Chile Day 3: Strangers, Off the Bus!

Today’s plan was to visit the neighboring city of Viña del Mar. It’s a beach town to Valparaiso’s port city.

We had a great breakfast at the hotel. We were getting ready to request an Uber to get to Vina del Mar. Our hotel manager instead said it would be a great local experience to take the bus. All we had to do was walk down to the main street and get on a bus that said Viña del Mar. Always up for an adventure, we decided to try it. Walking down to town, more street art.

We couldn’t quite figure out where the bus stop was, but we ended right near a tourist information center. We went in there, and rare for this trip, the woman spoke English. We were in the right place, she told us to get on any bus right out front (there was no stop) and pay 500 pesos each. That meant each of us cost all of 75 cents. Bus came, we told the driver where we wanted to get off, and off we went. DSC_0724

We drove along the coast and before we knew it, the driver yelled out in English, “Strangers, off the bus!” In a nice way. It was our stop, and we jumped off, right at the flower clock that was our landmark. IMG_3145

We walked along the water, with great vistas. DSC_0736DSC_0739DSC_0748

You could see back to Valparaiso, the big ship was one we were near during our boat ride yesterday.DSC_0734

We stopped into a casino and lost maybe $2 in slots before exploring the town. We walked by one shop that was roasting seeds of some sort. The worker spoke with us in English, told us the sesame seeds were toasted and eaten as cereal for breakfast, and gave us samples to try. Everyone has been so friendly.

The town square had the theater and a hotel and a statue.DSC_0753IMG_3149

We ate lunch in a cute pizza place we found via TripAdvisor. We then walked to the beach. I had never stepped foot into the Pacific Ocean, so figured we were close enough that I had to. IMG_3153

We had a coffee and a beer at a restaurant overlooking the beach. We spoke with Ben via Google Hangout, we are already starting to miss him and he and Courtney haven’t left yet.

We decided one bus ride was enough adventure, plus didn’t want to have to walk up the hill back to the hotel, so we Uber’ed for $7.50. A brief recharging and we were off for a pre-dinner drink. Ellen has fallen in love with pisco sours again. Such a great view of the hills and lights. IMG_3158

Dinner was at the hippest restaurant in town, or so we read. Pasta e Vino lived up to it’s bill. I had a mozzarella salad and then spaghetti with pesto. Ellen had pistachio stuffed pasta with lamb meat.

Ellen faced the kitchen, which had a wardrobe covering the door and was continually impressed with the food magically appearing out of the wardrobe. It was a great meal. Finishing did mean we had to walk up the hill back to our hotel, but well worth it and we enjoy a walk after dinner anyway.

Lowkey but thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Chile Day 2: Valparaiso

We got a good night’s sleep, ate breakfast at the hotel, and then we were off. We got an Uber to take us to the bus station. 20 minute drive, $6.50 fare. And that was expensive compared to our next mode of transportation!

We bought tickets on Turbus to Valparaiso.  For an hour-and-a-half bus ride for 2 people? $7.50! You can’t beat that.IMG_3134

The bus ride took us through Chile’s Casablanca wine region. No stopping, but pretty scenery.

Valparaiso was South America’s biggest port until the Panama Canal was built. It is built on a group of hills that gives great views of the water…and challenges anyone trying to walk uphill! We again took an Uber from the bus station to the hotel. Uber is FANTASTIC in a foreign country. You don’t have to communicate your destination, you don’t have to negotiate the fare and worry about being ripped off and you don’t have to mess with currency or change. 15 minute ride, $4.50 right to our hotel. We are staying at Voga, boutique hotel of just 4 rooms. It is quiet and peaceful.

We were soon off to explore. It’s a difficult city to navigate, as you can’t easily get from one place to another without walking downhill and then back up. That just gave us a chance to take a funicular ride for 15 cents each!  

We went to the Museum of Bellas Artes in a beautiful old mansion. DSC_0642

We rode the funicular back down, and walked through Plaza Sotomayer.

Next was the dock, where we somehow figured out how to get a private charter with one other passenger out into the harbor. Great views of the city, ships and unexpectantly, seals! DSC_0647DSC_0661DSC_0674DSC_0676DSC_0693

Another ride up the mountain, a stop for coffee and beer, more walking, and some shopping for Ellen. We needed to use up a little more time before dinner, so we stopped for a pisco sour. We then walked to dinner at Restaurant La Concepcion. Ellen had crab ravioli, I had brisket followed by a chocolate molten cake. Our waitress chatted a little with us, and we had a wonderful dining experience.

