Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Last Day in Chile
In the aftermath of the madness of New Years Eve, we all woke up simultaneously around 11 a.m. in the hostel. That is, everyone except one person who never made it back but later turned up OK. Joking around about what went down and just laying in bed, Adam and I didn't make a move until 1 p.m. when we were invited to get lunch with one of his friends and his student. The student was from Valparaiso and wanted to show him around and take him out to lunch, so we were told we'd be covered.
We expected to just get some lunch and come back to the hostel to kill the day. Our bus back to Santiago wasn't until 6 p.m. and we felt pretty lousy, so we were just going to sit around all day. Instead, we went on a great day trip. The student, who was a 45 year old who worked in a government education institution called DUOC picked us up in his immaculately clean car. Driving around Valparaiso towards Vina del Mar, we saw many of the things we'd already come across.
Adam and I weren't paying much attention to the conversation up front and we soon started to wonder where we were going. We'd passed through Vina and were now heading up a hill on the outskirts of town. We pulled off the road and saw a view of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. It's a view most tourists probably don't know about. Luckily we were with a local. He also knew so much history and information about the area and Chile, and it was great to listen to him speak.
The man was well traveled, having been to every country in South America, many countries in Europe, and the U.S. ten times. We talked about the differences between many of the Latin American countries. Still in his car we continued to drive around the area to the surrounding towns that we'd otherwise have never seen. There were a lot of Argentinians on vacation in these beach towns, but no gringos.
We eventually came to a town called Concon and we stopped for lunch. Adam and I agreed that it reminded us of a Cape Cod town, in the sense that it was summer and many of the people who live in Santiago would come here for a weekend to spend time at the beach. It also felt like it, with that relaxed attitude and laid back atmosphere.
When we entered the restaurant the man shook hands with all of the waiters and we were taken upstairs to a room on an outdoor patio with a reserved table. He was a regular apparently and was taken care of very well. He told us that in many restuarants in Chile, tables will always be reserved for the regular customers even if they haven't made a reservation. We felt like we were VIPs.
Ordering pisco sours, we asked his advice for the best local dish, and he recommended a fried fish which we later found out was eel. A big plate of Parmesan clams was brought out, and though he wanted to get wine as well, we were still hungover and the pisco was enough. I taught him the phrase, "Hair of the dog."
With a beautiful view of the ocean right in front of us and the wind blowing in gently, it was extremely relaxing and impressive that we should wind up in this place. We were glad with our decision to come out for lunch. The fish came out with big plates of fries and we dug in. This was my first time having the sea food in Chile, and I was very glad I was able to try it. It wouldn't make much sense to come to a port city and not try the sea food. After the meal we got coffee and though we offered to pay, the man wouldn't hear of it. He dropped over 48,000 pesos on the meal, and we'd just met him.
I told him that whenever I made it back to Boston and he was in town I'd take him out for a meal and show him our sea food. We drove around a bit more and though we were close to 6 o'clock, he showed us another view of Valparaiso from a different hill. He then took us back to the hostel to pick up our stuff and drove Adam and I to the bus terminal. It was a great day.
We took the hour and a half bus ride back to Santiago, and headed back home to relax and watch the Bruins. Among our friends we joke around with the line from "There's Something About Mary," which is, "Who goes to Santiago, Chile twice in a year? I've never even been to Jersey, man." Once Adam told us he was going to Santiago this became a popular joke. Since I technically left Santiago and went back, I can now say I've been to Santiago, Chile twice in one year. Of course, Adam pointed out that I got there in 2008 and returned in 2009, but I think it's the 12 month cycle that counts.
I had to leave at 4:40 a.m. to catch my flight at 7:55, and of course my alarm clock decided to reset to 0:00:00 in the middle of the night. A phone call from the front desk at 4:50 told me the shuttle was outside waiting, so I immediately threw on my clothes and ran out the door. A rude way to wake up to a long travel day.
After connecting to Lima, Peru on to Guayaquil, I was finally back in Ecuador by 1 p.m. Then another 4 and a half hour bus ride to Cuenca, and by 6:30 p.m. I was back home. A long and tiring day, but worth the trouble to have the fun that we did in Chile.
Above: a view of Valparaiso, lunch at the restaurant, a view of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso