Edit Blog Post
Published: July 13th 2013
Plaza Sotomayor, ValparaisoThursday 23 May to Friday 24 May
The start of 'Tours for Tips'
The bus from Pucon arrived into Santiago early morning and I pretty much immediately boarded the bus from here to Valparaiso - one of Chile's most important sea ports. On arrival at the bus station I randomly bumped into a German guy called Max, who I'd seen briefly on Volcano Villarrica the day before in Pucon. He'd been ascending the volcano with the group that diminished down to two people.
We decided to join forces in locating a hostel together and boarded a local bus to the Concepcion area of the city, ending up at a place that had been recommended to me. Check-in wasn't until 1pm, so we dumped the bags and headed out for a wander round the port, managing to find a spot for an early lunch. It was pretty difficult to look around following this, as a fog had come in from the sea.
I have to admit that my initial impressions of the city were not great. It all seemed a bit chaotic and dirty and the fog gave everything a bit of a grey feeling. However, my first impressions were to be challenged later that
Not Your Ordinary Door
Interior door in the mansion house in Valparaiso
day and I ended up regretting not having more days in Valparaiso to fully explore it.
The challenge to my first impression came thanks to the 'Tours for Tips' I decided to join up to. This was a free walking tour of the city, led by an American girl from Georgia who had been in Chile for 7 months and living in Valparaiso for 4 months. We started the tour at Plaza Sotomayor, where there is a monument honouring the Chilean sailors who died during the Battle of Iquique and the Battle of Punta Gruesa. It is also surrounded by buildings housing the Chilean Navy. From here we moved straight to the port (from which most of the fog had thankfully now cleared).
The guide told us about the city's beginnings in the 1500's when it was discovered by Spanish explorers. In the mid-1800's it enjoyed a golden era supporting the Californian Gold Rush and through wealth created from the local copper mines. Sadly this was to be short lived and the city's wealth began to diminish in 1914 with the opening of the Panama Canal when many of the city's rich deserted Valparaiso and trade reduced. We
Close up of house in the hills surrounding Valparaiso
also learned how the city had expanded outwards, with the dock where we stood being constructed on top of landfill from the original port.
Following on from this we walked to Avenida Sacramento and got to view the inside of one of the city's original mansion houses. It still had a faded beauty, from which you could imagine how stunning it must have been back in the day. We learned how a place can suffer from being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Basically, any refurbishment or development has to use original building materials and techniques. This means an extreme amount of expense that the majority of Chileans cannot afford. As a result many places in the UNESCO area were in an increasing state of disrepair. On the plus side, however, the buildings themselves are protected from inappropriate development and it attracts many visitors to the city.
We then moved on to take one of the many funiculars (or ascensors) that transport you into the neighbourhoods of the surrounding hills. It was a slightly nervous ascent in what was essentially a rickety wooden box. The different neighbourhoods in the hills were at one time linked to the different
The Stairs to the Alfajores
On our way to trying Chile's sweet treats
immigrant communities living in the city, which included Italians, British and German communities, so each area was influenced architecturally by this.
Exploring the labyrinth of streets we came across fantastic street art, architectural jewels and some great lookout points where we got panoramas of the city below.
We stopped at one point to enjoy some alfajores made by a local artisan baker. These treats are made of two biscuits sandwiched together with dulche de leche. The whole thing is then dipped in chocolate. They were yummy if somewhat sweet.
The tour ended in a small art gallery above one of Valparaiso's hostels where we were given the low-down on where to visit in the city.
A group of us from the tour group then headed off to the shop for drinks to start the evening. This included Michael from Holland, Hugh from London, Linda from Denmark and a guy from Mexico whose name I've forgotten! We headed back to their hostel where we somehow ended up consuming a ridiculous number of Pisco Sours, which pretty much meant the end of the night for me.
The next day I took a local bus down the coast
Livin' in a Box
Street art in the hills surrounding Valparaiso
to Vina del Mar, where I looked round the city centre and the local park. The city had a much more modern and clean feel than Valparaiso and the park itself was very pretty, full of trees and dotted with excerpts from poetry. Friends and couples were sat around, enjoying the sun and chatting. Somehow as a place it lacked character and I felt somewhat disappointed that I'd spent hours there rather than further time in Valparaiso.
Sadly I had to return to Valparaiso and get ready to catch my bus on to La Serena that evening.
Tot: 0.07s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 17; qc: 48; dbt: 0.0116s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb