We recently spent three magical days in this gorgeous city, exploring her streets and finding incredible art. Literally days can be spent climbing staircases that lead you to secret alleyways and new neighborhoods. We felt excitement at very street corner, never sure which way to go because every direction promised some new visual adventure.
The streets are filed not just with visual art, but music as well. The vibrancy pulsed though the alleys, intoxicating us, begging us not to go, but to sit and stay a while. Whether we were in the plaza near our hostel, listening to drummers create a hypnotic beat under the blushing evening sky, or passing a lone guitarist singing longingly near the entrance to the hauntingly beautiful cemetery, the sounds of the city are a pure joy.
Our first two days flew by in a blur, with no clear plans they passed in the blink of an eye. The clear blue skies and gorgeous views paired with the briny ocean scent and complemented our exploring perfectly. I realized here that hills make my favorite cities what they are; there’s always a new view to be found, a fresh perspective and a feeling of seeing something differently with each and every crest. The architecture here is all at once playful, chaotic and colorful. Yet when viewed all together paints a beautiful picture of the city and it’s quirks.
On our third day, we decided to walk to Pablo Neruda’s house “La Sebastiana”, we almost didn’t go due to time constraints and the cost of the tour. Since we weren’t sure what to expect we were pleasantly surprised by the home, where a film created by Pablo plays downstairs and an audio tour guides you through the rest of the house. Although the tour was slightly long winded at times, we learned a lot about the man who believed in nurturing your inner child and kept various toys and whimsical items in the house. He was known for hosting lavish dinner parties where he would dress up and pretend to work behind the bar. He believed in never taking himself too seriously and it’s unsurprising that he was attracted to Valparaiso. We were both incredibly inspired by the end of the tour, and thankful that we didn’t miss out.
Our final stop that afternoon was to explore the cemetery. As a young girl I loved exploring the graveyards of New Orleans, I’ve been fascinated by the chalky white mausoleums dedicated to those loved and lost. I find that cemeteries have a peaceful calm surrounding them that quiets my mind and allows me to explore the grounds, looking at names and dates, searching for the oldest ones I can find. I always like to imagine what life might have been like for them, or what the city may have looked like. A cemetery is a place that tells stories of love, tales of adventure and episodes of heartbreak. I have always felt a tranquility in these special places, surrounded by death, yet even more appreciative of life.
We left the ground, feeling quiet and contemplative yet were quickly thrust back into the bustle of the city streets. For a brief moment the calm and quiet of the grounds had made us forget where we were, and we were quickly swept back up into her chaos and ready to join the living for our last night in town.
Later that evening, as the sun dipped from the sky and shaded its dome with the watercolors of sunset, we met a muralist. He was working on a project spanning the entire side of a house. Free handedly creating geometric patterns and detailed countenances with nothing but a can of spray paint, he demonstrated for us different ways to hold the can to create different effects and lines. Dozens of cans littered the sidewalk beneath his ladder, all without caps, since he used just one for all colors, switching cans as necessary. He began painting at twelve and has been painting now for half of his life at twentyfour. He now travels throughout South America creating unusual and beautiful murals. As he scrolled through photos on his phone, we realized that we had seen his pieces in various places throughout our walks the last days.
This muralist goes by “Painter1”, and as he educated us about the history of painting and Valpariaso, we were enchanted by his passion and skill. He spends his mornings surfing in nearby towns and his afternoons and evenings creating beauty. He even offered to connect us with friends of his in Colombia and Brazil who can show us around when we visit. I was completely giddy by the time we left him to continue his work. Thrilled to have met one of the artists and had the opportunity to talk to him about his inspirations completed the circle we began in coming to the beach. We had seen art, met artists and been inspired to create our own form of art dedicated to those we met and what we had seen.
I fell completely in love at first sight here and by the time we left I was utterly and hopelessly infatuated. The energy here begs you to test your boundaries, to create, inspire and let go. Her wildness attracted me immediately and I wanted to know everything I could about this unique port city. What I realized is that you will never know a city like this. Ever changing, constantly a work in progress, the works of imagination are always drawing you in, begging you not to leave. If you must leave, she makes sure you will never forget her.