Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Valparaíso: My Favorite City So Far

Hey all! I'm super excited to tell you all about what I did in what is so far my favorite place that I've visited --- Valparaíso! Due to requests for a larger font, this post appears quite a bit longer than it is, plus pictures. Read on if you dare!
In the kitchen of our hostel

We took a bus from Santiago to the city on Wednesday and arrived in Valparaíso (val-par-eye-EEE-so --- Valpo for short) late afternoon. After making our way to where we were staying, La Nona Bed and Breakfast, we met the owner, René. He was absolutely awesome, honestly one of my favorite people that I've met in Chile. He spoke English fluently, and was extremely helpful with anything and everything that we needed during our stay. 
First view of the city!

After René gave us a thorough explanation of the city, including a bunch of recommendations and insider information, we decided to explore, mainly so that we could find food. We went to Fauna, a fantastic restaurant on Cerro Alegre (or "Happy Hill"), and afterwards we took some  pictures and explored a couple of the little shops on our road --- a pretty relaxing evening. Based on René's advice and our personal interests, we planned what we wanted to see and do during our time in the city.

With "Wally" (Lukas) in what once
was the house of one of the richest men
in Valparaíso during the Gold Rush era
The next morning we got up bright and early to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Valparaíso. The "Wally Tour," as it's called, was completely in English and our guide, who was dressed like Waldo from "Where's Waldo?" taught us a lot about the history of this beautiful city while showing us places a tourist would rarely think to go, such asone of the houses from Valpo's hey-day back during the Gold Rush, the Stock Exchange building, and an artisan shop run by members of Chile's largest native people, the Mapuches. Afterwards, we got lunch in a little restaurant with the rest of the people from our tour group, which, besides the four of us, consisted of two French guys and two British girls traveling through South America. 
One of the streets on our tour; I love the colors!

After eating, we all trekked together up one of the steepest and longest staircases that I've ever faced to explore Valparaíso's Museo de Cielo Abierto, which is an area filled with murals. This wasn't quite as exciting as we'd hoped, however, and we continued up the hill to Pablo Neruda's Valparaíso home. The French and British members of our group wanted to explore more of the city, so we parted ways and my group went into Neruda's house, La Sebastiana.

La Sebastiana
This house had even more of a maritime feel than La Chascona in Santiago; the house is even shaped like a boat, and all of the spaces were tight and narrow to mimic those of a ship. As in La Chascona, the eccentric writer's tastes and quirky sense of humor shine through, from the old carousel horse in the living room to the bathroom door filled with intricate holes, inviting only the most daring to use its porcelain potty. 
This is what Neruda would see from his living room
Neruda had a special love for Valpo and wrote a lot about it (English version). He spent a lot of time in this particular house in front of its bay windows writing from one of his favorite armchairs; I thought it was really neat that there are still green ink spots on the footstool of the writer. I can see why Neruda picked the location --- the view of Valparaíso from La Sebastiana's windows is incredible. Once again, we couldn't take pictures indoors, so here is a link to an image gallery from inside the house.

Graffiti of one artist's interpretation of Valparaíso
We ended our day's adventures by meandering through the streets of Valparaíso admiring the colors, artwork, and graffiti for which the city is famous. Our tour guide had explained to us that many people welcome, encourage, and sometimes pay for the graffiti because it helps to prevent "taggers," or those people who spray paint their names and/or messages wherever they can reach, from putting their ugly writing all over --- when there's an interesting or pretty picture on a wall, it's less likely that the taggers will mess with that area. 
We even saw an artist at work!

