Colour & Culture- Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and Isla Negra

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September 30th 2013
Published: November 6th 2013
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Santiago to Valparaiso Region

Hostal Destino BellavistaHostal Destino BellavistaHostal Destino Bellavista

My home away from home in Valpo. Don't you love the mural? This city is full of great artwork like this.
After more than a week in the capital, I headed to the coast and the colourful harbour city of Valparaiso, enclave of artists, poets , students and migrants from everywhere imaginable.

Originally inhabited by local Chango people who were mainly fishermen, Spanish exploration in the mid-16th Century led to it developing into the main harbour for the Chilean Navy and also opened it to international trade beyond Spain and its other colonies. As time progressed, it became a required stopover between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean crossings and played an important role supporting and supplying of the California Gold Rush during the mid 19th century.

These days it is considered as possibly the largest seaport in Chile and the surrounding district is one of the most populous areas in Chile. In 2003, UNESCO declared Valparaiso a World Heritage Site due to its historical importance, natural beauty (large number of hills surrounding a picturesque harbor), and unique architecture (particularly, a mix of 19th century styles of housing). Valparaiso is the birthplace of many historically significant figures, including Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende. It has also been the residence of many artists such as Pablo Neruda.

Valparaiso is only 120km
Street MosaicsStreet MosaicsStreet Mosaics

A popular artform of the 1970's, I believe. It's everywhere in my neighbourhood.
northwest of Santiago, about a 1.5 to 2 hr bus journey, so a very easy first step on my way north. I arrived on a cold and overcast day and was greeted warmly by Sarah, my host at Hostal Destino Bellavista (located on Cerro Bellavista), who immediately made me feel at home, gave me a map and set me on my way.

My first "destination" was to La Sebastiana, former home of Pablo Neruda, Nobel prize winner, poet, Statesman and general thrower-of-good parties- or so the stories go!!!. Unfortunately, the house was closed, marking 40years since his death- but there was a free concert that night in his honour!!! So, I wandered down into town, to fill a few hours and returned later to enjoy a great classical concert featuring a string orchestra, famous local vocalist and a Neruda poetry reading!! A bit of culture on my first day- lucky me. Also ran into Luciana & Marta from Rio de Janiero who had been staying in my hostel in Santiago and a young couple I'd met that afternoon. Even better there was free supper and red wine after the concert. Needless to say we were the last to leave!!
Boutique HotelBoutique HotelBoutique Hotel

Just up the street is this large, expensive looking "boutique" hotel, showcasing a modern version of the unusual "calamina" (corrugated iron) clad style architecture.
All in all a great night!

The next day was much better weather, although very cold, so I decided to walk the cerros (hills) after visiting La Sebastiana. Valparaiso is a walkers city- as long as you have the legs for it, that is. I believe there are 42-45 cerros surrounding the small plain where the CBD and harbour are located. I feel for the local people trudging up and down those enormous hills and endless stairs and narrow alleyways to do their daily tasks. However, there are a number of "ascensores", funicular rail cars surviving from as early as the late 1800s, to make this a little easier at times. I tried several of them and they afford spectacular views of the city and harbour on a clear day.

Close to Valpo is the popular coastal resort town of Vina del Mar. I'd heard good things about it, so I decided to walk along the coast and see for myself. It was about a 1.5 to 2 hr walk and unfortunately, a dreadful dull, windy day, so I can't say she showed me her best. I spent a lot of the time checking out the sea birds,
Connection to the seaConnection to the seaConnection to the sea

Unusual architectural "flourishes" are found everywhere. Possibly drawing inspiration from Neruda and his penchant for boats and the sea.
especially pelicans (I love pelicans- they're such an improbable bird) and the sea lions on an abandoned pier pylon. Once in the city itself, I searched out some important buildings & museums to get out of the cold. Unfortunately, they were all closed- still awaiting renovations from the damage from the 2010 earthquake. Bummer!

The other side trip I did was to the area known as Isla Negra, about 45km south of Valpo. In fact it is not an island at all, it's a small community perched on the edge of the Pacific Coast, home to many artists and poets and of course the location of another of Pablo Neruda's quirky houses, the reason for my visit. I thoroughly enjoyed the house and the audio tour was very interesting and informative, as it had been at La Sebastiana. I felt I knew this man- I wished I'd met him- he seems to have been such a fascinating person.

My final treat to complete my stay, was a night "tour" of Valpo with my hosts Patricia & Sarah. Such a pretty city- night or day!

Time to head north to La Serena and Valle
View up my cerro!View up my cerro!View up my cerro!

