Valparaiso is the most turisty town I've ever encountered (filled with Chilean turists, but still). The sidewalks are crammed with street sellers, food stands, performers of all sorts. Commercialism is rampant: the parks are filled with holidayers, but also with rides and cotton candy. The historic area is small, and overgrown with street vendors. It's exciting in a way, but I'm happy to leave. Valparaiso's one redeeming aspect is its hills, which stretch so erratically that the sidewalks need elevators when stairs don't cut it. I visited Pablo Neruda's house-- ah, to be a poet.
I *love* public transit in not-the-US. The Santiago Metro comes about every minute, and there are buses everywhere all the time. I took el cheapo bus from Santiago to Valparaiso-- it was half the price of the Fung Wa (for half the distance, but still), twice the comfort of Greyhound, and it left every 20 minutes.
Hmm, I wrote that before taking an overnight bus down to Puerto Montt, which wasn't much fun. The guy next to me kept singing to his mp3 player; there was a toddler and his even-louder parents right behind me; and after showing a movie (an English made-for-TV adaptation of Paolini's Inheritance cycle), they left it on the DVD's skipping intro music screen until after I fell asleep. So it goes.
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Puerto Montt." Is that how the saying goes? It's not actually that cold here, but you'd never know it by the way the Chileans are bundled up. Puerto Montt is a charming and bustling seaside town in southern Chile that forms the gateway to Patagonia, a place so beautiful I don't have time to see it, and sits on the southern edge of the Chile Lake District, a region so beautiful I slept through most of it. But with any luck, I'll be spending the next couple days enjoy some pockets of beauty before busing across the Andes into Argentina. I just heard that from my first couchsurf-host (couchsurfee?), and I'll be staying on a farm in Neuquén. Wee!