Wrapping up Chile
Our 10 days in Chile are over and we leave this country with a new appreciation for its people and many great memories. We spent 3 days in the hustle and bustle of the big city of Santiago (over 3 million people) and took a bus to the city of Valparaiso, population just about 400,000.
To be honest I didn't have high expectations and we were planning on staying only three nights. We ended up staying 5! Valpo, as the locals call it, was a spectacular city, with surprises around every corner. To me, it is a combination of San Francisco, Cannes and Venice (don't mention that to any locals though, they think these cities copied Valpo!). This is the cultural capital of Chile, with more art galleries per capita than any other city I've ever seen.
The city is built on the slopes of several hills facing the Pacific, with numerous Paseos (terraces) where you can enjoy the sunshine, the water, the coast, and the snow covered Andes on clear days. Houses are all sizes and shapes and are covered in street art by many local artists. Vandals apparently have an unwritten agreement that they only write graffiti on bare walls, all street art is protected. We were very inspired by the feel of this city and especially the house of the famous poet Pablo Neruda. We hope to one day have an eclectic selection of our own of things from around the world which will inspire and entertain our friends and family.
For all the good though, there is always some bad. There is apparently a new problem with the youngsters of Valpo, a cheap version of Coke mixed in with other chemicals, and I don't mean the kind you drink ;)
We took a walking tour and were informed by our guide that this city was the most important port in South America until the opening of the Panama canal. Ships used to stop here on their way to California during the gold rush. I learned that being a port city usually leads to a demand for female companionship for the tired and lonely sailors. This industry is slowly being phased out but apparently still exists.
Also, there is an insane number of stray cats and dogs that call the streets their home since Chileans are apparently against neutering. Our guide told us to basically have one eye on the beauties of the city and the other on where our next step is going to be! Most dogs took a special liking to us but would especially follow Andrew for hundreds of meters, just hanging out to see what we would do next!
I had been pre-warned about the lack of a coffee culture in Chile, and boy was this accurate. What the country lacks in coffee though, it more than makes up in amazing food, drinks and sweets.
I had my first pisco sour and drank more freshly squeezed juice than I have in the last 5 years combined. We tried all kinds of food, heaps of meat with cheese and fries, amazing sandwiches, fresh seafood, fresh empanadas and anything with dolce de leche :)
We also visited a popular beach city called Vina del Mar. This cute little city was a 9 km bus ride from Valpo and had many great sights to offer. We enjoyed fresh seafood and sat by the beach and soaked in the sun for a couple of hours.
My only advice, unless you're planning a ski trip, try to visit Chile in their summer. January and February are apparently the best times to visit. They don't build their houses for the cold. Thanks to Tony for his offer to have our warm clothes brought back to Canada, we don't have to carry everything with us now that we expect heat for the next 2-3 months!
Next stop, after a short stopover in Buenos Aires, RIO!!!!