We started our last day in Santiago with a buffet breakfast at the hotel just before 8:00am. After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and got ready for our 8:30 departure. Our bags were loaded into the luggage compartment of the coach since we would be dropped off at the cruise port at the end of our day.
We would be spending most of today in the coastal part of Valparaiso Region, but before heading out of the city, we did a quick panoramic tour of downtown Santiago. The downtown comprises of beautiful Colonial architecture, with magnificent detailed porticos on many of the older buildings. Sadly, the political protests that had occurred over the past few months did not exclude these historic structures as many of them were covered in graffiti. Because some of the traffic lights had also been destroyed, there were volunteers at several of the intersections who were directing traffic.
We finally made our way out of Santiago and headed Northwest towards the coastal port of Valparaiso approximately 130 kms away. There are two key agricultural valleys on the route between Santiago and Valparaiso. One consists of avocado plantations, apple orchards, peach orchards and walnut plantations. The other, Casablanca Valley, is considered the “Napa Valley” of Chile, as vineyards border the highway on both sides for many miles.
We arrived in the port city of Valparaiso at 11:00am under mostly overcast skies. We drove through the town on the narrow winding road that follows the coast. Valparaiso was once considered the “Jewel of the Pacific” because of its importance as a major sea port. Prior to the building of the Panama Canal this port was the main stopover for ships crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Straights of Magellan. Because of its historic quarter and colourful buildings stacked along the cliffsides, it has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are no major job-producing industries in Valparaiso other than the port and the naval base, so tourism has come to play a major role in the city’s economy.
As the coach wound its way up the steep hillside towards the crest of the town we marveled at the narrow houses stacked all along the hillside, many protruding over the cliffs and supported on one side by stilts. The coach stopped at the top of the hill and we disembarked to take in the brilliantly painted houses and myriad murals that decorate the streets. We walked back down the hill towards the centre of town snaking back and forth through narrow streets and alleyways.
Partway down the hill we stopped at a small cafe to have a light lunch and then took an ancient funicular the rest of the way to the main square at the port. We spent some time wandering through the market inside the square that was filled with vendors and artisans selling handmade crafts, fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of other sundry goods.
Finally, we reboarded our coach and headed out of Valparaiso, passing by its prosperous sister town, Vina del Mar. While Valparaiso is a historical city with no sustained industry other than the port, Vina del Mar boasts an oil refinery and casino and is resplendent with beautiful gardens, beaches and high-rise apartments. Despite the close proximity between the twin cities, they do not share resources, so they are economically divided.
Leaving Valparaiso and Vina del Mar behind, we headed back to the Casablanca Valley where we stopped in to visit Casona Veramonte, one of the many wineries in the area. Being on the main highway between Santiago and Valparaiso, this was a more commercialized winery than the one we had been to in San Estoben. There were quite a few tour buses that had stopped here when we arrived and the expansive wine store sold a plethora of non-wine items and souvenirs. Nonetheless we sample some Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon before we reboarded the coach and drove the 45 minutes on our final leg to the port of San Antonio and our awaiting cruise ship.
We boarded the Celebrity Eclipse around 4:00pm and enjoyed a welcome champagne in the Martini Bar before heading to our cabin on the 8th deck. We just managed to drop off our carry-on bags before we were summoned to the Muster Station in the Murano Restaurant for the standard briefing on safety procedures. We then went back to our stateroom to unpack our suitcases then proceeded to the dining room for our 6:30 seating. Kim ordered prime beef and I had the Celebrity Spaghetti Bolognese. After dinner and an exhausting day we made ourselves comfortable on the balcony of our stateroom and enjoyed a glass of wine under the Chilean skies.
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