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Published: March 21st 2014
Now that I was in the know about the changing of the guard, I had my plan of attack. First on my list was to finish packing my stuff, store it and check out of the hotel. Next was a déjà vu of my first day. I went to the café across the street and had a smoked salmon bagel and café Americano. Things were falling into place and I couldn’t be happier. After a quick Metro ride, I was in front of the Moneda Palace ready for the changing of the guard. In Lima this ceremony was done behind big iron fences, giving all of my pictures the illusion of being shot from inside a jail cell. Here we were kept at least 30 to 40 yards behind big fountains with a glass wall surrounding them. It was better than fences, but still not ideal for pictures, although that did not slow me down whatsoever. The ceremony started with troops marching from within the building. In the distance I could hear noise and a band playing behind me. A procession of a formally attired band and troops were led by police on horseback from across the street. Traffic halted as
they crossed the busy Alameda. All in all it was very impressive. I took a stand today and held firm in my front row. Yes, I am tall, but the thing is that I made it out of bed and down there early enough for a good spot. I wasn’t going to have the top of people’s heads in each of my pictures. The ceremony was impressive and well worth the trouble to discover. I hope you will enjoy the pictures.
Once the guard had been changed, I backtracked our tour from the day before and headed to Café Haiti. This is also known as the place with coffee with legs. The women who work in each Café Haiti wear high heels and miniskirts. I had seen this on a travel program and thought it would be interesting to see. The coffee was strong and good, so it was a nice experience. When in Santiago, do as Santiago does. From there I went to the Post Office to mail postcards and then headed back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. Luckily I was only a block from the Metro station, so it was an easy walk with
all of my stuff. Getting everything through the tiny turnstile was a bit of a cluster, but in the end I made it work. Buses to Valparaiso run every 15 minutes or so from the central bus station, meaning that I only had to wait a short time before I was on the bus and heading towards the Coast.
I had expected better scenery going through the wine region, but it was rather plain. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t make me grab my camera and keep clicking. After about two hours we pulled into the Valparaiso bus station. A quick taxi ride way up into the hills and I was at my hotel ready to head out exploring. The free tour in Santiago had been such a good experience that I wanted to take the one in Valparaiso. When I chose my hotel online I knew it was up in the hills with beautiful views, but I didn’t really get how far up it was until I started walking down the crumbling, winding sidewalks. No street runs in a straight line creating switchbacks, twists and turns. My map was useless, so down I went hoping
for the best. I had missed lunch while on the bus, so when I reached a business area I stopped at a dive place for a hamburger Italian style. In Chile Italian style simply means with tomato, mayonnaise and avocado; red, white and green just like the Italian flag. The bun was huge, there was tons of shredded iceberg lettuce and hiding under a small piece of tomato was the sad little hamburger patty. No matter, I was hungry as heck, I was late and I didn’t care. I ate the darn thing so fast that the metal of my silverware heated up from the friction. (Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, but consider it poetic license) After eating, I went to where I thought the meeting place should be. Once again, I was in the wrong place, so I had to hoof it to the right place, making it with a few minutes to spare.
Just as in Santiago, the tour was informative, fun and filled with quirky stories. We rode up the Queen Victoria Funicular, wound our way through narrow streets. Valparaiso is known for its funiculars, hills and colorfully painted buildings and stairs.
Unlike many places, the colors are not dictated, meaning there are eye popping colors every which way. In addition to colorful buildings, many have been decorated with tiles, graffiti, flowers, murals and honestly anything the residents could possibly think to do. It makes for a fun, interesting walk. We stopped along several lookout points to take in the view of the Bay and watch ships. The weather was amazingly beautiful with deep blue skies and lots of sun. After another funicular ride and some steps, we stopped at an Artesanales Alfajores stop for some cookies. Alfajores are these incredible little cookies filled with dulce de leche and then dipped in chocolate. It was love at first bite, so I took an extra back to my hotel for late evening snacking. As if that wasn’t enough, we swung past an empanada shop and had a free tasting of Pisco Sours and could by empanadas if we wanted. I chose to order what the guide was ordering. If he eats there often, he must know what is good and he did if you like an empanada filled with ground beef, salami and cheese. I did and was more than pleased with it.
When the tour was finished, I took a quick boat ride around the bay. It was nice to see the city from a different perspective. We floated by several Chilean battleships and a huge cargo ship that was being loaded with containers. The port of Valparaiso is very deep, so big ships can come in to load and unload. The boat ride was a nice diversions, but my mind kept going back to the fact that the ice cream place I had fallen in love with had a shop in Valparaiso. To support the local economy I made a stop and had a sinful mix of mango and raspberry mint. It was even better than I had hoped. I sat on a bench in a grey, gritty, run down alley and enjoyed it as much as if I were at the Ritz. Fortunately the ice cream place was near a taxi stop, so I grabbed one, headed up the hill and went back to the hotel to watch the lights come on down in the city. What a great day.
The next day will be in its own blog, so I am going to jump ahead to Wednesday. I
had a quiet breakfast in the hotel overlooking the blue bay before checking out of the hotel. I wanted to take the train to Vina del Mar for a quick look about. When I checked my luggage into the storage room, the desk clerk told me that I could catch the 607 bus in the small square near my hotel. I am always up for an adventure, so I headed to the square, where there are no bus stop signs at all, and waited until I saw a bus. A quick dash later, I was sitting on the bus listening to an old man chat at me in Spanish even though I kept saying no intiendo, I don’t understand. It didn’t slow him down at all. My next concern was where the stupid bus was going. I really didn’t have a clue, but knew that it was heading downhill and that was where the train was. Through some buildings I saw a train station, so popped up, got off the bus and made a bee line to the station. It was a nice train ride along the coast to Vina de Mar. Along the way I saw an art exhibit
that had been depicted in a mural on the walking tour. Several cars were suspended from clothes pins to signify that you should leave your car and walk around Valparaiso. Whether that was really the message or not I don’t know, but it made for a nice story to go with a whimsical looking exhibit. I didn’t spend much time in Vina del Mar, but was pleased with the little jaunt I made. Back in Valparaiso, I grabbed a taxi, headed up the hill, grabbed my luggage and went down to the bus terminal. A bus was leaving for Santiago, so I hopped on and had a nice ride back to the city.
It was early enough in the day that I had time to take the Metro to Santa Lucia and take an outdoor elevator to the top of the hill for some incredible views. It was a warm, sunny day but there was a haze covering the city and Andes so my pictures did not come out that well. No matter, I enjoyed walking around the city park on a big hill in the middle of Santiago. When I had spent enough time wandering there, I went
to a museum that I had wanted to see earlier in the week, but did not have a change. And once again, I was wildly close to the ice cream place, so felt obligated to stop or a lime-mint, raspberry-mint combo to enjoy in front of the same fountain. It was a perfect way to finish my time in Chile.
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