Following our five days in Mendoza, we headed across the Andes Mountains by bus to Valparaiso, Chile. Three days ahead of us and no real plans, other than simply walking through the city, seeing the port, and enjoying great seafood.
The port of Valparaiso was first established by Spanish explorers arriving in the area in the 1500s. Following Chile’s independence from Spain in the early 1800s, the port was opened to international trade, and became a required stop for ships crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn. As a major seaport, many English, German, French and Italian immigrants settled in Valparaiso, and one can see the European influence in architecture and food throughout the city. Valparaiso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003, thanks to its historical importance, natural beauty (large number of hills surrounding a picturesque harbor), and unique architecture. One of the more unusual aspects to the city are the funiculars or ascensors (cliff-side railways) throughout Valparaiso, built beginning in 1883. These were built as a way for local people to be taken to and from their homes high up in the hillside neighborhoods.
Maddy and I stayed at the Sutherland House, built by George Sutherland of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1870 as a school for the children of British citizens living in Valparaiso. The hotel sits on the side of a cliff high up in the hills. We had a panoramic view of the port and harbor from our window, although we did have to climb 65 steps whenever entering the hotel. Maybe it’s not surprising that Maddy and I were the only guests at the hotel, however, we were very well taken care of during our stay.
Although the architecture in the city was beautiful, we did find the city to be more dusty and gritty than Buenos Aires or Mendoza. Being quite small (population: 280,000), it was also more difficult to find taxi cabs, buses, etc. which resulted in both of us getting lots of exercise as we walked up and down those hills! Maddy found that the pronunciation of Spanish was slightly different in Valparaiso; she was able to practice a different dialect than she’d used in Buenos Aires. We visited the Naval Museum to learn more about the seamen who established the port, toured the home of Pablo Neruda, and walked the beaches in the nearby resort town of Viña del Mar (Viña del Mar feels like Santa Monica, while Valparaiso is similar to San Pedro). Our most vivid memories of Valpo, however, were the great meals we enjoyed. We had two of the best meals of our entire trip here; on the first night, dinner at Montpelier with French cuisine comparable to any other I’ve had, and the second night ordering freshly caught Chilean deep sea grouper at La Concepcion while gazing out at the harbor.