Vina del Mar
January 30, 2023
We have to leave at 3am in the morning to catch our 6:30 flight to Patagonia, so today is really our last day in Vina. We will miss the view from our flat. We didn't think we would care that much about it, but it really is so relaxing to be able to be doing whatever, and then just lift your eyes up and see the beach and ocean in front of you. The weather here, too, is our favorite, temperate most of the year. Not a bad place to retire, weather like the California coast but cheaper by two-thirds.
January 28 and 29, 2023
We spent some time working on projects while enjoying our beautiful view out the wall to wall windows in our living room on Saturday, and on Sunday, we ventured back to Valparaiso to meet Victor, our host for the Chilean Cumbia Workshop. We had done something similar with Cuban rhythms when we were in Havana, and were excited to do something similar again. This is a much more pared down affair than the one we did in Havana (and much less expensive, too), but still chock full of fun experience and useful information. We had always thought of Cumbia as something Mexican, but the musical style originally came from Colombia. In the 50's, the whole tropicana thing was going wild in the music scene, but then the Cuban revolution and embargo happened. A plucky Colombian musician saw an opportunity to fill the void and started exporting Colombian Cumbia across Latin America and to the US, and it really caught on. Cumbia is a much more simple rhythm compared to the ones we learned in Havana, and so it was a lot easier to engage with the music. Victor introduced us to the different styles that developed from Mexico, to Peru, to Argentina, to Chile, all offshoots from the original Colombian style. It was also interesting when Victor talked about how the cumbia style that developed in Chile was affected by the dictatorship... The sound here developed with lots of horns; that's because many horn players were military men and many of the other musicians and artists left or were disappeared in the early days of the dictatorship, just as cumbia was starting to take hold here. We also got to share the experience for a bit with Victor's 2-year-old daughter. It was fun to see here dancing and singing and playing with us in her 2-year-old way.
January 26 and 27, 2023
Another beautiful day in Vina del Mar. We went to the gym across the street from us. They charge about $10 for a one-time visit, but it was really convenient. Stephen had to teach YMHFA today. With Chile being two hours ahead of east coast time, it ends up going 10am-3pm, which means it's hard to do much sightseeing after that. Eli attended a virtual "remote work" job fair, which didn't end up yielding much of interest. We made dinner and then decided to go see Avatar at one of the three Cinemarks that are walking distance from our place. They offer both dubbed and subtitled showings. We ended up deciding on the subtitled showing, so all the voices are in the original English, but mostly because it was at a better time. Given the level of dialogue in the picture, we definitely could have handled it in Spanish. We thought the movie was visually stunning, but felt like narratively we went from Dances with Wolves for Avatar 1 to Moby Dick for Avatar 2. We probably won't go see the next installment.
We did a "pay what you want" street art tour in Valparaiso (colloquially known as Valpo) through valpostreetart.com. Valparaiso is the original port town of the area (it's about a 15 minute drive from central Vina), and has a much more rough and tumble vibe. It's also home to a number of art and music colleges, so it's also the creative hub of the central area of Chile, even more than Santiago. The city climbs almost straight up into the hills from the port area, with very little flatlands (as opposed to Vina del Mar). The architecture in Valpo is much more mixed; they still have lots of buildings with late 19th century flourishes (even homes and apartments from this area built precariously over the hillsides). There are seven funiculars that still run in the city, but you must be prepared for lots of uphill walking. We are not lying when we say the entire city is covered in street art. From rich neighborhoods to poor neighborhoods to middle class neighborhoods across commercial and residential spaces, you cannot turn a corner without running into some interesting art to look at. Our guide, Sebastian, took us through most of Concepcion hill as we walked and talked and looked at street art. He left us off at the Valparaiso Cultural Park, which is at the top of one of the hills. It was a former prison that was closed after the dictatorship period and reimagined as a community cultural and art space. More so than the street art tour we did in Athens, the art here seemed very connected to the community and part of the understanding of what their city is. It is very cool.
From the end of the tour at the cultural part, we walked about 30 minutes (only slight further uphill) to Pablo Neruda's house, La Sebastiana. Neruda lived a typical poet's life of art, music, poetry, and eccentric friends; his home reflects this. You're not supposed to take pictures of the interior, but you can take pictures out the window, so we just stood back further and got some of the interior along with the pictures out the window. His house reflects his eccentric vibe; furnishings came from all over, and there were lots of humorous flourishes throughout. Our favorite was the "see through" door on the guest bathroom and the stuffed Ibis hanging from the ceiling in the living room.
From there, we headed straight downhill and back to our car to head back to Vina to rest a little bit.
