Valpo, our time was short but it was sweet – sweet.

Valparaiso is one of my favorite cities. It’s not too big but so full of charm. Just wandering around the streets and hiking up the hills could fill a whole trip in itself. Valpo use to be the strongest port city in the Americas. Back in the day when traders (and pirates) had to go all the way around the tip of South America the first big port on the western side was Valparaiso – or something like that. It was a city built by immigrants. The rich lived in the low land areas in beautiful homes and the poor started building their ramshackle houses up along the hills. All of a sudden the Panama Canal was built and Valpo became nearly irrelevant. The port is still active but nothing like its glory days. One of things the city is known for now is incredible street art. It did not disappoint!
One of the many things Valpo is best known for now is a former home to famous Chilean Poet and Chile’s Ambassador to France, Pablo Neruda. Neruda describes the city best with one of this famous poems, Ode to Valparaiso. The first part is a great introduction to the city:

VALPARAÍSO,
what an absurdity
you are,
how crazy:
a crazy port.
What a head
of disheveled
hills,
that you never finish
combing.
Never
did you have
time to dress yourself,
and always
you were surprised
by life.

Valpo is all wandering hills, murals and a slightly on-edge sense of charm. I had been once before so I knew I loved the city and was super excited to be back. My first few days were really quiet – there was almost no one staying at my hostel. That was fine though, a few low-key days. I took the walking tour and explored the city at my own pace. After a few days in I ran into Alice, someone I met in Mendoza. It was great to see a familiar face. After explaining how quiet my place was she talked me into first coming over for dinner at her hostel and then moving in.

My new hostel, Planeta Linda was fabulous. I tell everyone I know that is heading to Valpo to stay there! The hostel is run by a group of young guys – a mix of volunteers and workers. We decided by the end of our stay that they’re a band of hippy brothers, kind of a group of lost souls but open to whatever the world brings. It was sweet, they clearly are looking out for one another and making sure everyone who comes in feels welcome. The hostel has an amazing roof top deck looking out of the city and the water. The kitchen is up there and it definitely became hangout central.

I lucked out, there was a great group of people staying there. Two Germans traveling separately, my friend Alice who is from England and three Aussies. Dave was the vegetarian cook extraordinaire – honestly some of the best food I have had my entire trip. There were also two American guys volunteer/working who were both very interesting characters and two local Chileans.

We spent our morning sleeping way in, our afternoons out exploring and our nights sharing dinner and drinking at the kitchen table. It got chilly one night and we ended up having a hostel slumber party – all the duvets, giant bottles of wine and huge bag of potato chips – what more could you need? We had a few nights out that always turned interesting. We spent one night out a club dancing to strange music and making new friends. On the Aussie’s last night we were all on board for a big night out. Turned out we left too late and by the time we got to the bar things were shutting down. From there we followed the crowd of locals to a big open air plaza which was the place to be after 2 in the morning. You could get everything you needed – food and beers were sold out of people’s backpacks! The toilet provided an interesting challenge but we made it work. We soon realized as the only foreigners there were considered to be quite exciting. Groups of people would crowd around and ask us where we were from. A German, an American, a Brit and some Aussies really fueled the excitement. We had a blast and by the time we made it home it was morning.

There is lots to see and do in Valpo. The city right next to it is called Vina del Mar and I didn’t even make it there on this trip. I did tour Pablo Neruda’s house which was amazing. I have now been to 2 of his 3 houses. They are full of things – Neruda was a big collector. All sorts of cool stuff – a merri-go-round horse from Paris, famous painting, ancient carvings from China.. anything you can imagine could be in one of his houses.  Other than that I took lots of pictures and ate lots of empanadas. It was a great couple of days and I wish it could have been longer but Alice, Sabrina and I decided it was time to head on to Santiago so it was bye-bye to the city on the sea and hello to the capital!

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