Valparaiso

*We're now on the cruise ship, so I expect photos to be very limited. Will try to post every day if I can!*

Lots of interesting scenery in Valpo

We arrived back to Santiago from Easter Island at almost midnight and took a taxi back over to the same hotel as our previous stay. Our bags were delivered on the same baggage carousel at almost the exact same time as our flight from La Paz almost a week before, but we were feeling considerably better this time around! We spent our one morning in Santiago at the mall near the hotel, stocking up on a few things we'll need for the cruise. Fortunately, the mall also had a ticket window for one of the two primary bus companies to Valparaiso, so we were able to go ahead and buy our bus tickets. The grand total for all three of us was a whopping $12. Add in the taxi to the bus terminal and the taxi in Valpo from the terminal to our hotel and our total cost to transfer was a little over $30. Score!

Valparaiso is located on the coast of Chile and is right next to another town, Vina del Mar. Vina is more of a modern resort town with more western hotels, including a Sheraton, but based on excellent advice from Dave O we opted for Valparaiso instead. I found a decent-looking little boutique hotel with phenomenal ratings on TripAdvisor and Booking.com, so I went ahead and booked it way back in June, thinking I would find something nicer later. We thought about changing it several times, but ultimately kept it because the reviews were just glowing. Upon checking in it was immediately obvious how they earn those reviews: outstanding and personal service. Our room is fine, it has great views but no air conditioning, though you don't really need it. There is an amazing rooftop terrace that looks out over all of Valparaiso and the coastal towns to the North (I'm sitting there as I type this, basking in the sun and enjoying a Chilean sauvignon blanc). But the service here is fantastic. Everyone is so sweet and helpful and they even wash, dry and iron your laundry for almost nothing! Needless to say, we would stay here again in a second. The name is Casa Galos in case anyone reading ever finds themselves in Valparaiso.

One of our favorite things to do has been to sit up on the terrace after dinner, watching the lights come on in the city and the stars come out. Our first night we met another American family with two kids. The father works for Chrysler and they are finishing up a three year overseas stint in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. They have two super sweet kids and Walter actually got a few rare minutes of same-age play time, which was a real treat. I hope we have at least a couple other families on the cruise, though I'm not optimistic...

We had two full days in Valparaiso, both of which we filled in a very leisurely way. We spent the first day over in Vina Del Mar walking around and then watching the new Star Wars movie. The second day we explored Valparaiso, though I have to say that it seems like the best part of Valpo is right around our hotel, so we're somewhat spoiled. We did walk over to Pablo Neruda's Valparaiso house, which was a fun little tour. But my favorite part of Valparaiso is just wandering around the streets and taking pictures of all the street art. As you can see from smugmug (https://markandjie.smugmug.com/Gap-Year/Valparaiso), there is a lot of it!

We found a good sushi place on our first night here and we're going to go back there tonight, our last night in Valparaiso. Tomorrow we'll probably just relax around the hotel until it's time to head over to the cruise ship to begin our 24 day voyage. While right now we're super anxious to get aboard, I'm sure three weeks from now we'll be just as anxious to leave! Regardless, I only have to pack up my bag three more times before we get back to Austin, so I'm plenty excited about that!