Friday, February 11, 2011

Valparaiso - Chile

Valparaiso, commonly known as Valpo, is a UNESCO heritage city a couple of hours from Santiago. A port town that is famous for its hills and the old school funiculars that are there to transport you up the said hills.

Myself and Grace had got the early afternoon bus to Valpo and headed for our accommodation, Casa Valparaiso. This was a hostel in an old house and we were staying in a 7 bed dorm. Rather unusual for dorms as you more commonly get either 4 or 6 beds (bunks) but for some reason we had an additional single bed in the room. This was very friendly hostel albeit a bit ramshackle and rough around the edges. Great views from the bedroom window though.

Without further ado we went off to investigate Valpo and started with lunch. We plonked ourselves down in a great old style cafe that we later discovered is one of the cafe gems of Valpo, Bar Cinzano. Old school waiters, a fabulous long bar and a menu of traditional Chilean meals and drinks. I ordered grilled chicken with rice and also ordered my first “pisco sour”. I didn't know what it was either, other than it is the national drink of Chile. And when it arrived it looked a little odd, but let me tell you, it tasted sublime. Absolutely gorgeous. A mix of pisco (some strong liquer type drink), fresh lime juice and sugar. If they weren't so strong I could have sat there and drank them all day. I'm glad I didn't though as they might have ended up all over the little boat that we got on later to sail around the harbour.

The boat trip was nothing too exciting but was a good way to spend a bit of time in the sun and on the water. By the port you can jump in a little “collectivo”, a small boat, along with about 30 other people, and for $2000 pesos (less than £3) can sail around the harbour. The trip only lasted about 30 mins and I didn't understand a bloody word of what the guide was saying, but it was great just to sit in the boat, soak up the sun, and see Valpo from a very different perspective.

In the evening we met up with George and Mildred (Richard and Alison) and went out for pizza to Allegretto. This is run by the same Englishman that runs the B&B that they are staying in. And what a treat the pizzas turned out to be. Truly authentic, thin crust pizzas, just like they come in Napoli. Mamma mia!

The next day we took ourselves off on the bus, along with another traveller, Anna from Germany, to Casablanca, a very important wine region of Chile. We had a fantastic day visiting 3 wineries and having a tasting at each. The weather was glorious, the wines delectable. Oh what a day. In the evening we took advantage of the BBQ at the B&B and made ourselves steaks to go with the wine purchased from the wineries.

Day 3 was spent at the beach in Vina del Mar, a short train ride from the city. Again we were blessed with beautiful sunshine and we secured loungers on the beach and just whiled away the hours, sunbathing, reading, eating, drinking and listening to music being played by buskers on the beach. I could get used to this life :-) As Alison asked Richard if he had had a good day, I once again heard the, by now, very familiar refrain of “yes dear”.

I really enjoyed Valparaiso, more so than I even expected. Truth be told I could have quite happily extended my stay there. However, the road was calling and early on Friday morning we were in a taxi to the bus station for the long slog to Cordoba. Back through the Andes, through border control and to Mendoza (8 hours). Then a 6 hour wait in Mendoza before we boarded the bus for Cordoba which would be a journey of approx 10 hours.

Oh, the life of a traveller.

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