Friday, January 29, 2010

Christmas in Valparaiso, Chile

After arriving back from Easter Island, we headed to the coast to celebrate Christmas. We rented an apartment for the time there, so that we would have the freedom of cooking our own meals and celebrating in our own way.

The view from our apartment window- oceanview!!
Valparaiso is a town about 2 1/2 hours away from Santiago, on the coast. It was the main port town of Chile and therefore, has a strong fishing, sailing, boating culture. It is also built on a hill, so the views were incredible! One of the highlights of Valpo (short for Valparaiso) is the fish market. Since it was Jesse's birthday, and he has an affinity for seafood, we headed there for his birthday lunch.

It amazes me all the things that come out of the ocean that we eat. Razor clam, shrimp, sea squirt. All of these things are basically the vacuum cleaners of the ocean, and yet we eat them. Here is Jesse's lunch, a sort of cheesy mixture of all things seafood.
Valpo, since it is no longer in its seaport heyday, has reinvented itself into the culture center of Chile. One of ways the cultural people of Valpo have started expressing themselves is in the use of murals. Murals are everywhere around the city. Some might call them graffiti, but most were absolutely beautiful works of art. They actually have designed one part of the city, with some beautiful murals, an Open Air Museum (Museo de Cielo Abierto).
The city also has many elevators, called ascensores, that you can ride instead of walking up and down the hillside. Most were made in the early 1900's, but are still working today.
On Christmas Day itself, we actually headed over to Vina del Mar, which is a neighboring town of Valpo's. Some of our friends from school, Shauna (my neighbor), Derek, and Adam were spending Christmas there, and we decided to spend Christmas together. Vina has the most popular beach in Chile, so of course, we headed there. The beach was really, really crowded, and the water was really, really cold! Having spent the last few years in the warm waters of the Caribbean, I just couldn't handle the cold Pacific. Here is Caitlin, Shauna, and myself enjoying the sunshine.
To celebrate a wonderful Christmas together, we all headed to a local Mexican restaurant and ate dinner together.
Starting on Christmas day, a forest fire just west of Valpo and Vina started. This resulted in on the 26th, a cloud of ash descended on the city. For most of the day, we were getting rained on by ash, which wasn't the most comfortable for sightseeing, although it lent itself to some wonderful photo opportunities. The photo below wasn't doctored in any way, the amazing color resulted from the ash cloud from the forest fire.

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