December 16, 2005
I only wanted to stay in the area for one more day, and considering that I hadn't even seen Valparaiso yet, my decision for what to do today was easy. As soon as I got done eating breakfast (around noon), I hopped on a bus to take me to Valparaiso, which borders Vina del Mar.
Right away, I noticed that Valparaiso had a very different feel to it than Vina. The city was much dirtier and everything seemed older. It was as if the city passed a law around 1950 that nothing new could be built there from that point on.
The main attractions in Valparaiso are the ascensors. Built around 100 years ago to take citizens to the top of the hills surrounding the bay, the ascensors are rickety old elevators that are still being used today. The first ascensor I rode was called "Lecheros." I paid a little money, got in a large wooden cart, and was carried to the top of the hill. There was a decent view of the city, so I walked around a bit and went back down. I didn't see what the excitement of riding it was.
Next, I went to Ascensor Polanco, the only one that is totally vertical. I had to walk through a long, damp tunnel with water leaking all over just to get to the entrance. This ascensor was no different than an actual elevator as I went straight up, looked around a bit, and went straight back down. For me, the tunnel leading up to it was better than the actual elevator.
I was a little sick of going up and down hills all day, so I walked to the center of town next. Cote had recommended a restaurant called Cruz Malbran to me, and even though it was at the end of a seedy-looking alley, I found it without much trouble. I was told that it was more like a museum than a restaurant, but once I saw all the decorations on the walls, I immediately thought it could've been the first restaurant that the founder of Applebee's opened back in the early 20th century. I got their standard lunch, which was a huge plate with meat on top of onions on top of eggs on top of French fries. It tasted great at first, but so much grease had dripped to the bottom that midway through eating, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I just couldn't eat/drink the whole thing.
Right next to the restaurant was the natural history museum, so I poked my head inside. There were a few animal skeletons and aquariums, but it was pretty much the same thing as the top floor of the Fonck museum that I visited yesterday. Still, I figured I might as well go as long as I was there.
I decided that I still had a little time left before I had to go back to Vina, so I went up one more ascensor called "El Peral." This was by far the best-looking one I had seen all day, but it was also the most touristy. At the top of the hill, there were a lot of big houses along with cafes and hotels for tourists. I also noticed that I could see all the way across the bay to the buildings I'm staying in. I felt rather proud that I was actually able to find something without having to ask where it was a million times.
Valparaiso was a very old-fashioned city, but not in a good way. When your main attractions for tourists are a bunch of old elevators, it's time to build some new attractions. A lot of people seem to be hellbent on preserving the city, but why even bother when it was just a poor, rundown, dirty place to begin with?
The photo album for this entry is here.