Day 7 - Down to Sea LevelJanuary 5 in Chile ⋅ 🌫 13 °C
A travel day as we left the Atacama for ValparIso. Another way-before-dawn morning saw us on the road from San Pedro to Calama as the sun rose behind the Andes. An uneventful flight landed us in a crowded Santiago airport. We learned later there had been a power outage at the airport yesterday that caused delays and cancellations and the residue of that was still making for long lines. Got our car and headed west towards the Pacific.
Coming out of the second tunnel on the freeway to Valparaiso, presented us with the lush, well developed Casablanca valley. This is a recently-developed (only 30 years ago) wine producing region. The land in the valley and up some of the hills is covered in vineyards. We choose one, VinaMar, to visit. The winery has a palatial mansion in the center of many acres of its vineyards and we went in to see about lunch. In the elegant second story dining room overlooking the vines and the valley, we had a leisurely, delicious four-course meal. VinaMar specializes in sparkling wines. Each course of our meal was accompanied by one of their wines. We'd learned that portions are big so we ordered one lunch and shared it. The appetizer was served on a oak stave from a wine barrel with a dry, light sparkling rose made from pinot noir grapes. Our waiter explained each course and the wines he served. With the starter, he served a brut sparkling wine made from chardonnay grapes. The main course was scrumptious beef and local vegetables with a weak red cabarnet from one of their sister vineyards and desert was served with another sparkling white. In spite of sharing the lunch and wines, we were both a little tipsy by the end of the meal. We walked around the grounds a bit to work off some of the wine since the guidebook warned us of Chile's zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving. Off after two hours of lunch to Valpariso.
Valparaiso is a port city sprawling over 45 steep hills surrounding the harbor. The commercial and port areas are on the narrow flat around the harbor but the residential areas climb the steep hills. The hills are so significant that there are 14 funiculars to help you get up them. My GPS took us to the hotel through a winding route along narrow streets up and down several hills. We checked into the Thomas Somerscales Boutique Hotel high above the harbor. The hotel is the converted former home of English painter Thomas Somerscales who was active in the late 19th to early 20th century and lived in Valparaiso for 20 years. The small hotel has only 12 rooms but is elegant and comfortable.
After checking in and setting up our room, we walked the residential area around the hotel. Valparaiso is noted for its street art covering the houses and walls and we saw examples everywhere. We had a hot chocolate at a small bistro that, we'd been told, has live music. As we drank our chocolate, two guys came in and started playing. I recognized some of the songs and talked with them. When they learned I played harmonica, they invited me to play a blues with them. We strolled back to the hotel in the dusk (now about 9:30) to finish the day looking over the lights of the city.Read more