Friday, 5th December
We had to check out of our apartment by 11am this morning so we got up with a couple of hours to spare to have breakfast and pack. Kirsty gets annoyed at me these days at wanting to get up with plenty of time, insisting that we can pack in ten minutes. She isn’t wrong, in fact we have honed the art of packing during our travels. This doesn’t stop my time anxiety though, so this morning I still got up around 9am. I also like to get ready ahead of time so I can sit and waste time blogging or looking at the internet whilst maybe drinking a coffee. It was a bit more of a trifle to pack this morning though as we had bought some more souvenirs in Santiago and have decided to purchase a small suitcase with wheels (carry-on size) to help us out.
We caught the metro to the bus terminal, with the stations being both close to where we set off from and close to our destination. It was around the middle of the day and so wasn’t too busy. We had been warned about this metro at rush hours and was advised against it with our large bags but at this time of the day it was easy enough to navigate weighed down like a pack-horse. There are buses to Valparaiso every 15 minutes from Santiago operated by ‘Tur-Bus’ from the Bus Terminal La Alameda in the city so there was no stress about needing to buy a ticket in advance or a certain time to arrive at the terminal for a specific bus. Before heading to the buses we picked up a suitcase from the many luggage stalls at the bus terminal. We found a suitable one for around USD30 with wheels and a long handle. A carry-on style. This would be helpful in taking care of our souvenirs. We had to buy some luggage in Hong Kong but not for souvenirs, just because we had packed too much to start with back in Melbourne. It’s like we have come full circle and are going through the same travelling pains as when we started. Before getting our tickets I sampled one of Chile’s fast food options, ‘Doggi’s’. As the name suggests they specialise in hot dogs, Chilean style. This mean the usual hot dog in bun but covered with diced tomatoes and guacamole topped with any number of sauces available. It was as expected for a hot dog, what I view as a vessel for sauce. No-one ever has a hot dog without sauce. That would risk tasting the actual sausage.
We bought our bus tickets for around USD20 for both of us and caught the next bus, leaving within ten minutes so without any delay we walked to the platform. The bus was pretty much the same as the ones we have caught most places, a double-decker coach with reclining seats and very comfy for a two hour journey. Valparaiso is west of Santiago, around 130km. Valparaíso is a major city and seaport of Chile and Greater Valparaíso is the third largest metropolitan area in the country. It has been the headquarters for the Chilean National Congress since 1990, when Pinochet moved Congress there from Santiago. Whenever the government wishes to vote, they all have to do so in Valparaiso I am told. In the second half of the 19th century, the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso boomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific”. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso and the second half of the twentieth century was not kind to Valparaíso, as many wealthy families abandoned the city. Over the past 15 years, the city has staged an impressive renaissance attracting many artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up shop in the city’s hillside historic districts. Amongst travellers it is known for colourful houses, maze-like alleyways and has a reputation for being artistic and a bit quirky.
We arrived at the bus terminal in Valparaiso around 2:30pm and caught a cab to our hostel, the ‘Casa Verde Limon’, which is a twin hostel of where we would be staying, ‘Case Violeta Limon’. After checking in we had half an hour before our room was ready so we went for a stroll to a nearby cafe. It seems very arty around here with plenty of street-art and small handicraft shops with the odd street stall selling prints. There is also the general dodgy pong that seems to go along with both artistic and seaside areas. The cafe was called ‘Reina Victoria’, named after Queen Victoria, the name taken on by the funicular railway (also called elevators here, or ‘ascensores’) that is located next to the cafe. This town is so hilly, being built across something like ten hills that here and there you find these railways that ferry you to the top of the hills. You can take the roads and cars do but its a hard slog on foot and it only costs 100 pesos on the elevators.
We checked into our room for the night around 3pm, an apartment style accommodation. I went out to get some milk for breakfast and some more cash from the ‘Lider’ supermarket. We are staying here for one night and moving on tomorrow to spend our next three nights in more luxurious accomodation, one on of the treats for Kirsty’s upcoming birthday. One that I can enjoy also . We lounged around our brightly coloured apartment for the rest of the day, only heading our briefly to the supermarket once more for some oven empanadas that we would have for dinner. A lot of the houses here are brightly coloured and the story goes that wives of sailors at sea painted the houses so that their husbands could recognise them from the ocean. This is the popular story, true or not.
Saturday, 6th December
We checked out of the ‘Casa Violeta Limon’ around 10:30am and after leaving our bags at their reception I walked with Kirsty to show her where her massage was. This was mother of her birthday treats. Whilst she was being massaged I would be checking into our new hotel then going back to meet her to hang out in the spa. I had her booked for massage and spa and myself just for the spa. I’m not that into massages but enjoy hanging out in hot-tubs. The spa was in the ‘Palacio Astoreca’, perhaps the fanciest hotel in Valparaiso atop a hill overlooking the city. After leaving Kirsty there all robed up ready for her massage I walked on to the ‘Fauna Hotel’ to check in. This is a modern styled hotel sitting on top yet another hill, above where we’re staying the night before. Our room is a bright and airy one with large windows opening out onto the bay. I know we are going to enjoy our stay here. I check in and then took the elevator down the hill to get the rest to our luggage we had left at the hostel, and after a quick coffee took the elevator up to the top of the hill and left our bags in our hotel room before heading back to meet up with Kirsty. We rendez-vous’ed in a pool in the spa. We had the place to ourselves and could use the pool, sauna and traditional Chilean wood-fired hot-tub for as long as we liked. We stayed there around two hours and left feeling very relaxed.
