This weekend, we headed out to Valparaíso and Isla Negra for a “class field trip.” Valparaíso was a hugely important port city before the opening of the Panama Canal, because it was the first port that ships reached after rounding Cape Horn when headed to the western side of the Americas. There was a huge British presence here, which is clearly evident in the municipal buildings (all huge Victorian-style buildings). After the opening of the Panama Canal, Valparaíso lost everything and the city has only recently begun something of a come back. But Valparaíso porteños are super proud of their city and their heritage and have fiercely resisted any attempts to modernize the city. So the 100+ year old ascensors still run and bring visitors up and down the cerros, or hills, on which the city is built.
After a bit of a visit and a delicious lunch at Café Vinilo, it was off to Isla Negra (actually a peninsula) to visit one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses (the other two are in Valparaíso and Santiago). Unfortunately, it’s forbidden to take pictures inside the house but, man, super super eccentric. Collections of ships/sand/carved crucifixes in bottles, a giant wooden horse with three tails, and the horn of a narwhal to name but a few things. Absolutely amazing.