01.01.2013 - 06.01.2013
Trying our best to ignore our looming departure date of 7th January we had grand plans of lying on a beach, savouring our last days of South American cuisine and enjoying a lazy week before we returned to a new year in Sydney. We have definitely been lazy and eaten very well, but a chilly Antarctic current called Humboldt ensured we did no laying around on a beach!
90 minutes west of Santiago is the 'Garden City' of Vina del Mar: a resort town of restaurants, parks and beaches and upscale neighbour to the UNESCO city of Valparaiso. When we got off the bus and had to put jumpers on we saw our beach dream slowly slipping away, but the restaurants have gone some way to making up for our diminishing Brazilian tans.
Sleeping in until midday, enjoying long lunches into the late afternoon followed by a nap and then a late supper around 11pm - life is not bad in Vina! Incredible steaks (we are born again carnivores after South America!) fresh seafood and mouth watering desserts were all on the menu, and even though we knew Chile would be significantly more expensive than Bolivia, we have been surprised to be almost back at Sydney prices in some places. On the bright side it has prepared us for the shock of returning home!
After two days of doing not much we made our way to Valparaiso to see what makes it so special. Reading a little about the city in advance we came across a vast spectrum of opinions with some insisting it required the effort even from Santiago, whilst others recommended it be left off a Chile itinerary altogether. To repent for the gorging we had indulged in for the first 48hrs we walked the 7.5km along the Pacific Ocean, looking for home on the horizon.
The port city is very colourful and built on a group of hills right on the water, requiring furnicular vehicles to deliver residents to the upper areas of the city. Climbing the hills and stairs in search of lunch with a view, we stumbled upon the open air museum of Valpo that gives it its UNESCO protection - an area of street art murals and graffiti that give the city its reputation as a destination for artists, bohemians and photographers.
It is interesting, and walking the narrow and artistic streets does have a certain charm, but our memories of this city will be a crab and almond ravioli, an unforgettable lasagna and the best desserts we have had since France! In other words it was worth the effort from Vina next door, but not sure you would need to make the trip from Santiago (unless you want to try the best creme brulee outside of France!).
Back to Santiago, our last 48hrs on tour were spent chilling out and enjoying the sunshine as we explored the city. Like Buenos Aires the Spanish colonisation of the country is evident in the architecture of some of the important buildings, but Santiago is a lot cleaner and feels more relaxed than BA, possibly due to the fact it is approximately half the population of BA.
All in all it has been a relaxed and mouth-watering end to a very full nine months, but we both agree that Chile's Santiago and Vina are no match for Brazil's Rio and Buzios! We suspect the real treasures of Chile are to be found in its wilderness regions in the Andes mountains up north and Patagonia down south but we are all out of time....... Sydney here we come!