Then, we had only 3/10 of a mile to walk back to the hotel. But it was solid uphill, so it took a little bit of time. We made it, and worked off some of dinner along the way!

Perhaps even more than in Santiago, there was building street art. Here’s just a few samples to leave you with tonight. DSC_0627DSC_0633DSC_0701DSC_0704


Chile Day 1: Easy Acclimating

We highly recommend long flights that keep you in the same time zone. Makes everything so easy physically.

We had two delayed flights that didn’t cost us very much time. Flying out of Dulles, we were delayed because of storms in Atlanta. It just shortened our layover. We boarded on time to Santiago, but the wing had a part that had to be replaced. We sat, it was hot and we took off over an hour late. But a 9 hour overnight flight was perfect for sleeping, and we landed only 20 minutes later than scheduled.

To make things easier on arrival, we had our hotel arrange for a car to meet us. Immigration was easy, with a short line and pleasant official. Our suitcases came off quickly and Customs went fast too. So off we were less than an hour after landing.

Our hotel, The Aubrey, is in the Bellavista neighborhood, close enough to walk to most everything but elegant and set in the bottom of a mountainous park. They greeted Ellen, who had made the reservation, by name even before we introduced ourselves. What a way to make you feel welcome! Even though we arrived at 10am, they invited us to breakfast.

We then set off walking. First stop, of course, was to get SIM cards. We were looking for Movistar, but came across Claro first. Even though the woman working there spoke no English, we worked out the card, how much to put on it and what plan we needed. It entailed stepping out to a kiosk on the street to put money on the SIM, but by the time I got back, she had both phones working. $4.50 each for 2GB if data.

We then started exploring. We were near Plaza de Armas, so we walked around the square and went into the church.  

We the walked a few blocks to a mall. Lunch was at the food court, where we luckily could order by promo meal. 

We found a futbol store, and got my souvenir, a Chile National team soccer jersey.

We wandered along, and found the Central Market. 

The streets have so many murals and graffiti art, sometimes hard to know which is which. But so colorful. 

We returned to the hotel, long enough to have afternoon tea, relax a bit and have a Chilean pisco sour. Almost as good as Perú!

Dinner was just a short walk away at El Meson Nerudiano, a seafood restaurant. Our waiter, Alejandro, engaged us in conversation about food and Trump and our travels. Made the meal even better than the excellent food.

No jet lag allowed us to fully enjoy the day, while a low pressure schedule meant we could just admire the city and the people. Great start!


Budapest Day 6: Home & Endnotes

We had a smooth trip home. A taxi, arranged by our Airbnb hostess, got us out to the airport in plenty of time. We had leftover Hungarian currency, so we went duty free shopping. Candy, Hungarian liqueur and some more Havana Club rum soaked up the remaining funds.

I slept from Budapest to Frankfurt. We had only a little over an hour between flights, so we only had time to hustle to our new gate. We had to undergo additional security to fly to the USA, but that was just a series of questions about where we went, what we did and our occupations.

On the longer flight from Frankfurt home, I watched Misery Loves Comedy, The Edge of Seventeen, rewatched LaLa Land and a couple of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes. Global Entry again made Customs and Immigration a breeze, we HIGHLY recommend it if you travel abroad even occasionally.

Budapest really impressed us as being a world-class city. It had culture, great restaurants, museums and historical sites. The people were welcoming and friendly, speaking English often enough in Budapest, less so when we were outside the city. It was EXTREMELY affordable. Our dinners, with appetizers, main courses, drinks and desserts never exceeded $70 for the two of us.

Our style of travel, doing everything ourselves, booking things in advance where possible and using public transportation everywhere we could worked perfectly in Budapest. We bought the Budapest Card , which included unlimited public transportation and discounts at a lot of places. We didn’t even worry so much if it paid for itself. It was just around $38 for a 72 hour card. Because we had unlimited public transit, we would jump on the subway or trams without a thought to cost (which was only around $1.25 per ride anyway). We like walking and did a lot of it, but because this was a condensed time period and we had so much to do, time was precious and there was almost always a way to use transit to save time. And it allowed us to use the bus and subway upon arrival without worrying about changing currency and figuring out the costs when groggy upon arrival.

