Valparaiso (4)

Wednesday 11/04

Excellent breakfast today. Ludivine prepares a smoothie, I prepare a fresh orange (and lemon) juice, Isabelle cleans the strawberries that we bought in the market yesterday and we also have fresh fruit. That’s one of the main advantages of an Airbnb; we have all the kitchen appliances that we require to prepare nice meals (as well as basic household items such as oil, salt, sugar…, which is not as useful for us since we most of the time carry them with us…).

Kids do a bit of homeschooling and I work on the blog and on our trip to Peru.

We eat a nice salad for lunch, around 2pm, at the apartment.

We leave at 2:30pm to go to Plaza Sotomayor from where the walking tours organized by Tours4Tips depart. There are 4 red and white striped freelance ‘Wally’ guides waiting every day for people to show up for a 3-hour pay-what-you-feel walking tour, from port to high hills. We are about 20 people to follow our guide, a young Canadian girl.

We start with the port, where the guide tells us about the “Golden Era” of the mid-19th Century. Valparaiso played a huge role in trade. The city was indeed a strategic stopover for ships coming around the Straight of Magellan and became a popular stop for travelers on their way to the California Gold Rush. During this time, the city grew with many European settlers, mainly from Great Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. Thanks to its immigrants, Valparaiso became Chile’s most cosmopolitan city and a leader in modern infrastructure such as tramways, electricity, and gas. However, after the Panama Canal opened in 1914, Valparaiso experienced a loss in traffic, as European ships could avoid the long and dangerous route around the Horn. The collapse of nitrate exports, thanks to synthetic substitutes, followed by the Great Depression of the 1930s, nearly paralyzed the economy until after World War II, when copper exports recovered. Even with the economy’s post-1970s recovery, Valparaiso has lost its primary port status to San Antonio, southeast of and closer to Santiago, over easier terrain. It has, however, gained political influence with the transfer of the Congress under the custom constitution of Pinochet (a Valparaíso native) despite strong sentiments, and many practical reasons, for moving it back to Santiago.

We then go and discover the winding cobbled streets, by the old local (trolley) bus. There, the streets are bended and the bars and restaurants are plentiful. We continue up. We take one of Valparaiso’s infamous funiculars. We explore the wealthy hills of Cerro Alegre and Concepcion. Valparaiso is built on a natural amphitheatre of 45 hills connected by a maze-like system of side-streets and endless stairways. Our Wally guide leads the way through these streets, with great views. The tour is interesting; we pass by some places where we’ve already been but we also discover new passages.

We then go to the poorer hills, but with lack of money comes an inflow of creativity visible on these even more boho hills. It’s difficult to find a section of wall that isn’t covered in art. We understand why Pablo Neruda wrote that if we walked all Valparaiso’s stairs, we would make a trip around the world. We stop for a local treat.

After descending through the winding alleys to go back to the flat, we end the tour in one of Valparaiso’s oldest buildings (nice private “palace”, unfortunately quite dilapidated), which is the office of Tours4Tips. We drink Chile’s famous Chichon cocktail.

This kind of tour is a very good concept. I’ve seen this in many cities before but it’s the first time we participate. We did the ‘highlights Valparaiso’ but there’s also the ‘offbeat Valparaiso’. It’s complementary to the tour we did yesterday. We will probably do both tours in Santiago. It’s a good thing to do these tours at the beginning of our stays in cities because they not only show you around, which gives you a good idea of what is where, but also they give recommendations for restaurants, bars… only locals would know. All this along with a bit of the town’s cultural, political, architectural and religious background.

After a quick stop in a supermarket (to buy a roast chicken and some fruits and vegetables), we take the bus back home. Florence doesn’t feel well. Once at the apartment, I prepare an aperitif while the kids take their showers. Isabelle goes and buys eggs and bread.

We prepare the chicken with eggs for the kids and we go out the 2 of us to have dinner. We walk a bit in our district. We hear some music so we take the funicular to go down to see where it comes from. It’s a group of girls dancing on the small Plaza Anibal Pinto on the music played by an orchestra. Nice atmosphere!

We don’t find an appealing restaurant near this square (we’d like to eat a ceviche), so we go back up, by the same ‘Reina Victoria’ funicular. We go and eat in a restaurant where there’s a singer performing (actually not bad). We take 2 ceviches.

We come back home around 10:30pm. We work a bit. I’m in bed at 12:30am.

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