Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Valparaiso and Viña del Mar with Zack!

I'm forcing myself to catch up on this blog, which means nightly blogging. Have I mentioned that in addition to being a semi-professional blogger and travel guru (just kidding) I am also in grad school and working 45+ hours per week? I'm tired! But alas, for the sake of my faithful readers, I am here updating you on my life in Chile...enjoy!

On Friday, Zack and I took a day trip to the coast. It is really cheap and easy to travel by bus in South America, and buses run to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar every 15 minutes from Santiago. We originally intended to explore Valpo and Viña on our own for the day, but when we arrived at the bus station we decided to take a tour. It ended up being a much easier way to see the highlights of both coastal towns, and as a bonus the tour took us to Reñaca (a beach town) for lunch. The weather was gorgeous - around 80 degrees and sunny - and we had a great time. Here is a pictorial account of our day:
One of three moai statues outside of Easter Island is in Viña (there is another one in Chile and one in London)

This house belonged to the founder of Viña...it was severely damaged in the 2010 earthquake and is still condemned

At a park...you can't tell by the picture, but at this point I was starving for lunch and slightly annoyed by some of our fellow tourists

At the beach in Reñaca

We ate lunch at a restaurant right on the beach

You can't really tell in the pictures, but the waves were huge

The water was FREEZING!

The water was also very blue, but the pictures don't really do it justice

The famous flower clock in Viña

Our guide called this the sea lion hotel

See the sea lion swimming?

Pablo Neruda's house in Valparaiso...shaped like a boat

The view from Pablo's place

This photo was taken by a Virginia Tech student...no hard feelings

Riding the "elevator" in Valparaiso...there are tons of "elevators" around the city since it is so hilly. Of the 15 "elevators," only 3 still work (they're really old). I feel lucky that we survived the three minute ascent.

The views of the colorful port were definitely worth the risky elevator ride. (Just kidding, I'm pretty sure they are safe.)

I think that's it for tonight!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Adios Argentina, Hola Chile

Last Monday morning we were so sad to leave Mendoza. If we could have stayed a few more days, we would have liked to have gone hiking or rafting…there is lots of adventure tourism in Mendoza. Our friend Hannah even recommended hang gliding in Mendoza, but I don’t think we are quite that daring, haha. Argentina was much a more laid back country than Chile. The food was also a lot better, and the Spanish was easier to understand. Don’t get me wrong – Chile is great – but I would really like to go back to Argentina some day (Buenos Aires!).

Our bus was scheduled to depart from the Mendoza bus terminal on Monday at 1 PM. The process was 100 times easier than it was in Chile. We spent the last of our Argentinean pesos on snacks for the road, boarded the bus a few minutes before 1, and left almost on time (and we both had visas this time J ). The trouble came when we got to the Argentina-Chile border. The line of cars was backed up for miles, and it ended up taking over 4 hours to get through customs. It was brutal. I had to keep reminding myself while we were waiting that at $25 USD each way the bus tickets were a lot more affordable than plane tickets. The views along the way were really nice, but 10.5 hours on a bus is a loooooong time.

Here are a few pictures that we took on our last day in Mendoza and on the way back to Chile. I'll try to narrate with captions as well as I can! Enjoy!
View of Mendoza from the top floor of the hotel

The Park Hyatt Mendoza - amazing hotel

Packed up and so sad to leave

There are little canals throughout Mendoza - see the right side of the picture above. They built this system to keep the plants watered. It paid off...the trees lining the streets are really nice.Canal and tree-lined street near the hotel

That's right...ketchup-flavored potato chips (didn't try them)

At the Mendoza bus station, loaded up with snacks and ready to board the bus

There were awesome views of the Andes Mountains on the trip back to Chile

This lake was just outside of Mendoza. It is a snow-melt lake, and the minerals in the water give it the gorgeous color. The pictures don't do justice to the color.

