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Published: September 16th 2014
The group sets off, and I stay behind with relief.
12:20 p.m. I am sitting at the port as the others go on a tour of the harbour
to see the city. Although the sea is very calm, for me just seeing boats bob is enough to make me queasy.
All around me, people are whiling away time for whatever reasons. Everyone watched a two-year-old boy try to catch pigeons, which is one of the funniest sights anywhere. The sun is shining. A cool breeze puffs every few seconds. Behind the plaza is a street that Pablo warned me is very dangerous. This tourist area is a long plaza edged by a short line of craft shops with the worst souvenirs ever. On both sides of the plaza are cargo ships and on the horizon is a breakwater near what might be a military ship. The navy
is big here in Chile’s largest port. We have seen two military colleges, and the main square is dominated by the navy (armada) building and by a statue of Pratt
, the navy’s hero in the war with Peru. (Later Pablo explained that Pratt is considered a hero because he was a desk officer and he courageously attacked a Peruvian warship from a fishing boat.
Busy with commerce and affairs of state
He was shot trying to board the warship, as were his men. Many Chileans joined the navy to avenge the “courageous” leader. The experienced captain of the other fishing boat did capture the warship by luring it onto the rocks of the harbour in question. Trickery was not considered heroic.)
Our morning had started with a lecture from Eduardo, a professor and Pablo’s brother. He did a good job filling in recent history for us. Tomorrow he will talk about marine issues. After his lecture, we went directly to the port for the boat excursion I skipped.
After the port, we drove to one of the high points of Valparaiso
. The city is built on top of, down, and at the bottom of steep cliffs. Vehicles are of limited use. Originally, it was a tiny Spanish settlement consisting of a church and a few dwellings on the sparse land. In the last four hundred years, buildings have mushroomed out from the centre, including adding land to the sea front. At some point, Viña del Mare was founded to the north as a satellite city on flatter but still hilly land.
After a really quick stop for photos
Casa Cuatro Vientos
A windy place for a house indeed!
of the view from the gazebo at the top of the cliffs, we began the walk down on one of the many staircases that are the principle access routes. Several funiculars also run, as we saw on our walk. This was a photographer’s paradise! Most of the tall narrow houses are painted bright colours, the path twists past lots of secondary paths, and the street art is creative. By the time we reached the bottom, I was on a natural high! (in 2014 a huge fire
destroyed vast swathes of Valparaiso, although the historic part we visited was relatively unaffected.)
We had a short bus ride to the main square, which Pablo rushed past, because we were due on a funicular
to take us up to our lunch restaurant. Eight people per car; felt like an almost perpendicular drive. La Columbina was entered by a small door into an interior of beautiful art-deco wood, wrought-iron and stained glass. It opened up into a glass-enclosed dining room with perfect views of Valparaiso harbour. The almost de-rigeur Pisco Sours
were served - the largest yet, about 4 ounces: 3 parts Pisco (wine liqueur), one part lime, frothed with egg white. Great for
Transportation and a magnificent view
scurvy, absolutely delicious, and went straight to my head. Appetizers followed: both broiled and pickled zucchini, sweet onion relish, hearts of palm and leaf lettuce. Then, for me, fish and oven-fried potato chunks bathed in olive oil, accompanied by the smoothest, deep Cabernet Sauvignon. Finished with a tiny glass of fruit salad.
Next was Pablo Neruda
’s house, much anticipated by me. Disappointingly, Pablo our guide explained that the interior was not part of the tour because the house had been sacked by the government following his death, so it was not original, only restored. Anyone who really wanted to go inside could let him know. Which I did. In an odd playful mood, he happily and proudly led me up to the ticket desk, gave me the 4000 pesos ($8) fee and said to take my time. The ticket entitled me to an audio guide in English and a map.
What a wonderful house! It was full of eclectic works of art and kitsch, with many significant pieces explained by the audio. One I loved was a portrait of a queen in a deep ruff; to keep her company there was a portrait of a man in a ruff
on the opposite wall; Neruda felt they wanted to look at each other. In Neruda’s writing study on the fifth level was a large blue delft sink mounted on the wall but not plumbed. He liked to think of his house as a ship; it looks high over the harbour like the prow of a ship. No photos were allowed of the interior; however, the feeling of an artist in a place of art was palpable. Happily, Lee and Lila also came in, so we were able to exchange exclamations about the décor and artworks.
No dinner tonight – an “on your own” evening. Like last time, we each bought snacks, and some people had wine for a “cocktail” party. To buy our contributions, Kathy and I walked the four blocks to a big supermarket on the main square. We managed well by pointing, showing amounts with our fingers, and smiling at the cashier. The store had mega amounts of everything a grocery store could have, and there were maybe a dozen checkouts. On the way back we strolled slowly in the warm sun, window-shopping at clothing, souvenir and specialty shops, as many other people were doing. The temperature
Pablo Neruda's home and studio
A "ship" overlooking Valparaiso harbour
had been cool almost all morning but warm in the evening.
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