This post is way long over due, but better something than nothing! 😀
During Semana Santa (March 30th-April 7th), some friends and I headed to Chile, where I had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing vacations of my life! I was obviously excited for the trip, but I had no idea how much fun I would have in Chile. I learned so much from the culture, met incredible people, indulged in delicious food (seafood and sushi, YUM), and loved every minute of it. Everyone studying abroad in Argentina should head on over to Chile! Luckily for us in Mendoza, it’s only a 5-6 hour bus ride with some amazing views 😉
so many curves while crossing the andes
view from the bus ride
We spent two days in Santiago, trekking through the metro (and getting shoved in the process, there were a lot more people that weekend particularly because of the music festival), frequently treating ourselves to delicious gelato after long walks in Santa Lucia, trying pancho con palta + mote (national drink of Chile with peaches and rice, very sweet!), constantly buying water (urgh, that was annoying) and admiring the street art and architecture. The style of the buildings was something I noticed immediately. First off, it was very different from Mendoza, and second, the architecture reminded me of….Spain. I couldn’t really place a finger on it. The vibe of the city was also hard to characterize. There were many, many tourists and it was a relatively busy city, yet, the palm trees, artists casually sketching the scenery, and the local people sauntering by just gave Santiago a chill, sleepy vibe.
pancho con palta
architecture in the square
horses and police were everywhere!
so much color compared to mendoza
indulging in some delicious helado!
pretending we were at lolla
at the top of santa lucia
view from santa lucia
busy church for easter
After Santiago, we took a two hour bus to Vina del Mar. I was so taken back by the scenery during the ride! But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about/get sick of the scenery here. Everything is just too beautiful
For the rest of the week, we walked around Vina then took a metro to Valparaiso (the transportation was so convenient!). I was absolutely in love with these two cities…..we took the elevator to go up the steep hill so we could explore the fun, colorful houses that were stacked up on the hills. And of course, once we were at the top, the view was amazing. I could see the ships near the port, some people lounging by the ocean, and the stray dogs aimlessly sauntering in the streets…..I particularly liked the view from Pablo Neruda’s house. He could see everything from his room!
beach at vina
reloj de flores
houses along the beach
a sunny day in vina
The street art is another story. Calling it “graffiti” simply doesn’t do justice to the talent of the work. Walking around in Valparaiso was like receiving tickets to a free art exhibition.
Although I was in Chile for only a week, I feel like I got an authentic essence of the three cities I visited. Vina and Valpo, in particular, were two places that didn’t seem to be engineered toward tourists and so, I felt like I was exploring the true culture and dynamic of the city. I loved being able to talk to the people on the streets, striking up a conversation about various Chileans wines with a friendly man at the supermercado, and learning about the ascensors (elevators) from a nice woman while we we were waiting to go up to the cerros (hills). Needless to say, it was hard for us to leave.
favorite street art
colorful houses in valpo
valpo, the port city
steep ride up
I was particularly drawn to Valparaiso. It felt like the people in Valpo really knew how to utilize every inch of space given to them! Every wall was adorned intricately and each building had its own character. The houses are all neatly stacked on the mountains, with each cerro (hill) having a different reputation. Nothing was uniform in terms of design, but in the sense of aesthetic appeal, the buildings provided the eye with a homogenous pattern of colorful splashes of beauty. It was similar to Vina….yet I loved Valpo more. I felt as if I was walking into someone’s home, exploring their lifestyle and trying to adopt their habits as my own and make myself familiar with their ways. Everything was set in its original, functioning place and nothing was altered for the benefit of tourists. It was ridiculously convenient to hop on the metro from Vina to arrive in Valpo within minutes. I loved the transformation from a cool, unique port city into a crazy wild scene at night. Oh, Valpo.
I loved striking conversations with vendors, having people approach me out of genuine curiosity while I was waiting for a friend at the plaza, befriend other travelers, and walk up and down the long, steep hills (and award myself with delicious gelato after). The people here get their exercise (RIDICULOUSLY long stairs with many steps)!!! We took a free walking tour (I believe it was called Tours for Tips, there is also one in Santiago as well!) and we learned so much about the city! As we walked up and down the hills, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the tourists “touring” the city on a bus; walking is the only way to get a real feel for the city! We passed by so many beautiful artwork (free exhibition!), got to talk to locals and eat some delicious cookies and swig some pisco sours. Not to mention, we met awesome Europeans on the tour, and we all went for DELICIOUS (and cheap) sushi afterward. Ahh. I’d missed sushi. In Mendoza, sushi/seafood is expensive, not THAT delicious, and I had to pay for chopsticks! Grr. The delicious and cheap seafood is something I’ll miss! It is truly a unique port city tucked away, and I could feel the immigrants’ presence from years before.
Before we left, my friend and I deemed the one cent peso (un peso) cute, and thought it’d be a cute idea to give them away as souvenirs. (Maybe punch a hole in it to make a bracelet or keychain?) But since it is of so little value and rarely in use, we had a hard time finding a store that had those pesos. Strangely enough, a male cashier in a lingerie store ended up being able to trade 10 pesos for the ones we wanted. He thought our idea was funny.
so much valpo pride
pablo neruda's house
Things we did not anticipate: the unreliability of buses. As it was getting closer for us to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay a little bit longer. But since we bought all of our tickets in advance (Vina–>Santiago–>Mendoza), I decided to just go along with the original plan. This was mistake #1. To my future self: make hostel reservations in advance, but if possible, buy tickets at the terminal of the destination once I have a better idea of dates/how much longer I want to stay. Because in reality, you meet friends and encounter places you want to spend more time exploring. Mistake #2 happened when the bus was 40-60 minutes late. Hence, we missed our bus from Santiago to Mendoza, and had to spend the night in Santiago. We also had to buy another set of tickets because the offices weren’t open early enough, and we didn’t want to risk waiting any longer. Luckily, the tickets were cheap, but this mistake could have been avoided. To my future self: don’t buy bus tickets in advance; be flexible with travel plans!!
On our way to Chile, we traveled at night, so I was comfortably asleep for most of the ride and the entry process was very efficient and quick, as there weren’t too many travelers. But since we were returning to Argentina during the weekend, amidst the peak traveling time, we ended up waiting at the border for three hours. I mean…..it didn’t feel that long, though. We made friends with the people (only four of us on the bus, haha) and was asked the popular question, “do you like Chile, or Argentina, better?” 😀 We waited a long time because the entry process consists of a bus driver registering every passenger on his bus. Lots of buses=lots of people=long time. But eventually, we got through and it wasn’t too bad, like I said. The mountains were breathtaking and we mostly sat around and relaxed.
vina, night time
I couldn’t help but feel jealous of the many European students we met along the way, who were traveling the continent by themselves. The freedom! The adventure! But then again, it’s wonderful to be back in Mendoza, and I’ll be going to Peru in two weeks!