The Potato Chick
Travelling, eating and my other favourite things...
In a sentence...one perfect day.
Food we loved...chorillana.
You may have realised by now that there’s two things I love to see on the street – dogs and art. Valparaiso has an abundance of both which meant we were incredibly happy there.
Valparaiso is a port town about 2 hours from Santiago. It has been UNESCO listed thanks to the amazing street art that fills virtually every corner of the city. The scale of the art is just astounding. For example, the piece pictured below covered a 13 storey building.
The city’s residents live on the surrounding hills, some of which can be accessed by 100 year old funiculars. It’s in the hills that the real magic of the city happens.
We only had one full day in Valparaiso but it was one of those fabulous days that we will remember forever. Without further ado, the perfect day of travel goes a little something like this...
8.00am: A stroll around the fabulous area surrounding our hostel. I’m excited about the street art already.
9.00am: Coffee at the ambitiously named Melbourne Cafe. Let’s just say I wouldn’t rush back there.
10.00am: A really fantastic free walking tour. Conducted by a Chilean pocket-rocket, we are taken to all sorts of nooks and crannies of the city which we might not have found by ourselves. And for the first hour of the tour we are accompanied by two stray dogs who apparently join the tour each day, demanding pats and attention from every participant.
1.00pm: A delicious lunch at a local restaurant offering a two course lunch at a bargain price. We enjoy ceviche and fish with the creamiest mashed potato.
2.30pm: We head up the only vertical funicular in the city to check out Cerro Polanco, the hill which hosted Chile’s first ever street art festival in 2012. This is where we find our favourite pieces of street art.
4.00pm: We explore the “Open Air Gallery”, a series of street art works painted in the early 90s. It’s interesting to see how much the style of street art has changed since then.
5.30pm: Another funicular ride to a very cool bar with fabulous views. We try our first pisco sour and I sadly contemplate the fact that this amazing cocktail is likely to be hideously expensive at home.
6.30pm: Back down the funicular, we head to Altamira Brewery for a local beer or two.
8.30pm: We top off an amazing day sharing a bottle of red and a Chorillana. This dish basically consists of a platter filled with chips and topped with sautéed onion, some sort of meat, a little bit of cheese and egg. I love that I can justify eating what is essentially a plate of chips by the fact that it’s a traditional Chilean dish.
10.00pm: An ice cream on the way back to our hostel. We fall happily into bed.
Thanks for an amazing day Valparaiso.
Next stop…Mendoza, Argentina.
In a sentence...an underrated South American capital.
Food we loved...literally everything we ate. Read on for further details.
Santiago caught me completely by surprise. Of course I had expected to love the classic big cities of Rio de Janiero and Buenos Aires. But I knew little about Chile’s capital and I did not expect to like it as much as I did. At the recommendation of lovely Em P, we stayed in the very cool area of Bella Vista which is filled with street art, cheeky dogs and restaurants selling grilled meat.
We started our time in the city with a free walking tour conducted by a slightly irritating Canadian. Given Chile’s bloody history which includes a coup and the 17 years of military dictatorship that followed we were hoping for a guide who could offer us a local perspective. Nonetheless, the CIA-led coup prompted some interesting discussion amongst our group.
We started both of our days in Santiago with a trip up San Christobal Hill, one day walking and one day running. At the top of the hill there are good views over the city and a statue of the Virgin Mary. Once at the top we could enjoy a Mote con Huesillo, a Chilean drink made with dried peaches, wheat and a sugary juice – ridiculously sweet.
We visited the seafood market where we enjoyed melt-in-your-mouth calamari in a garlic and chilli sauce, and the fruit and vegetable market where we feasted on figs and raspberries.
We spent the better part of an afternoon at the very interesting Museum of Memory and Human Rights which told the story of life during Pinochet’s dictatorship, which included imprisonment, torture, execution and gross violations of human rights.
We also sampled a few uniquely Chilean dishes. Our first dinner was Chilean BBQ – a huge platter filled with pork and beef steaks, chicken breast, sausages and potatoes. An absolute feast which we ate under the watchful eye of one of Santiago’s most adorable street dogs.
The hot dog Italiano is topped with avocado, tomato and sour cream. Its name comes from the colour, rather than the flavour, of the ingredients.
Pastel de Choclo is a sort of pie made of meat, egg, olives, raisins and spices. The filling is topped with sweet corn ground into a paste and mixed with milk. The whole thing is baked so that the corn topping goes crunchy. It certainly wasn’t my favourite dish but I’m glad we tried it as there were locals eating it everywhere.
We were also lucky enough to find two good cafes, one of them with the slightly arrogant name of “Wonderful Cafe”.
In the division of “trip administration” which we have established over the last 11 months, the sourcing of good coffee has fallen to me. I apply a very scientific method which generally involves googling “good coffee in city X” and seeing what comes up. Sometimes nothing, sometimes something.
On day three, however, Nick took the reins on the coffee front so that we could have coffee con piernas (“coffee with legs”). This special type of cafe experience is unique to Santiago and, at its most conservative level, is just an ordinary coffee shop apart from the fact that the waitresses are dressed like grid girls with plunging necklines and short skirts. At the more extreme end, you may find yourself being served by a bikini clad waitress in what feels more like a sleazy night club (complete with tinted windows). Nick had to settle for the first type, due to the fact he was visiting with his wife.
The well endowed waitress paid Nick extra special attention until it came time to deliver the bill, which came to me.
Next stop...Valparaiso, Chile.