16.06.10: copa fever, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar

A few people in the house woke up early for the world cup match between Chile and Honduras. Although I wasn’t staying up for that, I hardly slept the whole night. Was the jet lag finally catching on?

Still I had to wake up early to make the trip to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. As I walked on the streets amidst the early morning traffic, a sudden cacophony of honking thundered on the streets. From the looks of the smiling faces, it seems that Chile scored a goal. Apparently schools and employers adjusted their time for the match. And when Chile eventually won, the city went into frenzy! This may be just ONE match to someone like me and the world at large, but apparently their first World Cup match win in 48 years.

As the bus sped on the highway that cuts across some valleys lined with vineyards, the first glimpse of Valparaiso is nothing short of serendipity notwithstanding the rain. Colourful houses stand in compact stead on the steep slopes. As we went up to the top, we see the magnificent views of the crescent-shaped bay and the neighbouring bay of Vina del Mar.

There was a very well-dressed woman who was also travelling solo in the group, who stood out from the relaxed demography of the group (mostly Brazilians, a spaniard and the odd Asian). I chatted with her out of curiosity. From Switzerland, she used to teach at a children’s home in Santiago 40 years ago, and wanted to find out how the country is like now. She said that while Santiago has changed a lot (I could tell that the tall buildings, LV and Hermes outlets weren’t always there), Valparaiso is still exactly the same.

It is rather heartening to hear that: “Valparaiso” means valley of paradise. The city is indeed built on valleys, with houses perched on slopes and facing the sea. Founded earlier than Santiago, Valparaiso used to be the most important city in Chile. Today it is still where the Chilean congress sits. Although its coastal scenery is not unlike that of the Mediterranean, Valparaiso has tonnes of character with its colourful houses, buzzling port, fishery, and electric buses. It’s a pity that I was just taking a day trip. I’d imagine a couple of days’ stay there would be most pleasant!

Visited another one of Pablo Neruda’s house, called La Sebastiana. It is just as interesting as La Chascona, and with the lovely view of the city and the sea. Plus, unlike La Chascona, you can tour the place without a guide and take your time to peer into the private keepsakes of this man.

On the other hand, Vina del Mar is hardly interesting (although it has a small moai that was taken out of Easter Island), but was part of the tour since these two cities are very close by. If you do go to this part of the world, you could spend more time in Valaparaiso and do a short trip to Vina del Mar.

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