The line of vehicles at the Chile-Argentina border

We got off the bus after a few hours to stretch and take some pictures...still smiling because we didn't realize that we wouldn't be crossing the border until after dark

That's it! Zack, please take me back to Argentina some day!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mendoza...Land of Steak and Wine

If I haven't already said it enough, Zack and I had the most wonderful weekend in Mendoza, Argentina last weekend. It was very relaxing, and we loved everything about Argentina...the people, the scenery, the food...everything.

Sunday in Mendoza was a very relaxing day. We took a winery tour through a company called Trout and Wine. The tour was a lot of fun and offered a great way to see the wineries which make Mendoza so famous. We also got to try the two wines that Argentina is known for: Malbec (red) and Torrontes (white). If you ever have the opportunity to visit Mendoza, we definitely recommend taking a wine excursion. You will get to try great wine, fantastic food, and see beautiful places.

The weather on Sunday was really nice when we woke up, but while we were at the first winery the clouds and rain rolled in. Here is the view from our hotel room before it got cloudy (obviously we did not pay for an upgraded view...but we could see the pool):
Our first winery was Alta Vista, which is a really old and relatively large winery. The winery was originally owned by Spaniards but a French couple owns it now. The land was really beautiul, and we could see the Andes Mountains briefly before the heavy clouds came. Still beautiful though, despite the rain!

The barrels at Alta Vista are painted down the middle with red wine. This prevents stains from wine drops from showing. Alta Vista claims to be the first winery to come up with this idea.

Our next winery was Achaval Ferrer, which is a boutique winery that I think would have been gorgeous if the weather had been nicer. Even though the winery was really pretty and unique, I was not a huge fan of the wine.

Next was Club Tapiz. This was not only a vineyard but also an inn and a restaurant. Here we toured the winery, and also had an olive oil tasting. They made us take a sip of the olive oil first to get a taste of it, and then they passed the bread around. The restaurant at Club Tapiz was really nice, and our tour included lunch on the second floor of the restaurant. Again, I think there were probably some really nice views of the Andes Mountains, but the clouds were pretty heavy. The 4-course lunch was amazing and included the famous Argentinean steak. I hope I didn’t offend the locals by asking to have my steak cooked well-done!

You can get married here...everything was really beautiful

Zack with his glass of olive oil to taste

The view from the restaurant at Club Tapiz where we had lunch

Our last stop of the day was at CarinaE, which was the smallest but most unique of all the wineries. A French couple owns the winery, and when they bought it in the 1990’s they basically had to rebuild the entire place. The owner gave us the tour and explained that he and his wife love stargazing, and the name CarinaE comes from their favorite constellation Carina. There was stained glass in one of the buildings that they designed, and these little touches are found on the labels of their wine. Everything was so unique and personalized! Us with the owner, Philippe

This was a photo that they had which shows how beautiful the mountains are when it's not cloudy

This one won't make Clemson World, but I thought it was good enough for the blog

When we got back to our hotel after the tour the sun decided to come out. We took the opportunity to check out the pool at the hotel and enjoyed some time reading in the warm sun. It’s not too often that you can go to the pool in late November, so that was really nice.

We ended our Sunday in Argentina with a fancy dinner at Francis Mallman’s famous restaurant called 1884. The restaurant is an Argentinean steakhouse that many, many people recommended to us. Our reservations were at 8:30 PM, and we were the first ones in the restaurant. Argentineans eat even later than Chileans, apparently. By the time we left around 10:30, the restaurant was finally full. It was vacation though, so it didn’t really matter that we were eating so late.

The food at 1884 was another one of the best meals we have ever had. I had my fill of steak for the day at Club Tapiz for lunch, but Zack could not pass up the opportunity to have another Argentinean steak (and I stole a few bites). The restaurant was so beautiful and everything was just so nice.

On Monday, sadly we had to return to Santiago. Check back soon for our pictures and stories from the epic journey going back to Chile through the Andes Mountains.

I apologize that I am a few days behind on blogging. I've got lots of pictures to post this week though, including the ones from our trip to the coast and from my company Christmas party.