Some of the artwork was very beautiful, detailed, and intricate, and made me wish that I had even a touch of artistic ability; others... not so much. But all of the graffiti, good and bad, added to the bold flavor and personality of this city that I loved so much.
My favorite graffiti that we encountered on our excursions

On Friday we started our day by visiting one of Valparaíso's three cemeteries. We visited one of the Catholic cemeteries that overlooks the ocean, El Cementerio Playa Ancha, We were accompanied by one of the security guards, who told us about the history of the burial grounds, how the plot process works, and a couple of the urban legends related to the cemetery. For example, supposedly there's a ghost attached to the cemetery. Émile Dubois is supposedly the Chilean version of Robin Hood, and after he was murdered it is said that his ghost took up residence in the cemetery and can be seen on occasion. His spirit has almost reached saint status, and there's even a portion of the cemetery with a "grave" for Dubois (his body was never recovered) and people pray to him, ask for favors, and thank him for "taking care" of them by leaving gifts at the gravesite. 
The story behind this tomb is that the man made a pact with the devil to be successful in his life, and that when he died if he touched the earth, he would go to Hell. So, he found a loophole --- he had his coffin put on lion's feet above the earth.

Me, Hayley, Jen, Jackie, and Sarinah on our boat tour
After our excursion to the cemetery, we did a little bit of shopping, had lunch, and went for an ice cream dessert in the center of town. There we met up with Sarinah, an Australian girl our age who works at La Nona, and she wandered the city with us. We took a boat tour in Valparaíso's bay and got to see what that sailors entering the harbor for the first time saw: hillsides covered with bright, colorful houses and rows of boats anchored just off the shore. It was so pretty, and I only wished that it had been sunnier so that the colors would have been even more vivid and vibrant. After, we went to the city's food market, which was much bigger than any I'd seen before (sooooo many fresh fruits and veggies!), then returned to La Nona to make homemade pisco sours --- still my favorite drink that I've discovered in Chile.
Our group pre-ride!

Saturday was quite the adventure for me. We had been hoping to do a horseback ride along the beach during the full moon of that night with René and his friend who does horse excursions, but there weren't enough people signed up for the evening ride; instead, we went for a half-day ride starting in the morning. We were joined by about 25 other American and German students studying in Viña del Mar, the sister city of Valparaíso, so our group was quite large. 

I had been quite nervous about the ride because I hadn't ridden in probably over a decade (thankfully, my horse was extremely calm and patient with novice-rider me), but I'm so glad that we went. The ride was beautiful as we went up and down sand dunes and along the beach. Viña and Valpo looked just as gorgeous from far away as they were up close, and I will never forget the experience. I'd really like to go back and do it again someday --- after I've gotten better at riding, of course.
The city from afar

Cooking the meat
In the mid-afternoon after the ride, we stayed at the ranch for a traditional asado, or backyard barbecue. We started off with choripán, which is a type of sausage on freshly-toasted buns and is the staple appetizer for every asado that I've attended... nomnomnom, one of my favorites. We also had thin-cut steak, lettuce and tomato salad, rice, shredded carrots and beets, a Chilean version of potato salad, and, of course, Chilean wine and pisco sour. 
With René during the asado

We ate until we were stuffed, and while we digested we just took in the atmosphere. I'd never been to the Chilean campo, or countryside, before, and I really enjoyed seeing how the lifestyle was different there than in Chilean cities: chickens running underfoot, cats and dogs begging for scraps, grill smoke filling the air, and children practicing shooting guns with their grandpa --- in other words, not quite what you'd see in an urban area. After the asado, we headed back to Valpo to rest, make last-minute purchases, and prepare for our journey back to Chillán.
Catching horses with lassos

I really really REALLY liked Valparaíso: the colors, the artwork, the ocean, the Bohemian culture that is so unlike the Chilean culture that I've seen, everything. I'd love to go back just to explore some more, even though there's nothing specific that I want to see... I guess I'll just have to see what the future holds. From what I have seen, however, I feel like this is one city that I could spend quite a bit of time in --- maybe even live in it :O Again, I'll have to see what the future holds and what God has in store for me!

Thanks for reading! I hope that you enjoyed! Until my next adventure...



"Welcome aboard!"

Such colorful houses

I love this picture for its colors

The artists are super creative in Valpo

La Armada de Chile is situated in Valparaíso

Little Red Riding Hood!

Fun Fact: The houses are all painted different colors because
when boats would come into Valpo, they would need to be
repainted, and the leftover paint was used to cover the
houses to protect them from the elements. No two houses
have the same color scheme... Cool, huh?


So detailed

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