Usually, Chileans take the whole of January or February off for summer vacation and go to the beach or down south to the lakes. Santiago shuts down and is more quiet than usual for those two months. RatSoap was also on vacation, and I'm just now catching up.
After our big family reunion in the south in December, I thought we were not going to have many more outings this summer, but we did! Several friends invited us to the coast, so we took some short trips there.
First, we went to Valparaíso. Mom and Dad had gone there in early January, and they liked it so much that they wanted to go again and take us with them. They had stayed in a Bed & Breakfast at the top of one of the many hills in Valparaíso, and we went back to the same place.
The B&B is called "The Yellow House," and it is owned and run by a couple who bought the house two years ago. She is Chilean and he is Australian.
The house is built into the hill, and Martin and Lissette (the owners) live on the first floor. Each floor has a great view to the port.
The front door is on the third floor and opens to a narrow and unpaved alley just wide enough for one car.
The house is bright yellow on the outside, with blue trim, which is the same color that the "ascensores" (the funiculars that take you up or down the hill) used to be painted. Now they are all red and white.
RJE and I got to sleep by ourselves in the room called "Refugio." The library across the hall had books, cards, board games, and a TV.
RJE and I had fun playing one of the games that's just like Monopoly except with Chilean money and everything is named after places in Santiago. It is called "La Gran Capital."
The Refugio room was the same one Mom and Dad slept in when they went in January. It's painted blue, has one big bed, a built-in closet, a bathroom, a shelf with some grown-up books, and a window with a view to the little house next door.
We flopped down on the bed a lot after walking around Valparaíso ALL day! This time, Mom and Dad were in the "Oceano" room.
It has large windows where you can watch the ships coming in and out of the harbor, or just look at all the houses and windy streets on the hill below.
Both nights we were there we went to a restaurant a few yards up the hill on the "Paseo 21 de Mayo" and just below the old Escuela Naval (Naval Academy) where my grandfather went to school for two years.
Now it's a museum about Chilean naval history.
The restaurant next to the museum is called "Café Mirador," and Mom and Dad said we were going there for the view, not the food.
All we ordered was a small empanada and drinks. After that, we used the kitchen of The Yellow House to have a dinner of tomato and avocado salad with fresh bread. You can always get really delicious, fresh produce in Valparaíso.
The thing that I like about hostels and B&Bs is that you get to meet a lot of interesting people when you are eating the yummy breakfast in the morning.
At The Yellow House, breakfast was yoghurt, fruit, a piece of cake, tea or coffee, juice, and bread with jam, butter, cheese, or ham. Martin served breakfast and introduced everyone.
We talked to two Canadian couples, both from the same area in western Canada, but both very different. Sometimes, they asked us questions about going to school in Chile and learning Spanish, but mostly RJE and I just listened.
It was very interesting, and one of the Canadians said that the shared breakfast was good for RJE and me because we get to hear a lot of people's different points of view, which is true.
Mom and Dad talked a long time with them and gave them recommendations of what part of Chile was nice to visit and where they might want to go next.
After the B&B, a friend of mine, who was staying in a place called Quintay not far from Valparaíso, invited us for the day.
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Quintay is very beautiful and has a beach and hills.
We never saw the old part of Quintay that is a fishing village where they used to haul the whales in for processing. Now there is a whaling museum there.
My friend was staying in a luxury condominium with an 18-hole golf course, lots of pools, tennis courts, ping-pong, and even a club for kids. She said only rich people can afford to live there.
Lucky for my friend, her family is friends with the people who own a condo there and only stay in it three weeks every year. So the owners let my friend's family use it during the summer while they are gone.
After having lunch and going to the beach, Mom and Dad and RJE had to go back to Valparaíso, but I got to stay for a few nights. During the days I was there, this was our schedule:
1) Up at 11:00 to go to the kids club at 11:30. I normally would get up earlier, like at nine, but my friend says that 11:00 is early for her when on vacation, and that she sleeps at least till 12:00 on a normal summer day.
2) At the club, we played games like soccer, tag, and "mesa pide," where you divide into teams and the monitor says something like "tres firmas de jugadores de golf" (three signatures from golf players on the course), and your team has to go looking for them. And the first team to get the requested items earns a point.
3) TV watching (boring) till lunch time at around 2:30 or 3:00.
