11 July 2011

Valparaiso....paradise in color

This blog post is well overdue, but better late than never.... Saturday a week ago I went with another student from ECELA to Valparaiso, or Valpo as it's known for sure. The other student was Ken, a 23 year old from a southern state in the USA. He had previously had big rings in his earlobes, currently letting them heal (with reparative surgery planned), a chain smoker, a bit overweight - the hills in Valpo were a bit more of a challenge for him than for me ... But overall a nice kid and an enjoyable day.

The visit began in Viña at Castillo Wulff. Inside was an exhibit of plants and tables from the Viña del Mar garden club. I soon discovered that Ken knew a lot about plants (I must admit surprise here). The things these ladies did with plants were amazing - living, breathing decorations. I want plants like that! The cool part about the Castillo was the glass floor that you could look through and see the ocean crashing on the rocks below.

After this, we walked to the Reloj de Flores - the flower clock. I don't have much to say other than this clock is featured on most Viña postcards.

Then onto Valpo. In Chile, there are many forms of transportation for the traveling public. One of which is a Migro - which is a small bus that appears to be about 30+ years. The Migros are great - the drivers are fast, perhaps a bit reckless and they get you just about everywhere you want to go. The journey from Viña to Valpo costs 350 - 400 Chilean Pesos (400 if you are levied a "gringo tax") which is just under a dollar.

We took a Migro into Valpo and set off on foot to find the acensor (funicular) to Cerro Bellavista. A Cerro is a hill and most of the neighborhoods (barrios) in Valpo are in the cerros. Bellavista is famous for the open air museum and Pablo Neruda's house. The open air museum consists of a series of streets with amazing graffiti. The pictures are bright and vivid and the houses match with their bright colors as well. As the funicular was closed, we climbed about 100 stairs up to the Cerro and explored the streets admiring the artwork, heading further and further upwards to Pablo Neruda's house. Neruda had three homes in Chile - one in Santiago, another in Valpo and the last one in Isla Negra. Looking out (and down) from the top of the Cerro, it was clear as to why he built one here. The view was amazing. The house was said by some to look like a ship, but only by a real stretch of the imagination.

A this point we headed back downhill to town.... And off to our next destination (with a quick lunch break) - the double Cerro experience: Cerro Conception and Cerro Alegre. We took the short Funicular up. This pair of Cerros was by far my favorite. First of all we met a friendly ice cream vendor who gave us a bunch of samples and advice on what to see. Secondly the houses looked like they were straight out of the 1920's. I loved their charm. There was a church that looked like it would have been interesting, but it was closed for reconstruction. The only negative of this area was when I got trapped in a small gateway while two street dogs fought each other inches from me.

The final Cerro we visited was Artilleria. It was not the one we wanted - well Ken wanted to go to the longest funicular, but we couldn't get there the way we wanted, so we thought if we went up the other Cerro, we'd be able to cut across. The stairs up were colorful, painted with many messages and designs. Up top we saw the longest funicular that Ken wanted to ride. It was closed. So we rode the funicular of Artilleria down. It was a fairly long funicular as well. Like the stairs it was decorated.

To conclude our day we wanted to go eat at the fish market restaurants, but they were closed, so we went back to Viña and had bad Tex-Mex.

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Location:Valparaiso, Chile

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