Santa Spiritu church
de Elqui!

Additional photos below
Photos: 76, Displayed: 25


View down to the harbourView down to the harbour
View down to the harbour

One of my favourite views close to my hostal
Museo Cielo AbiertoMuseo Cielo Abierto
Museo Cielo Abierto

Open air art museum starting across the street from my hostal. Unfortunately, many of the original wall murals were originally done in the 1970s so really need a bit of "renovation"/TLC.
Functional ArtFunctional Art
Functional Art

Mosaic seats fashioned to provide a quiet moment to sit and look at the views below. Part of the Museo Cielo Abierto just around the corner from my hostal.
Classical ConcertClassical Concert
Classical Concert

Talented string orchestra entertain us with music inspired by Neruda's poetry.
La SebastianaLa Sebastiana
La Sebastiana

One of Pablo Neruda's 3 amazing residences. It's location affords spectacular views from various parts of the house and garden. Neruda had a quirky sense of humour and added so many unusual aspects as the house "grew". Unfortunately, no photography is allowed in the house. A must see for those visiting Valpo.
Communing with Pablo- LucianaCommuning with Pablo- Luciana
Communing with Pablo- Luciana

Such a "touristy" photo- but a must! Luciana was one of the ladies I met in Nomades Hostel in Santiago. Another chance meeting! I have an open invite to go "sambaing" with her and her friend Marta when I get to Rio!
Communing with Pablo-MartaCommuning with Pablo-Marta
Communing with Pablo-Marta

Luciana's friend from Rio. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in Rio.
Communing with Pablo- SueCommuning with Pablo- Sue
Communing with Pablo- Sue

Well, I had to get in on the act too, didn't I?
Colour PaletteColour Palette
Colour Palette

Everywhere you look is like an artist's palette, although a lot of the buildings need some attention. My host, Patricia, is a member of Fundacion Bellavista which is supporting people restoring their buildings and also to encourage more services in this neighbourhood eg restaurants. Hoever, not the much developed tourist areas found in Cerro Concepcion and Allegre.
Street ArtStreet Art
Street Art

Fantastic wall murals can be found around any corner or "abandoned" space.
Big time street art!Big time street art!
Big time street art!

One biiig project! I can only imagine what it took to do this large scale mural. Can you see the drop off??
Short Cutting!Short Cutting!
Short Cutting!

I really enjoyed just wandering up and down and finding staircases in the most unexpected places.
Theatre MuseumTheatre Museum
Theatre Museum

The story of theatre in the city. The weather was too good to spend time indoors, so I simply passed by.
Drumming up business!Drumming up business!
Drumming up business!

This guy was obviously trying to draw the attention of unsuspecting passer-bys to the museum. He was hilarious!!
View across to Cerro ConcepcionView across to Cerro Concepcion
View across to Cerro Concepcion

The church on the left is the famous Iglesia Lutherana.

6th November 2013

Love the photos Sue, Im travelling with you vicariously
6th November 2013

More spectacular to come!
The desert areas in the North of Chile & Argentina are amazing. Soon, really soon!!
7th November 2013

Great photos!
Hi Treadie, Very colourful city! Enjoying reading your adventures as life here is still the same! Looking forward to your next travel blog. On On Wally
7th November 2013

Heh Wal!
Another one ready to publish, but keeping it under wraps for a day or two. Don't want to overload you all! ;)
7th November 2013

Only some special girls are able to true adventurers !
Sue I'm jealous of your spirit , energy and all your adventures.... first rate photo upload skills too . Eddie 'Kuntfoo' Kunming , Yunnan
7th November 2013

Heh Eddie!
Thanks for the kind words!!
7th November 2013
View up my cerro!

Hi Sue, your blogs are so full of info. Thanks for sharing
7th November 2013
View up my cerro!

Hi again, Carol!
It's taken me a while to get started, but on a roll now!! Glad you're enjoying them.
7th November 2013

Love the mosaics!
7th November 2013

Hi Carol!
Me too!
9th November 2013

Great Pictures
I am heading down to Chile and Bolivia in March, so am reading some blogs from places I want to see. You have some great pictures and I enjoyed reading your blog. Have a great trip. I look forward to seeing more of your blogs.
12th November 2013

Hola Brendan!
Great that you're enjoying my blog. I'm hoping to be a little more prolific, as I'm more than a month behind my real time travels!! Having too much fun!! Arrived on Chiloe Island late yesterday and from what I've seen here so far- I'd definitely recommend a visit, should time permit. A later blog........

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