When we finally started passing through Valparaiso and onto Viña Del Mar, I started to recognize the architecture and building style that I had seen in pictures and I knew I was going to like these towns. I arrived at the bus station quite hungry and in need of a little pick-me-up, so I found a tiny cafe in the station and ordered a sandwich and cappuccino. Then, realizing I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, with no Internet connection to rely on, I started out just wandering in one direction to see if I could find lodging. It was about 1pm and getting quite warm outside. I wandered for about a half hour, twisted my ankle, scraped my knee, but finally found wifi and found a direction to a hostel. Not my most graceful day :-/
The hostel was Jaguar Residencia (sp?) and the guy who checked me in gave me a double room for the price of a dorm since there was hardly anyone else there. Later, I learned, that the price was more than it should of been... (I feel a trend coming on... I need to learn more spanish and not look like such a tourist!). I plopped my bags in my room and went out for a stroll down towards the beach.
And It was beautiful! I passed a lovely park and Starbucks before seeing the ocean through the trees. There was a fantastic boardwalk which I walked along for quite a long time, perhaps more than an hour one way. In this Sunday afternoon there were tons and tons of little market shops lined up on the boardwalk selling everything from clothes, scarves, jewelry, food, cotton candy (a little shout out here to circus concessions!), tarot card reading, instruments, etc. There were many people out enjoying the nice weather on the beach, but not many swimming since the water here is quite cold, and a huge amount of people walking through the market. There were a lot of jungle gym type things for children along the beach, as well as interesting looking and colorfully painted work out machines (not electrical), and even a bounce house! A row of military looking large machine gun things, and a good number of skateboarders, bicyclists, and rollerbladers. A very active beach! I stopped at a restaurant before heading back to the hostel, a lovely little Italian place, and had some spaghetti. :) I arrived at the hostel at about 8 and after checking messages, felt promptly asleep.
I awoke early in the morning at about 4:30am and did some work on my Spanish for awhile before taking a little nap and then showering. The shower at this hostel was pretty awesome with a really nice rain shower head (funny how little things like that can matter). I went down for breakfast and had tea, some lovely yogurt with fruit, sliced and prettily arranged avocados and cheese on bread. As I was enjoying my breakfast a guy at another table asked me something in Spanish, and I of course gave him the "deer in headlights" look and then he asked if I spoke English (phew!). It turns out he is French, a professor at a university in Vina, and had been in the country for two months. He told me he didn't like teaching here that much, as the students don't seem to want to learn. He also works at a private school, so that might contribute to that as well. He let me in on the fact that hostels were much cheaper in Valparaiso and let me have his contact info so that if I wanted we could meet up later and he'd show me around the city.
So, I packed up and headed to the bus stop to hop a ride over to where I think my next hostel was located, which I had booked online this time so I knew I would have a destination in mind...