Valparaíso, mi amor

I think this picture of the gatito (kitty) represents Valparaíso best. Although this porch is old and a bit dirty, its painted in funky, bright pink and green so you don’t notice it, and the cat, like all good Valparaísanos is clearly not worried about anything other enjoying the last rays of summer sunshine.
Valparaíso is simply unlike any other place I’ve seen before. It is such a mix of contradictions. It is really dirty and old and downright ugly in many areas of town while at the same time extremely funky, artsy and beautiful because of the wonderful rainbow of colors they use to decorate their houses, restaurants and really any surface available. Here are some good examples of the random surfaces that people have decorated with plain art along with strong political images.

Above is really typical of many areas of town where people, mainly students, have beautified their city. Below are some classic examples of stencil graffiti that often has political themes, in this case, someone has adequately summed up Chileans wacky style by stating something that I think most Americans would have to disagree with: “Grunge is not dead.”

Its extremely difficult to explain how Valparaiso is set up because it is set on the cost and then slowly moves its way up into the cerros (hills) behind it. Each cerro has a different name and makes up a different “neighborhood” that has a distinct feeling to it. Below you can see how the lower part of the city is by the beach, very much like any other city layout.

Here you can see how the rest of the city slowly goes up and is just a mass of houses and then some little businesses, cafés and restaurants. Its really packed full of houses and I really have no idea how they go about putting some of these houses in because a lot of them are down in valley areas and the ones above have the back part of their house on stilts!
Here is one of the main streets on Cerro Alegre, one of the well known hills for its artsy atomsphere and full cafés.
Like everything else, they are really creative with decorating the outside and inside of their stores and homes. I loved the door on this resto.

I have a grammar teacher who lives in Cerro Alegre and he recommended a café that I should go to in the neighborhood because I was complaining about the lack of good cafés in Viña. Café del Jardin was possibly the cutest café I’ve ever been in, in my life. It was really love at first sight. The owner is Brazilian and also serves you, cooks your food and gave us a map of the cerros so we could find our way. What really cemented my love of this adorable café was not the delicious coffee and adorable little dishes that she brought out our breakfast meal call appropriately “El Turista” (fresh bread with jam and butter, coffee and cafe with chocolate sauce…yummm), but sitting on the table next to my comfy pink striped sofa was a copy of Chocolat, my favorite book! I really think that me and this lady are kindred spirits…jaja…note the joy on my face. Ah, coffee makes me happy!
Finally, here is a picture of the house the fits in so well in Valparaíso. Called La Sebastiana, it was the home to the late Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet and activist. He is one of only a couple Chileans to receive the Noble Price for his poetry. He was also exiled for a period of time for being part of the Communist Party and had to flee to Europe. It has about four stories with a great view and all kinds of neat collectables that decorate it beautifully and very appropriately, it has a large mural painted on the side of it.
I think the most wonderful part of Valparaíso though has to be the amazing views! They are absolutely breath-taking!

¡Ciao, Ciao!