!). Lemmy was at the hotel (yay!) so we picked him up and are en route to Chillán! We got a little turned around getting out of Santiago; they have a TAG system similar to iPass for Chilean cars. We definitely went on one of the TAG highways, so we’ll see if we can get that figured out online, haha. Otherwise, we’re on the road again.
Needless to say, Nick and I are ancy to get to Temuco and excited to get started at Chol-Chol.