We decided we'd come back to Valpo for the evening after we ate in Vina to enjoy the Valpo Tango festival, and then hit the gay bars in Valpo (there aren't any official gay bars in Vina). We arrived back in Valpo at 11pm, and at that point the outdoor Tango festival had basically ended for the night, so we decided to head to Mascara, which is open a little earlier than Pagano (they are the two gay bars in Valpo). Mascara has a New Wave vibe, and reminded Stephen of ManRay in Boston or Pyramid in NYC. We got to hear some new wave style music in Spanish, which was cool. We we first arrived, it was mostly lesbians, but more guys showed up as the night went on. They charge a cover of about 10 bucks, but it includes a free well drink. We had to pay cash at the door, and we were starting to run low on cash, so after enjoying Mascara for a while, we thought we would go find an ATM and then head to Pagano, the other gay bar. We should first preface that we saw a whole bunch of long lines in front of the ATM machines earlier in the day. Now we know why. It is impossible to find an open ATM after hours in Chile. We scoured the area in Valpo for a while, but we couldn't find a single ATM and so we just gave up and Ubered it home without making it to Pagano. Lesson learned.
January 25, 2023
Another beautiful day in Vina del Mar. Stephen taught YMHFA today and Eli worked on some new and exciting additions to our website that will hopefully go live soon. After we were done, we walked along the beach for an hour and a half and then came back to nap for a bit and then cook dinner. Vina del Mar is mostly a weekend and summer getaway destination for residents of Santiago. They've got tons of high rise buildings built in the mid 20th century and then another boom in building in the 2010s a bit further north. We're staying in the central area, with lots of restaurants and bars on practically every block (although with so many, it's hard to judge quality). We're happy to cook for ourselves, though. They've also got malls and movie theaters, so we may try and catch Avatar while we're here (although we haven't decided if we'll go dubbed or subtitled). We also booked a street art tour in Valparaiso and a Chilean cumbia experience in the next couple days, so we'll let you know how those go.
January 24, 2023
We arrived in Vina del Mar without much drama. Note that it is correctly spelled Viña del Mar, but to make it easy to type and find info for those searching in English, we've eliminated the tilde. We didn't realize our rental car company was offsite, so that will put a little kink in our plans as we have to be at the airport super-early to get to Puerto Natales. LATAM changed our flight time on us, so we have to do the 1.5 hour drive to the airport ahead of a 5am car drop-off time. Ugh!
The view from our place is absolutely spectacular. It's small, but is basically just walls full of windows. Vina del Mar has a climate like Southern California, so daytimes are in the 70's and overnights in the high 50's. We're both loving leaving the huge sliding glass doors open all day and all night.
Eli developed a strange rash on his shins and lower arms in the last few days we were in San Pedro de Atacama, so he wanted to get it checked out. After walking to a number of different general clinics in town that were open at 4pm, but most of them saying he should really see a dermatologist, we found one dermatologist whose office was open. Originally they told us they couldn't fit him in for an appointment until 10 days from now, but somehow we managed to convince them to squeeze him in after the last appointment of the day at 6:30pm. Not quite sure what it was that we said, or maybe it was the pained expressions on our faces as we were at our last option at that point.
We needed to do some grocery shopping anyway, so we used the time before his appointment to get groceries. Stephen took them back to the unit, while Eli headed to the appointment. Luckily it turned out to be simple dermatitis from sun exposure interacting with Advil (who knew?!?!) and Eli got a prescription for a cream that should help clear it up.
In the meantime, Stephen had found a cool event to do for the evening while browsing social media: a queer milonga. Milonga, originating in Argentina, is a dance similar to Tango and is also apparently the word that is used to describe an evening of tango dancing. The group that puts this on is Milonga Queer Valparaiso. To find them, search @milongaqueervalpo on Instagram. They typically meet weekly in Valparaiso, but do once a month in Vina del Mar. They do a beginner's class at 8pm before the milonga. We couldn't make it in time for the class, but we arrived at around 9:30 and we got drinks and watched. We met a Chilean guy who had been living in Fort Lauderdale for a while, but was back in Chile to help family out. He'd been coming for about two months. He introduced us to some other people as well and we chatted for a while. The crowd was friendly, diverse, and very casual. Like country-western dancing, people will ask you to dance without it meaning anything... just for the love of the dance. People switched partners frequently. Stephen danced a couple of dances with the Chilean/Floridian, and then the organizer of the milonga asked both Eli and Stephen to dance a song. It definitely helps having a well-trained person leading to get enjoyment out of the dance. We left around 11:30 so that we could get some rest. It had been a long day of travel, and Stephen had to teach YMHFA the next morning, but were very happy to have had the enjoyable evening of something unexpected.