Wednesday 25 July 2012

A few days off in Valparaiso

After my time in La Serena and Valle de Elqui, I had decided to take a few days out and visit Valparaiso, which I had heard such great things about. Also, it was my birthday, so I figured I deserved a wee treat.

I was not disappointed by Valparaiso - such a cool place. Sadly on the first day I was there it was cloudy and very foggy so I wasn't able to appreciate the spectacular views of this amazing hilly city.

I took a walk to Pablo Neruda's Valparaiso house, La Sebastiana and had the weather been better, I would have been blessed with amazing views down to the port and across the city along the walk. Nevertheless, La Sebastiana was lovely. They have an audio guide so you can wander through at your own pace. It was pretty busy, though which is a shame as a lot of the rooms are quite small so sometimes it was difficult to see everything. Still, a really cool house and I really got a good impression of how Neruda loved the sea and to collect many different objects!

La Sebastiana
After the house, I wandered down towards the Museum of Open Air - an art installation throughout an area of the city, which is made up of lots of different paintings and graffiti on buildings and walls. I didn't see much of it, as even with a map, the streets are really difficult to navigate!

I then took a trip on the oldest of the 'ascencores' in Valparaiso - The Concepcion Ascencor. Built in 1883 and one of the 3 currently working in the city, it was an interesting experience! Thankfully the ride didn't last too long as I was a little worried about how rickety it was!! But still, good to take the trip.

After a spot of lunch in Cerro Concepcion I went to visit the Museo El Mirador de Lukas - a museum of cartoons by the Italian born 'Lukas'. He did cartoon strips for the local newspapers for years, displaying the life and city of Valparaiso as well as the rest of Chile. My Spanish has obviously improved as I could actually understand a lot of the cartoons, which were very funny.

On my second day, which was my birthday, the owner of the hostel took me and 2 German tourists to visit the Casablanca Valley and Isla Negra. This was a great way to spend my birthday - a bit of culture and some lovely wine!

We visited 2 wineries in the late morning - William Cole and Emiliana - and tried a total of 7 different wines. The Casablanca Valley is actually famous for its white wines because of the climate, but they do also grow Pinot Noir grapes, and the Emiliana has some Merlot grapes too. A lot of the wineries also make other wines, like the Carmenere (a favourite of mine), using grapes from other wine regions.

I had a pleasant surprise in both of the tastings. At William Cole, there was a Pinot Noir to try and previously, for example on my numerous vineyard visits in Australia, I hadn't been a fan of this wine. But, wow! The smell of this wine was stunning - full of vanilla and cinnamon - and the taste was lovely too. So, now I know, I can buy Chilean Pinot Noir when I get home and I'll like it!

The second surprise came at the Emiliana winery - organic and biodynamic vineyards. I really did not think for a second I was going to like this one, as I have really disliked it in the past. The Viognier. Again, the smell was totally amazing, this time just like honey. And it tasted delicious!

After the vineyards, we stopped off for lunch and I had a lovely rabbit stew - have been hankering after some rabbit for a while now!

Casa de Isla Negra
Then we headed to Isla Negra to see another of Pablo Neruda's houses, and this one, I think, is the best.

Again, an amazing collection of objects, and the rooms in this house are made out to either resemble a boat or a train carriage! In the first room, there is a huge collection of ship figureheads of all different sorts, some of them absolutely huge!

Pablo Neruda and his 3rd wife are buried here at Isla Negra, but this is a fairly recent thing.

The views from the house were beautiful too. Neruda called the place Isla Negra because, although its not an island, he felt like he was on an island when he looked out to sea and down to the black rocks below.

I loved Valparaiso, and it's definitely a place I'd like to explore more if I ever return to Chile.

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