Valparaiso was a welcome respite from city life and gave us our first taste of sunlight on our entire trip. What a nice change to wake up to a beautiful sunrise and clear day.
We made the most of the sunniness by wandering around the old city which is full of brightly colored buildings and funky graffiti. The city is based around a working port so the water was constantly in motion with tugboats, huge ships being repaired and a portion of the Chilean Armada. Our B&B host gave us a great walking tour suggestion which led us up to the town’s most well known funicular which takes you from seaside to a hill top sans physical effort (score!). The views are of the entire coastline down to the resort towns of Vina del Mar and Renaca.
Other than seeing the natural sights (which included the main citizens: stray ultra friendly dogs) and being introduced to a Chilean speciality *Pisco Sour* the rest of our time here was spent enjoying the Gastronomic center of Valparaiso – there were SO many good restaurants! We had delicious risottos, pizza, salads, seafood…you name it, we probably had it.
Side note: There were just as many stay dogs (whom the locals care for as a community) here as in Buenos Aires, but SO MUCH LESS POO! It’s amazing what happens when a city makes an effort to pick up after itself…and its furry dwellers.
Our favorite meal was a random stop one night at a place called Cafe Vinilo – one of the few restaurants that was jam packed (it is Fall in a beach town, afterall). Immediately upon sitting down a man approaches our table and starts talking to us in Spanish. After we explain that we don’t speak much Spanish he chuckles and tells us he’s the head chef and wanted to make sure we understood what he was cooking for everyone. He then gives us a play by play rundown of everything on the menu and includes a “special dish” that he just created which wasn’t on the menu.
When the head chef creates something unique, you order it. What a great decision – this dish was grass fed beef that had been infused with garlic which was stuffed with chilean white sausage and onions served on top of chilean beans and vegetables. I had the grilled swordfish on top of chilean vegetables which was also phenomenal, but obviously not as special as the yet unnamed dish the chef had whipped up.
The word to use to sum up Valparaiso: Delicious!
We had such a relaxing three days and reluctantly set out to head to our final stop: Santiago (via car of course). We had a similar experience getting out of town as the one getting into it…but luckily all of our walking gave us a better working knowledge of the street layout. We had smooth sailing up the coast to check out the other beach towns of Vina del Mar and stopped to watch the sea lion colony at Renaca (the rock is called “Michael Jackson” by the locals…because the rock apparently used to be black but is now white…too soon?). Just when we thought it was not a big deal to drive around in Chile we ran into a huge traffic jam due to the tunnel…the ONLY tunnel that connected our road from the beachside to Santiago by going under the Andes…had some problems.
Luckily there was a detour…
Crossing the Andes round three…stay tuned.