Valparoisa is 115km NW of Santiago and said to be Chile's most captivating. During the 19th century, Valpara√so ranked as a port town of such wealth that few others in the world could compare, but in the years following the completion of the Panama Canal, Valpara√so sunk into poverty. Today, especially on hills such as Cerro Concepci√≥n and Cerro Alegre, the city's rundown buildings are being rebuilt.
The historical importance of this city - a reason why UNESCO designated Valpara√so a World Heritage Site in 2002. Much like San Francisco, the city is made of a flat downtown surrounded by steep hills. The jumble of multicolored clapboard homes and weathered Victorian mansions that cling to sheer cliffs and other unusual spaces and you could spend days exploring the maze of narrow passageways and winding streets that snake down ravines and around hillsides.
OK - .... the bus trip there was lovely with viws of pretty wineries all along the road. I rang Alberto the hostel owner from the bus as he was picking us up at the teminal which was just as well as the city spreads over 3 steep hills with all the buildings filling the hills with no plan and often alleys and steps but no roads seperating the properties.
The Alecon hostel is in a great position on the top of Cerro Alegre and 2 minutes from one of the 100plus year old funculars. - we would never have found the place ourselves.
Its a small hostel with only 4 rooms and we were the only ones staying thre. Alberto is a spanish Valapraisian and a very ¬®proud¬®one... sigh... because this resulted in him sitting us down on our arrival and giving us a walking trail to follow with an explanation of every nook and cranny along the way with history and antedotes thrown in.... which was great until at last we escaped from him more than an hour in only to find it took us less than half this time to cover his route!
Its an absolutely beautiful town with all its multicoloured buildings, cobled laneways and steps going straight downwards disappearing around corners into alleys and the steps down again... and when you look up there is wonderful views over the port below.
Add to this over various spots across the hills all the lovely funiculars that are all so different, big small, steep, short long, with most built in th early 1800¬īs Each ride cost about 25 cents to take you up or down different parts of the hills... a really pretty and unique place.
As per Alberto's instructions we ended down near the prot where where he hd recommended a supposedly great seafood restaurant. Found it and there standing outside hawking for passerbyers to enter for lunch was a fantastic looking old guy with curly black dyed hair and wearing a white suit and shoes - looking just like a gangster out of a 40's movie! hee
While we were eating the "mobster guy" came in and tuned on the kareoke machine and proceeed to sing at each table. Of course he sang me and Rob a love song....???
and then he spoilt the moment?? by proceeding to give each table an envelope for us to place a tip in! ha
We spent the afternoon taking the funiculars up and down the hills and for dinner we went to the terrace at the Brighton Hotel which is a beautiful little pink hotel that hangs off the side of a cliff.
Dinner at a place like this in Australia would have cost a bomb but was peanuts here (about $20 for 2 including drinks).
Next morning we woke to rain! Guess we'd be lucky again yesterday being able to wander Valparaiso in the beautiful sunshine and experience as it should be experienced.. so no big loss having a bit of rain for our second day. We'd left our coats in Santiago as we'd brought only an overnight bag with the essentials but I wals almost happy that after 4 tips of carrying our $1 emergency "plastic bag" ponchos it had at last paid off!
We caught a collective which is an unregistered taxi that works like a
bus. They have numbers with specific routes on their roofs and when they are filled they leave and instad of $2 for the ride its 20cents. Thanks to Alberto we knew what number collective we needed to go to Sebastiano (the biggest problem as a tourist to use collectives..we cant tell which is the "right" one)
anyway... Sebastiano is the name of the Valparaiso house which also belonged to Pablo Neruda (the one we visited in Santiago was where he's lover lived and where he secretly visited) - this Valparaiso was his home where he lived but still only his 2nd home -
He's main house that he loved was Isla Negra in Chile's Central zone only a few hours further down the coast from Valparaiso. Sebastiano was interesting but not amaing like the first one - but the views over the port were wonderful... He truly was an fascinating person.. yep reminder to self to buy his autobiography...
We wandered downwards thru the hills knowing that all tracks/steps wil eventually hit the port at the bottom. On reaching the bottom and the main area, we asked a young girl for the collectives number to get to the central market and how much - sono probs and another 20cents well spent.
We wanted to checkout the market as it was designed by Eiffel of Eifeel tower fame (didnt quite live up to that standard though....!!!).
We made our way up to the first floor "food court" for lunch but realised we only had $6 in pesos on us..duh! .. so no seafood... everywhere so far in chile (except markets) takes credit card.. even for icecreams..so we'd got slack with carrying cash.. not what we expected in South America!
Back to the bus stop and the trip back to Santiago and "home" to Villa Franca Hotel and dinner of course at "our" Liguria Bar. All the waiters welcomed as long lost relatives and shook Robs hand when we walked in.. let's see if they remember us in 4 weeks when we return on our home leg...ha
In Chile restaurants each table has one chair with a clip to connect your handbag to due to the high theft rate, but this didnt help the poor "local as in not a dumb tourist" women who was having a party with friends only 2 feet from our table. She answered her mobile phone and when she went to replace it in her handbag..gone.. and us like her didnt even see anyone walk past her let alone steal the bag.. she was very distressed but it seems to be pretty common.
Last morning in Santigo we cught the metro into Cerro Santa Lucia which is a small hill right in the heart of the city that is adorned with wonderful facades, fountains and stairways and even has a 'castle' on it. (Cerro is Spanish for Hill) It was at the foot of this hill that Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago on February 12th, 1541. The hill was terraced out years ago for a park using prison labour to make the terraces... a really beautiful spot.
Then we hit the craft market directly across the road to check the prices for when we return at the end of our hols and then it's airport time and we're off to Lima - Peru!
Following blurb Ive cut and pasted from the guide so I can remember in the future... sorry... skip over if not interested.