Valparaiso

Imagine a city shrouded in clouds, sprawling across hills in vast swaths of color.

DSC_0623Imagine walking through twisting narrow streets along steep cliff sides and past romantic cafes perched over the bay.

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Imagine the smell of the sea, baked bread and fresh fish intermingling in the air as you wander the cobblestone sidewalks.  Imagine ducking into old Victorian houses, exiting off French balconies and taking in art in a German mansion.

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Now, imagine that this all exists.

This is Valparaiso.

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Thanks to Patatour Chile, and our wonderful guide Christian, the students at the UVM fell madly, deeply and hopelessly in love with the city of Valparaiso today.

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Despite the rain, the cold, the steep streets and the early morning, the city captured our hearts.  I find myself counting down the hours until I can once again ride an acensor up to the top of the hills, burrow myself in a coffee shop with a  good book and a journal and channel my inner Gabriel Mistral or Pablo Neruda.

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The charm of Valpo lies in the grit.  The haphazard structure of the homes, towering over one another, the thousands of dogs that own the streets, the eclectic mixture of architectural styles, these are all part of the magic.  This city has a unique spirit, one that cannot be written in words and communicated to my loved ones back at home.  I am sincere when I say that you must see it to believe it.  There is no turning back on a love like this.  Valpo has my heart.

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While I have yet to sink my teeth into this treasure, many already have.  Valpo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chile.  Cerro Alegre and Concepcion, two out of the many cerros or hills/neighborhoods, of Valpo, have been heavily renovated for tourism purposes.

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Restaurants, cafes, artisan galleries and shops in renovated Victorian houses are seemingly endless.  Murals and graffiti cover nearly every wall.  I found myself taking pictures every five steps or so as we turned a corner and discovered a new gem.  Walking is the best, and in my opinion only, way to soak in the culture.  Twisting stairs and streets climb up the hills but for a short cut, take a historical acensor or funicular up the hillside; only 8 are still working.

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I can guarantee that there will be future posts about Valpo, maybe even this weekend, as I begin to break apart the colorful, edgy exterior and learn more about porteños and the beauty of this magnificent place.

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