The original plan to visit Valparaiso for the day, during our first stay in Santiago, had been put on hold following the terrible fires that had hit the city. Later called the Great Fire, at least 2,500 homes were destroyed, leaving 11,000 homeless, with the city being declared a disaster zone. When we were looking to visit, the fire had been bought under control, but we didn’t feel it was appropriate to visit. Thankfully on our return to the Chilean capital, after our Easter Island trip, the fire had been extinguished and we were able to take the bus ride west and spend a day in this port town.
Our plan for the day was simple – wander around town, taking in the colourful houses and street art Valparaiso is famous for. So we set off to see what we could find.
We took the scenic route recommended on our map, towards the port, and found ourselves in a not so scenic, dodgy part of town, surrounded by a lot of old and rundown buildings. There was street art, and the buildings were colourful, but it wasn’t what we were expecting. Not a great first impression, and we started to question how long we’d spend in Valparaiso.
Deciding to change direction and head up one of the hills where we could see a bit of colour, we soon found ourselves in the bohemian area of Valparaiso. This was more like it – quirky streets, rainbow stairs, colourful houses and walls adorned with street art.
And on top of all that, there was also the fantastic views across the hillsides of the colourful houses Valparaiso is famous for.
After walking around for a couple of hours, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. We were midway through our meals when the building suddenly shook violently. No one moved from their tables but the waitress looked a bit shaken up, so we asked her if it had been an earthquake. She looked a bit upset at our question and pointed out that earthquakes were devastating, this was just a tremor. We hadn’t meant to offend but given the history of earthquakes in the area, she had a point. Tremor it was. We later found out the tremor felt in town measured 3.1 on the Richter scale (and 5.3 just offshore). After some nervous laughter, everyone else continued their meals as normal, and so we did the same, hoping there would be no further rumblings.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets, following the street art wherever it lead us. There was something new and amazing around every corner, that sometimes we couldn’t decide which way to go or where to look first.
When it was time to go home, we took one of the old and fun funiculars back down the bottom of the hill. And we couldn’t have picked a better ride, as there was a brewery waiting for us at the bottom. It would have been rude not to stop for a drink before heading home. Craig and I did a tasting of the beers on offer and Kristen had one of the biggest glasses of wine ever.
Despite the less than promising start, it ended up being a great day. There was so much street art to see, it felt like we’d spent the day walking around an open-air art museum. Valparaiso has seen some hard times in it’s history, not least with the recent fires, but despite this it still has a lot of charm and energy, you soon find yourself under it’s spell.