Can you say PARADISE?

Never go anywhere without directions.  Never go anywhere without knowing exactly which streets to take in which order that are clearly visible on a MAP unless you don't mind getting hopelessly lost.  This is especially relevant in a foreign country where everyone speaks a foreign language.  Also, although people may be friendly and try their best to help you, they do not always know the correct directions. 
NOTE: The above is a reminder to myself after the ordeal that was my parents and I driving a rental car from Santiago to Viña del Mar, Valparaíso's neighboring city.  I will spare anyone reading this the details, but it involved a lot of useless maps, directions to make illegal turns over a freeway (nobody cares, we do it all the time!), very nearly plowing into a gate (and a woman, and a dog), and general exasperation at the inability to find the hotel.
NEVERTHELESS, it was an absolutely beautiful sunset drive and we finally made it safely to our hotel in Viña late Sunday night.
We awoke the next morning to the "Vineyard by the Sea" in all its glory, and it is breathtaking!  Glamorous Viña and its offbeat sister Valparaíso most remind me of San Francisco/Berkeley: the hilly landscape, the beautiful buildings, portside location, bohemian vibe, and extremely friendly good-natured people(so far, on the first day) make this little piece of Chile a very charming one.


We had a chance to walk around in Valpo's Arturo Prat plaza (I think that's what it's called), home to this monument commemorating the navy veteran's service to Chile.

Walking along the ocean, I got some beautiful shots of the water/city.


From today's first impression, I am so excited to spend my semester here!  My program begins tomorrow, AHH!  I am so nervous, and also still pretty ill.  Tomorrow will begin a whirlwind of new people and experience!


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