There were a few sand sculptures by the beach, but only one caught my eye – I think because I saw some of myself in it.
Today I moved on from Santiago to Viña del Mar. I started off after a minimal breakfast and arrived by taxi at the Central Bus Station at around 9:40. I found the ticket window very quickly, and after paying 3400 pesos (US$6.70) I had a ticket in hand and went looking for the platform from which I’d be departing.
I nearly missed the 9:55 bus, however, because my ticket was stamped with the wrong platform number. Luckily, the bus I needed was caught in the parking lot and I hurried over and took my seat.
The bus was pretty nice – it was air-conditioned (the driver turned it off whenever we went uphill), had an American movie playing on it, and there was a bathroom in back, too. These perks helped compensate for the screaming kids and babies on board, though the ride only lasted 90 minutes.
Interestingly, not to mention frustratingly, the 10-minute taxi ride from Viña del Mar’s bus station to my hotel – no more than a mile in relatively heavy traffic – cost me 6000 pesos (~$12) -- nearly double the price of my 90-minute bus ride. I even watched the meter click upward twice in quick succession after the driver pressed the stop button. Nice little trick…
Since my hotel room wasn’t ready when I tried to check in at noon, I decided to walk to the beach and see what it offered. One of the first things I noticed about Viña del Mar is that carriage rides are quite popular. One can hear the clomping of horses’ hooves on the streets, and oftentimes the drivers will be stopped along the curb, feeding their horses straight from very large sacks.
When I got to the beach, I was a little disappointed. From the research I did before coming here, I had the impression that the local beaches were pretty nice. Not so. Granted, I came here from Hawaii, but there’s something about giant derricks on the beach and the sand packed with sunbathers that drives me away. I guess I’m spoiled.
Although an electronic temperature gauge I passed said it was only 68 degrees (20 C), it felt much hotter, and in any case the sun was really intense.
The first thing I noticed upon entering were all the Marilyn Monroe photos on the wall. (No, they weren’t nudes.) In both dining rooms, on every single wall, hung framed photos of her. For a long time I tried to figure out why, and when I stopped a waiter passing by and asked him, he told me that the chef and owner was obsessed with her. He said the kitchen had even more photos of her, and he had other stories about him that I couldn’t understand, unfortunately.
Once I had the Marilyn Monroe puzzle more or less solved, I ordered one of the house specialties: paella. Although the presentation was rather sloppy, and the portion wasn’t large, it was excellent. I loved the bit of sausage mixed in, and the meaty, giant crab claw was a bonus. I’ve had paella before that’s been quite greasy, but this wasn’t bad at all. And for 7600 pesos (~$15), I figured it was a fair deal.
Afterward I came across a dessert shop on San Martin Avenue. All the seats inside were full, and the only seats outside were in the sun. Even so, I figured I’d brave the heat and sun and order something sweet to top off my paella. However, after sitting there for more than 10 minutes without any of the four waiters coming by to give me a menu, I got up and decided I didn’t need dessert after all.
Instead, I decided to cross the bridge over the Marga Marga estuary and climb the hill toward Castillo Wulff.