Friday, July 18, 2008

Valparaiso & Viña del Mar

A few days ago I visited Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, two coastal cities about an hour and a half from Santiago. These cities were incredibly gorgeous and perfectly complimentary. Valpo (Valparaiso's more common nickname) is the old city. Art and culture are plastered on the winding walls that twist and turn up the mountains, creating a great maze of streets and developments, all built one on top of the other, and all looking out over the Pacific Ocean. The city is fairly large for Chile, but has a very quaint feeling to it. As in all the cities, dogs roam the streets, and friendly people bid you to come into their "rincones" to see what they have to sell. We had children run up to us and plainly ask "¿De qué pais son?" - "What country are you from?" We'd respond, "De los estados unidos, ¿y tú?", and they'd giggle and say "¡De Chile, claro!" before running away.

Viña is a different city. Separated by only a few kilometers and a 90-cent subway ride, you wouldn't expect such a contrast. Casinos and modern hotels line the beaches; English is displayed on the signs of the local Blockbuster and McDonald's. The dogs are still there, though fewer of them (we are told that when several dignitaries, including President Bush, visited awhile back, the government rounded them up and sent them to be put to sleep), but the streets are always clean. The beach is gorgeous but is not for swimming. Some of the largest waves in the world crash against the jagged rocks that lie on either side of most of the public beaches, creating a deep bass the shakes the ground and resonates in your chest. It isn't the charming Valpo, but it is definitely beautiful how these two cities come together, making up for what the other lacks.



t.fraticelli said...

This sounds like our friendship...a combination of the strong and the less developed. :) You can be Valpo.

Jamie said...

I love brightly colored buildings. Que lindos.

The Bon Vivant said...

"¡De Chile, claro!" lol!