Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Trip to the Coast

On my day off on Monday, I joined two other Americans for a day trip to the coast. They had already arranged for a private driver to “chauffer” them for the day, and it was nice to be able to join in. The driver was a local Chilean, and he knew exactly where to go so that we could see the highlights on our quick day trip.

Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are only about 1.5 hours by car from Santiago. The drive is really nice, with lots of mountains, vineyards, and small towns to see on the way. Here is a map to give you an idea of where we went (sorry it is so small, but Valparaiso is near the top-left of the map):

You can see on the map that the drive takes you through the Casablanca Valley, which is one of Chile’s white wine regions. There were vineyards everywhere, and also lots of other crops. We stopped at Veramonte to sample white wines and see the vineyards.

After Casablanca we went to Valparaiso, and it was not quite what I was expecting. It is a large port city, and before the Panama Canal was built it was one of the most important ports of the Pacific Ocean. It is still an operating port, but not quite as busy or important as it once was. The city is very colorful with houses built close together on the hills. There was lots of graffiti, and everything seemed somewhat dirty and run down (in my personal opinion). There must be some appeal to it though because it is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. I took a few pictures in Valparaiso, but they did not turn out very good because it was gray and cloudy (and chilly). I pulled some photos off the internet so you can see what it might have looked like if my photography skills and the weather were both a little better.

My pictures:

At the waterfront at the port

Rocky coastline in Valparaiso

Pictures from the Internet:

The houses and buildings are really close together and very colorful - it would've been nicer if the sun had been out!

You can see the port on the left side of this picture. There are funiculars (trams) that you can take to get views of Valparaiso

After Valparaiso, we drove about twenty minutes north to Viña del Mar. Viña is like the most popular place in the world for locals to go for all holidays. I heard someone say that on holiday weekends about 300,000 cars leave Santiago and head to the coast – primarily to Viña. I liked Viña del Mar a lot, and when Zack comes we are planning to take a day trip there. Hopefully the weather will be a little nicer when we go! In Viña del Mar, you can go to the beach, there is a big fancy casino, and there are lots of nice restaurants on the ocean. It’s also a nice place to just walk around and people-watch. I regrettably did not take ANY pictures in Viña (another reason why we have to go when Zack comes), but the weather was so gray the pictures wouldn’t have been good anyway. Here is one that I pulled from the internet - this is the nice hotel and casino:

On the way home, we stopped around 3:30 PM for lunch (typical lunch time for Chileans). We ate at a very local-type restaurant in Casablanca. I wasn’t very adventurous so I just had a sandwich and fries (I’m so tired of French fries!), however the local grub looked pretty good.

I think that just about sums up my day trip to the coast. I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks with Zack!


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