Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Valparaíso: Bohemian Paradise

It's easy to understand why poet Pablo Neruda had a home here - La Sebastiana - the city is an urban masterpiece. In a cruel twist of fate it was also the birthplace of former President Salvador Allende and the general who would eventually become his murderer in the 1973 coup, Augusto Pinochet.

Valparaíso is about 100 kms west of Santiago, Chile and it's one of the finest artistic enclaves I've ever encountered. Every free space is splashed with colour and musings on the past, present and future story of this country. We had one of the tastiest seafood meals at an a rundown restaurant near the 150 year old central market along the waterfront.

It was a beautiful day at the end of July when we arrived in Valpo, or "Paradise Valley". The city is built on a series of hills with numerous funiculars scattered throughout designed to make it easier to get around.

The closest I could compare it to would be Monterey, California - think Steinbeck's Cannery Row or Tortilla Flat - or maybe a few neighbourhoods in San Fran.

We wandered all over the hills snapping photos and watching the movements of the Chilean navy in the harbour. Some say it's become increasingly dangerous but we never felt at risk and took the same precautions we would anywhere else in the world.

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