It’s been an interesting first couple of weeks in Chile. After a brief trip to Santiago, we headed to Valpraíso, where most of our time in Chile has been spent.
Valpraíso is a historical city, one of the oldest in the country. And although this colorful, seaside town looks like something that would have a more resort-like feel, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Valpraíso is a living, breathing city, not some sleepy coastal town.
As such, there’s a bit more hustle and bustle around the city that you can feel – taxis, garbage trucks, tourists day tripping from Santiago to marvel at the colorful hills.
If you were to read most guide books or online pieces on Valpraíso, one of the first things you’ll probably see are warnings of danger. “Don’t carry your camera around,” “don’t wander off the main hills,” or “be careful at night.”
Never once have we felt unsafe in this city. I suspect, like most cities, don’t be a dumbass, and you’ll be fine.
I bring this up because wandering the streets and hills of Valpraíso is one of the best ways to see this city, so I wouldn’t want someone to be afraid of doing so. Each alleyway, cobblestone street, twist, and turn brings something to explore, see, and sometimes eat.
On one of our first days here, we were wandering towards a place for lunch called El Peral. It was pouring rain, an actual deluge. The type of rain that a country in chronic drought is thankful for, but one that can pose a mild inconvenience when walking to lunch.
Unfortunately, El Peral was closed, so we scurried under the restaurant’s awning, waiting out the rain and trying to find an alternative. Funnily enough, a dog who didn’t seem too fond of the rain either joined us under the awning.
A couple minutes later, the restaurant door abruptly opens. Bruno, the restaurant’s owner, steps outside looking for his dog, Lupo! After a couple laughs, he cordially invites us inside to wait out the rain.
Bruno was waiting for his bread delivery that day and doing some prep for the restaurant opening tomorrow. We talked a bit about El Peral, and almost immediately, a distinct sense of pride in his craft was evident. He tells us about the plant-based sandwiches, their specialty – smoked beetroots, mushrooms, homemade mayonnaise, ketchup, and a special vegan bread recipe his friend crafted for him.
The rain eventually subsides, but we tell Bruno we’ll be back tomorrow when they will be open. Of course, we went, and the food was as excellent as advertised. But more on the food later.
Over the next two weeks, we got to know Bruno and his partner Ignacia, a chef at El Peral. Two incredible people trying to make a difference through their passion – food and nutrition. We talked about the politics in Chile, the food culture, and how they started in the kitchen.
Ignacia and Bruno sat down for an interview and let us film in the kitchen, so there will definitely be more about them soon. But for now, just reflecting on what an incredible experience and wonderful people we were fortunate enough to meet.
We’re wrapping up our time in Valpraíso this week and heading out for a road trip up north through the Elqui Valley and then on to the Atacama Desert. Sad to say goodbye to newfound friends, but excited for the next stage of our adventure.