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Valparaiso, Chile Trip Journal

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February 4, Valparaiso, Chile

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We debated at length between spending the day exploring Valparaiso or taking the two-hour bus ride to Santiago. The day in Valparaiso won – we just don’t do well on long bus rides – too boring, not many photo opportunities. Plus, in reviewing the information in our travel books and what was supplied by the ship, Valparaiso sounded interesting.

Valparaiso, nicknamed Valpo, is one of Chile’s most important seaports, is the capital of the region and also is home to the National Congress. Valpo also can claim some firsts: Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world.

The shuttles and tour buses were once again disinfected by the ship’s crew before anyone could board. We took the shuttle from the ship to the port entrance. There, we asked one of the officials in the port terminal some of the best things to see in the city center, about walking to and/or from the ship and anything that is a must see while in town. He indicated a few sites on the map that he felt were important and then told us that under no conditions, should we take the ascensore (funicular) from the center of the city up the hill. He told us it was guaranteed we would be robbed. Well, I told John I could defend our honor, but not when loaded down with cameras!

We were a bit disappointed about the ascensore, but at the same time, preferred to keep our cameras, cash, credit cards – and most of all – our bodies, intact!

We took a taxi to the main center of the city – Plaza Sotomayor. (No relation to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor). The Plaza is the most important site in the city of Valparaiso. In the center is a very large and historic monument – The Monument to the Heroes of Iquique – honoring all those who lost their lives in the 1879 Battle of Iquique. Located on one end of the plaza is the building that houses the Navy of Chile, facing the direction of the sea. Under the building are buried the remains of some of the Chilean Navy heroes.

We decided to walk around the city center for a while. We ended up in the financial district – bank after bank lined both sides of the street – and lots of security guards posted just inside the door. We wanted to use an ATM so walked into one of the banks. We weren’t exactly greeted with a big smile and “welcome to our bank”. Instead, we were stopped, John explained he wanted to use an ATM, so the guard pointed us down the street to the corner. And, of course, when we walked down there, it was being serviced. No worries – we just went to a money exchange.

Obviously, the downtown area is a bit of a crime area – a couple people pointed to our cameras and gave us a warning of some type in Spanish. Living in Rome and traveling to other cities has taught us to be aware of our surroundings at all times, so we are observant and use common sense as far as wandering off the “beaten path”.

We continued walking through the downtown and spotted a large market. We had neglected to bring bug spray with us – we have repellent for clothing, but not skin. We found the section where Raid and other bug sprays were located, but not for skin. One of the store personnel came over to see if he could assist. He didn’t speak much English – our Spanish is somewhat limited. So, John pointed to a can of Raid, then went “bzzzz, bzzzz” and slapped his arm. That worked! We were immediately led to the repellent.

Valparaiso built on two levels – the lower city and the upper Hillside Neighborhoods. The Hillside Neighborhoods are built on the 17 cerros (hills) that tower over the bay. The cerros are lined with the colorful homes – there seems to be no set pattern – they’re just there. The best way to access the homes is either by the winding streets or the ascensores. There are 16 ascensors that climb the hills – some of them are so inclined, they’re more like elevators than funiculars. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso’s ascensors one of the world’s 100 most endangered historical treasures.

The gastrointestinal illness keeps gaining on our evening dining table. Tonight, instead of seven for dinner, there were only four. One of our tablemates had improved, had been released from isolation in his room, and then it took hold of him again. We wish everyone a speedy recovery and hope that we stay healthy! I don’t think our hands have ever been so clean – between very frequent washings with warm soapy water and using the various hand sanitizers stationed about the ship, I don’t see how any self-respecting germ would visit either of us.

Tomorrow is a day at sea while we sail toward Isla Robinson Crusoe.


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