Last known location: London, England

Football Farce & Dodgy Dogs

From the capital we made the 2 hour trip to the coast, and the port town of Valparaiso, known to all as ‘Valpo’. The slightly quirky place is built into the hills surrounding the bay, and we checked into a B&B a good way up the slopes! We had a nice big room with huge windows looking down over the town.

Our first priority was to find somewhere to watch the big Spurs game that afternoon. Gem seemed more concerned about this than I did, and she later admitted she was worried about the strop I’d have if we didn’t find anywhere! It didn’t come to that though, and we quickly found a dingy bar with a big TV where the barman was suitably reassuring. Before kick-off we had time for lunch and we took advantage of one the good ‘Menu del Dia’ offers – basically a set menu with starter, soup, main and a glass of wine for about £4 each. Great value as Chile isn’t a particularly cheap country by any standards. Suitably filled with pasta we headed back to the bar for a pre-match beer.

Suffice to say the game went pretty much as badly as it could have done (thanks Crouchy!), so I wasn’t overly pleased, and the bar also had some of the worst toilets Gem had ever seen! The only positive was that we met another English couple from Brighton, who were also watching it along with some Canadians they’d met on their travels. We caught up with them all later that night after heading back to our room to put on some warm clothes – Santiago had been boiling, but not so on the coast it seemed! After some dinner we headed back to their hostel for a few more drinks, eventually making it home at about 3am! Thankfully they were only staying round the corner!

The next morning was predictably unproductive, and we finally made it out for a late lunch, and the local speciality, Chorrillana seemed to fit the bill. This is basically a huge pile of chips mixed with fried pork and sausage, then topped with fried onions, a pork chop and few fried eggs for good measure! Perfect in the circumstances, but maybe not something you’d have every day! We spent the rest of the afternoon having a look around our local neighbourhood of Cerro Alegre, full of brightly coloured, corrugated-iron clad buildings and lurid, but artistic graffiti! The graffiti is everywhere, some of it seemingly arranged by the local authorities, and it certainly gives the town a unique character.

We still had one full day left, and we spent it exploring the rest of the historic town. Valpo was a booming town around 1900, when it was a regular stop for shipping heading from Cape Horn to the west coast of the Americas. After the Panama Canal opened the whole place went into decline, and it’s only in the last few years that it’s had something of a tourist-powered revival. There are a few churches and squares but the best way to get to know the place is just to wander the unusual streets. We headed along Allemana street, which wound it’s way around the hills above the town, offering great views of the city below and across the bay. We stopped off along the way at one of the former houses of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet, who had a very interesting flair for interior design. The house was a maze with winding staircases and odd nic-naks like stuffed birds, strange  paintings and unusual furniture.

One of the features of the city that still remains from it’s golden age is the network of ‘Ascensor’, very short funicular railways that go from port level up to the hillside neighbourhoods for a few pence a time. These are almost museums in themselves and quite fun way to trundle up the hill – saves the legs as well!

Everywhere we went in Valpo we escorted along the way by yet more stray dogs, who would attach themselves to you, then gradually attract their friends until you had a small train following you along the street! The only way to get rid of them was to go into a shop and hope that they latched onto someone else in the meantime. Chile desperately needs an organisation to round up and look after them, but Gem had slightly harsher measures in mind after their howling matches gave her several restless nights sleep!

The following day we headed north – Valpo had been a really interesting stop, definitely a unique place. The journey north to La Serena was spectacular in itself, following the rugged Pacific coastline past deserted beaches and huge rocky bays. We were hoping for some sunshine and a few days on the beach next!

1 Comment:
  1. Rose 13 Apr, 2011

    Reminds me a bit of that very steep windy street in San Fransisco. Can’t remember the name of it. See what you mean about the dogs!! Not sure I liked the look of the chorrillama!! Looks a really pretty place. Shame about the football.


    Mum x x x

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