Hill of St. Christopher and Vineyard of the Sea

The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.
The view out the apartment window of Cerro San Cristobal.

I woke at 6:18 am refreshed after a great sleep. Soon Margaret was up too and we were out the door around 8:30 and headed for Cerro San Cristóbal, or hill of St. Christopher. It would be quite a hike and we wanted to hike in the early morning coolness. And…can I say…after the heat of the day yesterday, it cooled down overnight and was deliciously pleasant sleeping weather. The morning was cool and breezy and perfect.

Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.
Street art on the way to the hill of St. Christopher.
Empty streets in the morning.
Empty streets in the morning.
More art. I can't help myself.
More art. I can’t help myself.

We walked a few blocks north, a few blocks west, and there we were at the bottom of the hill. Rather than go up, we backtracked a little through the tree-lined empty streets in search of coffee and sustenance. I am impressed by so much street art here, and stopped so often to remark and take photos that Margaret began to point murals out to me!

We found the perfect cafe, some sandwiches to go, and off we went on our trek uphill. It was a slog, but with plenty of shade, continuing morning breezes, and fabulous views of a hazy city, it was really no chore. At the top we found the beautiful white statue of the Virgin Mary. Surrounding it at the top of the hill were a lovely garden area with many benches in the shade, and a small and lovely stone church called the Motherhood of Mary Chapel. To save our feet, we rode the funicular (a….train?) back down.

The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.
The Virgin Mary, surrounded by admirers.
Holy water in Mary's Church.
Holy water in Mary’s Church.
I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.
I am standing just below Mary, getting a sunbun as we speak.
Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.
Our car is passing another as we ride the funicular down the hillside.
View of Santiago from the funicular.
View of Santiago from the funicular.
Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.
Bridge at the bottom of the hill covered in locks of love.
Lovers names inked onto them.
Lovers names inked onto them.

Our host Angelo had raved about Valparaiso and Viña del Mar (vineyard of the sea) the previous day, enough that we were convinced, and made on-the-spot plans to catch a bus there after our hike up the cerro. And that’s exactly what we did: back to the room, freshened up a bit, and headed for the metro. We took the metro to the bus station, and then we asked enough people in broken Spanish to express our need. (bless the patient Chileans) Tickets in hand, we jumped on a bus for the nearly 2 hour ride to Viña del Mar.

Views of the Andes from the bus.
Views of the Andes from the bus.
We saw multiple wineries from the tour bus.
We saw multiple wineries from the bus.

Our plan had been to explore both cities, but we stumbled serendipitously upon a Chilean-born Canadian, who was working for the Viña del Mar tourist office. She easily explained why we couldn’t do both cities – not enough time. And since we were walking, she quickly mapped out the best walking route through her fair city, so that we would return before the last bus of the evening.

We were so impressed we followed her suggestion exactly. First through the Parque Quinta Vergara, a lovely park but not especially remarkable. Margaret pointed out that the tourist lady was very proud of the place and eager to send us there, and for that reason, we were happy to go see it for her. There was renovation underway at the park, of the old Governor’s mansion. Restoration is something we have seen regularly here, and I think that’s a good sign of how well a city is doing.

A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and are dropping to the ground.
A tree at the park. The fruit is bright orange/red as you can see, and dropping to the ground as it ripens.
Fabulous houses in Viña del Mar
There are fabulous houses in Viña del Mar.
I get happy in water.
I get happy in water.

We continued walking toward the beach, and enjoyed the small landscaped flower garden pointed out to us by the tourist guide. Almost as soon as we reached the sand, one of the many women selling things offered us something we actually wanted: a flaky sugary pastry and we scarfed it down, only after a very long discussion about how much it should cost. We began the conversation at something that sounded a lot like $5,000 pesos for a single pastry (close to $8). When it was clear that we were shocked and walking away, the women quickly explained that we didn’t understand. After much talking and confusion, many prices being discussed, always with the woman saying we weren’t understanding her. Finally we paid $1,000 pesos for two pastries, which is more like 75 cents each. Now THAT I can understand just fine. 😉

We ate our pastries on the beach and I was not able to resist the water. I stripped off my shoes and socks and splashed in the sea. Imagine! Swimming in the ocean in December.

Lovely views of the seashore are found in Vina del Mar.
Lovely views of the seashore are found in Viña del Mar. Wulff Castle is in the center, on a rock outcrop in the sea.
Pelicans groomed themselves into awkwar poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.
Pelicans groomed themselves into awkward poses, though I begged them to raise their heads for a more flattering photo.
We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.
We find the cities in Chile to be tastefully lovely and very clean.
This tree has seen better days.
This tree has seen better days.
Castle Wulff
Castle Wulff
Pisco Sours
Pisco Sours

We were able to walk inside Castillo Wulff (you can barely make it out in the shore photo above). It was purchased in 1906 and transformed into a castle in 1916 by Gustavo Adolfo Wulff. Inside was empty but for an art show of local bird photography. We crossed the mouth of a river and continued on along the playa, past a splendid casino in a huge building with classic architecture. There were horses with carriages out front, but that was too touristy for our mood just then.