We picked Budapest specifically because they had a half-marathon that worked with Ellen’s spring break. After I began consulting with SOS Children’s Villages, I inquired about the village visit. So those pieces worked so well together.

Thanks for reading along for another trip. If you’ve lurked and not liked a post up until now, please like this one so I’ll know. Lots of people I didn’t even know read this will tell me they like the blog.

Finally, research what SOS does around the world for vulnerable children. If you are able, please consider a donation.


Budapest Day 5: SOS Children’s Village and Memento Park

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Have been looking forward to this day! We rented a car (a cute VW Up!) and drove the hour outside of Budapest to Kecskemét. We stopped in the town for coffee and breakfast for Ellen (I was nibbling on matzah).

We arrived at the SOS Children’s Village in Kecskemét just before our 10:30am appointment. The gate, pictured above, looked as I expected it.

We met with the area director, the national sponsorship coordinator, an administrative assistant and some volunteers. We were treated very well, it was an honor being there. We introduced ourselves and then the director gave a short presentation on the villages in Hungary, the number of children they care for and the issues they face. They receive one-third of their support from the state, who designates the children who require supervision and care. One-third comes from Hungarian individuals and companies, and the last third from the international charity, although that is being phased out and will vanish by 2020.

We toured the community room.

We then got to tour a few of the homes, where usually 6 children are cared for by an SOS Mother. We got to meet one and talk to her about the children she cares for. DSC_0498

Imagine cooking and cleaning and doing laundry for that many children? I have great respect for the work they do. The homes were simple but nice, the children have the essentials.

 

We then drove to see a youth home for older children. Many have behavioral and ADHD issues. They have an aviary, as working with the birds helps these children.

The visit made quite an impression on Ellen and me. Hard work done by many to help children who desperately need it.

We went back to Kecskemét, which is a town of about 100,000 (Hungary’s 8th largest city). It’s quite beautiful.DSC_0520

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We then drove back to Budapest. Outside the city is Memento Park, where Soviet eva statues found their final resting place. REALLY fascinating to see.DSC_0548

Time for our final dinner. Muzeum Cafe, where we had drinks, appetizers, steak for me, veal for Ellen and dessert for $70. A great end to what turned out to be a wonderful trip.

And a final look out our window at the Chain Bridge and the Matthias Church.DSC_0566

If you’ve enjoyed this trip (and haven’t donated already), please consider a donation of $13.10 (or a multiple thereof) for the miles I ran in Budapest. You can donate here.


Budapest Day 4: Maximum Sightseeing

Busy, busy, busy day. I’m going to rattle them all off fast.

Started with the Great Synagogue. But it was closed for Passover. DSC_0382

Sculpture on the side, memorial to those lost. DSC_0388

We got into another synagogue down the street. Impressive interior.DSC_0391

The Swiss were helpful in saving thousands of Hungarian Jews. A sculpture depicting that help. DSC_0403

Painting on the side of the building made it difficult to forget that the Rubik’s cube came from Hungary.DSC_0407

Next stop was the Great Market Hall. It is one of the few things I remember from our trip many years ago. Colorful and fun to visit.

After lunch at the Hummus Bar, we set off towards Parliament, where we had a tour at 3pm. Along the way, we saw this recent memorial to Hungarian victims of WWII. But it is thought to blame Germany and wash over Hungary’s own atrocities. So people have added to create their own memorial.

Who is the patron saint of defeating communism? Ronald Reagan, of course!DSC_0436

Parliament building was amazing. Said to be third largest in the world. The outside is impressive.DSC_0441

The inside, even more so! Loved that when they used to be allowed to smoke inside, they had numbered cigar holders so they could go inside to the chambers and then come back to find their cigar.

We then took a tram and subway up to the Szechenyi Bath, the largest and most popular of the Budapest baths. It had a huge outdoor pool that we loved, and several baths and saunas inside.IMG_2478

Dinner we found walking back down Andrassy Street, Klassz. Ellen had perch, I had a lamb shank, figuring that was appropriate for the start of Passover, which I officially start tomorrow, keeping to Eastern Time.IMG_2479

Tomorrow we visit the SOS Children’s Village in Kecskemét.


Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.

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There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473