Sunday, March 28, 2010

Valparaiso and more furniture adventures

So for this long weekend I went to Valparaiso.  I decided to leave around 5 on Friday, as that would give me time to clean around the apartment a bit and also meet up with Ro for coffee after school.  Besides, Karen told me she was only getting in around 7:30 or so anyway, and we were going to hang out.

Once I got into Valpo, I decided I wasn't going to take a taxi and that I was going to take the bus and walk to save some money.  A guy around my age saw me asking for directions in the pharmacy, so he directed me to the hostel.  The only problem is that he directed me to the wrong street, and so I climbed for about 10 minutes in the wrong direction.  It ended up being some good exercise though.

I got in earlier than I thought I would, so I dropped my things at the hostel (Hostal Casa Verde Limon) and decided to go out and explore.  I can now understand why Valparaiso is considered the San Francisco of South America.  There are huge hills everywhere, and it is very artsy.  Here are some pictures from exploring:

The ascensores (or elevator trolley car type things) are really awesome.  They only cost a few hundred pesos and take you up and down from one hill to another.  They are only about 4 feet by 4 feet wide, and the hills are incredibly steep:

I found an artist shop that was selling postcards that were original paintings about Valpo, so I bought some and then got a quesadilla at a coffee shop next door:

This was the first quesadilla I´ve ever eaten that was more like a sandwich with the 2 tortillas not covering everything up.

It was starting to get dark, so I headed back to the hostel.  I hung out with some Swedish people and we talked about our travels for a while until Karen showed up.  Her boyfriend, she, and I then decided to go out for some chorillana at J Cruz, the birthplace of the chorillana.  It is pretty cool, as you can write on the walls or tables, and they are all covered in writing from people that have visited:

This is what chorillana looks like:

It varies a bit from restaurant to restaurant, but the main ingredients are french fries, steak, fried eggs, and onion.  This plate was made to serve 3, but you can get it in portions for any number of people.  After that we walked around a bit but decided ulitmately to just head back to the hostel and turn in early. 

It was a good thing that I got a good night's sleep, as Saturday was an action packed day.  It all started with waking up at 8 and finding out that my hostel doesn´t include breakfast, and if you want it you have to pay for it and order it the night before.  So I decided to go out for breakfast and to an ATM since I was out of cash.  There were 2 problems with this:

1. Nothing is open at 8 AM on a Saturday in Valpo.  No matter where I went everything was closed.  So I went back to the hostel and showered and  read in my travel book a bit and then headed out again at 9.
2. Getting money from an ATM was a success, but breakfast is not a very easy thing to find in Valpo.  I walked into a restaurant which had a menu of lunch and dinner food, and a guy was eating a completo (hot dog topped with ketchup, cheese, mustard, and avocado) at 9:15.

I was getting frustrated, as I had my heart set on scrambled eggs and home fries with some ham and orange juice for breakfast.  Then I reminded myself that I was in another country and that breakfast could be an adventure.  I survived having chocolate milk with sweet bread or cookies for breakfast in Spain, so I could certainly find something comparable to that here. So I went to a panaderia (bakery) and found some cake type things with dulce de leche in the middle, so I bought two of them.  Then I went to a small corner store and got some juice and noticed some ham, so I got some of that.  Then I went back to the panaderia and got some break to have a ham sandwich for breakfast.  So having spent about $4, here was my breakfast:

I even had enough of it left over to bring with me and snack on.

The first thing on my agenda here was to see La Sebastiana, which was one of Pablo Neruda´s houses.  It was a very interesting place to visit, as he has a very eclectic mix of things in the house: maps of the world, a horse from a Parisian carousel, and a bird preserved inside a plastic globe among other things.
Here are some pictures from the outside:

 I couldn´t take pictures inside, but here is some information if you want to read more:

After finishing there I gave Donny (another gringo) a call to see about meeting up.  After getting lost on the way there, he came out to the main street of Templeman (which is where they had to paint houses on The Amazing Race) and showed me back to his house.  He is living with Allison and a Chilean girl our age, and it is a pretty nice place.  The best part of it is their deck, from which they have an amazing view of the harbor and most of Valpo.

Donny and Allison told me about an empanada place that has about 50 different types of empanadas, each costing about 2 bucks.  So we got a bite to eat there, and the woman working there seemed happy to see them again.  I got an empanada with chicken, cheese, tomato, and bacon:

It was so good that I told her that I would be back to visit another time.  We then walked up to the open air museum, which is supposed to have a lot of murals concentrated in one area.  We wandered around a saw a few, but they didn´t seem much different than the others we saw around the other areas of Valpo.  We were also just talking and having a good conversation, so we decided to head back and get changed to go to the beach.  As we were walking back, we got an invitation to go to an asado (Chilean barbeque) a bit later that evening, and we said we would go after we were done at the beach.

As I went into my room at the hostel, some people decided to use the cloth rope and trapeze swing that were hanging from the ceiling:  I told my roommate Mario about it, as I thought he would be interested in staying there sometime. 

The three of us then headed out to the beach, but Donny got a call and it turns out we had to head out to the asado right away.  Riding the smaller busses always seems like an adventure, as they don´t slow down for turns.  They remind me of the Tilt a Whirl where one person always gets squashed becuase of the speed and force of everyone else against them.

So we went with Katie (another person from the program) and her host sister to the botanical gardens in Viña.  I was wondering if it would be worth it since it was 5:30 and they were saying that the park was going to close at 6, but I figured to just go with it.  There was a group of Chileans that had been friends since elementary school when they got there.  It was cool talking with them and having some grilled meat, and after a while we took a hike through the woods. 

I glanced at my watch, and it was almost 7:30.  It looks like the closing time was running on Chilean time too  Before we left, they asked us if we wanted to meet up later on to go out that night, and we agreed.

So we made our way back to Valpo, and I got ready at the hostel.  We then went back to their place, and while Donny and Allison got ready I made some pasta for dinner.  It turned out pretty good despite the lack of ingredients.  We hung out for a while until everyone else was ready, but around 11:30 we headed out.

By the time we got to the Chilean´s house I was so exhausted that I was dozing off when I sat down.  I felt badly, but when everyone finally got ready to head out around 1 or so, I decided to head back to the hostel. 

I had already booked my bus to go back at 8:30 Sunday morning, as I needed to be back to do furniture shopping with my landlord at 12.  I got back safe and sound, but my landlord never showed up or answered my calls to see about the shopping.

I decided to brave the Bio Bio market on my own, as I know enough Spanish and negotiating skills to manage.  I was on a quest to get a dresser and a bookshelf, but the salespeople foiled my plans.  My roommates got a really nice dresser for 18,000 pesos (about 36 bucks), so I figured I would be able to get one for around the same price or a bit more.  Well, the salespeople thought I was an idiot gringo and the lowest price I was able to get was 36,000.  I told them that they were taking advantage of me and that I knew the actual prices, but they wouldn´t budge.

So I decided to give Fabiola a call and ask for her advice, and she told me that she would be there soon.  After waiting for a bit she showed up, and we found a nice dresser and bookshelf for 45,000 including the transportation back.  She is so amazing and helpful that I don´t know what I would do without her.  I offered to buy her a bottle of wine, but she said it would be better to buy her some fruit juice instead.  So I did that.

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