Last weekend, IFSA-Butler took us to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on a day trip. Valparaiso is a port town, and is the other option for IFSA study-abroad in Chile. It was very beautiful, but after visiting, I was really glad that I chose Santiago over Valparaiso. I’ve found that different cities have very different “personalities” if you will, and while I liked Valparaiso, I couldn’t see myself spending a semester there.
We arrived at Valparaiso in the morning and started our tour with a tour of Pablo Neruda’s house “La Sebastiana.” I have now been to all of Neruda’s houses in Chile and have to say that this house was my least favorite. It was built vertically, due to the many hills in Valparaiso, and offered an audio-tour. However, as the house went up, you didn’t move from room-to-room with your guide, but rather around a room. The guide offered interesting information, and there were beautiful views from the house, but I didn’t think it was as quirky as his other houses.
After the tour of the house, we went on a walking tour of the city. The city is beautiful, mainly because it is so colorful. Valparaiso is absolutely covered in street art, and the houses are painted all shades of bright colors. This practice actually started with captains. Captains used to paint their houses the same color as their boats. This way they were able to distinguish which was theirs. The city was so bright and colorful, and also filled with tourists. Our guide explained that after the neighborhood we were touring was declared as an area to preserve, it started filling up with tourists. Valparaiso now has quite the tourist industry, attracting people due to the famous personality of this city.
Aside from taking hundreds of pictures of street art, we also stopped by two churches on the tour. One was an Evangelical church built before non-Catholic churches were legally allowed in Chile. This being the case, it was a large, unmarked structure that our guide told us had withstood numerous earthquakes. The other was a Lutheran church, built much later. This structure was very obviously a church, and I found it interesting to see how religion had manifested itself in Valparaiso over the years.
I also loved how people used street art to express themselves. There were political and social statements, along with simply beautiful murals on the walls, streets, really any surface people could find to decorate. I was blown away by the amount of amazing art people had created in this city.
After our tour, we stopped for a quick lunch before a boat ride along the harbor.
Before I say anymore, I feel like people should know this about me: I love boats.
This being said, I was so excited to get on a boat and cruise around the harbor. We just putted around, I don’t even think we made a wake, but it was so relaxing. We saw sea lions and even penguins in the harbor before we turned around. Our guide told us that was her first time seeing penguins in the harbor, so I felt really lucky to be able to see some outside of a zoo!
After our super exciting boat ride, we piled in our bus to head to Vina del Mar. Vina del Mar is another sea town and is connected to Valparaiso via a metro system. Many people who work in Valparaiso actually live in Vina, as they say that Valparaiso is too dangerous. In fact, IFSA students who study in Valparaiso live in Vina and commute everyday. This being said, the two are extremely close and have moderately different “personalities.”
We stopped for a coffee and hung out on the beach before we headed back to Santiago. Our director pretty accurately judged the group mood, and decided that we were too tired to pursue the rest of the tour in Vina. Instead, we relaxed and headed back. I was really glad we did. We were able to enjoy the beach (I even got my feet wet) and a good cup of coffee before headed back to Santiago.
All in all, it was a really fun day. I’m also now really glad that I chose Santiago over Valparaiso, however I’m sure that some of the Valparaiso students have had the same reaction upon visiting Santiago.