We arrive in Valparaiso in the early evening by a very comfortable bus from Santiago – it’s only a two and a half hour journey which for us feels like blink of an eye compared to some of our journeys so far. We take a taxi from the bus depot and head for our hostel Luna Sonrisa – we’d emailed them in the morning and were in luck that they had a room free for us. The lady that greeted us was very helpful and gave us lot’s of information about the city and what there is to see, and also in what parts of the city it’s not a good idea to wander…. There are many warnings in our guide about pickpockets and muggings in Valparaiso so we’re on our guard anyway, but by the sound of the hostel lady it’s not as bad as our guide wants us to think. One of the places suggested to us is the “Bar de Pisco” not far from our hostel so we start out with this one on our first outing. We try the “Berries & Menta” and one called “15 de Mayo” both very nice. After our quick pit-stop we continue on to try to find a restaurant. After a lot of walking about we finally decide on a little restaurant called Totobistro where we have some lovely tortellinis – it has an interesting concept to its menu where you choose your filling and sauce to make up your own dish.
We again have a fairly early night – probably still jet-lagged from the Singapore – Santiago journey… This of course means that we wake early the next morning to an absolutely gorgeous breakfast spread at the hostel. On the table is fresh fruit, cheese and home-made breads and jams, I’ve got problems stopping and of course end up overeating, resulting in complete bloatedness… Teach me a lesson you would have thought, but the next morning I do the exact same… The breakfast spread is just too good.
After breakfast we head out to find the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s house – which is now a nice little museum – perched high up in the hills overlooking the city. One of the reasons Pablo picked this house was that he could see the whole of Valparaiso from this place. The house has a very quaint and interesting interior and collection of furniture and art, and much of it has a nice little story around it.
The walk up to the house is also quite nice and all along the route there is more street art than you can digest – I’m sure there was a lot of great work that we didn’t notice because of it being overshadowed by other and bigger great works, or the fact we’re going a bit blind after a while. After visiting Neruda’s house we walk down towards the Open Air Gallery of street art. It’s difficult to distinguish where the “normal” street art ends and the gallery begins but there are some placards next to the “official” works.
The architecture in Valparaiso is very interesting with buildings almost stacked on top of each other clinging to the steep hills – some look like they’re only temporary shacks but you can see they’ve been there for a long, long time already. The houses and shacks are painted in all sorts of bright colours and all together it looks a bit like it could all have been designed by Pablo Picasso. Everywhere there are small handicraft shops lining the streets – some just consisting of a couple of objects displayed in someone’s hallway and some more established galleries and whole houses shared between a collaboration of artists. It’s a very colourful place which makes it difficult to put the camera down, something that attracts the attention of the locals who keep warning me to be careful with the camera as there apparently are a lot of “snatchers” about. Although we didn’t have any problems at all, Valparaiso has a problem with petty crime – mostly pickpockets, so we’re always a little bit on our guard and look around before getting the camera out of the bag – the problem is that as soon as you put the camera back into the bag you have to take it out almost immediately as you spot something else to photograph.
After visiting Pablo Neruda’s house and the Open Air Gallery we head down to the harbour and jump on one of the many boats offering a harbour sightseeing tour. It’s fairly cheap and quite interesting, although we can’t understand much of what the guide says as it’s all in Spanish and he talks quite fast as well as the sound of the motor makes it hard to hear… Still it’s nice to get a different view of the city and see the busy dock in action.
As it’s getting towards the evening we’re starting to feel the hunger creeping up on us, even me who ate a mountain of bread and fruit for breakfast. We decide on a local restaurant down on the more modern part of town – this place specialises on one of the national specialities called Chorrillana. We almost have an heart attack as they bring in a mountain of chips topped with another mountain of fried strips of beef, and to top it off a cholesterol laden thick blanket of melted cheese… if you ever plan on going to Chile, make sure you bring a massive appetite.
On our last day we have a bus booked for Mendoza, Argentina late in the evening. Our hostel is kind enough to let us come and go as we want during the day after we’d checked out. We’re even allowed to use the showers to freshen up before we head out. We go out for a wander and to get some food – on our arrival we’d been recommended by the lady at the hostel a restaurant called Allegretto and after walking about for some time looking for a place to have lunch we decide to head there to test it out. It’s a really nice place with an Italian menu and we order some pizza, which turned out to be very good indeed. All content we go back to our hostel for a bit of research of a place to stay in Mendoza and to get a little bit of blogging done. Before we know it it’s time to leave for the bus, and luckily just before we head off we get a reply from one of the hostels we’d emailed saying they’ve got a room reserved for us. The bus to Mendoza is an eight hour journey and again we get a very comfortable bus so it feels much shorter a journey – the only hassle is the border-crossing into Argentina which is very slow and we’re left out in the cold for what seems like ages.