Valparaiso & Viña del Mar
Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
90Trip End Aug 14, 2009
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In its heyday, it was the major port servicing ships going round the Horn & was very prosperous; however, after the Panama Canal was opened in 1914, taking away its trade, it has gone downhill.
We stayed in a pleasant B&B in the congested centre of town called "El Plan". Although the B&B was pleasant, the surrounding area was shabby & worst of all, didn't have a decent restaurant, only cafes serving badly cooked steaks with a mountain of chips topped with 2 fried eggs - a local delicacy. The best of these cafes did sell wine by the bottle offering a wide selection, both a red & a white. The red was actually a very acceptable "Conche y Toro Export" costing all of £2.00 ! - We went there again.
The local park was not up to the standards we were used to in Argentina & Peru. The park benches had very few slats left in them, the statues had graffiti all over them & the pavements were absolutely filthy. There were also stray dogs lying around everywhere, even in the gutters, making cars & buses swerve to avoid them. Another thing about South America is that there are very few public loos & those that there are charge an entrance fee & also charge for paper. The poor in Valparaiso have found a way round this - they pee in the hedges.
We went up the Ascensore Concepcion (which was far from immaculate) to the arty-farty "Cerro Concepcion" district where the artists try to flog you very good, but quite pricy paintings. The views from the top are great, with the Andes behind & the harbour & bay in front of you. The Andes are only 40km from the sea in this part of Chile, so in winter it is quite possible to go skiing in the morning & swimming in the sea in the afternoon.
The Port is still very active with container shipping vying with cruise liners for space. There is a thriving trade in trips around the harbour - you buy your ticket then take pot luck on which of the boats you get on, it could be a new craft with nice plastic seats & life jackets, or an overcrowded old tub with the water lapping over the gunnels.
Viña del Mar - ("Vineyard of the Sea")
We spent the day there walking along the 'prom', dozing in the sun, taking a leisurely alcoholic lunch in a nice bistro & talking to a student waiter who wanted to improve his English. - Very laid back.
Many travellers had told us to go to Patagonia in southern Chile, which we would have liked to have seen. However, we didn't have any suitable clothing, nor did we have time to do it justice. Another area we wished we had seen is the Lake District in the south, again it was too difficult to fit into our schedule - perhaps we will do it on our next time round the world.