Cloudy day in Valparaiso
Besides being full of different artistic inspiration from the melting pot of cultures, why is Valparaiso so colorful? Fun historical fact: to protect their homes, locals covered the outer walls of their houses with sheets of corrugated metal left behind by ships. Obviously corrugated metal itself is really ugly, so people painted their houses with bright colors from the paint cans left behind for painting ships (ships were painted really bright colors to be easily identified). From painting their outer walls, it is not a far jump to painting murals on their houses as well. Plus, the benefit of having murals on your house is that it prevented graffiti tagging because the taggers would respect the murals as works of art. People then started hiring artists to paint murals on their houses, resulting in the most amazing street art I have ever seen. It was an Instagram wonderland.
Another iconic thing about Valparaiso are its funiculars (ascensores), which are like slanted elevators to transport people up and down its hills. They are antiques and I have never seen anything quite like them. Sadly, only a few are still functioning. The city is currently working on repairing the others and adding police stations at each to make them safer.
Down by the port is a giant statue and memorial of General Arturo Prat. Arturo Prat is Chile´s national hero. He led Chile in the War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia, fighting for the land that is now northern Chile (land-locking Bolivia, might I add). Chile was actually the underdog in this war with very few men in their armed forces. In his heroic end, Prat was fighting against Peru on a wooden naval ship. Then he saw Peru´s metal naval ship and thought, Oh shit. So what did he do? He jumped ship, swinging onto Peru´s ship, like a B.A.M.F., with the intent of killing the Peruvian captain himself. Unfortunately, that only happens in movies, and Prat was immediately shot and killed. Nonetheless, the Chilenos were inspired by Prat´s courage and love for Chile. Prat´s death rose military morale exponentially, raising the number of men in their armed forces. Chile won the war, also winning the rich natural resources of the north (nitrites, copper, salt, and other minerals). This is why Chile is far more wealthy and developed than Peru and Bolivia. I love walking tours. Tours for Tips also has a tour in Santiago that I am really looking forward to.
His BAMFness, Arturo Prat
We left Valparaiso longing for just one more day. But we´re on a tight schedule and there is wine to be drunk in Mendoza, Argentina. It was a 9 hour bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza. Although we arrived at the border at 3am, it was another really easy border crossing. The bus employee took all of us passengers, like a class field trip, to the border counters. Counter 1: Chile exit stamp. Step to the right to Counter 2: Argentina entrance stamp. Easy, but mainly because we paid our reciprocity fee of US $160 online on the Argentina travel visa website beforehand. Our printed receipt with barcode acts as a multi-entrance visa. I really wish the U.S. didn´t charge all these South American countries visa fees. It would save me literally hundreds of dollars right now.
We arrived in Mendoza, the Napa Valley of Argentina, and it was in full autumn bloom. The beautiful, tree-lined streets and parks were illuminated with the golden colors of Fall. I forgot how much I love this season. I haven´t really seen it in a few years. Back home in California we had good autumns. In Portland, autumn leaves only last for a day or two until the rains start to pour. Plus, the trees were mostly evergreens, not deciduous. Texas...hah! No fall or winter really.
Mallory pedaling in front of me
We took the public bus to Maipu, just 15 min outside of the city, where the vineyards and olive farms are. Argentinos are such nice people. We did not have a public transportation rechargable card or coins to pay our fare (we didn´t know the busses don´t take small bills), so the bus driver asked if any passengers had extra credit on their cards to pay for our fares in exchange for our 5 peso bill. This little old lady kindly walked to the front and tagged us in. But really, they are so polite. I have been getting good practice understanding and speaking in the formal tense. Surprisingly enough, I could actually understand their Spanish! I expected Argentino Spanish to be the most difficult to understand. Nope. Chilenos win that award. In Maipu, we rented bicycles and they gave us a map and showed us the best route to take.
Entre Olivos tasting
It was a beautiful Fall day. I was in bliss riding a bicycle along vineyards and olive farms in the golden colors of the autumn-turned trees with blue skies above and the snowy Andes peaks in the landscape. First we stopped at an olive farm called, Entre Olivos. The tour guide gave us a run down of how olive oil is made. The quality of the olive oil is dependent on the type of olives used. He had us try samples of their olive oil and olive spreads, as well as their other products, such as different fruit marmaladas and liquors. Nothing like a couple shots to prep us for wine tasting. Our second stop was at bodega (winery) de Mevi. So classy. Mevi is only 7 years old and built in a very modern style with efficient architecture. The vineyards and the grounds in general were beautiful. For our wine tasting we got to sit out in the sunny patio, overlooking the vineyards with the Andes in the distance, including the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua. I chose 3 wines from 5 options from the Variedad list: a Chardonnay, Torontes, and a Malbec (my favorite). Mallory had 3 reds from the Reserva list: a Syrah, and two types of Malbecs. We shared to try every one. Our last stop was the bodega de Familia de Tomasso. Unfortunately, they closed an hour earlier than we thought so we didn´t get to do a tour or wine tasting. It is one of the oldest, family-run bodegas in Maipu. It had a rustic feel to it. We did get to stay and order a brownie with ice cream. The ice cream, by the way, was amazing. It was vanilla with fresh berries that were very similar to marionberries (my favorite) from Oregon. It was a good way to end the day. Some bicycling, some olives, some wine, and some chocolate.
Bodega de Mevi. View from the patio.
Bodega de Mevi: barrels of wine
Bodega de Familia Tomasso
I´ve recently been researching travel blogs to help decide what things to see and do, places to stay, recommendations, etc for while I´m traveling. Unfortunately I have not found too many that were practically useful. From here on out I am going to end my posts with some practical travel tips.
Hostal: Casa de Limon Verde. 7,000 Chileno pesos per night in the dorm room. Plus 10% discount if you have a Get South book.
Tours for Tips walking tour 3pm every day at Plaza Sotomayor
J. Cruz M. Restaurant for the origina chorrillana dish
Monkey Hostel: 70 Argentino pesos per night in the dorm room. Plus 10% discount with Get South
Maipu Bikes: 40 Argentino pesos for a day rental. Until 7 pm.
Entre Olivo: 25 pesos for the tour and tasting
Mevi: 38 pesos for the Variedad tasting (3 copas de vino) and 35 pesos for the Reserva tasting (3 copas de vino)
Familia de Tomasso: 25 pesos for tour and wine tasting
When in Argentina, BRING U.S. DOLLARS. I cannot emphasize this enough. The money exchange houses give you double the market rate. I´m not talking about sketchy exchange places. I mean proper, official exchange houses with security guards. The market rate is about 5.28 pesos per 1 US dollar. The ¨blue dollar¨rate is about 9.2 pesos per 1 US dollar, which is what they give you. Better blue dollar rate for $100 bills, too. Why? Argentinians keep their value in money in U.S. dollars because it´s more stable than the Argentinian peso, which fluctuates with inflation so much. Argentina wants your dollars. You can´t pull out U.S. dollars in Argentina, though. Many travellers I have met who travelled to Buenos Aires hopped the border to Uruguay to pull out US dollars, then changed them in Argentina. We had some US dollars left over from Peru. This makes Argentina WAY less expensive than I expected. Chile is the most expensive country I´ve been in so far.