So for my birthday I decided I wanted to travel. My friends had just gone to Valparaiso, Chile and had good reviews so I was like, "why not?!" So three of the my friends and I bought bus tickets, booked a hostel (called Muffin Hostel!) and we were set! It was my first time staying in a hostel, first time traveling on my own (w/o adult supervision) so needless to say I was pretty nervous and excited. We were set to leave Thursday night at 10pm so after my 3hr long literature class I rushed home, grabbed the chicken nuggets and carrot salad my mom had packed for me and went to the bus station. I tried to not take the fact that it was raining as a bad sign. ( I live in a desert, it doesn't rain that much). We had to cross through the Andes to get to Chile which also included waiting for 2hrs at the border to have our papers checked and to make sure we weren't bringing any forbidden fruits or vegetables into Chile. When we go to the border I was so pumped and ready to wait like 4-5hrs because I'd been told horror stories of waiting in endless lines that never moved. so upon arrival to border control I was so ready to wait HOURS, I was pumped and kind of excited (I would be getting new stamps in my passport). As I said it only took 2hrs and we still arrived to Valparaiso on time (about 6am). Before heading out into the city we took a brief nap at our hostel (located literally behind one of the many fresh produce market stands that surround the block by our hostel).
Our first act of the day was a free city tour lead by Sebastian, who spoke impeccable English. I know, I know, 'Why aren't you speaking Spanish Beth?' There was a French family, with a 9 year old daughter that was the French version of my little sister Annie, that understood English better than Spanish. He took us all around the main parts and vistas of the city: up a few "Cerros" (hills), we used the ancient "ascensors" (elevator lifts), and walked through the colorful streets of Valparaiso. He shared so much knowledge about the city it was wonderful, a perfect way to start out our trip. We ended at the port and got some recommendations for activities to do the next day in Vina del Mar then went to lunch. I believe the sandwich I got was a classic Chilean dish called Churasco or chacarero-a large bun, thin sliced carne with tomatoes. very simple but very delicious. Then we walked through the fresh produce market and bought ingredients to make pasta and homemade pasta sauce for dinner. It was so cheap! After our shopping was done we decided it was time for ice cream (when is it not ever time for ice cream). I got a chocolatey goodness flavor and a frutas del bosque (fruits of the forest) flavor. BEST COMBO EVER. It was one of the first way I celebrated my birthday. The walk home to our hostel helped us make room for dinner, which turned out very well then we turned in so we could get an early start to Vina Del Mar the next morning.
We started the day out with homemade bread and smoothies. Then I bought carrots ( I had to buy a kilo!) to snack on throughout the day. Our first stop was another port where everyone sells and buys fish and the fish guts are thrown to the sea lions and seagulls. It was so cool to see so many sea lions! They're such funny creatures! Definitely lions of the sea, their barking/roaring was very interesting. Then we headed into the city. Our trip to Vina Del Mar turned into a hunt for Peanut Butter. One of the girls host moms had told her of a grocery store that had american PB so throughout the day we asked three different people where/how to find this store (called Jumbo) and got three completely different answers. So we ended up walking all over the city-which was a good way to see the different areas of the city-in search for PB but never found the store :( But in the process we walked to the commercial area with a giant shopping mall, which don't really exist much in Mendoza, so we window shopped a bit (i bought some danon greek yogurt!), then went to the beach, took a siesta on the sand, took some pics on the seaside then walked down the boardwalk surveying the various trinkets from the never ending line of vendors. The Beach was by far my favorite part of the day. The combination of sun and breeze was perfect-it was absolute paradise. We took the boardwalk to the 'old' part of the city that contained a bunch of old mansion/castles and some churches. So we wound through the streets up and down and search for the beautiful buildings. On our way back to the city center we found a Chilean version of a Good-Will! It was a touch more upscale and could have been very dangerous but miraculously none of us bought anything! The sun was setting so we headed back to Valpo and our hostel and guess what was across the street when we got off the bus-a Jumbo store! the exact store we'd been searching for the whole day ended up being like 3 blocks away from our hostel! So we bought like 4 jars of PB and cracked that open for dinner along with our leftovers from the night before and a sauteed carrot salad with garlic, spinach, red pepper and onion. it was actually very satisfying.
There was a lot of ruckus in the hostel that night so sleep didn't go so well but nonetheless we were up-and-at-em in the morning ready for a Street Art tour. The tour was very informative! We learned about the basics of graffiti and how it can be used as art and how people 'read' graffiti and how people paint and how they acquire spots to paint and who's famous and what pieces they've done. He also explained the meanings behind a lot of the art which was very cool. That afternoon we walked to the famous Pablo Nerudo's house. I was expecting a simple, humble home but on the contrary! Pablo loved to collect trinkets and his house was full of them! He was a very interesting man and his house was super cool. I was glad to have the opportunity to learn more about such an influential man in south american history. Afterwards we searched and found the tallest mural graffiti art in Chile, it's like 20meters tall and 10 meters wide! At the hostel that evening we packed up and I made a dinner of an avocado, toast, a tomato and garlic plus our remaining grapes and some peanut butter. The bus ride home was pretty much the same as the way there, except stopping at the border was an hour longer, we didn't have to put our backpacks through a scanner and we got sandwiches instead of alfajors. Arriving at 6am was tough but I napped then woke up for class at 10am!