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Theoretically I wanted to get up early and head out to Valparaiso. I did head out, but not until 10.15am. As I didn't have a proper map of the area, just my guidebooks, I was doing one of the classic patented Seamus gambits of pointing the car in what I thought was roughly the right direction and hitting the gas pedal.

Two hours later, after many road works, a fantastic descent into an expanse of vineyards and two road tunnels, I made it to Valparaiso and promptly headed of in the wrong direction to Vina del Mar. This wouldn't have been so bad if it was not for the fact that even though there is no definite separation between the two cities, Valparaiso is a cultural centre of Chile, Vina del Mar is a beach resort that would do well in the south of Spain catering to British and German tourists.

As soon as I was able, I turned the car around and headed back, but stopped short of Valparaiso to take time out on a beach. The sun was hot, I rolled up my trousers and wading in the flipping freezing water. I almost had a heart attack! The only difference between this beach and the one I grew up near in Norfolk, England, is that at least the sun is hot.

I spent much longer hanging out on the beach than perhaps I should have, but eventually I jumped back in the car and headed to Valpo. From the car it didn't look like much. Valpo is apparently famous for its funicular railways. The angle of the hills that Valpo is built upon means that these railways are in effectively big elevators and get you up the hill without keeling over with exhaustion. The higher up you go, the better the angle of accent, so its walk able.

Wandering through the lower parts of Valpo, you come across the Italian plaza (lots of Romanesque statues), by the Cathedral you find Victoria Park, but you can soon get tired of these parks so I randomly chose a backstreet and ascended one of only 15 remaining funiculars.

The difference in the temp of the city was dramatic. Suddenly everything was quiet, every house, built from corrugated iron, had a spectacular view of the sea. I spent time just sitting down on one of the walkways to take photographs and to chill out a bit.

Two young children came out of one of the houses and were intrigued by my cameras. I took a couple of photos and as I was using my digital camera, I showed then the photo. They were intrigued. It was at this moment one of them decided to become a photographer and started prodding and pulling bits on my SLR camera. A young lady and her daughter were walking passed and obviously knew the children and told then not to play with the camera. After this the lady started chatting to me. She had a smattering of English. It turned out that she had married a Swedish guy and this explained the goofy looking twelve-year-old daughter she had. She said that I should go the "Valparaiso Foundation" as there would be somebody there who could tell me about Valpo in English. This, I thought, was where the scam was going to come. But it never did. In a restored blue and yellow building, was the Valpo Foundation, run by an American poet who was spearheading the campaign to keep the historic buildings of Valparaiso. A commendable task as the local's just want to raise the buildings and build new ones. How many times has this happened around the world?

I went in search of La Sebastina, the home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I failed to find it, but instead wandered through the wonderful backstreets, passing a spectacular church and stumbling back where I started at the funicular.

It was time to go home. The journey back took nearly two hours and I fell into a deep sleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

 

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