A word on Cities:
We’re not city tourists. J in particular will avoid large cities like the plague in favor of wilderness routes and small towns, and convincing her to spend a weekend in a large city takes a considerable amount of strategizing on my part, including:
- Forewarning and advance notice. Example: “Just so you know, we’ll be going to Santiago for a weekend in about a month, so you should prepare yourself.”
- Carefully timed hints about things she’ll find exciting, such as beer, street art, parks, funky bohemian neighborhoods, or local culinary delicacies. Example: “I hear there’s a great brewery there and the biggest city park in South America – we should go when we’re in the city two weeks from now.”
- Limited timeframe. A visit to a large city must not be planned to exceed two nights, and is probably better if it can be limited to one. That being said, once in the city, if we are enjoying ourselves or even having a tolerable time, it is fairly easy to convince her to stay another night, one night at a time, until we’ve reached my planned 4-5 night stay.
- Lots of rest and downtime. A day in a city can include a list of things to achieve, but each activity or sight must be sandwiched between activities such as resting at the hostel, lounging in a park, or reading in a bar or coffee shop. The lack accomplishments off of our to-do list can be effectively combined with the bullet point above as a reason for staying an additional night.
In this particular instance, all four strategies worked like a charm for two back-to-back city visits to Valparaíso and Santiago which were both wildly successful. Win!
J, in cities. (as seen in Santiago)
Part 1: Valparaíso
We’ve heard wonderful things about Valparaíso – mostly it’s very colorful and there’s lots of delicious seafood – and sure enough, we loved it. Valparaíso as a city is almost 500 years old. In it’s heyday, it was the biggest, wealthiest, and most important port in South America. Unfortunately, in 1914, the Panama Canal opened and most shipping opted for the shorter route instead of going all the way around Cape Horn.
Valparaíso is still the port for Santiago and a thriving business center, but nowadays it is more known for it’s historical importance, it’s art and culture.
And it’s street art! Street art is relatively new to Valparaíso, but in the last decade it has become world-renowned. We actually saw several murals by artists we recognized from pieces we’ve seen in Berlin, Stavanger, and Miami. Local artists go knocking on doors of private homes and businesses, asking if they would like a mural on their big empty walls. Some businesses seek out murals because it keeps people from tagging. We stay in Cerro Allegro (Happy Hill), an incredibly cheerful, quirky, and fun neighborhood completely and totally covered in street art.
This alleyway was previously dingy and completely tagged, and the neighbors got together and held a mika – when the community comes together to help out with something. They provided all the materials and had a big party weekend, and about 50 artists showed up from all over Chile, each painting a doorway or section of wall. The result was amazing – like an outdoor art gallery.
Valparaíso is also known for it’s ascensors. These are public outdoor elevators that run up and down the many hills that make up the city. Seen here above the cow mural, the two little painted boxes on slanted rails – one going up and the other going down.
C makes a rare blog appearance outside of the sign-off photo. Seen here at Plaza Bismarck, overlooking the city.
J likes cities after all.
Part 2: Santiago
Santiago, founded in the mid-1500s, is a city of over 6 million and is the capitol of Chile. Even I was a little overwhelmed by such a big city, but we were delighted to find that the city is packed with free museums and spacious city parks and boasts one of the best public markets we’ve encountered.
We wander the city for several days, walking this way and that, enjoying a delicious brewery here, enjoying the beautiful churches and stone architecture there. We accidentally end up staying in the middle of Bella Vista, the nightlife neighborhood, where just a few blocks from our front doorstep we find discos, karaoke bars, and eager waiters accosting passers-by on the street chirping enticements of 2-for-1 drink specials. Our overall rating of the city is decidedly mediocre according to J’s city rating scale, but we have a good time.
J, such a tourist.
The city lights from the top of San Cristobal hill.
Now headed north again. Next up: Bolivia!
Lots of Love,
C & J