We made the decision in Santiago that the sooner we got some Spanish lessons under our belt the better, even just to get by, and we decided that Valpo would be a great place for this – somewhere new and supposedly a great place to hang out for a few days
. We therefore booked a 3 day crash course with one of the language schools in Valparaiso. Our teacher, Natalia, was great and we definitely learnt a lot in just 3 days. We were so dedicated that we spent the evening of our first day’s lessons in a coffee shop and then at dinner testing each other on regular verbs. Great fun! Paid off the next day though when she tested us and we knew them all. Legends. We weren’t so dedicated after the lesson on day 2, although still didn’t do too badly when she tested us on the irregular verbs. On the last day we had to go out on the streets and ask directions from passers-by to practice some of the vocabulary we had been through. Poor Liz froze up and didn’t want to ask anyone – she said she felt stupid because she didn’t really want to go to the supermarket! Whatever the reason more practice needed I think to get our confidence levels up.
There is an incredible amount of very good graffiti around Valpo which makes any stroll around interesting. Because we had spent our first 3 days either in lessons or trying to practice we stayed another day in town to walk around and really experience some of it. As you can see from the photos there are some impressive works of art painted on the walls of the many steep streets. It really is a beautiful city to explore.
A special mention needs to be made about our landlady in Valpo
. She would be a brilliant person to stay with if you were there for a good few weeks to properly learn Spanish. She was really nice and always tried to talk to us and help us along with words and phrases. She didn’t get bored and even though she had very little English so couldn’t explain things she kept going with helping us learn. The hostel was a small family run place called Hostel El Hibisco and was a good place to spend a few days even if it was so bloody cold! Big thumbs up for the homemade jam and fresh fruit every morning too.
As well as its graffiti, Valparaiso is the home of Chorillianas. It’s the local speciality which basically consists of a huge pile of chips with sausage mixed in, topped with eggs, onions and a steak. Essentially a heart attack on a plate. We had it on our first night but unfortunately didn’t have our camera so went for seconds on our last night. We went to a different place and this time was about 50 times greasier than the first as you can see for yourself.
We were a little sad to drag ourselves away from Valpo but after 5 days and two of the most unhealthy dinners ever we decided it was time and hopped on a night but to La Serena, about 7 hours north.
Valparaiso is one of the major port cities in Chile and a large part of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city centre stretches along the coast but the vast majority of the city's residential areas are spread over the numerous very steep hills that overlook the ocean. It’s a really interesting place to walk around given the layout of the city, although it makes it pretty tiring if you get lost and have to go up and down hills to get to where you’re going! One way to avoid tiring yourself out too much is to take one of the cities many ascensors. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they are effectively short steep railways that run up each hill. They are pretty unique apparently, really cheap and a great way to save your legs (are we starting to sound lazy yet?!).