Pic of the Day – Valparaiso, Chile

PicToday’s Pic of the Day is brought to you by my going through my old laptop and finding a wealth of photos from Latin America that I haven’t posted yet!

Valparaiso, Chile

View of the hills of Valparaiso, Chile

Date Taken: November 5, 2011
Location:  Atop one of the hills (cierros) in Valparaiso, Chile

The beautiful colors of this UNESCO World Heritage Site cheer me up, every time!

Samsara restaurant review – Valparaiso

Brace yourselves for a collection of restaurant reviews, ’cause I’m in the mood to post about food today. And several of the places that L and I have been over the past several months deserve a mention, in hopes that I can save a few weary spice-deprived travelers some valuable time and grief by throwing in my two cents about where to stuff your face in Chile and Argentina.

Which brings me to this restaurant review of Samsara, a Thai place nestled in the winding streets of the hill of Cerro Alegre in Valparaiso. Sure, it sounds expensive. It is. But is it worth it? Oh, yes.

PROTip: Make a Reservation

Make a reservation at least a day in advance. If you forgot, make one in the afternoon as early as possible. The venue is very small (it seems like it’s a converted house), and if you don’t have much time in Valparaiso, you may miss out.   Almirante Montt 427, Cerro Alegre., Valparaiso, Chile   Phone: (32) 2592492

How To Get there

You can take the bus to the bottom of the hill and hail a taxi there to bring you to the top. I believe it’s called Plazuela Anibal Pinto.  It’s walkable, but straight uphill and not very comfortable. Especially if you’re dressed somewhat nicely.

THE EXPERIENCE

So, the prices. It’s expensive. But, the price for each entree does include a salad and a dessert. So keep that in mind when you are reviewing the menu and recovering from sticker shock (if you’ve lived in Chile or Argentina long enough, anyway).
The service was great; our server was from France originally, and very friendly, efficient and sweet. We were really impressed by her. The only problem was that a few of their wines on their wine list were not in stock, and it took 3 tries to find a bottle that they had on hand. In the end, we decided on this bottle of Chamán carmenére (after a bottle of Torrontés or Sauvignon Blanc, I believe.. it’s been a while). Some San Pellegrino to keep us sober-ish, and we were good to go.
Shrimp Pad Thai at Samsara Restaurant in Valparaiso, Chile
Pad Thai

The food was delicious. I ordered the shrimp pad Thai (pictured). Admittedly, it isn’t the “pad thai” I am used to, as the sauce was more savory and less nutty or coconut-y than usual. It did feature peanuts. But it was still really tasty and the vegetables were perfect.  L had the green curry, which he claimed was pretty “damn hot” and he cleaned his plate. A nice touch was the monkey design in paprika atop the rice plate that accompanied his dish.

The candlelight and atmosphere was very romantic without seeming stuffy or trying too hard. We really, really liked it.

Samsara Thai restaurant in Valparaiso, Chile
Paprika Elephant!

All in all, we were very impressed with the food and service and absolutely loved the location and ambience in the place. If we ever find ourselves in Valparaiso again, this is on our list of must-do’s again.

New Year’s Eve in Valparaiso, Chile

I suck at posting. I was in the US for quite a while, and getting my fill of all things American and Texan distracted me from updating this thing. Mil disculpas. Here’s what to expect if you decide to spend New Year’s Eve in Valparaiso, Chile.

I don’t remember a whole lot from New Year’s Eve in Valparaiso, but what I did remember is below, included in a list of a few pointers, for those who are thinking of spending New Year’s Eve in Valpo in the future.

The scene at Plaza Sotomayor – safe, but crowded.
Toward the pier (between the buildings) it gets much, much worse.

 

 

 

Top TIPS FOR HOW TO SURVIVE NEW YEAR’S EVE IN VALPARAISO, CHILE

1) DO go to Plaza Sotomayor but stay in the areas where they have the stages set up for the bands. They sell all kinds of alcohol (mostly beer) and food (italian sausage, chicken kebabs, etc). Bring cash, but not much. Don’t bring anything with you that you wouldn’t mind having stolen, or that’s not attached to you. Normally I wouldn’t wear a money belt, but I’d consider one for this night.

2) DO NOT stand on the pier just under where they shoot off the fireworks (in Plaza Sotomayor). The crowd is large, dense, and dangerous. Men were grabbing me and my boyfriend was right next to me. People were shoving their hands into his pockets, trying to pickpocket him. It’s not worth it, and it was downright scary. If you insist on being this close, be warned.

Oh, we were ready.