On the way to our new hotel we had a lunch of the day, the best yet, at a place called ‘Cafe de Pintor’. We both had a glass of wine to go with our lunch. I then took joy in surprising Kirsty with our new accommodation, which we hung about in a few hours, enjoying the views of Valparaiso, with the sound of an accordion playing in the distance.
After laying about for a while we went for a walk about this historic neighbourhood. It’s a maze of alleyways, cobbled streets with stairs and elevators connecting you to other parts. It’s fun to walk around, every now and again you come across a market or a band playing out in the open whilst all the time enjoying the colourful buildings and views around you. We walked all the way back down the various winding streets to the area we stayed in last night and I had a tasting paddle of beers at a microbrewery (‘Casa Cervecera Altamira’) before getting back on the elevator to climb back to the area with our hotel. There is a wine bar up near or hotel, I had heard was good but it was closed so we went back to he hotel for a bit, being told t would be open in half and hour. Later we checked it out and it was still shut so instead we grabbed some sushi nearby before going back to the bar. This time it was open and we at down outside on their balcony overlooking the bay and were brought two glasses of ‘Dona Javiera, Maipo Valley, Carmenere 2011’ and a tasting plate of cheeses and ham. It’s a lovely little place, called ‘Antonia Wines Boutique’ and it filled up quickly once it opened up. We stayed a while, watching the most amazing moonrise over the ocean and chatting with some other travellers. There was even a display of tango from some local dancers. After a few generous glasses of wine we paid up and headed back to our hotel, literally a 20 metre walk. Before we left we asked if they were open on monday, being a public holiday (day of the immaculate conception). It seems that after seeing that we had tipped they said they would be opening up so I guess we had better visit.
Sunday, 7th December
Breakfast is served until 11am at our hotel so we got up around 10am and walked upstairs to the restaurant. For lunch and dinner this place opens up to the public but for breakfast it is just for hotel guests. We took a table right on the corner of the balcony outside looking out over the bay. It was a large breakfast and we had fruit, granola, yoghurt, eggs, ham, cheese with bread and jam and juice and coffee to drink. Very full we got ready to go out and decided to go for a wander, with no real plans of where to. We walked up a hill and after looking at a map a helpful local suggested we take a road looping around to the cemetery. It was a nice walk looking at all the different houses on our right and the ocean down to our left. We wandered to a small park area called ‘Plaza Bismark’, a viewpoint over the city and from there down to the Cultural Centre which has various old and new buildings around a large green space.
The buildings were closed, being a sunday, so after a stroll around this place we headed down to and had a look around ‘Cementerio No. 1’ and ‘Cementerio No. 2′ which both sit on top one of the many hills of the city. We could see where we had breakfast at our hotel from here. From there we walked back down the street our old hostel was on before heading into the commercial area of town and having an ice cream for lunch. This was the same place as the one we had in Santiago (Emporio La Rosa) and we both had two scoops. Kirsty tells new that is her last. I’m not so sure about that. We then caught the elevator back up the hill to our hotel and lazed around in bed with the windows wide open taking in the sea breeze and viewing the ocean.
In the afternoon, after a sufficient amount of time lazing around we walked up the stairs on our hotel to our rooftop restaurant and had a couple of drinks on the balcony overlooking the bay. I tried some local brown ale (Quebrada) and Kirsty quaffed some sparkling Rose. It was busy up there, clearly a lot of other people had the same idea as us, but then it was a nice sunny day. Once we had had a couple of drinks we went for a walk to check out the restaurant we thought we might eat at, ‘Il Paparazzo’. It’s a nice walk there, taking you through winding cobbled streets and alleyways. When we got there we found that it was either a very quiet night or closed so we thought we would go for another drink which we did so in a bar with pavement tables and chairs. Kirsty had another sparkling (‘Undurraga’) and I had an ‘Altamira’ Irish Stout brewed here in Valparaiso. When we thought a suitable amount of time had passed we walked back to the restaurant and found a couple sitting in the window, so content that we wouldn’t be the only ones in the place we entered and took a booth table. It is a nice place although very quiet this evening (a sunday night). We ordered a bottle of wine from the Casablanca Valley, a wine region between Valparaiso and Santiago. We had an ‘Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, produced by an organic vineyard. It was very nice and it went very well with our fillet steaks which we ordered for the mains. We shared a salmon carpaccio for starter which was suburb. After dinner we strolled back to our hotel and to bed.
