Valparaiso was Ewelina's turn to find a hotel, so I just sat at a bar with a beer and a laptop after a short taxi-ride from the bus terminal to a nicer neighborhood.
She found us a place very quickly, almost too quickly... I suspected she might have just chosen the first place that had room, because she didn't feel like walking. She doesn't really like looking for accomodation.
But it turned out to be a very nice place: La Bicicleta, a B&B run by a funny frenchman, his little boy and (we presume) his wife. We had a comfy, spacious room to ourselves and breakfast every morning out in their sunny front yard. Usually the boy was out playing as we ate - as far as we could tell, water balloons were his favorite thing in the whole world, with his dad coming in at a close second. It was all very charming.
And that was how we felt about the rest of Valparaiso too: charmed. It is a city of crazy hills, a beach with amazing waves, a harbour full of navy vessels and houses built in funny shapes or covered with colorful graffiti. We had lots of fun just walking around with our camera, as we always do, but we also enjoyed a random marionette museum, a clown show later at the same venue and a day of just sitting on the beach watching the waves and reading.
One of the main attractions of Valparaiso is the ascensores, 100-plus year old elevators that shake and rattle as they carry you up or down the steep cliffs that surround the city center. We rode a few, one of which - the city's oldest - was well over a century old and originally powered by a steam engine. Great fun, and like everything else here, really charming.
We liked Valparaiso a lot.
The only negative thing about our stay here, was me freaking out a bit about money. The prices in Argentina and now Chile, combined with our habits from further North, meant we were at this point constantly over the budget set by our almighty Spreadsheet. This meant we both had no money to spare for tours or activities, and would probably also run out of cash before getting back to "the real world". Eeek!
We talked about it, and decided to revise our expectations a bit. Restaurants (except for lunch specials) could no longer be an everyday thing, private bathrooms and wifi were now a luxury, not a goal. We decided to start carrying less cash, so daily goals would feel more like actual limits.
... and so I stopped freaking out, and we got back to enjoying our trip.
As this is written, a couple of weeks later, I can spare you the suspense and report that we are back on budget and perfectly happy.
It turns out the standard of living in Chile is so much higher than it was further North, that these changes aren't really much of a sacrifice. Budget accomodation here is much, much nicer than the "bargains" we had learned to avoid elsewhere. And the same can be said of the food and drink. Finally, to our surprise, Chile actually feels a bit cheaper than Argentina did.
This is probably good practice for real life too - we know we won't be able to go out to eat every single day when we get back home...