March 6, 2007
When I arrived in Valparaiso this morning, I thought of something. I am familiar with the name of this city because there is a college
back in the United States with the same name. I admit to only knowing this because of college basketball. And then I thought of the
fact that it is now March (hey, I never said that my thoughts this morning were very deep). And then I put the two together:
college basketball and March. Only one thing could then be thought of: March Madness. And the fact that I am going to be missing
it. It’s not odd that I was oblivious that this was just around the corner since it is something you are really only exposed to back in
the U.S. But now I was made not oblivious to it. All of a sudden I was in NCAA Tourney withdrawal (yet, I know it has yet to even
begin). For the past 10+ years I have lived for these two weeks every year. Brackets being announced. Choosing my picks. Sending
in money to the person who is heading up the pool. Keeping the ESPN page open on the internet while at work to keep up with
which team is beating (or better yet, upsetting) the other team. But not this year. This now falls into the category of ‘Things I Have
Missed Since I Have Been Away’.
Wow, how I have the ability to go off on a tangent! I really think I should be talking about my oh-so-wonderful day in this city
rather than go on about my sadness over not being able to bet on college hoops…
The bus ride was only 1½ hours from Santiago. I used my trusty little map to see that I was close to the ‘Mercado Central’. I knew
that the market was known for produce. That thought alone made me start craving some Chilean grapes (and how can you pass up
the $.60/kilo pricetag???).
Lonely Planet describes this area as ‘grimy’. Though I have to say that there was something cool about the ‘griminess’. I was
thinking it a bit more as ‘grimy-chic’. Has a nice ring, huh?
As much as that area didn’t put me off like I’m sure it does others, it wasn’t the reason why I wanted to see Valparaiso. I came to
see the city from above via the ‘ascensores’ that are spread throughout the city.
As I made my way through the city, something was quite apparent to me: I was cold. Then something else became apparent to me:
I was the only person who was wearing a tank top. The Chileans knew the drill as every person I saw was wearing a sweater or
jacket. Now I know what tourists who come to San Francisco in July experience. How was I to know that it was going to be so foggy
and chilly when just 1½ hours away it is so clear, sunny and hot??? I felt like an idiot but there was nothing I could do about it.
Even though you are just a few minutes from being down near the port, you feel like you are worlds away. Hidden stairways that
take you from one hill to another, the mansions, the colorful residences, the rolling hills, the maze of cobblestone streets, the alleys,
the ancensores (the lifts that not-so-smoothly take you from the lower ground to higher ground - and vice versa), the graffiti art on
the walls and staircases, the restaurants and cafes…it was impossible not to absolutely love it!
When I first asked people who had been to this city what it was like, they responded in a positive way…but said ‘It’s a big city.’
Big City? To that all I can say is ‘No way, Felipe!’ (love my originality or what???). I was meant to go to Viña del Mar but I didn’t
want to leave. And the fact that it is pretty pointless to go to a beach when it is so cold outside. I thought this city was unlike others
that I had seen and I wanted to enjoy it for as long as possible. If I knew I was going to feel this way, I would have definitely
brought an overnight bag. But who knew???
In honor of my love to this city, I decided to celebrate with a glass of wine at a great restaurant that overlooked the city and water.
It was as I was sitting here when the sky started to turn blue. And I felt…(could it really be?)...sun. It was now late-afternoon so it
was too late to even try to venture to Viña del Mar. But I have to stay that it felt damn good.
Before doing my last bit of wandering around the streets, I wandered into a little museum that was in a converted residence.
I enjoyed one last hour of getting lost in the hills before admitting to myself that it was time to catch a bus back to Santiago.
All I could keep thinking all day was ‘Damn, I am loving this day!’
|The cluster of colorful buildings
|So much character in this area!
|Colorful hillside of Valparaiso.