Corrugated City

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Life in General

So as I mentioned before, I've been really busy with work and play over the past few weeks. I still am pretty busy so this might be my last post for another short while.

First off, a couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to see Radiohead. I love Radiohead and will happily name them as my favourite band of all time. Completely awesome. I'd last seen them live in 1995, at the quite fantastic Glastonbury festival (before they erected the giant concentration camp fence to stop people like me sneaking in for free). It was just a month or so after they'd released OK, Computer and they put on a pretty amazing show.

The Santiago show was better. In Rainbows, their last album is probably their best. I can't believe that after almost 20 years they're still getting better. They played for almost two hours and thankfully avoided playing Creep, my least liked Radiohead song. They did play Just, though, one of my favourites and the song that spawned my favourite music video. Watch and make sure you read the text along the bottom.

After Radiohead, we went down to Santa Cruz for the weekend and once again stayed in the quite lovely Hotel Casa de Campo. I finally got to eat in one of the best Peruvian restaurants in Chile, La Casita de Barreales. So good...We also met up with some friends in Curico, which was nice.

Curico, on top of the hill:

And then I got an email from an old friend from university saying that she needed a holiday and could she come and visit for Easter. I asked whether she realised Easter was 10 days away, she said 'yes' and then bought a ticket. Her short trip actually made me realise that you can do a lot in a very short time here in Chile. Anne arrived on Thursday morning and left on Tuesday evening. In that time, we toured Valparaiso, had lunch at El Chiringuito in Zapallar, met up with friends, went for dinner at Pastis (a new French restaurant on Cerro Concepcion- pricey but highly recommended), spent an afternoon lazing around on a friend's terrace drinking wine, headed back down to Santa Cruz for two days and then did lunch in Puerto Peru in Santiago followed by an afternoon of Santiago touring. That's actually quite a lot of stuff. And quite a lot of eating and drinking as well. It's taken me two days to be able to eat anything heavy.


One of the things we did in Valparaiso was go to the Museo Lukas, the former home of Renzo Pecchenino, cartoonist for several newspapers in Chile and in Latin America. The house is on Paseo Gervasoni, on Cerro Concepcion and has been beautifully restored to house a museum of Lukas' drawings, a cafe and an art-house cinema. I highly recommend a visit. Some of his cartoons are hilarious and really accurately satirise Chilean society. Here are a few I enjoyed (click to enlarge and read the text on them) :

Down in Santa Cruz this time, we went on a tour of Viña las Niñas, a French, all female owned vineyard in the Apalta Valley. There you can do a tour of the vineyard on bikes, run by the friendly and knowledgeable Claudia. As it's out of season, there were no other tourists so we spent two hours lying around and then tasting wine in the sun by a duck-filled lagoon. I really recommend the tours there and Claudia is also trying to get a rent-a-bike and wine tour business off the ground, something I think should be supported. They also produce the only Chardonnay I have ever liked. I even came home with a bottle.

It was really nice having Anne to visit. Not only did we have a fantastic time, but it's also good to be with people who have known me for a long time. Everyone I know in South America I've known for a maximum of 5 and a half years. Old friends are easier to be with sometimes.

I've also made quite a monumental decision over the past few weeks. You'll have to wait to hear that news though.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Old Valparaiso (Again)

I'm really busy at the moment, which would explain my lack of blogging over the last month or so. Bear with me. In the meantime, here's another old photo of Valparaiso. It's actually quite hard to work out, but I'm pretty certain that the hill to the left of the photo is Cerro Alegre/Concepcion and the bluff in the middle of the photo is Lord Cochrane's house.

The photo is from the 1860s, before Plaza Sotomayor was created and more land from reclaimed from the sea.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Pichilemu Puts Valparaiso To Shame

A couple of years ago I went to Pichilemu and was struck by the beautiful Casino Ross. Sadly, it was in a state of complete abandonment and it seemed destined to gently decay and eventually collapse in on itself.

The building was the first casino in Chile. Started in 1906, it was finished in 1909 and the casino functioned until 1932 when it lost its licences. It continued to function as a luxury hotel for some years and then slowly fell into abandon. It was later acquired by the council and left to rot. In 1988 the building was declared a Monumento Nacional, which is what the Chilean government does when it can't think of anything else to do with a beautiful old building.

Pichilemu was Agustin Ross' domain. Part of the powerful Valparaiso based Ross-Edwards family (they founded El Mercurio and are still prominent members of Chilean society), Don Agustin was a philanthropist at heart and donated the stunning park that adjoins the Casino to the town. The park contains over 100 now giant palm trees and is impeccably maintained.

18 months ago, funds were obtained from the regional government to restore the Casino. Around us$1 million was set aside for the complete renovation and reconstruction of the building. For the amount of work that was done, this was (as our enthusiastic guide who worked on the project said) a miseria. A pittance. And it's true- they managed an incredible job. The inside of the Casino was almost completely reconstructed. The roof tiles were cleaned by hand. And the facade was completely renovated. The result is amazing. And it took just 15 months.

The Casino now contains a library, conference centre, art gallery and community centre. Cheap cultural projects and classes are available to residents and the idea is to give the youth of the city something to do and something of which to be proud. It's a fantastic example of what can be done in Chile with just a little ganas.

Compare this with Valparaiso's shameful handling of the us$80 million BID funds; with the council's inability to get any major renovation project off the ground; with the continued closure of the Museo de Bellas Artes in the Palacio Barburizza; with the postponed for god knows how long Plaza Sotomayor project. Pichilemu has shown that Valparaiso is being managed by incompetent at best and corrupted officials at worst. I want Valpo to improve as much as anyone. I love this city. It's painful to see nothing happening and nothing changing.

Click here and here for photos and videos of the work in Casino Ross, Pichilemu.

Punta de Lobos

Main beach

Sarah Palin dropped into town once and misspelled 'Maverick'.