4) Card games or more TV. Then to the beach to dig a hole or play beach tennis and have an ice cream. We also got our feet wet (the waves were too strong to swim in) and had races. Then the pool felt really warm compared to the freezing Pacific Ocean.
5) After the beach, what my friend's mom calls the "merienda," because she is from Spain and that is what Spaniards call tea time (Chileans call it "onces").
6) After that, we played ping-pong and stayed up late playing cards and watching MORE television! They usually eat something else at night too, but not a huge meal.
The most interesting part of my whole time in Quintay was when my friend's dad forgot the keys inside the apartment and somehow the door closed and locked by itself.
We were all locked out and the windows were closed, too, except the one in the bathroom, which was very high and didn't open very wide.
So both families (this was when my parents were still visiting) went to inspect the bathroom window and open it a bit wider---wide enough for a kid to get in but not quite enough for a grown-up.
First we tried to get RJE to go in, but she chickened out since she is afraid of heights. Instead, I climbed in and opened the door.
When I was scrambling through the window, I noticed a lady outside looking at us like we were wackos. She probably thought we were trying to steal something. I was sure she would call the police.
After Quintay, the girls in the family got invited for two nights to a condo that a friend of RJE's was staying in for the summer in a place called Concón. Dad had to stay in Santiago and work.
Mom and Dad said that when they were in Chile years and years ago, they stayed in Concón for a month, but in the "Playa Negra" part, which means black beach. There were no condos back then. Now there are too many. This time, we were in the part called "Playa Amarilla," the yellow beach.
The condominium we were in had one bedroom and one bathroom. We sort of "camped out" in the living room, but then got kicked out because there were more people coming and there just wasn't enough room. RJE stayed with her friend a few more days, but Mom and I went back to Valparaíso.
Instead of going to The Yellow House again, we went to a hostel where you have to sleep in bunk beds, share a big room with other people, and share the bathroom down the hall. The hostel was called "Patiperro Hostel," which means something like the wanderers' hostel.
As soon as you enter the hostel, there is a curved and carpeted staircase that leads to a hallway. There is a living room with a TV, DVD player, sofas, some card games, magazines, and a computer.
You can use the kitchen anytime, and it has a long table made of an old door with stools and all the supplies you need to cook.
We slept in the room with seven bunk beds, where two girls from England (Oxford and Suffolk) had been staying for some time. They had all their belongings covering their bunks.
When we woke up, there was a man in the bunk behind us, but we didn't get to talk to him. At breakfast, we met a Polish mountain climber getting ready to go back home to Poland.
Like The Yellow House, the hostel serves a great breakfast: Toast, a sandwich, tea or coffee, scrambled eggs, tomato salad, and juice. We stayed there just one night, though I would have liked to stay more.
When we checked out, we walked around the hills for a long way, until we found a museum called "La Sebastiana," which was one of the houses where the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda lived.
It is a four-story house that Pablo Neruda named La Sebastiana because the man who built it was called Sebastián, and he died before he even finished building it.
Pablo Neruda thought that the house was too big for just him, so he sold the first two floors to two friends.
Mom and I looked around the place, at the "no tocar" (do not touch) signs, and the old books and typewriters Neruda had in the house.
All of the rooms have big windows and great views of the city. And the best room is the library, at the very top of the building. Here is the view:
To find out more about Pablo Neruda, click here.
After that, we took the bus to meet Dad in Viña del Mar. We stayed in an apartment next to the sea that belongs to Dad's uncle. It's a really nice place, and you can hear and see the waves from the window.
In Viña, we went to the beach every day to dig holes and make sand castles. We didn't swim because the water was too cold and the waves too strong.
And there were so many people at the beach, you could hardly move. Here, RJE and Mom are lost in the crowd (you can see them at about the center of the photo):
Viña has a music festival that just finished while we were there. It takes place every year and is called the "Festival de Viña."
Musicians are invited, most of them old and not that famous anymore. You can buy tickets to go see them perform live, or watch them on TV.
And just like Dad said, the whole thing's pretty bad. It's supposed to be a competition, but it is more like one concert after another. Some of the invited artists this year were Peter Frampton, Nellie Furtado, Miguel Bosé, and Chayanne.
Another group was Earth, Wind, and Fire. Dad says they were famous in the 1970's. They look strange now. Old men with guitars, going crazy.
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