Viña del Mar (population 290,000) is a ten minute train ride from the port city of Valparaiso, Chile. Clean and orderly with horse drawn buggies and restaurants lining manicured boulevards, Viña del Mar is definitely my kind of place. After having been in the dry hot climate of Santiago for almost two months, the salty sea breeze felt fantastically refreshing.
Ryan, Justin and I spent most of the day walking along the beach. The water was surprisingly cold on our feet and the beaches were not crowded in the morning. We slipped into a restaurant about a block off the beach and tried some very good shrimp and crab risotto. Ryan ordered squid cooked in its own ink which tasted surprisingly good despite the odd purplish-black color.
After lunch we returned to the beach to find a very different picture from that morning. Children scurried along with their plastic buckets and waders braved the chilly waters as far as the eye could see. Happy groups sat socializing on towels drinking Yerba mate tea. Stray dogs basked in the sun, sinking into the cool holes they’d dug to escape the mid-afternoon heat.
It was a wonderfully relaxing day and we spent hours walking the length of the beach. When our feet had grown tired of trudging through sand, we rested on some bleachers and watched a few local volleyball matches. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. I would go back to Viña del Mar any day, just to soak up some sun and feel the salty sea breeze toss my hair.