Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas, to the coast and Valparaíso

I was fortunate to spend Christmas weekend with Julia and my first visitors -- Corey and Laura from Columbus, Ohio.  Corey and Laura had just returned from a trip north to San Pedro de Atacama to see one of the most beautiful areas of Chile, and we planned to spend Christmas Eve at my apartment in Santiago and then travel to the coast for the weekend.

On Christmas Eve I made the mistake of making a special trip to one of the largest retailers in Chile to buy ingredients for Christmas cookies.  The two-hour trip was wasted as I found the store packed to the gills with other shoppers making purchases for the weekend.  I guess Chile's consumer mindset is not all too different than in the US.  This stressful experience was soon forgotten as Corey, Laura, Julia and I spent a relaxing afternoon and evening eating Christmas pizza, hanging out with my roommate Rulo, and sharing stories.  Rulo sang some music for us (and Corey's travel video), and after the reading of "T'was the Night Before Christmas" we exchanged the gifts under our 18-inch Christmas tree.  

On Saturday we made our way to Reñaca beach, about a 2-hour trip from Santiago.  Corey and I spent a few hours building a sandcastle and behaving like 14 year-olds with Corey's Christmas gift -- a hand puppet we named El Rey ("The King").  Julia and Laura relaxed on the beach, pretending not to know the 27 year-olds playing with the handpuppet.  I could barely hold back my laughter as I controlled the handpuppet and Corey did the voiceover.

Later that afternoon we traveled to Valparaíso, about 20 minutes south of Reñaca beach, a town well-known for its unique, colorful buildings and gritty, port-town vibe.  We walked around the town for a bit and shared a long dinner together. 

The next morning we went to the harbor to take a short boat ride; before catching our boat Corey and I enjoyed (ironically) a professional puppet show in the plaza put on by some local artists.  We took one of the funiculars up to get a view of the harbor, walked around the town for a bit, then Julia and I made our way to the bus station and left Corey and Laura for a few days more in Valpo.
A very crowded Jumbo store (one of the largest retail stores in Chile).
My roommate Rulo serenaded us with a song.
The tree and gifts.
Photo by Corey, near San Pedro de Atacama in the north.
El Rey with one of his "wives."
The sandcastle, partly destroyed by the waves.
Valparaíso.  Probably my favorite Chilean city (so far).
Relaxing on the street.
Taking a ride up the funicular to the harbor viewpoint.
Finding a building that matches your clothing is a must.
Lots of stairs in this town built on the cliffs.
Making our way to the hostel.
Getting El Rey into Corey's vacation video.  Very hard to not laugh at the stupidity.