Friday, April 3, 2009
The Rough Guide to Chile 2004 edition says “Valparaiso isn't really about museums and sights but about losing yourself in labyrinthine street and magnificent panoramas. They are right. We have a week here and at the very beginning I knew it would be a stretch filling up every day with activities. And we have had “problems” with these one week stays: they can wear you out if you do too much. So maybe this is the place to be. So, first for the panoramas. I am writing this blog post from the balcony of our apartment in Cerro Alegre. More about Cerro Alegre in un momento. I look left and have a vista of old houses, in all colors, stacked on a hill that semi circles the bay. Pretty now at 6:30 PM but wait till it gets dark. Thousands of lights twinkle on this side and all sides of our vista. Beautiful. In the early morning it is different but equally as beautiful. Straight ahead in my view is the port where massive container ships load and unload their goods. Thousands of containers sit on the dock, due to be placed on trucks for delivery to other Chilean cities. Beautiful in a organized, efficient way of thinking.
The neighborhood of Cerro Alegre is bohemian with something you wouldn't think would be special: graffiti. Everywhere. But here it resembles more art than vandalism. People don't cover it up. Who knows, they might have paid to have it painted. Old houses, pretty flowering plants and just enough grime to make it feel really different. No large markets here either, but small mini-markets where you can buy the basics. Most of the shop keepers know no English so they have difficulty (some have fun) dealing with our crude attempts at Spanish. Speaking of Spanish....
We have had three days of Spanish classes which are starting to have some impact. Pamela,, our professora espanol has built on what Luz Fuentes started down in Chillan. We can do the basics. Sometimes we actually say the right words. My brain has a way of getting language VERY wrong. I went to say Thank You (muchas gracias) to some ladies who let me use their phone and I blurted out “Buenos Noches” (Good Night). Duh, duh, duh. Well, maybe our ten days of training in Buenos Aires will help.
We visited the Pablo Neruda house called “La Sebastiana” our first day. I have never read any of his “stuff” up to now (due to it being poetry) but after a glance at a book of his, I might be able to get into it. His house was like his work: eclectic. A bird hanging from the ceiling in the dining room; a carousel horse in the living room; cool art work everywhere. Neat house. Av and Si even liked it.
We get around by walking and when we need to get down to the “city” (flatland), we take the ascensor. Built between 1883 and 1916, these funiculars or elevators are small cages that are pulled up and down the steep hills of Valparaiso. They are a landmark here and one of the reasons Valparaiso was named a UNESCO World Heritage City. This method of moving people is not just used by the tourists, but by the locals as well.
This isn't a real exciting place. But a place to just sit down, drink your cerveza, eat an empanada and chill.