Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pablo's house

The buses returning to Santiago were booked, so I had to spend a couple of hours by the Valpo bus station, not the most scenic part of town.
After walking through the mercado in the streets, I settled in at La Merced, where vendors sell old magazines and records.
Others gamble at cards. I was amused but not surprised to see my guide from the tour boat.

Back in Santiago, Jorge and Patricia greeted me like a long-lost relative. I set off this morning for Neruda's house, the last thing on my list.

But like Neruda's house in Valparaiso, it had been closed for holidays, and the line was so long, I abandoned it in favor of a splash-out lunch with wine in Providencia.
Sadly, all good trips must come to an end. Otherwise I'd be moving. Time to get back to reality.

Ciao, Chile. See you next time.


In my sky at twilight you are like a cloud
and your form and colour are the way I love them. 
You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lipsand in your life my infinite dreams live.
The lamp of my soul dyes your feet,the sour wine is sweeter on your lips,oh reaper of my evening song,how solitary dreams believe you to be mine! 
You are mine, mine, I go shouting it to the afternoon'swind, and the wind hauls on my widowed voice.Huntress of the depth of my eyes, your plunderstills your nocturnal regard as though it were water. 
You are taken in the net of my music, my love,and my nets of music are wide as the sky.My soul is born on the shore of your eyes of mourning.In your eyes of mourning the land of dreams begin.
—Pablo Neruda

Sunday, January 1, 2017

happy hill

Here in Valparaiso, I'm staying in Cerro Alegre or Happy Hill. It's a charming neighborhood, formerly bohemian, now full of wine bars and cafes and gorgeous street art.
The streets are steep.
The houses are old, or at least as old as Valpo's last big earthquake. As Ruth pointed out, Valparaiso like San Francisco, which it resembles in more ways than one, was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in 1906, and rebuilt in a similar era.
Because it's a tourist town at the height of the season, lots of boutiques were open on my street.
After a suitably late brunch, hanging out with a couple from SoCal on an awesome 6-month trip and my neighbors from Amsterdam, I took the ascensor (funicular) down to the port as Guadalupe recommended.
Also like San Francisco, Valpo has cable cars that run on actual cables, not just electric wires. 
A brake man sits at the top. 
8 or 10 people climb in.

It's a really steep hill.
You pay at the bottom: 100 pesos each way or around 15¢. What's only apparent going up is that it's a balance system: there are two cars and as one goes down, the other goes up. I'm not sure how they work it out if there are more people in one direction than the other.
You do get a great view, looking out over the port.
Next stop was the lanchas—tourist boats that fill up with passengers for a half-hour ride for 3000 pesos ($4.50). 

It was like a ride at Fisherman's Wharf, somewhere I ordinarily wouldn't be caught dead. But in the spirit of things, I bought a giant cone of cotton candy and joined the masses of local tourists.
We had our Gilligan's Island moment, as we headed out to sea before the life preservers were passed out. 

The guide made jokes in Spanish about who would float and who would sink. I understood quite a bit of it, or at least the spirit of it.

As you can see, it's an important working port. Chile is a major exporter of wine, produce, and minerals like copper. Containers lined the docks.

The armada (the Navy) also had a few vessels in port, one of them Colombian.

Here's the view looking back. Feels familiar, right? 

Downtown didn't seem too much the worse for wear, although it smelled awful. Broken glass and confetti lined some of the streets.

Last stop was a charming wine bar back up on happy hill, where I ate conejo (rabbit) served with a puree I thought was beans but turned out to be sausage. Camilla poured me a delicious assortment of Chilean wines to taste. Not a bad way to kick off a new year.
You can see why artists have flocked here for years from all over the world, attracted to the sun and the sea, and the sense of possibility, on the western edge of the continent.