Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Valparaiso – gritty and artsy

This post is a little late. We went to Valparaiso on Sunday, December 16, so mentally go back in time before you read this :) This is when my parents were still visiting.

Valparaiso is a port city with a lot of history, located just under two hours away from Santiago. Back in the days of Spanish explorers and conquerors, Valparaiso was a crucial port located mid-way up the west coast of South America. Before the Panama Canal was built, ships that wanted to reach the west coast of North America needed to go around the long way, through the Straights of Magellan in southern Argentina. Valparaiso was the first major port that a ship would encounter when it started heading north.

As you might expect for a port city, it is a little on the dirty and seedy side. However, it has a lot of history (it is a designated World Heritage Site) and also has become a very artsy and bohemian city in recent times.
Our first stop was a hill called Cerro Polanco. It was a very poor and run-down neighborhood, but it had recently been the site of an international street art festival, where graffiti artists from all over came to paint the buildings. Caroline and I had actually been in Valparaiso on the first day of this festival, so we had seen the paintings in their very early stages. It was super cool to come back and see the finished results. There were so many beautiful and original paintings; here are photos of a few.


There were many more. I highly recommend checking out Cerro Polanco if you come to Valparaiso (and it’s free, too!).

Once we finished there, we walked through a very rough-around-the-edges flea market, and then caught a bus across the city to the famous Cerro Concepcion. This is the part of Valparaiso that is a world heritage site, and the hill is filled with twisting streets and passageways, where just around every corner you might find a hidden gallery, a beautiful old building, or a stunning view down to the port.

Caroline and I had made reservations at a restaurant that was supposed to have a great view. It didn’t disappoint!
The food was pretty excellent too. I would definitely recommend the place (the restaurant in the Fauna hotel). After this, we thought our day was pretty much over, but we found one more little surprise. Cerro Concepcion has about a dozen elevators and cable cars, and they all look and run like antiques. You pay the operator 100 pesos (about $0.25), and ride up or down the hill in a contraption that looks straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. In the small photos below, you can see the winch, the view looking down from the top, and then the view back up once we reached the bottom…since yes, we did reach the bottom safely :)
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With a great day behind us, we caught a bus back to Santiago. We have so many more adventures to share, so look for upcoming posts. However, we are super lucky to have wonderful friends coming to visit us tomorrow, so we probably won’t be doing a lot of blogging this next week. Hopefully we can catch up in January!

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