The next morning we waved goodbye to Valparaiso and headed back to Santiago – on a smooth well-signed highway.
I had a little nap at the hotel while the manservant returned the rental car and then we went out for dinner. Here I am with my last pisco sour of the trip; a quick survey of photos featuring me and a glass show I drank slightly more white wine than pisco sours. This is in black & white to mask my sunburn – my face wasn’t too bad, thanks to that hat, but my cleavage and arms were bright red and sore!
After dinner we wandered around the square taking in all the sights which included a fortune teller, various entertainers & amateur astronomers and I got a few bemused looks when taking a photo of the toilet…….
We found the rotunda full of chess players. It seemed a fitting way to finish our vacation…..
Our trip to Chile was a bit like a chess game. We did not know our moves until we got there. None of our pieces were taken off the board though the king & queen were momentarily knocked over by that frustratingly long drive from Santa Cruz to Valparaiso. But. the Valparaiso-welcome soon had us lined up again & I’m ready already to go back and explore more of the country.
And, I can’t believe it’s taken me 5 months to write-up a 9 or 10 day trip! And I have photos leftover!
We got off the train at the Viña del Mar station and were immediately confused as it was not obvious which direction the beach was (the train tracks had moved away from the shoreline). Someone pointed the way after I’d asked “Pacifico?” – yeah, I’m almost fluent!
Viña del Mar is Spanish for “vineyard by the sea” but locals just call it “Viña”. It’s also known as La Ciudad Jardín” – “The Garden City”. It has a population of around 300,000 and was established in the 1870s as a resort suburb of Valparaiso. After a 1906 earthquake damaged Valparaiso, Viña expanded into its own right as a city.
Sitting grandly beside the Pacific is the Vina del Mar Casino & Hotel del Mar. The casino, designed in a mix of Greek, Roman and Assyrian architecture opened on 31st December 1930 – just in time for a grand New Year’s Eve party. The Hotel section was added in 2002, built in style to match the casino.
Just outside the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Casino are horse & carriage rides.
Ah… there’s the Pacific – about 7,000 miles out there is Australia.
This is Castillo Wulff built in neo-Tudor style in 1906 by Don Gustavo Wulff Mowle (1862-1946) a businessman/philanthropist from Valparaiso. Part of the castle is out on a point and connected to the main building by a medieval-style bridge. In 1995 it was declared a national monument and today it’s the headquarters of the Heritage Department of the Municipality of Viña del Mar.
This is the Reloj de Flores (flower clock) The clock mechanism was a gift from Switzerland in 1962 as part of that year’s World Cup (soccer) celebrations – some of the matches were played in Vina del Mar. . It was installed 15th May 1962 and apparently still keeps the time accurately.
By now we were really tired and happy to go to the nearest station, Miramar, even though the entrance was not very inviting………
At least the train was clean….
This was our last night in Valparaiso and we ate at Vinilo a restaurant recommended by the Hotel Boutique Acontraluz where we were staying (I really can’t rave enough about this place! Paloma on their front desk had the most exceptional customer service mentality). Vinilo serves traditional Chilean food and it was excellent. The manservant was extremely impressed by the turntables; I was impressed by the food though blackened salmon doesn’t necessarily make an appetizing photo….
After lunch we wandered around the Valparaiso port known as Muelle Prat. Spanish explorers arrived here in 1536, on the Santiaguillo, a ship sent by Spain’s Diego de Almagro who is considered to be the first European explorer of Chile. The first pier was built in 1810 (a building stands there now), the harbour became a base for the navy and soon opened to international trade including supplying ships during the California Gold Rush. The city became a major stopover for ships crossing the Atlantic & Pacific oceans by the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn and many immigrants entered Chile through this port.
Valparaiso is arguably the most important Chilean seaport though San Antonio, to the south, is the largest in terms of freight handled. The combined area of Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Quilpue and Villa Alemana, referred to as Gran Valparaiso, is the 3rd populous in Chile – after Gran Concepcion and Gran Santiago.
Valparaiso (called Valpo by Chileans) is the birthplace of both Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende.
There was a lot of activity and colour around the port….
