Even though we’d already been there (twice, actually), Robin really wanted to go to Valparaiso again. The opportunity popped up when Pastor let us know that he was taking a day-tour from Santiago to Valparaiso on our last weekend in Chile.
This tour started out the same as our previous one — meeting at 9am at Robin’s language school (Tandem). From there, we headed out towards Valpo/Viña, which took us through the Casablanca valley. Along the way, we stopped to fill up at a gas station and grab some snacks, then made our way to Viñedo Veramonte (a winery).
At the winery, we had a short tour, including some genuine artifacts from the “old way” of making wine, then went back downstairs to try 3 of their wines. We actually didn’t like these ones too much, although their blend (red combination of 4 different wines) was OK. Back in the van and we were on our way to Valparaiso properly.
This time, when coming in to town, we entered through a different approach from the previous two times. We came towards the city from a more southern approach, giving us an impressive view over the ocean/bay/coast-line. We stopped to check things out, and Pastor showed us a ground-cover plant that grew there which had fruits similar to a fig. Apparently they’d be ripe and good to eat in another month or so.
As we got into town, we headed to Cerro Artilleria to ride up the Artilleria “funicular” (like a cable car, but up a really steep hill). As luck would have it, this was the same one that we’d ridden up on our previous trip to Valpo, but it was still fun 🙂
From there, we went to Plaza Sotomayor to check out The Armada de Chile, the Chilean Navy Building and the Monument of the Heroes and get a bit of history. It’s quite an impressive plaza in the middle of Valparaiso, just near the docks. After we’d checked out the plaza and the statues, we made our way over to the docks and jumped on a small boat for a ride around the bay. We had a guide who told us a bit about what we were seeing, including a bunch of boats, a huge ship being repaired/repainted, a group of Navy ships and another massive cargo ship being loaded up while we watched.
We then visited Parque Quinta Vergara, which used to be the house of a famous family, but is now a big garden and cultural center. There is also a huge amphitheater (the “ceiling” of which is pictured below) there, which apparently is mainly used for a single event each year: The Viña del Mar International Song Festival (in February).
From there we went to Club Union Arabe (a castle of a restaurant, up on a bit of a cliff overlooking the ocean) to have lunch. To be honest, this was the low-point of the day. Despite being quite a fancy restaurant, this place was a disappointment. I think as soon as we walked in, we expected high prices, but good-freaking-lord was it expensive. By the end of the meal (2 entree platters for the table, then a relatively simple meal each, plus 2 bottles of wine), we were up for $26,000 CLP each. That’s around $50 USD and is crazy expensive for a meal in Chile. To put that in perspective, the entire day’s tour cost $35,000 pp. I think most of us would have preferred to double (triple? quadruple?) our tip to Pastor and just go somewhere “local” and authentic. Ah well, at least the food was pretty good, and the conversation/company was also great.
We then visited the famous Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock), which is a giant clock, with the numbers etc shown in flowers. I had guessed that the seconds hand was actually working double-time, but we timed it and it’s going at normal speed. I guess it just looks like it’s going faster because it’s so big, and we’re used to looking at smaller clock-faces.
After that we walked along the beach-front where there are all sorts of artisans and smaller booths selling things. Apparently there was no alcohol for sale because of the election that would be held the next day, so as much as we wanted a cerveza in the sun, we couldn’t find one.
Heading towards home, we went out the city the same way we came in, so we got this glorious view (below) of the city in the afternoon sun. Then it was back on the highway and home to Santiago where we jumped on the Metro to get back to our apartment. Another successful day with Pastor (despite the lunch thing).
Of the people that we met that day, 2 were particularly interesting. Philip, the South American correspondent for a Dutch newspaper, but who was actually based in Brasil (very cool) and Jeff, a chiropractor who was on month 4 of a South American trip that had covered all sorts of interesting places already, with no end in sight.
There are some more photos in the Valpo Day Trip set on Flickr.