Last week we hopped a bus from the city center to Valparaiso, a coastal town just an hour and a half drive from Santiago. You may recognize it from recent news when the worst wildfires in the region’s history swept through the hills only a week ago. We considered canceling but decided that since the fires were controlled, the city could use our tourist dollars now more than ever. I am so pleased that we stayed the course.
We have elected to go car free for now and are determined to make the most of public transportation options. We paid $10 for two round trip bus tickets, as Bushbabies ride for free. We arrived Wednesday afternoon and checked into the Fauna Hotel in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood. The top floor housed their restaurant which boasted one of the most impressive collections of succulents that I’ve ever had the pleasure to dine with. And then there was the view beyond.
The hotel was situated on a footpath which connected the street to a funicular, which means we were steps away from two very different neighborhoods. The funicular station had recently been renovated and had a HUGE (and pretty steep!) slide that took you from the arrival platform to the plaza below. My first impression of this jaw-dropping place was that of a magical but dangerous playground. Predictably Snakes and the Bushbaby nearly wore out the seats of their pants.We hired a city guide, Perro Tours, to take us off the beaten path and fill us in on the history and reason behind all of this astounding public art. (I’m not sure I ever got an entirely comprehensive answer.) He told us that much of it is the result of a recent festival of Chilean and Latin American street artists who came to the city to transform neighborhoods into open air galleries. Every corner you turn, every alleyway you peek into, every implausible staircase leads to yet another public square covered in bright mosaics or splashes of mouthwatering colors. I adore (and suspect will crave) this accessibility! Imagine if every time you left home your path was rainbow colored and lined with murals. Pure magic, right? Or would it be like everything remarkable thing that we eventually take for granted? In time would you fail to notice?
We returned to Santiago Friday afternoon, after a brief two night stay. There is so much more to explore. My mind still drifts through that seaside wonderland and with any luck will continue to do so until we have the good fortune to return.