Category Archives: observations

Watch your step … really

Take a look at the sidewalks. See the drop from the sidewalk into the street? If you stood in the extremely super narrow street, the sidewalk would come up to your shins, depending on how tall you are.

The city planners were actually quite thoughtful for pedestrians (or donkey owners).

Fun fact: The donkeys would walk in the street … and the human would walk alongside their donkey on the elevated sidewalk as to avoid stepping in the donkey’s poop.

narrow streetnarrow street 2

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More: Walking tour of Valparaiso

Once you are up in the hills, Valparaiso changes from a gray port area into a very, very colorful city. There is street art almost everywhere you look. Graffiti artists would use anything as their canvas, like this:

street art2

But if you didn’t want your home to look like the above, you would give permission to an artist to use your home as a canvas. And then you might get something like this:

street art1

Or maybe something like this:

art4

Our guide told us that a theory on why every home was a different color was to help sailors returning home, find their own home.

Perhaps you prefer pastels?

art6

Or bright orange? art2

Nothing was off-limits, not even the stairs:

art3

And two of my favorite finds … (piano) stairs and (bubble) windows …

art5art


What goes up must come down

Valparaiso offers great exercise options — walking up and down the hills of the city.

There are plenty of trams transporting passengers up and down the hills.

From a construction standpoint, they are pretty incredible to look at. These photos don’t do them justice but they were built into the mountain so it’s a pretty steep ride up to the top.

Bonus: enjoying the views from the trams because you don’t need to pay close attention to walking … on steep streets with a lot of loose steps and stones.


Can You Spot the Problem?

no helmets

I pointed out already safety things that are not in place.

Perhaps it’s the pier with no guardrails in Uruguay, or the fact that this family is split on two motos and their children are not buckled up and also not wearing helmets.

Is the US too safety focused or are other places not enough? Here, with children wearing no helmets, I’m going with the former. Especially, once the light changed, they took off like lightning.

Thoughts? Would love to hear.


Heads Up! Oh, Yes, Another One.

I was walking on the sidewalk, minding my own business when I stepped into the street and saw what looked like a head. Yes, another head.

a head

I did a double take because I couldn’t believe it. I looked around and saw a carnicero (butcher) nearby. I had to assume it rolled away from the garbage?

another view

Another head.

I had to take the photos myself this time. I was totally grossed out but had to document it. Two countries and two heads.


First Comes Shopping then Comes Sightseeing

The streets cleared out. So I took a different route back to the hotel and this is what I saw along the way.

Not sure what this was but I loved the stone work and the rounded wood doors.

beautiful stone building

This entire stand was selling fake flowers. They looked so real even standing next to them.

these were fake flowers

I popped into a mall — this didn’t have the same closing time as the center of town but I wasn’t in a shopping mood. It was a huge mall, and just like the one in Uruguay, advertising was everywhere!

mall

No visit is complete without a stop at the local supermarket. I love browsing and seeing the brands and the logos I am familiar with, with their local name. I also like seeing the popular products and you can learn a lot about a country’s cultures and likes from browsing the markets.

Here, there was quite the selection of boxed wine, and Cepita, the South American equivalent of Minute Maid.

Note: When I was there, the exchange rate was approximately 4 Argentine Pesos to 1 US Dollar. That 6.49 you see for a box of wine is actually $1.62 USD.

wine  juice


First up, Shopping!

After I dropped my bags and decided what could use a visit at the laundromat, I stopped at the front desk and asked them about a lavanderia (laundromat) since I wasn’t about to pay hotel prices. They offered to take my things there. I told them I was happy to take the walk if they told me where I needed to go. they wouldn’t hear of it and promised to return everything to me by the morning.

This timing was important since I would be leaving Cordoba the next afternoon and would need my clothes.

Sidebar: I would be heading to Mendoza. No plans were made but I figured I would have the evening to sort that out.

Now was the time to take in my amazing (and luxurious) surroundings, and then explore Cordoba.

My day would consist of shopping, sightseeing and swimming! Because the shops would close in the early afternoon and remain closed for the rest of the weekend, I decided to hold off on my pool time until after shopping and sightseeing!

First up, shopping!

I took my directions and headed to the main shopping street. It wasn’t a far walk and I knew when I had arrived. It seemed like everyone (and their mother, literally) was outside on the main shopping street.

lots of people

I had a mission. I needed to buy a nice outfit. The word nice was very flexible at this point, but I wanted to purchase a skirt that would ‘dress me up’ a little bit. Fear not, my shoes were hiking shoes, or flip-flops so fancy I was not looking for. Since it was Saturday, I had only a few hours before the shops closed for the rest of the weekend.

I knew I was looking for a vestir (dress) or falda (skirt).

I popped in and out of a few shops. I was always asked what I was looking for and I’d be shown to a rack and left alone. In one shop, the owner asked and I replied. As it had happened in other shops, she walked away and I figured that was that.

Just a few seconds later, she brought (or maybe dragged) her daughter (probably 12 or 13 years old) over and encouraged her to speak to me. At first the young girl was shy and probably didn’t understand what her mom was doing. Neither did I.

To humor the mom, and what I realized were her friends who either worked at the shop, or were hanging out, I tried to engage the girl in conversation — in Spanish. Once she realized my native language was English, she couldn’t stop talking. She seemed to want to practice her English and I was more than happy to oblige. It seemed like everyone knew everyone and I felt like we were being watched by half the store.

Knowing that I unintentionally isolated myself in a hotel instead of a hostel, I was likely to be on my own for the evening. I welcomed the conversation, and the shopping help.

After she asked what I was looking for, her first question was: Why didn’t you pack a skirt?

I then had to explain that I was backpacking. The only problem was, I didn’t know the word for backpack and she didn’t know what backpack was.

So came in, the always fun and amusing, charades. I made the motion of putting a backpack on and looking lost. She quickly got it.

There, in that shop, was the first time I heard the word that described me — mochilera. A backpacker.

I taught my new friend a new word, backpack, and she taught me my new word, mochilera.

We pulled a few things off the racks and she stood outside the dressing room — which was a curtain in the middle of the store. It seemed that business was at a standstill because they wanted us to continue our conversation. Each time I pulled the curtain, someone had an opinion. It was like being a contestant on a reality show. Since our vocabulary was limited it was either a smile and a head nod, or a shake of the head which meant no. My new teenager friend was translating for me the other side comments but I got the gist and divided the clothes into maybe or no racks.

It came down to two skirts, and we, or maybe the rest of the store, decided on a pretty purple and black skirt. I bought it and said goodbye and thank you to (essentially) half the shop. I felt like a local walking down the main street with my purchase. Though it seemed on that Saturday everyone had bags and bags of things!

As I was warned at the hotel, the shops began to shut down and roll down their gates minutes before I was warned they would. I saw the streets go from crowded to just a couple of stragglers, including me. See this picture on the left? The gates came down before I left this little outdoor mall and I had to duck through that little hole before they closed them up.

closing up empty street