Study Abroad

La Vida es Mejor en el Paraíso

For my second real weekend here in Chile, the USAC group took a field trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar which are located on the coast of Chile. It was about an hour and a half bus ride from Santiago through the mountains and vineyards. All of the students had the option to stay in Valparaíso or Viña del Mar for the weekend, so a couple of us stayed for just one night and others stayed for two nights. The group of students I was with decided to stay for only one night in Valparaíso.

Our first stop along the way was Dunas de Concón, which are sand dunes located on a cliff side right next to the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed stunning views of the ocean and then climbed up the mountain side to reach what we thought was the top of the sand dune. Turns out there was no actual end to the sand dune, it stretched for miles. Climbing in sand was quite the workout for all of us, but gave way to stunning views of the ocean and waves in the distance. I thought going down the sand dune would be harder, but it actually wasn’t too bad.

Our next stop was the beach of course in Viña del Mar. We got to take a walking tour along some of the beaches and we all ate some pretty delicious churros along the way. It was lunch time, so we got to go separate ways to find a restaurant of our choice. A couple others and I went to a Peruvian restaurant which was REALLY good! Probably the best cuisine I’ve had here in Chile. I got raviolis that were filled with quinoa, spinach, and cheese and covered in a spinach sauce. Our waiter was very patient with us since we are gringas and he decided to give us free shots of “pisco sour” which is a very famous alcoholic beverage here. The name of the drink explains it all…very sour. For dessert, I shared a tres leches cake with a friend of mine and it was so big that neither of us could even finish it. But also, one of the most rico desserts I’ve had here.

Our next stop on our bus ride was to downtown Valparaíso. We did a walking tour through the small city and got to see all the creative street art. Valparaíso is a small, tourist town where you will find lots of people speaking in English, but it is also a large party destination for those who enjoy nightlife. It is very expressive because of the freedom of the street art and has a relaxing, bohemian vibe (you will see gypsies trying to talk to you). There were small vendors everywhere selling handmade, artisan jewelry and paintings for really good prices. There was even a little outdoor market in the central Plaza going on all weekend. It was such a cute town and I wanted to stay by the water forever.

Once we were let loose, we all went to find our hostels for the night. Our hostel was super cute and easy to find. When we walked into our room, there was a man already sleeping in one of the beds and he woke up to introduce himself to us. He goes “Hi, I’m Josh!” I took one look at him and recognized the Australian accent from the weekend before when we got lost in the Andes at Cajón del Maipo. I said “Hey, I know you! Didn’t you go to Cajón del Maipo last weekend?” He looked at me with a confused look and then finally recognized me when I said my name. What are the odds that we were staying in the same hostel, in the same room, in a different city an hour and a half away from Santiago?? It was such a cool experience. He apparently had missed his flight in Santiago a couple days before and decided to go to Valparaíso for a couple days to wait it out and relax. At least we weren’t sharing the hostel with some unknown person! We got dinner at an amazing restaurant called Tenta, and I ate fettuccine covered in a yellow bell pepper sauce and chicken that was rolled and breaded. It was so delicious. I feel like I haven’t eaten much pasta here, so that dinner satisfied my Italian craving.

For our second day exploring Valparaíso, we got breakfast/lunch at a Panini cafe (great prices once again). There I got a chocolate chip muffin filled with nutella. I have become obsessed with the muffins here and my host mom buys me giant boxes of muffins for my desserts after dinner. We walked around the city a little bit more and took an elevator up to a higher point in the city so we had a good view of the ocean. Valparaíso was built on a hill so all of the streets are really steep and you have to take elevators to get to the top. It looks a lot like San Francisco. We stopped by the market and also took a 40 minute boat ride on the bay. It was a beautiful day with sun and no clouds! We got really lucky, because apparently it is always cloudy there and usually hard to see the ocean. When we finished our boat ride, we went to the beach to watch the sunset. We got there by bus, and let me tell you, the bus drivers here are crazy! Just like last weekend in the Andes, we felt very unsafe on the bus and some guy actually yelled at the bus driver to drive better around the turns. Once the sun set, we had to go back to the hostel to get our bags and head to the bus station to catch a bus back to Santiago.

We got to the bus station 10 minutes before the last bus left for the night, so we got really lucky. I definitely passed out on the bus ride because I was so tired from all the adventure during the day. I got back to my host home around 11pm that night and went straight to sleep. It was a wonderful weekend exploring a beautiful city. Valparaíso and Viña are definitely places I would come for vacation in the summer time (winter for the States) to enjoy the beach, the ocean, and the nightlife.

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