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  • Writer's picturePaula Cooper

2 November Valparaiso, Chile: Colourful Charming Coastal Camouflaged Chaotic

“Ring! Ring!” “Ring! Ring!” Is that the telephone? Yep it’s our ride to Valparaiso; early.

Passing under the coastal mountains, leaving the Andes we popped out into an agricultural area, complete with corn fields, crops, vineyards and small  residential communities.

Eventually we came to a “la Paz” style chaos, the edge of the favelas surrounding Valparaiso. Not sure how earthquake worthy these are; Chile being on the Andean fault line all construction should be adequate to withstand earthquakes; a 6 not worth worrying about! (Last one yesterday 4.0 magnitude, 48 km depth)

Quickly becoming grander we reached the many hills overlooking the coast, covered with colourful properties showing its multiple European influences, French, German, Italian as well as Spanish; a magnet for European immigrants in 19th century, when it was a major port; copper salt petre etc etc. Inheritance being the oldest Stock exchange and Spanish newspaper, plus the first volunteer Fire department and public library. The 1914 Panama Canal saw wealth drift away commerce evaporating, however it’s now still home to the navy, a major container port (10mil ton) , tourist and cruise destination, with many universities and due to being Pinochet home town seat of congress since 1990.

Most buildings camouflaged clad in charming artistic murals, a labyrinth of steep streets, cobblestone alleyways, embodying its rich architectural and cultural colourful legacy; a Unesco world heritage site since 2003. Pablo Neruda, born in Valparaíso, posted as Chilean Consul General in Mexico City 1940s, loved their street art and brought it back. Continued in protest during the Pinochet regime, famous artists risked all to dissent in anyway they could. Now local government supports and promotes the street art culture, with many buildings, happy to have artists turn their plain walls into masterpieces. Sadly some of the prized originals have been spoiled with modern street tags.

We parked and wandered down, slogging up cerro (hill) Conception,  cerro Alegre  and cerro Bellavista, with Cielo Abierto Museo ( 20+ prized murals). Covering walls, lamp posts, stairs, schools by famous and less well known artists. We saw the English “we are happy” terrace and of course took the iconic Beethoven with piano steps photo! Great views across the town and bay, everywhere.

We also visited the Cemetery ( no 1 ) on pantheon hill; families still pay to inter their loved ones in huge ornate tombs.

Hungry we headed for an empanada bar, only 80+ fillings to choose from! In tribute to Queen Victoria we took the funicular created in her honour. There were about 40, around 15 are still in use, also preserved by Unesco.

Finally we headed down to plaza Sotomayor the naval area with the armada de Chile; the end of our city colourful ramble!

The afternoon had us in Casablanca, the wine region visiting the Bagoda Re, for a tour and tasting. Founded in 2012 by Pablo Morandé Sr (responsible for putting Casablanca wines on the map in ‘80s) and Jr his son (innovative wine maker). Generations of wine heritage at their disposal they sold their traditional winery in favour of reviving traditional techniques. They use clay emphora to ferment their wines, using original family ones along side new modern versions using, still storing in wooden aged casks, with locally sourced grapes and those from their farm in Maure.

We toured the cellars, also visiting their forays into short runs of balsamic vinegar and liqueurs with fruit and botanicals steeped in Chilean potato vodka. we sampled the apricot; lovely.

During the tasting we had lovely cheese grapes and crackers; I preferred the orange wine and Simon the single grape; possibly… Vigno RE is a red wine from Carignan from Maule. It is fermented and macerated in big amphoras for more than two months and aged in foudres and oak barrels.

Back at the hotel, tired knowing we had a ridiculously early flight to Patagonia, we headed out for a very average pizza & salad.

Famous poets & Nobel prize winning authors studied at Chilean school

(Pablo Naruda statue; his house in Valparaiso; his mural; view from house; Gabriela Mistral mural on school)

Valparaiso Murals & streets; most in UNESCO heritage areas

(Condorito lives in a fictitious town Pelotillehue, famous comic strip about Chilean people; Beethoven & piano steps German/English area; English area streets with famous we are happy terrace; Cielo Abierto museo - sky museum as in all the murals; more murals and streets; the garden is by the happy terrace)

Queen Victoria funicular (opened in her honour 1902)

Cemetery (monuments to ancient family where bones buried) with recent flowers

Valparaiso seafront views & container port

Valparaiso Central District

(Famous mural; shipping company new build blended with old main square;main square; naval building; Edificio Armada de Chile; other buildings in area)

Chilean wine tasting at Bodegas Re

(Pablo Morande Senior & Junior; apricot reliquias we tasted; reliquias potato vodka with fruits or botanicals; Simon's favourite; wine tasting; orange wine mine; clay vessels for fermentation new (resin covered concrete and temperature regulation inside; shape needs less mixing) old (original traditional jars with wooden lids with pulping paddle), clay lets breathe and keeps good temperature)

We stayed at Le Rêve, Providencia area, Santiago, Chile.

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