Friday, December 23, 2011

Vina del Mar, Chile

Vina is a short subway ride from Valparaiso. You can catch the train at Estacion Puerto and you have to buy a subway card. The ride is only about 25 minutes and Vina is a world away from Valparaiso. Where Valpo is working class, Vina is the Chilean version of posh.

I exited at Estacion Vina which is near the Parque Quinta Vergara, a nice park with horse drawn carriages. I chose this exit because it was the closest to the Corporacion Museo de Arquelogio e Historia Francisco Fock (or the Fock Museum). The Fock Museum is quite small but focuses on the inhabitants of Easter Island (Isla Pascua) and actually has a Moai head outside. It was surrounded by a by a bunch of bushes and I had heard that people had vandalized it. WTF?

Anyway, it was a great little museum and it also featured a section on Shrunken Heads (not sure why) but very informative.

Vina is also famous for a Flower Clock (Reloj de Flores) but it wasn't that exciting to me.

Overall, I much prefer Valpo to just seems more alive.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Valparaiso, Chile

The first time I ever heard of Valparaiso was Valparaiso, Indiana. I thought what a weird name---little did I know years later I would read some Isabel Allende novels.

After I read Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia by Isabella Allende, I fell in love with the idea of Valparasio. A port town built on a hill, full of adventure and excitement, longing and heartbreak.

The real Valparaiso lived up to it's expectations. I took a bus from Santiago (about an hour) and ended up at the downtown Valparaiso bus station. I stayed at the Da Vince Hotel which is located on Cerro Alegre.It's close to everything. And the owner was lovely....he actually gave me a hug after I left.

Be forewarned, to live Valparaiso is to have super strong calf muscles. They aren't joking when they say there are a lot of hills. I mean it's a workout just to get to the store. But it's so worth it.

I went to a couple vegetarian restaurants (who knew there would be so many?). I went to Bambu, where there was this super cute little kid in a Ramones T-shirt. And also went to Jardin del Profeta where they made the best pumpkin soup.

There was a lot of walking around since Valpo isn't high on museums (although the poet Pable Neruda had a house there). But it was just amazing walking all the hills. It really put San Francisco to shame.

This city reminded me of Guanajuato, Mexico.,_Guanajuato

I hope one day to be able to go back. There was a fabulous walking path that encompassed the who port and it was amazing. This is one of the towns you dream of but I'm not so sure I'd like to live there, Did I mention how steep the hills were?? It made it difficult just to run to the local market.

Crossing the Andes by bus...

It's actually fairly easy to catch the bus from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile although I was a little apprehensive since we had to cross the Andes Mountains (aka the mountains where the Uruguayan soccer team crashed and had to eat each other, aka the movie Alive).

You leave Mendoza from the bus terminal (there are plenty of companies offering this trip and you can buy tickets the day of but get there before 10 a.m. because the buses only leave once a day in the morning).

The Argentinian part of the trip is a fairly gradual ascent and you pass by vineyards on the way up the mountains. I went in early November (the beginning of summer there) but I think they close the pass in their winter.

After about 3 hours, you get to the Los Libertadores border crossing. There are tons of cars, buses and trucks all waiting to cross the border (having grown up crossing the Detroit/Windsor crossing to Canada it was nothing new to me but a lot of people seemed bored/annoyed/in urgent need of a restroom.

You have to go through the exit visa line from Argentina, then go to the enter Chile line and then get everything searched and then they put everything back on the bus (BTW, the people who load your bags back on to the bus expect/demand a tip (una propina). They don't work for the bus companies so I guess this is free enterprise at it's purest.

It reminds me of Danielle's story about the guys in Brazil who, for a tip, watch your parked car and "guard" it against thieves. Yeah, right like they're going to risk getting jacked up from some car thieves for a $1-2 tip!

The Chilean side is much steeper and there were a few times I actively cringed but it wasn't as scary as I thought...a few hairpin turns and tipping to one side worries.

You arrive in the downtown Santiago bus station which is a bit dodgy so definitely take a cab.

All in all, it was much preferable to flying (again with the Alive scenario) and I'm actually not sure if there are flights?