We browsed the various market stalls and bought myself a hat because my sunscreen was wearing off – I hate wearing hats but I could feel my face starting to burn and we were about to go to the beach …
We caught the train to Viña del Mar which sits on the Pacific and is known as La Ciudad Jardín” (“The Garden City”). Some say that Viña del Mar was the focal point for plotters of the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat. We were amazed at how shiny & sparkling the station was and how incredibly clean the train! It was a pleasant ride along the coast and it was only a 10 – 15 minute trip.
There are actually only 2 subway systems in Chile – the much bigger Santiago system and Metro Valparaiso (called the Merval). The Merval is a one-line system; 43 km (27 m) long with 20 stations serving Gran Valparaiso. It was inaugurated in November 2005 – there had been a less reliable system in place before that.
Valparaiso is a city of wonderful murals…but what is one man’s street art is anther’s graffiti. Personally I really enjoyed the wonderfully eclectic scenes decorating just about every building.
As regular readers know I was in Chile in November and I’ve been terribly slack in finishing up my posts about the trip. We ended our trip with a few days in Valparaiso and that is where I’m up to in my posting. Over the weekend I was saddened to read of the fires that ripped through areas of Valparaiso and which are still burning. I saw one report which said Chile’s forestry agency has predicted it will take 3 weeks to put the fires out completely. The city of Valparaiso is spread over 42 hills and the fire began in a forest on Saturday and quickly spread into one of the hills and then into 6 others where people live without city water connections. No water connections means no fire hydrants and the streets are not wide enough for emergency vehicles. Helicopters were used to dump water on hotspots. Valparaiso has a population of more than 250,000 scattered about those 42 hills in wonderfully coloured, haphazard housing reached by narrow, winding roadways. On Sunday the mayor, Jorge Castro, said “We are too vulnerable as a city. We have been builders and architects of our own danger”.
Back in November we had wandered those steep narrow streets up to Pablo Neruda’s house and then started our walk downhill towards the port – it was quite a way down but we’re nearly there……….
As we descended I made note of this – just in-case…
The first stock market in Latin America was established in Valparaiso in 1898, it was home to Chile’s first public library (1873) and birthplace of the world’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper, El Mercurio.
After the 1906 earthquake this area was rebuilt on landfill – much of the original port is under the square (Plaza Sotomayor) – a sort of in situ mausoleum. The Armada de Chile dominates Plaza Sotomayor – it was built in 1906 and is the edificio de la Primera Zona Naval (naval headquarters). The Monumento a los Heroes de Iquique (Monument to the Heroes of Iquique) sits opposite and on top is Arturo Plat.
We had lunch at the Capullito on the Sotomayor Plaza. I don’t remember what I had to eat with my wine but the manservant’s bowl was a type of surf & turf. The entertainment arrived with the food…
Being on a plaza it was the ideal location for some people watching…..
We left Pablo Neruda’s house heading towards the port, stopping at a plaza to do silly things that tourists do:
We stopped at Cementerio No 2 located on Pantheon Hill. Created in 1845 it was declared a National Monument of Chile in 2005. Yes – that’s a barbeque being whipped up just inside the gates!
We wound our way through alleys and up & down weird staircases & pathways. Valparaiso was a small fishing village during Spanish colonial times but after independence from Spain in 1818 it became the base for the Chilean navy and with that came development. In 1906 a major earthquake struck causing extensive damage; rebuilding included widening of the streets.
Valparaiso is nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific” and was declared a world heritage site in 2003 based on its “improvised urban design and unique architecture”. It’s a wonderful higgledy piggledy landscape: –
After a lovely breakfast we trekked off towards Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana. In 1959 Pablo asked friends to help him find a home. He wrote: “I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaiso a little house to live and write quietly. It must have some conditions. It can’t be located too high or too low. It should be solitary but not in excess. With neighbours hopefully invisible. They shouldn’t be seen or heard. Original, but not uncomfortable. With many wings, but strong. Neither too big or too small. Far from everything but close to the transportation. Independent, but close to the commerce. Besides it has to be very cheap. Do you think I would find a house like that in Valparaiso? ”
The walk from hotel to La Sebastiana was uphill but we barely noticed the climb as there was plenty to look at as we went……….