Monday, 8th December
We woke up a bit groggy from all the wine of the night before and around 10am headed upstairs for breakfast. We didn’t sit out in the open today as the weather was cloudy and quite cold without the sun but we could still see the bay from our table, through the floor to ceiling windows. It was another large breakfast and after getting our fill went back downstairs to our room to sit and read for a while. It wasn’t the most appealing day to be out and about, a complete contrast to the clear blue skies and sunny days we have had but we were happy just to take it easy and laze around. We had thought we would head to Vina Del Mar, a town just up the coast (around 20 minutes away by bus) but would see what the weather would do before making that decision.
We lazed around our lovely hotel room with a view where we could see what the weather would be doing from high up here on the hill. If anything the mist got thicker so we decided to skip Vina Del Mar and instead go out for a pre-lunch wander in our neighbourhood. We found that the same cafe we had a set lunch in the other day (‘Cafe de Pintor’) was open so after a stroll around we sat down and ordered. I got the same as last time, being so delicious (pork loin in mushroom sauce) and Kirsty got the merlot-glazed chicken. We enjoyed our three course lunch, not exactly hungry enough for it after the large breakfast we were fed but wanting to finish it all the same. After lunch we went back to our hotel for a bit and Kirsty had a nap whilst I did some blogging and stuff. As we were having lunch at the cafe the sky cleared and opened up to a blue sky with sun, a big improvement. We still couldn’t be bothered to catch a bus to Vina Del Mar though, thinking it wouldn’t be any better than where we were.
For dinner we had drinks and shared a seafood platter up on the roof of our hotel, in the ‘Restaurant Fauna’. I tried another locally brewed beer from the ‘Altamira’ microbrewery (an American pale ale this time) and Kirsty a glass of sparkling (becoming a pre-dinner habit) then to go with the delicious seafood (teriyaki prawns, smoked mussels, crab-claw meat and smoked salmon) we shared a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (Terrarum Morandé Reserva Sauvignon Blanc). The sun was out but it wasn’t exactly warm so we sat inside the windows this time. We could see from up here that ‘Antonia Wines Boutique’ was open, as the owner said it would be, so after eating we walked the short hop to the bar and were warmly greeted. The owner poured us a glass of (Quintay Clava Coastal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Maipo Valley in Chile) that he suggested. We just requested a red wine and he does the rest, choosing one from selection of bottles sitting on a barrel. We stayed for a couple of glasses (the second one being a 2012 Meli Carignan from the Maule Valley, also in Chile) before walking back to our hotel and to bed. We were the last to leave and the owner clearly didn’t want us to feel like we had to, making sure we knew we could stay but bed was calling. We have found our new favourite bar. The wine is great, a friendly owner with generous pours and the views can be bested.
Tuesday, 9th December
We had a lazy morning being our last in this amazing hotel. It was a similar morning to yesterday with an overcast sky so no breakfast in the sunshine like our first day. I left Kirsty in bed to go and get my breakfast, I find it hard to turn down a free breakfast spread and this one here is really good. The problem was though that they gave me the same amount of food as if Kirsty was there. I did tell them she wasn’t coming but maybe they thought I had paid for it so I would get it all. I did my best but left it unfinished. We had a checkout time of 12 noon which was kinder than some places we’ve stayed in so we were able to take our time getting up, ready and packed.
We caught a taxi to the bus terminal which is located opposite the National Congress building in the new part of town. We haven’t really explored this area but on the ride through there didn’t seem to be much worth exploring. The old part of town is much nicer and where all the visitors hang out. We arrived at the terminal, and just as in Santiago, bought a ticket for a bus leaving imminently so without any delay we walked through to the platforms, put our bags in the luggage compartment of the coach and took our seats. The ride was fairly quick and within two hours we were at the same bus terminal in Santiago that we had left from five days earlier. We are staying in the ‘Lastarria’ neighbourhood of Santiago and we caught the Metro there. We had an easy ride on the Metro to the bus terminal last time around so we thought it would be easy enough this time. It was much busier than expected though and we were jammed in with our large backpacks, having to hang on and try and not knock anyone over with our luggage. We survived the five or so stops from the bus terminal and squeezed ourselves off the train at ‘Saint Lucia’ station. I had booked us into another serviced apartment for our last two days in Santiago thinking that some space might be a good idea to sort ourselves out and go through our packing before we leave for Cuba.
We checked into the apartment and are in one tower block of a four tower complex, complete with rooftop pool. There is a supermarket downstairs so after dumping our bags we went there to pick up some vegetables for a simple soup dinner. After all the rich food and drink of the last couple of weeks we are both craving simple and healthy food so it’s nice to have a kitchen to cater for our needs. We lounged around for the rest of the day and enjoyed just laying on the bed and flicking through the television channels trying to find shows in English. You miss the simple things some times. We were content that we had seen most of what Santiago had to offer on our previous two visits here so could rest easy in the flat without feeling like we had to get out and see things. I have booked ourselves in for a nice dinner tomorrow at the same restaurant we went to last time, ‘Bocanariz’, which we are both looking forward to.