Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Unexpected Charm of Valparaiso Chile

 "Valparaiso how absurd you are. You haven't combed your hair, you've never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you."  Pablo Neruda
Just a two hour drive from Santiago, this gritty and semi chaotic Chilean seaside city had me hooked as soon as I entered it. What had me captivated with Valparaiso was the vibrant, eclectic life going on in the hilltop neighbourhood: in fact 42 steep hills known as Cerra's. Wherever you turned, you were bathed in colour and art that spoke to you via it's graphic images, giving you insight into the culture, life and troubles of this once thriving port town.

Brightly painted double and triple story homes, stairs and alley ways are a sight to be seen. Hours passed by walking the cobblestone streets looking at all the incredible street art, discovering quaint cafes, restaurants, gallery's, artisan shops, funky boutique hotels. Losing yourself literally and physically was not hard here. A special touch were the fun Funiculars (ascensores as they call them) we took to reach some steep hills that were too tiring to walk. Many of these clickety clack timber clad cable cars are more than a century old and also painted brightly. So not for the faint hearted. 
The historic hilltop comprising of 42 hills (cerra's).
The timber clad Funiculars (ascensores).
Incredible art on stairs
Old house over the edge
The city was once a 19th Century power player with maritime trade between Europe and North America. It was also home to South America's first stock market in 1898 and the birthplace of world's oldest Spanish language newspaper called El Mercurio. Wealthy merchants, artists and middle class sailors set up shop in Valparaiso making it the place to be and make money. Pablo Neruda, Chile's most famous poet made the "dishevelled hills" as he called it, his home. 
Then In 1906 an earthquake hit killing 3000 people destroying the many homes, and the Panama Canal opened in 1914 taking away it's power as a commerce hub. It then became an almost forgotten port town right up until a decade ago. In 2003 it was named a Unesco World Heritage site and a few years after that the then president commenced a bold recovery and renewal project in order to protect the historic hills. This meant reconstructing heavily damaged historic buildings, public sites, the funiculars and constructing new boutique hotels, bars, eateries, museums making this vibrant Bohemian city a place to visit.  

Valparaiso is packed with personality and if you are thinking of travelling somewhere exotic and interesting in 2015, I recommend this very city. You won't be disappointed.There are many groovy boutique hotels to stay in, great eateries serving up fresh local seafood, and plenty fun bars to drink pisco sours in. 
Hotel Brighton
Palacio Astoreca
Hotel Gervasoni
Stay in one of the quirky hotels or stop for a cocktail in between walks and enjoy the views. I certainly stopped at a few.  
No matter where I turned, what alley way I walked down, what stairs I climbed, there was always something to see and admire on the Cerra's in Valparaiso.  

I hope you enjoyed this post. Although it was a few years ago I visited Valparaiso, I know through friends that have just been, it still is as wonderful if not more than when I went. 

I say what are you waiting for and go! 

See you soon
Love Gessica 

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