Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Valparaiso, the hilly wonderland of colourful houses and heartattacks

Wow, I think my blood pressure has risen significantly in the past hour of sitting in an Internet Cafe. Uploading photos and updating a blog seems fairly easy, apart from the internet is crawling as slow as a snail, there are sporadic power cuts and then google decides that you might be a hacker and cuts you out of all of your accounts, leaving you no way to get back into them again. Welcome to Bolivia! I'll talk more about that later, but first I want to share one of my favourite places we visited in Chile, Valparaiso.

Valparaiso is a ramshackle seaside town on the West coast of Chile which is incredibly hard not to love. We arrived in the afternoon, and as soon as we hopped on the micro bus we had lots of people trying to help us with directions. It felt rude to tell them we already knew where we were going, so we sat and nodded politely.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
One thing we didn't know is quite how hilly Valparaiso is. It was a bit of a rude awakening, trying to lug our big bags up to the top of the hill to reach our hostal, Luna Sonrisa. We took this hostel as it was voted the number one in Lonely Planet. Many of the hostels are dotted around the hillside, so be prepared to arrive feeling a little breathless. The first night we took a double room with a lovely view of the toy town. The breakfast was really tasty, bread, jam, melon and goats cheese and tea. It's always important to have a good cup of tea in the morning!
Valparaiso
We started our time in Valparaiso ambling across Calle Alemania. A road that runs along the top of all of the hills and is nice and flat. There is lots of street art to appreciate on the walk, and lots of points where you can look out to sea. We eventually arrived at Pablo Neruda's house. Neruda is a Chilean poet who died in the 70s and is incredibly popular here. Taking a walk around his beautiful house, it was hard not to like him. He had a house of 5 floors, all looking out to the ocean. Decorated in flamboyant nic nacs that reminded you that the poet had a childish sense of humour. The more we read about his life, the more we wanted to find out, I desperately want to get my hands on his memos.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Reluctantly leaving his house, we headed into town to grab some dinner and have an earlyish night back in the hostel. We ended up sitting and chatting to some of the other guests until we were sent to bed.

The next day we were incredibly busy bees. We walked down to the port and took a boat ride around the port, while I tried to practise my Spanish listening skills by listening to the guide. The high point had to be seeing the big fat seals sunning themselves on the anchors of the huge boats that were floating in the port.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
After our little ride, we decided to take the Tours4Tips tour. This was the same company as the one we used in Santiago, but we loved it so much that we decided to try out the Valparaiso one.

The tour guide was lovely, Nadja and Philip from our hostel were also in the group. My favourite tale of the tour was about the huge, grand mansions that lined the grubby high street of Valparaiso. Hundreds of years ago, this was a magnificently rich port as people would use it as a stop off on the way to California to join in the gold rush. The huge houses that are there today used to be the home to just one family, now they are run down apartments that house hundreds. Unfortunately for Valparaiso, the Panama Canal was opened, so sailors could cut straight through the continent, instead of going around, and Valparaiso was forgotten by the rich European families. Nowadays, Valparaiso is a UNESCO sight, trying to save the grandeur of the buildings, but it also means that they fall into disrepair, as it costs too much to improve them. The most dramatic sign of this change was a huge, half built building. Back in the early 1900s an Italian had big plans for a hotel, but the canal was opened and, like many others he forgot his grand dreams and left the city, and his hotel in disrepair. Today, his grand daughter who is a little old lady lives alone in this huge, leaky building that never fulfilled its true purpose. She came out to wave as the tour walked past.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
After seeing the town, we took the old, rickety ascensor into the hills, ate delicious alfajores and drank pisco sours. Again, Tours4Tips made the tour really interesting.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
Afterwards, we went for a drink and some food with a couple from our hostel. We decided to try out the famous Chilean dish, Chorrillana. This is a heartattack on a plate. Piled high with chips, fried onion, fried egg, sausage and beef. We all dug in, and despite our hearts crying out, we all had to admit that we liked it!
Valparaiso
Next day, feeling like we should take it easy, we took the bus to Viña Del Mar, just down the road. We lazed on the beach and I tried my first Supremo. This is a hotdog topped with cheese, tomato and avocado. Nick's football team, Manchester United were playing so we found a spot to watch it and were joined by our friends from the hostel. Afterwards, feeling a little peckish, we followed our noses to a spot that was offering Chorillana. My poor arteries groan even at the memory of this. It was twice as big as the night before, but half as tasty!
Viña Del Mar
Supremo
Our last day in Valaparaiso, Nick and I spent sometime in the culture centre which is the old prison, got lost amongst the hundreds of tiny avenues, and were watched by lots of skeptical dogs and cats from the shade.
Valparaiso
Valparaiso
There was something about the hills and the tiny colourful houses forgotten and falling into disrepair that made this place totally unforgettable for me.


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