Santiago, Valparaiso is a whole different world from Chile's capital. You'll be kicking yourself for not coming here sooner from dull Santiago.
Bohemia lives on in Valpo!
Like a watercolor painting, this wacky, rough and tumble Chilean coastal hill town is living art. The 'cerros' or hills are alive with the vibrant colors of modest homes and the soft sounds of people along labyrinthine cobblestone paths.
A place to be unhurried and soak in the vibe of another era where artists paint in nooks overlooking the harbor, funiculars or ascensors ride up the cerros with their small cargo of excited tourists and bemused locals, women talk to each other out of upstairs windows of pastel cottages and cats guard homes and alleyways, Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.
A sweetie, she took me by the arm and waited at a curb with me till a 'collectivo' taxi came by with Alegre on its rooftop. She gave the driver specific instructions, and to take care of me.
As I thanked her and kissed her on the cheek .. it's what you do in Latin America.. she said, "Tenga cuidado. Esta zona puede ser peligroso". Be careful. This area can be dangerous.
Ah, I needn't have worried! The collectivo driver, a gentlemanly sort, drove madly up the winding hills and brought me to the bohemia I was in search of. The fare for the 20 minute ride to paradise... 50 cents! I gave him a handsome tip, and thanked him profusely.
My first sight of the cerros of Valparaiso! I was smitten. This was the beautiful, nutty, colorful, old timey harbor hill town I had read about.
Yes, yes I had arrived in Valpo ... albeit under the watchful gaze of cats protecting these old but proud homes, as if they knew theirs was no ordinary town.