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.