Neruda’s friends found a house on Florida Hill and many decades later we rounded a corner and saw it sitting up high – that’s Pablo’s house jutting out on the top left. It was built by Spaniard Sebastian Collado who assigned the entire third floor as a bird cage! Sebastian died in 1949 without completing the house and it was abandoned for many years. It was basically a house full stairs and Neruda thought it was too big for just himself so he bought it together with sculptor Marie Martner & her husband Dr. Francisco Velasco. They lived in the basement and two lower floors while Neruda lived on the 3rd & 4th floors & the tower. Neruda used to joke: “I lose; I bought just stairs and terraces”. He did get a magnificent view though!
Neruda took 3 years to finish the construction and interior design of his section and he “inaugurated” it with a lavish party on September 18th 1961. For the occasion Neruda wrote the poem “La Sebastiana” – I establish the house/I made it first of air/ then I raised the flag in the air/ and I left it hanged/for the open air, from the star, from/ the light and from the darkness.
La Sebastiana was looted after the military coup of 1973 and not restored until 1991 when Telefonica de Espana made it possible along with funding the purchase for the lower part of the house. In December 1991 the house was reopened as a museum with a collection of Neruda’s personal items from other houses, (he owned 3 in Chile) including a collection of old maps, paintings, antiquities from the port and curio pieces like music boxes and an old merry-go-round horse carved in wood.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but were told we could take photos out the windows. Attendants wandered the floors to ensure we complied.
After winding our way through the house which really was amazing, we bought cold drinks and bottles of water from the cafe before heading off towards the port where we were going to have lunch.
After dinner we went for a stroll around the surprisingly empty streets. The murals, which were bright and cheery by daylight, lent an eerie feel; we almost believed we’d wandered into a horror movie….
Until we came across the cutest, snazziest dog house in the middle of the footpath; no need to mention Cujo….
The next day we were going visit Pablo Neruda’s house, La Sebastiano.
The midget car came into its own in Valparaiso. The streets are cobbled, narrow, winding and hilly… that’s the sort of place where you really need a small car… .
We drove those narrow, winding roads in a circle searching for our accommodation with Lee telling us 5 or 6 times that we’d arrived at our destination on the left…. only to see there a building site on a street named nothing like where our hotel supposedly was. “Someone” had put the wrong address into the GPS. In my defence I suspect the GPS signal was lost when we parked underground at that supermarket 3 hours ago and Lee reset himself to the center of Valparaiso!
Once we arrived at the Hotel Boutique Acontraluz, a bed & breakfast, we were really impressed. For starters there is no parking at the hotel but the young lady at reception went out and stood in a space on the street to “save” it while I went to retrieve the manservant who was driving loops a few blocks over.
Our room was at the front of the building – 1st floor to Aussies; 2nd floor to Americans . The interior of the hotel was lovely:
There was a deck where you could have drinks in the evening – or actually any time of the day..
And a really superb breakfast could be enjoyed whilst watching the sun rise over the port:
Once we’d checked in and deposited our stuff we went off to a restaurant recommended for its pisco sours. Good food was a side benefit 🙂
At least we ended the day on a good note!
We only had one night at the B&B but it would’ve been nice to have more; such a tranquil location and the owner was wonderful. I definitely recommend it though you do need a car as it’s a little out of the way (that’s its attraction).
So, we squashed ourselves and possessions into the sub-compact car … (which was actually smaller than this photo suggests).. and headed north-west. Well, we wanted to go north-west but Lee, the GPS, was incredibly contrary & stubborn and we basically spent the first 3 hours on the road doing circles on country roads not more than 50 miles from the B&B!!! Lee wanted to take us onto private property multiple times; once through a guarded entrance. And he had us turning onto crappy roads with dicey-looking bridges:
Eventually the circle grew enough to include a sign for a town on my Chilean map and we were finally on Routa 66! It was a really hot day; the a/c was useless; the car struggled on any-degree incline; the manservant & I were barely speaking and I had to beg for a toilet stop as that little car had amazing fuel economy! We stopped at a supermarket where there was a toilet and food for late lunch – a little different to the beachside cafe we’d envisioned when planning this day!
I certainly had plenty of time to take photos of the passing landscape; here are 150-ish miles condensed…..
It was such a relief to eventually round a corner and see the Pacific Ocean! The 4.5 hour trip took about 8 hours!
And, the trip wasn’t finished as we had yet to find our accommodation!