Sunday, 24 November 2013

Valparaiso, a city of dogs and graffiti

The first thing you notice about Valparaiso is the fresh sea air, the next is all the stray dogs! We thought there were a lot in San Pedro de Atacama, but here, they are everywhere.
Dogs & Graffiti
After checking into our B&B we took a 'free' 3 hour walking tour of the city and at each point there was another pack of dogs ready to follow us. The tour was great, it was the same company as the one we did in Santiago, tips4tours, you pay what you think the tour was worth. We began the tour in the old town, which is UNESCO listed, it's beautiful , if a bit run down and due to it's heritage listing it's difficult and expensive to renovate the buildings so many at left to deteriorate.
We then headed up one of the amazing old funiculars to one of Valaparaiso's many hills to see the magnificent views of the port town (the dogs didn't come up with us in the funicular - there was the next pack waiting for us at the top). Due to the nature of the hills, the economy and the poverty (Valparaiso has the highest unemployment rate in all of Chile) the houses are built with an eclectic mix of materials and designs which makes for a very interesting landscape, also the colours are a highlight as most houses are made of corrugated iron they paint with bright colours, a bit like La Boca in Buenos Aires. We headed down many narrow cobbled streets their walls covered in graffiti, apparently it originated during the Pinochet dictatorship as a form of protest but it has turned Valpo (as the locals call it) into an open air art gallery. In fact, so many of the worlds graffiti artists are drawn to the city and some house owners to prevent horrible 'tagging' on their properties either commission artists to paint murals on their facades or they give artists carte blanche to paint what they want if the owner can't afford to pay.
Piano Stairs, Valparaiso
Piano stairs, Valparaiso
Apparently there is a code within the graffiti world where you don't mess with a other artists canvas, though there are always exceptions to this as you see around the city. 
The town is beautiful and while on the walking tour we met one American guy who arrived in the town 2 years ago planning to stay a couple of days and he has never left, you can see why as the city really does grow on you.
There are some brilliant restaurants in the city including Cocina Puerto, and some pretty good ice cream shops.
The B&B we stayed was called La Nona, a cozy, family-run place managed by a couple who own the house which was owned by Rene's grandfather, a immigrant from England. It's always been a B&B, Rene's grandmother ran it up until a couple of years ago when she died. Rene was really helpful in telling us what to do and where do go, and he laid out a pretty mean breakfast too!

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