Valparaíso is a feast for the eyes. It was a shame I only had a day or two to explore – Viña del Mar included = mission impossible.
Things we’ve learnt: Apparently, before becoming known as the graffiti central of Chile, Valparaíso used to be the gateway to Latin America thanks to its port. Unsurprisingly, it became one, if not, the most affluent region in the country during the 19th century boasting the continent’s oldest stock exchange, country’s first public library and first volunteer fire department. The growth of Santiago and the opening of the Panama Canal decades after led to the city’s downfall which left residents with no choice but to abandon the city that was quickly sinking into poverty. This is where it gets interesting: after its demise – it took a long while but it got there – artists and cultural entrepreneurs arrived which not only gave the city a new lease of life but turned it into the Cultural Capital of the country.
Again, it felt as if I only managed to take a sneak peek of the city. With so many sights and so little time, I decided to leave the map after our tour and just trawl around the city for cool finds (mostly graffiti, I won’t lie).
The next day, armed with what’s left of my pesos, I took the bus to Viña del Mar and looked forward to seeing the huge contrast between the two cities. Touched down in downtown and it felt like a different country. As much as I like to say I channeled my inner Dora the Explorer and checked out its nook and crannies, I really just spent the afternoon hunting for souvenirs from the tiendas that dotted along the promenade. That, and I knitted while soaking in the view. Et je ne regrette rien.