Finally, tummies rumbling, we went in search of a place to eat. Margaret has been pining for local seafood, possibly a Chilean seafood soup, so we walked past the Peruvian Thai restaurant (Er?), the many pizza places, the Italian restaurant. We skipped a few that looked promising because they were closed. Finally we stepped a place advertised as a pasta restaurant, because we spotted fish on the menu. The beach here is touristy, and thus the waiters brought us menus in English. Sure enough, seafood was on the menu, so I ordered Chilean Pot (mussels, squid, and shrimp sauteed in garlic butter) and Margaret ordered white fish ceviche. We sipped Chilean Pisco Sours, an alcoholic drink made of egg white, Pisco (a brandy made of grape wine), syrup, lemon juice and bitters, and found that our luck remained with us because the generously-sized dishes came out made to order and scrumptious.

We have been admiring so much of Chile’s architecture. The lovely folks at Castle Wulff had provided us a walking map of some of the more remarkable homes in the city, so after we ate we headed for the bus station via these homes. We spotted a couple, but even more fun was that in front of one such gorgeous mansions was an event of some kind. At Palacio Carrasco we stood with the crowd and watched schoolkids take the stage and sing songs – one song for each school – and watched the parents and grandparents cheering and smiling and holding up their phones to get videos.

Schoolkids singing
Schoolkids singing
At the bus station.
At the bus station.
Subway entertainment.
Subway entertainment.

We left for the bus station and settled in for our 2-hour ride back. After that long long day, and after two days together, Margaret and I had finally exhausted our supply of things that needed to be talked about in order to catch each other up on our lives, and our trip home was somewhat more subdued than the one earlier. We caught the metro back to downtown Santiago and were surprised (shocked actually because of the deafening volume) when a man came up and played his boom box, then accompanied the song with his saxophone and pipe. He had a woman in tow, who was asking for money. Eventually they moved off. Soon they were replaced with two teenage boys who looked like they were having a blast earning their coins. They also played boom boxes, but brought mics and began rapping about the passengers on the subway. Smiles all around showed that their show was much more appreciated than the first one. But it was our stop and we hopped off and easily made our way in the dark to our apartment. It was about 11 pm as we sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of wine to get ready for bed (me to begin my blog post), and M figured we had spent $40 each today for all those adventures. Wonderful!

16 thoughts on “Hill of St. Christopher and Vineyard of the Sea

  1. The surprise of the children’s choirs would have made my day. How delightful to share the experience with their families. Will there be a return trip to visit the vineyards? LOL Oh, my feet hurt from all your walking. A little more ocean splashing if you please. Hugs, to you cousin.

    1. The kids were so precious, and I got a kick out of their parents being all silly and waving at them and taking photos and beaming. It would have been fun to share that moment with you in person. I’m WITH you on the ocean splashing! The water was perfect and I got splashed up to my waist. 🙂

    1. I highly recommend it Curt. Margaret and I have felt comfortable every moment. No one tries a pressure sale and it seems like everyone leans toward generosity and friendliness. The cities are remarkably clean, the people are relaxed. Even though it’s not a requirement for me to enjoy a place, things in Chile (amenities, grocery stores, street signs, courtesies) are similar to the States, so it’s easy to figure out. There is much construction and restoration of old buildings, and I find that brings an optimistic spirit to a place. And that’s just one level… the second level is the scenery! I’ll get to more of that in the next few days.

      1. It was easy to see that you are enjoying the experience, Crystal. It sounds like a great break. Is your trip limited to Chile or are you going to explore more of South America? –Curt

      2. My friend Margaret is going on to Argentina. I couldn’t get the extra time off work, so my time will only be in Chile. But…10 days in Chile is not so shabby. I can come back to South America another day. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Derrick. It’s a bit of a tall order, making myself blog while I’m here. But it would be so hard to make myself do it when I got home. Hard to remember all that stuff from the past two weeks of adventures, you know?

  2. I’ve been noticing a haze over the city. Is that my imagination? Just so you feel even better about your trip. It’s pouring out today and tomorrow. Tues we drop down to 25 degrees but sunny. BRRR! You both have a lot of stamina to do that much in one day! Toes in the ocean in Dec would be lovely. 🙂

    1. It is not your imagination. There was a persistent haze each day in Santiago. We asked our host and he said it was pollution. It is probably true, since today we are outside of town and the skies were clear. No worries about the jealousy. It’s warmer, here, but today it poured on us during a hike and we both got soaked and cold. Fun, fun 🙂 Toes in the ocean are definitely more fun when you aren’t expecting it, in December.

    1. It was a full day indeed, in two different cities, inland and on the sea, local food, local sights, so much to delight in. I could do a whole post on street art. It’s everywhere, and much of it is as good as any I’ve seen. I would guess that making beautiful art is challenging with a spray can, and these artists are truly skilled.

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