What better way to descend?
Well if there’s one town that sticks out like a sore thumb its gotta be Valparaiso. Sprawling over eight hills its maze like streets demand exploration. Planning on only spending the night here fate had other ideas. Upon arrival we’d thought it prudent to check where the bus ticket office was for the return journey the following day. Sarah finds it, has the tickets printed, then is told they were for yesterday, not tomorrow…it seems the Bus Norte website incorrectly allows you to book a ticket for a bus which has already left….
So leaving it to fate we now had an extra two nights to become infatuated with the coastal port town. Leaving the dodgy area around the Mercado El Cardinal it’s a short ride in a pleasantly clean train to the last stop on the line of Puerto. A shorter walk to the Ascensor Concepcion (funicular), it’s a squeeze to get through the turnstiles with backpacks on and even harder to wedge through the door of the car. With a rough shunt the cable slowly draws the car up the 45 degree pitch with the beauty of Valparaiso engulfing us.
After a walk up and down Templeman looking for accommodation, we settle into Acuarela Hostal and an almost empty dorm room that looks over the town leading to the harbour. The place is great and a well laid out common area/kitchen gives it a social atmosphere, though the selling point of cheese with breakfast never materialised.
Back out on the streets we wander around the Barrio Concepcion, instantly falling in love with one of the worlds most picturesque cities.
If Reykjavik and San Francisco had sex in a paint factory while on acid, their love child would move to Chile and go by the name of Valparaiso!
Exclaims Sarah in her shear love for the whimsical city.
With a colour explosion the corrugated clad dwellings are like those in Reykjavik with an extra dash of grit. The art comes to life in the many colossal street pieces and the funiculars, stairs and slides let you descend through a city where no space is left untouched. With the afternoon shortening we grab some craft brews from Emporio to enjoy relaxing on the rooftop veranda.
The view in the morning is as spectacular as always as the sun peers over the surrounding hill paintng Valparaiso in its golden brush. Not satisfied with the stock standard Latin American breakfast of bread, jam and butter it’s a downhill trundle to the empanada shop Delicias Exprerss on Urriola. With pastry treat in hand Matt’s too impatient to allow it to cool, scalding the greedy bastard’s lips with the cheese shrimp, and chive filling.
With Sarah reluctant to allow for seconds we walk on past the Reloj Turri’s clock face edifice in search for coffee and as luck would have it (or maybe it’s marked on the map) we end up at a café adorned with our home towns name, Melbourne. Located on Plaza Sotomayor with the Monument of the Heroes of Iquique at the centre, we take one of the outdoor seats to watch over the action at the adjacent Plaza Justicia. Unfortunately at the time of visiting the Mercado was undergoing a huge redevelopment, this seems to be a recurring theme in the region with multi-storeyed buildings replacing the outgrown ones.
To gain a better perspective of Valparaiso’s skyline head up the Artilleria Funicular. Not only are the views breathtaking, the impossibly perched blue house next to the tracks adds drama to an already theatrical view.
As with most of the hills of Valparaiso, the walk down brings you though various neighbourhoods with their bohemian vibe conveyed through the many beaming smiles. Locals bring their workshops, art, clothes and BBQs out onto the streets in a display of community. Not the easiest place to move around you’ll need plenty of water or change for the funiculars along with a passion for walking up stairs. For instance the walk up the staircase of El Peral sucks. Weighed down with camera gear and water exaggerates the strain some what, but it still sucks.
The only reason one would bother walking up here is a tight arse mentality (us) or a fitness freak (not us). The Museo Palacio Baburizza adorns this hill, again were too tight to enter yet another Museum being content with the external architecture and purchase of our Christmas decoration fashioned from old soft drink cans into one of the many charmingly iconic funiculars.
In love with cameras we manage to find a curio shop that has a Polaroid 1000 for USD$12 on our way to Altamira Brewery, bonus.
The short walk through Paseo Dimalow reveals more art and brings us to the Ascensor Reina Victoria, with Altamira Cerveceria at the bottom producing quality beers in a small bar with patio for patrons to enjoy the fresh air. A great menu completes the package. This time being wise we opt for the sampler tray of the Belgian Strong Ale, Irish Stout, Alt Bier and American Pale Ale, and sit by the window, the perfect place to watch the world go by.
Hoping to visit another brewery, Cerveceria del Puerto is a production factory only, so it’s back onto the pavement for more arty goodness. That night dinner is at the Resto Bar in the Concepcion area, with it’s exposed old oak beams. Amidst the minimalist design the risotto and salads are delicious along with an Awko Pale Ale to wash it down, a place more European in feel than Latin American.
For that perfect morning stroll to get the legs working, head along the route from La Concepcion to La Sabastiana. Following the lofty Avienda Alemania keep an eye out for the numerous murals that the Bella Vista Barrio is known for. Belonging to poet Pablo Neruda, La Sabastiana floats above Valparaiso, becoming a place of inspiration for him.
The walk along Avienda Alemania makes for a fitting prelude to the museum and gardens whilst offering another perspective over the Metropolis. From here it’s an easy walk back down to the water through Barrio Bellavista weaving amongst the Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Sky Museum). The concept had it roots planted as early as the 1970’s, it was postponed due to the military coup and took until 1992 to complete. 20 ‘official’ murals in total lead you down to the bottom, though with no defined path it’s designed to get you lost in the beauty of Val.
Back down at sea level with hunger persisting, Social J Cruz serves up titanic plates of la chorrillana, hot chips drowned in beef strips, onion, cheese, egg and broth. A hodge podge of knick knacks, tack and messages scrawled on the tables, the most random of the lot has to be the passport style photos sent in by fans from all over the globe and covering every spare inch of wall space. Hardly a casino it’s a Portenos favourite, with a bloke strumming out tunes on his guitar. An institution it’s sure to get the heart racing at the sight of the plate of chorrillana.
Stuffed and feeling indulgent in our guilty pleasure, it’s back to the bus terminal plunging further South to Osorno and our last border crossing in the Americas.
For more great pics of Chile check out our Flickr Page. Thanks for reading.
TIPS FOR VALPARAISO
- The area surrounding the Mercado El Cardonal and to the north can be dodgy, especially at night, as two girls at our hostel found out. One night they were walking in the area and found that they felt that they were travelling into the wrong area. Failing to recognise and follow their instinct one of them ended up being bag snatched. Well if it feels unsafe, leave. This is not just poignant in this town but worldwide.
- Again there are many restaurant serving up great food. We didn’t get to try all of these though have read many blogs with certian names constantly reappearing.
- You can reach Valparaiso easily in a couple of hours from Santiago. Hop on either a Romani, Condor or TurBus at the bus terminal and you’ll be dropped in the main market area, a short metro ride and you’ll be in the thick of it.
- Walk around and get lost, it’s the best way to see much of Val and it’ll keep you fit, Bonus!