A la playa - Vina del Mar

Trip Start Jun 28, 2008
Trip End Jul 01, 2008

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Did you know last Friday (the 15th) was a holy day of obligation?  Well, the Chileans definitely do because they are national holidays here.  All the schools and most places of work have off, so I had my first three day weekend last weekend.  All the new people had been in Santiago for about 6 weeks and we were all ready to get out and explore. 

Laurel and I talked about going on an adventure together so we settled on Vina del Mar.  It's a beach town about an hour an a half away.  Both Laurel and I don't have cars, but I prefer it that way.  (I don't want one because of the $$ and because I think people drive kind of crazy around here)  So, we had to figure out how we were going to get from here to there and to be honest with you, it couldn't have been easier. 

My apartment (I promise I'll post pictures soon) is a block from the metro.  Laurel lives by Nido so she took a public bus down here to my place and then she and I rode the metro to the Universidad de Santiago, where there is a bus station.  Now, we didn't exactly figure this out on our own...my concierge was very helpful and explained which stop to take.  And, with a little pantomiming, I figured out what he was saying. 

At the bus station we discovered that the buses to Vina leave every 20 minutes and were only 4.000 pesos aka 8 bucks.  8 bucks for a trip to Vina...an hour an a half away!  Now, this isn't some shady bus either.  They are really nice charter buses with tvs and everything.  I was really impressed.  Once we arrived there were cab drivers everywhere and they took us straight to the hotel (where I had asked a Chilean friend at work to make our reservation...hey, my Spanish is okay, but it's not that good!).

We stayed at Hotel Agora and it was such a cute, eclectic hotel!  All the walls were painted really fun, key west type colors.  There was a nice desayuno (breakfast) and they had tvs where they were playing the Olympics (it was the first time I've been able to watch them since I don't have a tv and it's only really on in the morning).  All the people in the hotel were super friendly.  And the location of Hotel Agora couldn't be more perfect - one block over from the beach and the main attractions.

Although it poured all day Friday, we didn't let that bother us.  We walked in the rain and got soaked, but that's okay because we each bought a couple bottles of wine (Laurel rojo and me blanco) and came back to the hotel early to relax and ended up watching Night at the Museum with Spanish dubbing.  You have no idea how nice it is to watch movies in English and just zone out and listen to English for 2 hours.  I feel guilty for saying it, but it's a nice break. 

Even though it rained all day Friday, it was absolutely gorgeous the rest of the weekend.  On Saturday Laurel and I walked all along the beach and explored Vina.  We started earlier than most people - Chile is a very stay up late, sleep in society - so most of the market stands weren't set up our first walk through.  But we observed the really interesting architecture, activities, restaurants, etc.  By the time we walked back it was like a different place with people everywhere (by now it was like 1pm) and lots of venders and activities for children.  People were building enormous sand castles and there were even some young guys braving the cold to go boogie boarding (remember it's still winter here).  It reminded me a lot of maybe San Diego or Tampa. 

We then went to a restaurant on the beach for lunch and split two delicious sandwiches and as we were walking out decided we needed helado too.  Later on that night we went to the Hotel del Mar, which is a beautiful casino.  It was kind of the same as in the States, but very different.  First, you had to pay to get in 3.800 pesos (7 or 8 bucks) and that gave you a drink ticket, but we were disappointed to find that it was only for a soda.  But, after a little bit of walking around and looking really confused we found a room with slot machines for 10, 50, and 100 pesos (which is like 2 cents, 10 cents, and 20 cents).  I'm happy to say I broke even, which my mom tells me is winning!

After we left the casino we found a karaoke bar near the hotel.  We heard people singing songs like "Wish You Were Here" and "Summer Loving" and other American songs.  Surprisingly, we only heard a couple songs in Spanish.  After that we retired to our hotel and the next morning headed back home to Santiago on another very nice charter bus.  All in all it was a great trip and I couldn't think of a person I would have rather spent it with.  Laurel is one of the most enthusiastic, outgoing people I have ever met.  She loves life and it's great being around someone like that.  I assure you, you will hear about many more adventures of ours in the future!
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