Thursday, January 17, 2013

Valparaiso and Last of Chile

After the markets tour with Spicy Chile, we went on another of their free/tips walking tours to see the classic sights of Santiago. Like Buenos Aires, it's an old city with both indigenous and a variety of European influences, and many of the old government buildings and churches still function and are really beautiful to walk among. In a shoutout to BsAs, we even saw a store called "Little Palermo Soho"!

We also saw a lot of arts activity, heightened because an annual festival called Santiago a Mil was happening. There are a number of arts museums that are free to enter in Santiago.

In a heroic feat we managed to keep walking after the walking tour was over, climbing to the top of a hill in Santiago used as a lookout point throughout history. We could indeed see all of Santiago from there, and even spotted a place with vegan pizza! Okay, that's not exactly how it went, but after all that exercise we definitely deserved the yummy cheeseless pizza we found for lunch.

In the evening we attended an event at what I think might be Chile's only fully vegan restaurant, Vegan Bunker. They're usually not open for dinner but that night had some local musicians performing and were serving food. It was fun; the music was actually pretty good and so was the food. It seems like veganism is definitely part of a counterculture movement in Chile as we saw it several times combined with sentiments against war, for a better educational system, and even pro- open source software!

On our last day in Chile we took a bus to Valparaiso (about $15 round trip), which was comfortable, efficient, and most importantly, air-conditioned. There we also took a free/tips walking tour Tours 4 Tips. We really enjoy these as a cost- and time-effective way to get to know the layout and some key highlights of a city, and take lots of pictures! Valpo actually has more street art than Santiago, some of it amazingly detailed. As a city, it seems to have a lot of spunk, including a sassy Lady Justice statue, and between the hills, morning fog, and colorful culture reminded us of San Francisco. We walked through a weekly market full of just about everything you can think of, from imported trinkets, to used clothes, to handmade crafts, to live animals. We did find that as a non-capital city, it was notedly less aware of vegan or even vegetarian food. Another drawback is that you have to pay about 50 cents to use public toilets!

We finished our trip with dinner and a game of pool on the terrace of our hostel with a fellow traveler Katelyn (blog).

We had a good time in Chile despite getting a tad sunburned. In many ways we found it similar to Argentina. I have to highlight the gorgeous fresh fruit and vegetables there; we will seriously miss the cheap avocados! We were able to see a lot in 4 days.

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