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Valparaiso, Chile

As expected, when I was pouring myself some hot water for my coffee and oatmeal, I received a cold shoulder from Antone. It was to be expected given he was Italian and Chilean. I think he is a higher percent Chilean because Italians generally make me salivate. Only the oatmeal had that power over me this morning.

This morning I was on the move again to Valparaiso aka Valpo on the coast nicknamed “Jewell of the Pacific”. Based on things I have read, sailors also called this busy port town “Little San Francisco” as they made their stopovers after rounding Cape Horn. And yes, Darwin swung through this hood on the HMS Beagle. I was more intrigued to see what made the sailors make this claim.

I walked from EcoHostel to the Metro bought my ticket and the train was waiting for me on the platform with doors closing as I stepped in. Off the Metro, I headed through the tunnel to the bus terminal. Again pausing to buy my ticket and boarded the bus just as the engines were starting. The scenery quickly changed from urban to rural and we entered a valley casually weaved through the volcanos. It seems like the buses here travel much like the DeLorean the ride felt more like a blink of an eye than 2 hours.

A friendly taxi driver whisked me off to Cerro Allgre meaning Happy Hill. This was not to be confused with Hippy Hill in San Francisco but the neighborhood still did have a very bohemian vibe. The driver talked excitedly about what food I have and have not tried. He said I HAD to try Pico Roco. He had to keep encountering dead ends. Was he getting too distracted from talking about food? No, there were a lot of roads closed due to construction adding another obstacle to an already challenging route winding through narrow streets. Finally, he found the hostel and stopped in front as I got out, he asked me out for dinner tonight. “Lo siento, tengo una cita para cena con me amigo Kindle.”

I buzzed Luna Sonrisa and was greeted by Janak an Indian Brit from London proper. He was not too enthusiastic with my Spanish and said, “We can do this in English.” At first this annoyed me and I told him as such, “Estoy estundiando Español y deseo practicar” but apparently not with him. Other than that, he was a good guy. He authors Footprint guides to Chile and began to mark up a map giving more than enough information. I appreciated it and now realized that is how I get when telling people what there is to do in SF.

He was warned me about the hills and informed me about the ascensores. Yes, I would take a ride for novelty purposes. This is when I let him know that being from SF proper, this hill are just bite-sized snacks. It was then he pointed me to the newspaper clipping that was posted on the wall. It was of the front page of the SF Chronicle from August 19, 1906 reporting about the huge earthquake from August 18th. Their devastating earthquake was only 4 months to the day after the April 18th quake that pretty much demolished the city of San Francisco.

One of the main activities in Valparaiso is to just wander and get lost. I wandered along Avenida Alemania that meandered above and below the city. I could see the Bahia below home to the port. Above, more houses perched on hills. On of the hills reminded me of Twin Peaks home to the Sutro Tower in San Francisco. There were murals painted wherever there was too much blank space: walls, stairwells, garage doors etc. The road intersected with another: Yerba Buena the original name of San Francisco.

Soon, I encountered one of the poet Neruda’s several homes open to the public. I figured I would check it out. They said I had to wait for the next tour in a 1/2 hour. I did want to see the place because Neruda this poet was a complete freak, I admire quirky people that put it all out there. And the home was supposed to be REALLY out there. However, the weather was warm and the sun was shining, I wanted to be out here. I took in the view from above and continued exploring. Plus, being a little hungry, I would not be able to focus.

I made my way downhill. A perfectly placed bakery was pumping out the smell of fresh baked bread and fresh empanadas. Per the sign, they had ones with champiñones, mushrooms. OMG, it tasted freaking unbelievable and fueled me up to walk some more.

Next was the waterfront. As I waited to cross the street, a trolley running on electricity much like the ones in SF passed right by me. I felt like I was done on Fisherman’s Wharf. Walking along the waterfront, I was having flashbacks of Mumbai. The cliffs in the distance reminded me of Lima.

The more I walked the more I saw a combination of other cities/ neighborhoods that are dear to me: the murals: Medellin and The Mission in SF; men playing chess around the fountain in the park: The Dupont Circle, Washington DC. I felt right at home here in Valparaiso. This is a place I could get stuck and stay for a while and was added to my list of places I would not mind living as a professional (vs the dropout of society list which is much different).

However, for me, even though I do look for signals of comfort wherever I go, my purpose while traveling is to get exposed to new things other than what I could experience at home. Today, I did determine that, YES! this is indeed a Little San Francisco. I loved it. However, I also decided, YES, I will take the overnight bus the following evening to a place that was different from home.

Cerro Allegre was quite dead after dark. After preparing a simple fruit salad for dinner at La Luna Sonrisa and was looking to get out for a drink. A few blocks over was a cute little cafe with a little French kitsch with photos of authors and poets with quotes painted on the table. It would be a great place to write but tonight, I was Mac’s night off. I had a hot date with Kindle. I gazed into it’s screen over a 1/2 carafe of sangria. On my way back to the hostel I stumbled along the cobblestone streets like me and the PASt used to do after our mid-week “date-nights” in Old Towne Alexandria.

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