3) BUY the cheap plastic champagne glasses and party favors, noisemakers, crazy sunglasses, masks, lucky yellow undies, and other fun stuff from the street merchants all around the city on the 2 days leading up to NYE. They are all pretty cheap and have some fun stuff that you won’t mind losing/breaking/giving away.

4) MAKE DINNER RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE. Especially at the popular places on the hills, that are booked up weeks in advance. Figure out where you want to eat and bite the bullet, and pay the ridiculous $$$ to do it. At least you’ll have a plan, and you’ll be out of the danger zone down below near the water (of partygoers, broken glass and mischief). We tried to get into Brighton a day in advance, and it was already fully booked.

Valparaiso – one of the squares all dolled up for the holidays

 

 

5) Make sure you have a hostel or hotel booked far in advance. We stayed at our go-to place El Rincón del Marino, which we love because it’s cheap and clean, and the owners are friendly. It’s not the nicest place, but it’s certainly pretty good for the price and in a location with easy access to transit and going to Viña del Mar/up the coast if you have done and seen most of Valparaiso.

6) Buy champagne and alcohol at the supermarket or liquor stores the day before or early that day. You’ll want to bring your own with you if you do decide to brave the crowds and party in the street, and they begin to sell out of stuff pretty quickly the closer it gets to New Year’s eve early evening.

7) If a random Chilean family offers to let you watch the fireworks from their ridiculously large picture windows on Paseo Gervasconi, for the fee of $40 per person without alcohol (and ask that you bring some to share with them), politely decline. It is tempting, but it ain’t worth it. True story.

We did have a great time in Valparaiso, and the Chileans really know how to party. The fireworks are amazing and definitely the most elaborate displays I’ve ever seen, maybe. I’m not sure if it is the same or better than the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks over NYC which I’ve also seen up close and personal… but they’re pretty damn amazing.

The Takeaway:

Just be careful, watch your stuff, and make sure at least one person in your party is sober enough to get you home and out of trouble!

 

Valparaiso, Chile – in November

So, we’ve been to Valparaiso, Chile twice – once in the off-season and once during New Year’s week, which will come later. When I say “we”, I mean my boyfriend and I.

Valparaiso is a magical little seaside city with cliffs and colorful houses, stacked on hillsides with cable car elevators (funiculars, as they are called in Italy), full of character and gritty to the core. The decaying old buildings are covered in graffiti and art, but somehow remain charming and interesting, like an old friend who may drink a little too much, but is still a blast to be around every once in a while. Despite what you might have heard, Valpo is no more dangerous (or at least doesn’t feel like it) than any other tourist destination – and we stayed in what could arguably be called one of the not-so-nice areas of the city (approximately 4 blocks from the bus station – which we all know is NEVER in a nice area, no matter what city you’re in). We stayed at a little nautical-themed B&B called El Rincón del Marino.

The bus arrived at the crack of dawn one November morning, when the morning fog hadn’t yet cleared and a chill hung in the air. Coming from the desert in Mendoza, we weren’t ready for the abrupt change in temperature, and promptly layered whatever long-sleeved items we had over the tank tops and t-shirts we wore when we left 80-something-degree Mendoza.

Quick tip: $200,000 Chilean pesos is too much money to take out of the ATM at one time. It’s about US $400. You’re welcome. This was a lesson learned the hard way. Much like the time I took out about US $650 from an ATM in Iceland, by accident.

Yup – I could live here.

In a whirlwind 2-day adventure, we visited La Sebastiana, the historical home of Pablo Neruda, which was amazing. He collected a really eclectic, interesting, and beautiful menagerie of things from around the world, all on display in this incredible cliffside home. I could totally live there.

Some street art

Wandering down the hills after visiting his house, we came upon the “open air museum” that adorns the streets of the city. Very cool street art and interesting murals.

Murals…

We ate great seafood at this port-side restaurant (whose name escapes me), where the waiter assembled a Spanish dictionary tray to show us each different type of seafood by its name. He was really sweet. Later that day, we got some coffee at the cafe attached to the Museo Lukas  (on Paseo Gervasconi), which is a museum dedicated to the famous Chilean cartoonist. The mocha was pretty delicious.

Piri Piri shrimp and ceviche!

Another day was spent wandering Viña del Mar  and then returning to Valparaiso to traipse around Cerro Allegre and Cerro Concepción, peeking in the windows of art galleries, taking photos and looking for food and pisco sours.

Cerro Concepción

We ended up dining at Sabor Color Gourmet Bar and had a great cheese plate, fried seafood platter, a bottle of Tabalí Carmenere, and ridiculous brownie for dessert. Seriously – get the brownies! All of this was enjoyed with our friends while listening to the string trio play live in the other room of this converted house-turned-restaurant.

New Years? Now that’s a whole other story… check that out right here.