We All Go To Valpo
That’s Valparaíso, Chile To You
Yesterday we finally took a family trip to start exploring Valparaíso, the old port city that’s the real reason Viña del Mar even exists. Cecile had been previously with a friend, but this time we all saddled up and headed out. We took the Metro all the way to the end (there are a couple of other stops you can use, depending on where in the city you want to go) and got out to explore. The first thing we saw (sorry no pictures, maybe next time) was someone selling fresh roasted peanuts. They were a little pricey (tourist prices I assume), but we got a bag of sugared and a bag of merken, which is a spice apparently only found here in Chile, though it is apparently starting to become trendy in other places. It’s a blend of smoked & roasted peppers, toasted coriander seed, cumin & salt. When we left the apartment it was sunny, but by the time we got to Valpo it had become a little hazy/marine layery, par for the course these days.
A Quick History Lesson
After independence in 1818, Valparaíso became possibly most important port on the west coast of the Americas; it was either the last major port before you tried rounding Cape Horn, or the first one after you did. This was true up until the Panama Canal opened in 1914, sending Valpo into a downward spiral for much of the 20th century. In the 1990s Valparaíso began to stage a comeback, with movements to preserve the surviving cultural heritage and help the city become an artistic & tourist hub. These efforts continue and the port has started to come back with increases exports of Chilean goods, especially fruit, and the ability to handle today’s mega-cargo ships that are too big for the current Panama Canal (though upgrades are in progress). Check out the sites in the sidebar for more details, but I promised to keep it short, so I’m done here.
Cool Things in Valpo
There are several things Valparaíso is known for, and we got to experience several of them in some measure. One thing I’m sure you’ll notice is that almost the whole town is built on hills. As opposed to Viña del Mar, which has a bit more flat area before the hills start, Valpo has only a small area of flat ground before the hills start. And the hills are steep, which lead us to one of the main things the city is famous for:
The Ascensores of Valparaiso
Which you perhaps know as funiculars or tramways, probably Valparaíso’s most famous attraction. There used to be 33 of these helping you get up and down the hills, though currently there are only 14 left and only about 6 of those functioning. We will ride them all during our time here, and we rode three yesterday, two up and one down. Video to come, but for now you get some pictures.
Colorful Buildings and Neighborhoods
In many ways, exploring Valpo is like being in an old European city. Because it has to follow the topography, there are very few straight streets, and your wandering is rewarded by finding nearly hidden passageways leading to cute shops, other neighborhoods, museums, and more. This is clearly a city that demands repeat visits, a map for general orienting, and following your whims. I’ll leave the rest to the pictures.
While there is plenty of graffiti in both Viña and Valpo, there is also lots of street art. Some might think there’s little difference, but really it’s obvious. Cecile has already posted some pictures of the art in Viña and some we saw yesterday in Valpo, but here are some more. They’re quite beautiful, you never know where you’re going to find them, and some have meaning beyond just their beauty. I’ve got some stitching together to do on some of these pictures to give the full effect, but here they are for now.
We had a lovely huge lunch/dinner at a little cafe up one street and none of us needed (or ate) dinner later. A little dessert maybe, but no dinner.