Friday, July 8, 2016

CHILE: THE PORT CITY OF VALPARAISO (VALPO)


A beautiful sunny day shines on the colorful homes built in hilly Valparaiso which is always appreciated in this often foggy coastal city.

It was time to visit Chile and its Pacific coast.  We had been living in and loving the lake district of Argentina including the wonderful town of San Martin de los Andes.  But as wonderful as the lakes of Argentina are, we were in need of a "Pacific Ocean" fix.  It was as easy as getting on one of the convenient and comfortable long-distance buses for the haul over the spectacular Andes and down to the coastline of Central Chile.  Before we knew it we were in Chile!


The city and port of Valparaiso (nickname "Valpo") is a must when visiting Chile!


It was during one of our Chile visits that we met the Pacific port and city of Valparaíso. "Valpo" as it is commonly referred to by the locals was unique, crazy, and wonderful in my opinion.  I could not describe Valpo any better than the following:


The street are in Valparaiso definitely makes a statement, but it's up to the viewer to decide what that statement is!

"Syncopated, dilapidated, colorful and poetic, Valparaíso is a wonderful messPablo Neruda, who drew much inspiration from this hard-working port town, said it best: 'Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven't combed your hair, you've never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.'

But Neruda wasn't the only artist to fall for Valparaíso's unexpected charms. Poets, painters and would-be philosophers have long been drawn to Chile's most unusual city. Along with the ever-shifting port population of sailors, dockworkers and prostitutes, they've endowed gritty and gloriously spontaneous Valparaíso with an edgy air of 'anything goes.' Add to this the spectacular faded beauty of its chaotic cerros (hills), some of the best street art in Latin America, a maze of steep, sinuous streets, alleys and escaleras (stairways) piled high with crumbling mansions, and it's clear why some visitors are spending more time here than in Santiago."   source: Lonely Planet introduction to Valparaiso


Wonderful street art in Valpo is one of the rewards of walking the streets of this interesting and funky city!  

Valparaíso is one of the most important ports on the west coast of South America and lies around seventy miles northwest of the Chilean capital of Santiago. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways which embody a rich architectural and cultural legacy. The "Jewel of the Pacific", Valparaíso is a city that has been revitalized by tourism and its colonial architecture helped the city to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2003.



The old colonial architecture can be seen on the Plaza Sotomayor in Valparaiso which was in stark contrast to the avant-garde art exhibit of nudes!  



The interesting and unusual Menorá de la Paz (peace menorah) as seen on the wall of the synagogue in Valparaiso.


A bird's eye view looking down on the busy streets of Valparaiso.  

Valparaíso has a very mild Mediterranean climate closely resembling that of San Francisco at a similar latitude in the northern hemisphere. The summer is essentially dry, but the city is affected by fogs from the Humboldt Current during most of the year.  Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age as a magnet for European immigrants when the city was known by international sailors as "Little San Francisco" and "The Jewel of the Pacific".



A typical foggy day in Valpo definitely reminds me of San Francisco in my home state of California.


The colorful buildings in Valpo are very much appreciated on a cloudy day in this port city.

While it is an important industrial city, Valpo also attracts its fair share of visitors due to its wonderful historic districts, the cobbled streets, and the amazing cultural scene.  The city hosts a vibrant and varied schedule of festivals each every year.

During our visit to Valpo we were able to enjoy the amazing avant-garde art exhibit in the plaza which were all of nudes!  Just wait until you see my album to this posting with a large representation of the paintings.  Consider yourself forewarned because this public art festival was VERY original and often quite startling!


Checking out this large and bigger-than-life nude art exhibit in Valparaiso was an unexpected bonus during our visit.


The art exhibit "Cuerpos Pintados al Aire Libre" (Outdoor Painted Bodies) included works by forty five different artists.  It was stunning!  

Another example of the stunning outdoor exhibit of painted nudes in Valparaiso.


Assuming a pose with one of the forty-five paintings of nudes while visiting Valparaiso - thank you, Valpo, for this great experience!  


The second half of the twentieth century was not kind to Valparaíso as many wealthy families abandoned the city. The opening of the Panama Canal and the consequent reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso’s port-based economy. The port of Valparaíso eventually recovered and now is a major distribution center for container traffic, copper, and fruit exports. Valparaíso is also receiving growing attention from the cruise industry during the South American summer.


 Nicknamed "The Jewel of the Pacific", Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site based upon its updated urban design and unique architecture:  a blending of the old with the new!   

Standing guard over the Plaza Sotomayor and its tribute to their national heroes.




I hope some of these old and derelict properties are left as a reminder of by-gone days!  


During the past fifteen years, Valpo has staged an impressive renaissance attracting many artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up businesses in the city's hillside historic districts. The city exemplifies Chilean culture with festivals every year. Valpo is definitely an interesting and happening place!


Major industries include tourism, culture, shipping and freight transport. Approximately 50 international cruise ships call on Valparaíso during the 4-month Chilean summer (yikes!).  The port of Valparaíso is also an important hub for container freight and exports many products, including wine (yeah!), copper, and fresh fruit.


 In 1996 the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso's unusual system of funicular lifts one of the world's 100 most endangered historical treasures. And they are quite a ride!

I love street art as you may know from my previous blog post which you can check out at the following link:   LINK TO STREET ART POSTING 


  A ride on these funiculars is definitely a "must do" while visiting Valpo!

Valparaíso has also transformed itself into a major educational center with four universities and several vocational colleges. Well done, Valpo! Well done! We look forward to returning for another more extensive visit the next time we are in the area.  

I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Those words definitely contributed to and inspired me in the creation of MEXICO AND BEYOND: LAURA'S PHOTO JOURNEY.

Please go to the following link VALPARAISO, CHILE for additional photographs.  



The magnificent Andes as seen from our bus window on our way home to
SAN MARTIN DE LOS ANDES, ARGENTINA .  Gracias, Valpo, for the fun visit and thanks to my blog followers for joining me!  Laura


                                             A Nomadic life can be thirsty work!




















4 comments:

  1. Great photos. Absolutely wonderful, which is what I have come to expect from you. So talented...you need to publish a book of your photos.

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  2. Your comments and inspiration are truly appreciated, Vicki. Many thanks, Laura

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  3. Many thanks for joining me in Valaparaiso and leaving a comment. Wishing you a wonderful summer and I am looking forward to your return.

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