Valparaiso, Chile (February 28)

We were docked at the port city of Valparaiso when we woke up. The cruise had come to an end. We had what we were told was an unusual morning in that the sun was bright without the usual fog. We said our goodbyes to Hettie and Ronnie who were leaving our little group and heading home via bus transfer to the Santiago airport by way of a day-long tour.

Walter (fist bump) had prearranged a tour and overnight stay for the rest of us in Valparaiso, Chile’s oldest and largest port city located north of the midpoint of Chile’s enormously long coast. A van, driver, and guide were at the dock to collect us at 9:00. Our guide was Thomas, a young Frenchman who came 10 years ago to follow his Chilean girlfriend. (Sidebar: they are still together.) He did a wonderful job of showing us around.

First off he explained that the old port city of Valparaiso, second largest city in the country…with a population of 300,000,  is built on 49 hills that come all the way to the ocean. For that reason there are no hotel chains, only old, grand homes converted into small boutique hotels. Our first stop was at the Zero, our boutique hotel for the night. Free WiFi; we were instantly enamored. And the first tangerine tree I’ve ever seen and more flowering plants than we could count. A beautiful place with a tiered deck system overlooking the port.

Anyway, each of the 49 hills of the city, all smothered in colorful buildings, comprise a sort of neighborhood all its own. Narrow, winding roads, a series of short funiculars (cable-cars),  and stairways get folks from one place to the next. There is way less graffiti here than in Brazil, thank goodness, but does have a lot of interesting art painted on the outside of buildings. Thomas explained that a few years ago a law was passed that made it legal…if you get permission from the owners. From then on, painters brought their A-games, signed their work, and even left social media addresses, so now a few are in high demand not just in South America but all over the world.

An interesting stop on the tour was one of three homes owned by Pablo Neruda (1904-19730), reputed by some to be the greatest poet writing in Spanish during his lifetime. He was a diplomat and politician as well as a writer and won the Nobel Prize for Literature (a busy boy this one) in 1971. His house was multi-leveled with the narrowest of staircases connecting the floors and housed some of the things he collected as a diplomat. All the rooms have magnificent views of the water.

Besides visiting Valparaiso, we went to Vina del Mar, the beautiful resort city next door that was established in 1874 as a place where the aristocracy could, as was the tradition in the enviably sophisticated continent of Europe, have a second house near the capital (Santiago) as a getaway of sorts. It is 300 years younger than Valparaiso and developed as a place to spread out and be at leisure, and is now Chile’s premier coastal resort town. There are beautiful parks, a famous floral clock, large hotels, French style casino, and the longest beach in Chile. My favorite was seeing one of only five moai stone statues that exist off Easter Island. Another favorite was a church with a ceiling built by ship carpenters in the shape of a wooden hull. Very pretty.

Thomas left us on our own mid afternoon. We headed first to find lunch and then wandered the street and did a little souvenir shopping. Lapis lazuli is mined here, so I chose a necklace and earrings. We stopped by a shop where a photographer was transferring pictures onto stiff, white cloth. We had to have one of those too.

The day was wonderful and we were so glad we stayed on to enjoy these two unique cities.



3 thoughts on “Valparaiso, Chile (February 28)

  1. The moai stone statues are cool, I love those pictures

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