Michelle Swalheim

Joined February 2017
  • Day3

    Santiago, Chile

    February 12, 2017 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Sun, Feb 12th: We took a bus from Valpo to Santiago today. The cost for the both of us was about $20ish USD, and about a two hour trip with a few stops. The buses are large coach buses and very comfortable and you get to choose your seats when you purchase your ticket. Once we arrived in Santiago we took a short subway ride over to Bellavista neighborhood - great neighborhood with lots of restaurants, shops, bars, and walking distance from Cerro San Cristobal. We grabbed lunch down the street from our hotel (Hotel Boutique Castillo Rojo) as we arrived before check in. We then ventured down a block or two to Patio Bellavista, which had great restaurants, bars, and shopping - all protected from sun with plenty of shade (as it was HOT, about 85 and sunny).

    After check in, we decided to walk over to Cerro San Cristobal and take the fincular up to see the entire city from above. Since it was Sunday, it was a popular to go (around 5pm) so we had to wait in line for the funicular for about an hour. It was well worth the wait, as the hike up would have been grueling in the heat. At the top (elevation is 1000 ft above the city of Santiago) we tried a popular drink we saw everywhere in Santiago called Mote Con Huesillo which is a tea that has peach and wheat in it. It was very tasty even though it looks a bit odd! We opted to hike down the hill, as the line was very long to back down and we didn't want to wait standing in the heat. The hike down was a bit steep in areas, and I was only wearing sandals (Sanuk Yoga Sling sandals - they actually handled the hike very well...I was not expecting a hike or I would have worn different shoes) but there were hand rails where needed. Took about 30 minutes to hike down.

    We ended our day just grabbing dinner at a local restaurant on Patio Bellavista as we were super tired from traveling and hiking.
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  • Day2

    Viña del Mar

    February 11, 2017 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    We took a local bus to Viña del Mar after our tour and enjoyed this lovely beach town. It reminds us of Ventura, CA. February is a popular vacation month for Chileans, so the beaches were PACKED. We opted to just walk around and not be beach bums. We enjoyed some food and tried a Chilean favorite called "locos" which is a shellfish popular in the area (we had this empanada style...which we also love).Read more

  • Day1

    Valparaíso

    February 10, 2017 in Chile ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Friday, Feb 10th - We finally arrived in our first destination - Valparaiso, Chile! Nicknamed "Valpo" this is located on the Pacific Ocean about 1.5 hours from Santiago. We landed in Santiago and took a taxi to Valpo. We admit, after traveling 22 hours straight, we were too lazy to figure out the bus over to Valpo (cost savings there) and opted for a private taxi there. Ouch - approx $150 USD but in hindsight this was worth every penny (er..peso). The taxi was comfortable and we would have struggled with finding the bus depot and navigating to our Airbnb after getting little to no sleep...not to mention the language barrier. Plus Valpo is CRAZY hilly!! Walking up those hills with our gear would have been exhausting and would have been an awful first impression. So, in all - very happy we spent the money on the taxi ($ well spent!!).

    We checked into our Airbnb and we were pleasantly surprised - it was even nicer than the photos and our hosts left us a surprise bottle of champagne in the fridge for us. Bonus! This was our first Airbnb experience ever, so off to a good start. The place had a small living room, dining room combination, small kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Bonus was a sizeable patio. Very clean, very modern. We also were happy to find that the place is gated and has doormen.

    We ventured off right away in search of food and water (haha and coffee!). One thing that held true to what we read - there are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. However, also true to what we read, they are tame and friendly and mild mannered. We actually grew fond of them. This is from the result of the economic decline of the Golden Era when the Panana Canel was built in 1914 it hurt Valpo as it was a bustling port city and now there was a shorter route. Families gave up their dogs or moved away and well....the dogs multiplied. So, lots of dogs around but nothing to fear - just watch your step for dog poop!

    We stopped at Cafe Vinillo - a cool little place that spun records and ordered coffee. We also ate a traditional Chilean meal - Osso Buco - which is beef with smoked potatoes. Not sure which stole the show more - the meat or the potatoes, but yum!

    Next, we walked down to Plaza Sotomayor - this is a main gathering place where you can find buses, trolleys, and the Tours 4 Tips guides. There is also a Starbucks for when you need coffee early (everything seems to open later here, but Starbucks was dependable...have to say, the local coffee places had MUCH better coffee.....loved every latte each place offered). We then went to Bar The Clinic, which we found out is a "chain" restaurant in Chile. Good food, good service.

    Saturday, Feb 11th - We started our day right away with meeting up with local guides with Tours 4 Tips. They meet at 10am and 3pm in Plaza Sotomayor. They are nicknamed "Wallys" as they wear red and white striped shirts (think Where's Waldo) so that you can easily find them. They split us up by English speaking and Spanish speaking, so no need to be worried about not understanding the tour. Aida was our tour guide, she emmigrated to Chile from Syria and you can tell she loves her new home. She was passionate about Valparaiso and its history. She as very nice and spoke great english. Man - one thing I plan to do is read up more on Chilean history. Crazy stuff happened not even a few decades ago. On the tour, we rode the "O" bus - this crazy bus that rides up the hills to show you the city from up above. Remember that crazy bus ride in Harry Potter? Yeah - it's just like that. Local buses in Valpo only cost approx 75 cents USD to a few bucks if you want to go further to a neighboring town. You get on the buses and HOLD ON right away. The bus drivers literally race/compete for riders. They get paid for the number of passengers they pick up in their shift and they make change while driving down these crazy zig zaggy roads. Nervous passengers, don't watch. Very fast up and down these hilly roads! After the tour we stopped at Delicias Express - hands down the BEST empanadas you will ever have. Read about these in numerous blogs and it held true to its reputation.

    We took a local bus to Viña del Mar (see next footprint).

    We ended our stay with bar and restaurant hopping. We liked a local brewery called Altamira. We also rode the funicular up and enjoyed dinner at El Internado - which was a rooftop bar that overlooked the hills. We could hear a local band (like a high school or college band) playing nearby. Cool experience. Then we turned in, since we were headed to Santiago the next morning.
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