Valparaiso is one of those places that defines a country. It is a loud mouth of a city, colourful, unapologetic, it has trade and a good climate that puts Santiago to shame, so much so that I wondered why they didn’t build the capital here (Santiago was built where it was as it was easy to defend from the Native people apparently, lending perhaps a somewhat siege mentality to a city)!

I also managed to part with quite a few of my belongings in Valparaiso, so it has a hard edge that many other Chilean cities do not have. It is a port city, be careful, think Marseilles perhaps and you’ll know what I mean.

Valparaiso’s jewel must be the hills that surround it, sparkling with multi coloured houses and old iron funiculars that transport you up the sides to little treasures hidden in the hills. A few areas have been renovated to a pristine state, with gorgeous restaurants, ice cream parlours, indeed you could mistake parts of the elevated cobbled walkways for Paris.

The views from up there are stupendous, from the right spot you can see ships in the harbour and meander amongst the old naval buildings that Cochrane, the Scottish naval commander, helped to set up many many years ago as he helped found the chilean navy.

I loved Valparaiso, even though I had a camera stolen from me by some wee rascal who zipped by on a bicycle and grabbed it. it was buggered anyhow (Panasonic/Lumix TZ10 camera having a propensity to drag dust behind the lens where it is impossible to remove, nice camera, but lasted less than a year – I now have a Nikon) so I hope he gets the hang of the manual function and neat zoom.

I also liked the bars down by the harbour where the friendly old seamen would welcome you, so much so that I’d stagger off and have stuff nicked. I put it down to experience and stupidity, it seems that to gain the former can sometimes involve being brave enough to have a little of the latter.

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