We started off today with a walk across the hilltops to one of the homes of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet, politician, and bon vivant. We had planned on grabbing a quick breakfast along the way but nothing was open at the early hour of ten thirty in the morning. Valparaiso is a town for people who like to sleep in it seems. We arrived at the museum just as it opened and were hardly the first ones there much to our surprise. Most of the people waiting in line to buy tickets were from an older generation and we guess that Neruda must have been more famous back in his day. In fact we had only barely heard of him from a brief reference in How I Met Your Mother.
We purchased our tickets, checked our bags and were handed some audio guides as we entered the cramped first floor of the house, decorated with intricate woodwork and stone murals. Each room of the house was on its own floor to always afford a stunning view of Valparaiso and the sea beyond, and each one was packed full of tourists shuffling around each other to get a view of whatever item their audio guide was currently talking about. Lynn cared for the house more than I did, and enjoyed seeing how the house was built into the hillside but both of felt it was very cluttered and neither of us appreciated his taste in art.
After the house tour we decided we would walk to Vina del Mar, about an hour and a half further down the coast. We made our way down to the coast and started walking along the train tracks that hugged the water until we were able to cross when a boardwalk appeared. The boardwalk was mostly warped and upturned 2x6s, leaving us to imagine what horrible storm had done this while we chose to walk in the cement bike lane instead. We quickly arrived at the fish market where we stopped for a delicious lunch in a little restaurant out back that Kent, our hostel host, had recommended. We again showed up just in time to beat the lunch rush and had some delicious fried Conger eel and Reina fish.
After lunch our walk took us behind the fish market where we both hastened our pace to escape the smell of rotting fish. The boardwalk seemed to all but disappear past the fish market and we found ourselves on an old gravel road before a staircase led us up to a sidewalk along the highway. This was certainly not the picturesque stroll along the coast we had imagined it would be. Eventually though, we turned a corner around a hill and began to descend into Vina del Mar. This town was the complete opposite of Valparaiso. Instead of grubby, graffitied buildings, Vina del Mar had shiny new condo buildings along the coast. It looked like Florida had been transplanted into Chile.
We walked along the beach for a while before sitting under the shade of a palm tree to rehydrate and admire the views. We decided to forgo our original plan of taking a dip in the ocean because the large number of container ships just offshore made it feel like the water probably wasn’t very clean. Instead we took an alternate road back through town, hoping to find some cafes or sidewalk restaurants to enjoy but seeing only more condos and endless car dealerships.
We walked the whole way back to Valparaiso and stopped at a grocery store to pick up some wine, fruit, and anything that was already cold we could drink to quench our thirst, finding some overly sweet lemon flavored Canada Dry. We walked back up the hill to our hostel, collapsed on the couch, and took our shoes off to let our feet rest. While we relaxed we also did another load of laundry and then headed up to our roof deck to enjoy our fruit and wine (which was delicious for the very reasonable price of $4 – Chilean wine is very cheap). We chatted with Kent for a while and a few of the other hostel guests before deciding it was time for some dinner. Our plan was to wander over to Conception Hill where we had heard another couple talking about a restaurant called La Concepcion during our walking tour yesterday.
We headed over, again taking the ascensore and enjoying the brightly colored buildings as the sun started to set. We found the restaurant and they had a few tables available, all facing the sunset over the bay. The food was hit and miss when it came, but at least they were trying and there were no French fries in sight so we were happy. On the walk home we decided that we could open a restaurant in Chile and make a killing, or really anywhere in South America for that matter. Arriving back home we packed up a little and quickly fell asleep so we could wake up early for the bus back to Santiago.
Daily Walking Mileage : 18.9 miles
- Pablo Neruda (an ardent communist) may or may not have been murdered at the order of Pinochet. He was dying of stomach cancer at the time and it seems his death may have been hastened by a right wing doctor injecting him with something.
- There are a number of buses and a train that connects Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. It seemed excessive at first for two town so close with an ocean boardwalk connecting them, but we now know why hardly anybody makes the journey on foot.
- From the looks of things, most Chileans vacation in Vina del Mar and its beaches and Valparaiso is more for tourists who have heard about its brightly colored buildings and ascensores or the locals who live and work in the flat downtown.