Monday, August 31, 2015

8/15/15: Valparaiso pt. 2

The main purpose of today was to work up to see La Sebastiana - the Nobel Laureate in Literature Pablo Neruda's home in Valparaiso - the first of three. Since it's a little bit out of the way, Dad and I went to several of the attractions along the way before getting there.

We started in the fish market and walked around a little more. We wanted to buy some water, but when we did I wasn't paying attention and we accidentally bought carbonated water instead of regular (in my defense the label was clear enough that Dad could have read it too). Oh well.

We continued on, stopping to eat a completo (hot dog, tomato chunks, mayonnaise, and avocado) for lunch. There was a huge gate in the park that we walked through after that, so we stopped to take some pictures there before moving on.

Before going from the flat "plan" to the hill again, we went to the Museum of Natural History. The museums in Chile are seriously fantastic - many of them are free (this one included) and include great exhibits. In central Chile, they often have many different exhibits of all the habitats in Chile, from the mountains and Altiplano to the valleys to the forests to the coasts/ocean. Easter Island gets a separate exhibit - I wonder if that's because it brings in huge tourist dollars for the country. Like many of the other free museum, it had some English, describing the main ideas but very little English in the exhibits themselves. I can't expect too much, I guess.

One of my favorite things to see in Valparaiso so far was next: the Museo de Cielo Abierto, aka the Open Air Museum. This isn't a formal museum, but rather a series of 20 murals lining a staircase and neighborhood. They have been there since the 1990s with no vandalism (common in Valparaiso) - which is quite impressive. Some of the murals are huge - larger than life-size. The artistic talent shown in them is worth seeing and definitely worth preserving.

It was quite a walk from there to La Sebastiana because we were walking up the cerro, but we made it eventually! The streets next to it are lined with tour buses and little artisan shops; I bought some earrings for friends at a great price. La Sebastiana itself is absolutely worth visiting. Like everything else in Valparaiso, it resembles a ship, giving it a really unique facade. Before getting there, I knew relatively little about Pablo Neruda - especially since he wrote in Spanish. His house, however, it really gorgeous. It is made of 5 stories, each with just one or two rooms. The narrow spaces is  meant to remind the guests of a boat - and it certainly does. There are large windows on the side that faces the heart of the city and the coast, and Neruda has a ton of art, books, and fancy furniture everywhere. He had kind of a complicated personal life - he married one lady and then met someone else, and eventually married her instead, but lived with them in different houses, etc. but he was apparently very good to his friends and obviously a great poet. He served Chile as an ambassador to several countries, stood up for human rights during the Chilean dictatorship, and managed a great collection of art and books, so good for him! It was really awesome to be able to be so close to his life in a way that was extremely different from Gabriela Mistral's house. The entrance fee to the house was a little pricey, but well worth it for the history, the view, and the information given through the audio guide included with the ticket. Very well done museum - highly recommended!

Dad and I weren't really sure what to do for the rest of the day, so we ended up walking along Ave. Alemania (Germany in Spanish) across the top of the hills. It was quite a long walk everywhere, but there was one lookout point that provided a great portrait of Valparaiso from the aerial view.

When we got back down to the plan, we looked for places to eat. Apparently, Valparaiso is home to one of the top 25 ice cream shops in the world. Even though it wasn't hot, we obviously still have to go try it. We ended up ordering this banana manjar and dark chocolate combination that tasted fantastic! I don't know if it's the best in the world - I'm pretty sure gelato in Europe can compete like no other - but a great choice, and especially a great combination!

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