My first stop was the Chilean port town of Valparaiso the Pacific coast. If I’m being honest, I had never previously heard of it. As it turns out, it is the second largest city in Chile, as well as being the home of Chile’s largest port and it has a long history – going back to the 1500s. The town is often referred to as “Valpo” just to simplify things for people like me! My friend Pablo had recommended that I pay the place a visit. In his own words he described the town as “alright, pretty cool, you’ll enjoy it”. Understatement of the year. Welcome to Valpo, a truly fascinating town…
I’m really not sure where to start. Valparaiso is probably one of the biggest surprises on my trip. Some would say there are not many ‘attractions’ so to speak. This is because the main attraction is exploring the winding streets whilst taking in the vibe, the food, the art and anything else that you extract awe from. To me, wandering around embodied a maze or completing a 3D puzzle or perhaps a riding a roller-coaster. The streets twist, turn and spiral at every opportunity acting like a network of veins and arteries that spread, meander and sweep across the hills of the city – simultaneously injecting life into the city. One moment your on this coiling road, the next you find yourself on a flat plain as you decide your next change of direction.
The buildings that litter the hillsides look as though they have been at the hands of an artist’s pallet whilst they search for several different shades of colour. Imagine a painter flicking and sprinkling colour with his brush, with the strokes being inconsistent, never touching the same piece of rough canvas.
The buildings resemble an urban rainbow. I’ve never been to Cinque Terra in Italy, but I know its appearance well through seeing many pictures. Judging on appearance alone, these two are related. Within the streets themselves, there are such blends and concoctions of colour, creativity and innovation. Depending on the time of day and the weather, it’s almost as though they change their appearance. Chameleon-esqe. The streets are alive. They change. They adapt. The steep hills present many wonderful views of the city, the dock and the surrounding hills.
Adding to the cauldron of character, there are several funiculars, known as ‘ascensores’. All are old – the oldest dating back to 1883, but they still do a fine job of serving locals as the city’s elevators. A fun ride for people like me. The equivalent of 30 pence is a bargain. The two i used were Artillería and Concepcíon which were first opened in 1893 and 1902 respectfully.
Despite the fact that geographically, this is the furthest i’ve been from home, in a few ways, it was the closest to home I had felt. After ascending Artillería, you’re met with a stunning view over looking the port. Ah Falmouth, it reminded me of you. I spent around 10 minutes almost in a daze seeing the hussle and bussle of the cranes lifting large shipping containers similar to someone completing a set of deadlifts. The aroma of fresh fish being carried off the vessels was lingering in the air. The combination of this mixed with the smell of metallic rust from boats and cranes was the smell of home. It took me back to the times helping out my uncle and his crew on the fishing boats. Memories.
All in all, it’s clear why the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site – it has been since 2002. To me it encapsulated elements of Havana; with it’s run down, yet lovely architecture, San Francisco; for it’s uneven and fun packed terrain, and my hometown, Falmouth for it’s spectrum of rusty, seawood smells.
My time here was fulfilled with the local dish; Chorillana. This simple but delicious meal consists of potatoes or homemade french fries, with a mouth-watering combination of chopped onion and diced lean, tender and juicy steak, finished off with your choice of egg essentially crowning the perfection on your plate. To make matters more healthy, it’s best washed down with a fine local brewed stout beer. Safe to say I enjoyed my time in Valpo…