November 21, 2016


They call Valparaiso the San Francisco of South America.
Chile was the last country of our South American travel.  It's also the strongest and most industrialized economy in South America.  A guy we met in Mendoza joked, "Oh, you'll love it, it's like the 51st state."  This was a very tongue in cheek coded insult/truth as Argentina and Chile have quite a bit of a rivalry, and Chile was the site of British colonies, and is certainly much more consumer and customer-service oriented than any other country we visited this trip (with the exception of perhaps parts of Panama).

Chilean flag in Santiago's Plaza de Armas.
Also, my mom was coming to join us for the Chilean portion of the trip, and it was definitely easier to have her join us there than it would have been in many of the more adventurous and less developed locations we visited.

Texas State Flag -- not that different, but Chile's came first!
With mom came lots of shopping (something I hadn't done at all in South America), and more of a general English-speaking existence, plus restaurant tours to seek out some of our favorite dishes from the trip (we made sure she enjoyed an Argentinian steakhouse, a Peruvian restaurant, lunch of take-out empanadas, and Chilean specialties).  Doing all of these things felt like the trip was slowly coming to a close even before we left the continent.

Peruvian ceviche, Chilean portion (gigantic!)

Of course, even though it was less foreign, there were still some very authentic South American experiences in Chile.

Machas a la parmesana (clams baked with parmesan, surprisingly delicious.
For example, the strike in Valparaiso that meant we were greeted with gigantic piles of stinky trash that hadn't been collected in a month.  Thankfully, the strike ended while we were there and the trash was collected and the funiculars opened up so we could take one up to our AirBNB rather than hiking up the hill (or cheating by taking the elevator in the mall set into the hill).  The last stereotypical experience, was when we went to go find our AirBNB host to deposit our luggage with him as we'd discussed and arranged the day before.  It turned out, he'd left and was nowhere to be found without explanation, so we had to lock the keys into the apartment and figure out a new plan that involved taking our luggage with us for our last visit to the city before hopping on the bus back to Santiago and the plane.

La Vega Mercado Central, Santiago
We took two tours with Tours 4 Tips in Santiago, and the political background on Allende and Pinochet added some much needed perspective to the current US political situation (with some not-too-tongue-in-cheek rebukes regarding the US's involvement in Chile's political history).  For me, this solidified my understanding that a system that respects the internal peaceful transition of power, even if you personally, as a citizen, don't approve of the new power, is *not* something to take for granted.

View of Valparaiso from our AirBNB Balcony

It was absolutely wonderful to enjoy this time with both E and my mom, not the least because my mom's interaction with the street art was so fun to watch.  She's a painter, with a formal training in art, but this was the first time in her life when she'd truly experienced graffiti as art, and watching her understanding and appreciation of it grow was so fun. 
Gorgeous Valparaiso street work by Chilean artist INTI.

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