Yesterday I actually had an agenda. I was wandering with a purpose. My mission was to find someone organizing wine tours that I could hop on today. I mean, we're so close to the wine country I figured that I was bound to find someone trying to sell me a tour. Unfortunately, my search was futile. I found nothing, so instead I decided to explore more of Valpo today.
Looking at the map I considered what I wanted to see. Unfortunately, Pablo Neruda's house is closed on Mondays so that was out. There was a restaurant I read about in Bellavista that sounded promising for lunch and an acensor that was supposed to be "a must". But at the top of my list was finding a post office. I know it sounds silly to some but scoping out the nearest post office is always at the top of my list in any new country. When I arrived into Santiago it was the weekend, so the post office was closed. It was now my mission to find one here.
Why is finding a post office so important, you might ask. Well, it started with a shoebox. When I was a child I used to collect all of the postcards my parent's friends (and family) sent to them. It was teeming with images of faraway places that I wanted to visit someday. Then, when I turned 18 and joined Up With People and got to start to do my own traveling, I made it a habit of sending myself a postcard from every city we visited, no matter how big or small. I've continued that tradition on every trip since. Several years back I inherited one of my grandfather's old suitcases. That now sits in our dining room and contains all the postcards I've sent myself over the years. Occasionally I'm not so lucky and I have to settle for bringing them home in my suitcase instead of mailing them. But I try as hard as I can to mail them so they bear the postmark from where they belong. Yes, I'm a whack job and if you didn't know that already you must not know me at all.
Well, the post office on the map was no longer there. I was out of luck. But I was close to Bellavista so I headed toward the acensor to take me up the hill. When I found it, it was closed and looked like it had been for a long time. Strike Two. Okay. I guess I'm hoofing it. I swear the people who live here have got to be in the best shape ever because these hills are butt busters times ten. (Cheree, Ruthie, Michelle you know what I'm talking about!) And by the time I got to the top I forgot the name of the restaurant, but there was one that I thought might be the right one. As I approached I overheard an American voice telling a French couple that he had just dined there and had the best meal of his trip. I interrupted and asked him if it was that good. He said it was so I started to enter when he asked if he could join me and buy me a glass of wine perhaps. I could tell we were both starved for conversation so I conceded.
I'm glad I said yes. Joe and I spent the rest of the day together talking and wandering. His girlfriend was back at home and unable to come on this trip because she has two small kids and he was eager for a little company. He was at the end of his trip and spent most of it in solitude, like me, with the occasional breech by other tourists here and there. After lunch we started wandering the streets of Valpo. The street art here is amazing. Seriously, if I had more time I would do a book on it. Valpo is a colorful city to begin with, but the street art just takes it to another level.
Yesterday on the metro I spied a fish market near the water. I figured it might be closed by now, but thought it was worth checking out in case it wasn't. We winded our way through the streets, past the central market and made it to the water. I wasn't sure how far down it was so we just walked along the sea, when suddenly I saw something jumping out of the water trying to get atop an abandoned concrete dock, for lack of a better word. Then I saw something move on the dock. There were just about a ton of seals sunning themselves on the concrete and other seals were hurling themselves out of the water, attempting to join their friends.
Some of the younger seals were really struggling with the distance and were unable to make it up. But they kept trying. It was actually quite amazing to see the ones that did make it get up there. I've never seen anything like it. We must have sat there for half an hour watching nature in action. Oh, and the fish market was closed when we finally got there. The seals were cooler.
I didn't even realize how nice it is to be traveling with someone else, and more rightly, a male companion, than I did today. As a woman traveling alone there are just certain places I might like to go, and would at home, but abroad, especially in male dominated cultures like Latin America, I would never even consider going. But with a man at your side you can. I got to go to not one, but two local dive bars for a beer. It was awesome. It felt so authentic but I never would have dared step foot in them alone. Being with Joe gained me entry.
We ended the night with an amazing meal near my B&B and a nice bottle of wine. Talking about our past and future travels. It was wonderful to be able to share the day with a fellow traveler. Being older, and no longer in the hostel culture it becomes more difficult to meet other people while traveling. But traveling definitely makes me more open. There is no way in hell I would have given a stranger the time of day if I were at home. Somehow being in a foreign country demands you let your guard down. And I think that should be something we all carry everyday. Not just on the road.