Nothing ever got done by procrastinating, and seeing as I haven’t updated this blog in over a week, I guess I should get back to it.
Anyway, our first weekend excursion started early, and my housemates and I got up early in the morning to catch the bus to school. From there we met up with the rest of our classmates and rode on a Greyhound bus to Valparaiso, were we would spend the next two days.
We first arrived in the town square, and walked to our first stop, the house of famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Walking wouldn’t have been so bad, except for the fact that Valparaiso is built into the side of the hill, and if you want to travel anywhere in the city, you have to traverse the thousands of stairs running up and down the sides of the mountain. Halfway along, our group got split up as some of my classmates were getting tired and falling behind, so we stopped at a small park for a few minutes to rest. While we were there, we took pictures of sculptures of famous poets in the park, and some of the girls played with a friendly dog that they found loitering around the park.
Once we had all caught our breath, we walked the rest of the way up the hill, past a series of vendors selling souvenirs, and arrived at Pablo Neruda’s house. We took an audio tour of the house that took us through the expansive gardens in the front, and through the entrance, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and study of the house. The one thing that is noticeable throughout the whole tour is the incredible view of the city and of the sea. According to the pamphlet we received (which we had a good snicker about as we read someone’s rather sad attempt to translate the Spanish text on one side into English on the other), Neruda had the house specially built so that he could look out over the sea and find inspiration for his books and poems. I wish I could have taken pictures of the interesting articles inside the house, like an antique rocking horse, a taxidermied Scarlet Ibis, and the navigational instruments in the study, but there was a strict “no photography rule.”
We left the house around noon after a quick stop in the gift shop, and headed back to the bus to go to lunch. It was a short ride from the town center to the coast, where we found a seaside restaurant. Now, while I haven’t visited many restaurants here in Chile besides Los Bomberos and the bakery, this one had to be my favorite. Besides the great service and a view of the sea from our table, the food was amazing. For appetizers, we had mini-cheese empanadas and ceviche, a kind of cold seafood appetizer served on oyster shells. We were also given small shot glasses of Pisco sour, a kind of liquor that is served in bars all over Chile. I can personally say that you should avoid this stuff, as it is comparable to drinking battery acid. For our meal, we had a choice of a fried cheese or seafood empanada, and a choice of roast chicken or fried fish with rice. I had the cheese empanada and roast chicken, and I can say that once you’ve had a fried empanada, it’s nearly impossible to go back. For dessert we had tiramisu and shots of mint liquor, which was much worse than the Pisco and had a flavor comparable to drinking Listerine. That was probably one of my favorite meals of the whole trip, but things didn’t end there.
After another short ride across town, we got off in another square and walked to a little crafts fair near the naval museum. My housemates both bought alpaca-wool sweaters with llamas on them, and I nearly walked away with empty hands, until I saw a stand selling leather fedoras (and I’m not talking about those stupid things hipsters wear, I’m talking about Indiana Jones-style hats), and bought one. I guess you could call me Indiana Kronos now, eh?
Once we finished at the craft fair, we took an elevator down the mountain to the docks, where one of our directors hired us a boat for a tour around the coast. We got to see all of Valparaiso from the sea, and many other interesting sights, including a cargo ship in dry dock, a collection of retired naval ships, and even a colony of sea lions that had taken up residence on a concrete structure a few yards from the shore.
Our last stop for the night was the art district of Valparaiso, where most of the galleries, boutiques, and fancy restaurants were located. This was probably the strangest part of the trip, as all the graffiti covering the walls, the strange music playing in some of the buildings, and the occasional unusual sculpture (my favorite was a sculpture of Don Quixote made out of machine parts), the whole area had the feeling of being in a fever dream. One of the more memorable parts was when we discovered a steep section of concrete next to a set of stairs, and started using it as a slide. If you look on Facebook, there’s even a photo of Profe riding down the slide!
After leaving the art district, taking a few more shots of the city at night, and saying good-bye to a couple of friendly dogs that were following the group, we boarded the bus and headed to our hotel for the night, the New Asturia. I don’t wish to complain too much, but let’s just say that I’ve had much better lodgings. We dropped off our things in our respective rooms and went to dinner at the Africa Restaurant in town, where we had cheese empanadas, fried fish or roast chicken, and bananas with whipped cream and chocolate sauce for dinner. The night wasn’t bad, but a talk with my friends regarding my lack of a girlfriend had bummed me out, so I went back to the hotel early with a group of other students for the night. Don’t worry, I wasn’t too upset, but it was kind of a crummy way to end the day. At least I slept well.
Coming soon, Day 2 of the trip to Vina del Mar! Until then, God bless and stay well!