Corrugated City

Monday 8 December 2008

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Different Views

One of the great things about Valparaiso is that there are so many views of the city from different vantage points. The hilly nature of the city means that there will always be things you can see from one house that you won't be able to see from the one next door.

On a wander around Cementerio Numero 1 today, I stopped to admire the view and noticed something I hadn't really paid much attention to before: the roofs of the buildings downtown. There are some really interesting and sometimes odd roofs out there. Here's a small selection:

A total of eight identical galleries on the top of this building on Esmeralda, allowing light to enter what would otherwise be a dark and dingy series of shops and offices.

This dome can't really be seen from anywhere else. The building itself obviously used to be pretty spectacular but now the entire ground floor has been knocked out to house some hideous discount store and the first floor is semi-abandoned.

The roof on this art-nouveau building (identical facades on Esmeralda and Plaza Bellavista) is completely crazy with loads of different slants and styles.

And finally, look at this totally funky 60s building. The roof is really cool and the facade is also pretty awesome.

Friday 28 November 2008


On Wednesday I had to go to Santiago. Longer term readers of this blog may remember that I detest Santiago. Unfortunately, I've had to make quite a few days trips in the last couple of months to deal with tedious business stuff-signing papers, paying bills and other fascinating activities.

This time, I had a couple of hours to kill in La Zona Prohibida, otherwise known as Santiago Centro. Now, on a Sunday, this part of town is really quite nice as it has some beautiful architecture, plazas and interesting streets to wander around. On a week day at 2pm, it is the inner circle of hell.

However, I took advantage of my spare time to visit a couple of museums on and just off the Plaza de Armas. Firstly I went to La Casa Colorada, which charts some of the history Santiago. It's an interesting but small museum with some entertainingly rubbish diaramas. Well worth the 500 pesos entry. Right now there's an exhibition on by a painter called Paula Nosequien who painted a series of works based on interviews with families who lost relatives during the military dictatorship. I really didn't like the majority of them but two really struck me.

After this I headed to the Museo Histórico Nacional, a larger and more detailed history of Santiago and Chile. I didn't have a great deal of time at this point but next time I have time to kill in Santiasco I might head back there.

When I'd left Valpo in the morning it was raining (very odd for this time of year) and it was cloudy and misty until reaching the other side of Tunel lo Prado and arriving in the bowl of Santiago. It was then hot all day and when I finally left around 5pm I encountered the mist and crappy weather again as I drove back out through the same tunnel. Here's a photo of the bank of cloud waiting for me. I think I've mentioned this before but I really can't recommend taking photos as you drive.

Monday 24 November 2008

Zapallar and Papudo: Both Quite Nice

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Monday 17 November 2008


With the exception of Valparaiso, a handful of places that maintain a little Colonial architecture and, apparently, Punta Arenas (I've never been), most Chilean towns and villages look like how I imagine the survivors of a nuclear war will live as the Earth is rebuilt. Think the Apocalypse with a little extra Apocalypse thrown in, just for fun.

This is particularly true of most Chilean beach resorts. Pichidangui is no exception. As we arrived on Friday afternoon accompanied by grey skies and gusty winds, the village looked bleak, desolate and rather unwelcoming. Some of the houses were so ugly I nearly vomited. I wish I'd managed to shake off my disgust at the architectural nightmare with which I was confronted in order to take some photos to prove my point. But I couldn't and I can't. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Another thing about Chilean beach towns is that, when you enter, you actually travel back in time. In Chile, hotels and complexes are built but never updated. A bit of maintenance here and there, sure, but a full modernisation? Never. So we drove around for a while, choosing our decade. In the end, we decided that the 5ooo pesos premium for 80s kitsch just wasn't worth it. So we went with early 70s.

The Cabañas del Sol complex was one of the first to be built in Pichidangui and is actually really well maintained. The beach hut style cabins are dated (to say the least) but well kept, clean and comfortable.The barbecue was put to good use. The entire complex is really quite pretty with mature gardens and 3 very friendly and surprisingly well behaved Alsatians.

It looks like the set of a Swedish porno from the 1970s...

...and comes complete with an original and highly funky mini oven, enamelled sink and...

...just look at those tiles. Brilliant.

One of the cute dogs.

Saturday was a beautiful day and the sun even made Pichidangui look almost not quite hideous.

The natural setting of the village is, of course, absolutely beautiful. The beach curls along the coast some 7 or 8km with the mountains just behind.

We also managed to find real free range eggs in the mini-market, worth the trip alone. Yum.

The promenade is also very nice with antique street lamps and no graffiti (hard to believe, I know).

Along from the beach we came across the Kon-Tiki cabin complex. Its grounds are private and reserved for guests but who in Chile is going to challenge a tall, blond foreigner? There's a stunning (but freezing) pool made out of natural stone right on the water's edge and a really pretty stone walkway along the mini-cliff front. I was surprised that a small resort like Pichidangui would have a place like this. I was actually slightly surprised that Chile would have a place like this. Modern and attractive mid-range accommodation is just not this country's forte. Expensive boutique hotels, chain hotels or dated cheap-ish accommodation is usually all that's on offer.

For a relaxing weekend away (out of season at least) I'd definitely recommend Pichidangui. It's a 2 hour drive north of Valparaiso.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Dying in Valparaiso: Barbers

The Sociedad de Peluqueros (Barbers' Society) tomb can be found in El Cementerio de Playa Ancha

Sunday 9 November 2008

Back In The News

So after my first outing in the Grauniad blog by blog guide, I'm back in again. This time it's just a short piece about Valparaiso and other 'exotic' locations. Go check it out!

To any Guardian readers new to the blog, hope you enjoy it...

Come visit Valparaiso because it's the only city in Chile that's worth any of your time. The rest of the country scenery-wise is spectacular but the cities are generally pretty rubbish.

Oh, and please buy my house. Much obliged.

Friday 7 November 2008

More Old Photos of Valparaiso

You probably won't believe me, but I've actually been incredibly busy for the last week or so. This is new for me as I'm a work-shy layabout normally but when it comes down to it I guess I can work as hard as anyone. One day I hope to get paid.

Anyway, this is why I've not blogged for a while and also why this post is going to be nothing more interesting than a few more olde photos of Valparaiso. I hope to be back with something interesting to say at some point in the near future. Please don't hold your breath.

Plaza Sotomayor looking up towards Cerro Alegre

Looking up Calle Templeman and down Urriola, Cerro Alegre (photo taken from a house on Cerro Concepcion).

The intersection of Calles Prat and Cochrane used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

Paseo Atkinson before the tosspots in the council allowed that hideous pink monstrosity (amongst others) to be built directly in front of it, obscuring the view and ruining the city back in the 60s.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Kite Flying: Someone Needs To Have A Word

Chile's long beaches and constant breeze make kite flying an extremely popular pastime in Chile. However, I've lost count of the times I've seen kids in urban areas fly kites directly next to power lines, usually under the 'watchful' eyes of their parents

Templeman con Urriola

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Buenos Aires and Congratulations

I've been in Buenos Aires for a few days for a wedding. A slightly crazy wedding between an English groom and a Brazilian bride.

It started on Friday with a football match. England v Brazil. We lost. 4-1 despite the opening goal being scored by yours truly, a stunning 2 yard tap in. I might add that the Argentine referee rather sided with his South American cousins but I wouldn't want to come across as a sore loser.

The actual wedding was on Saturday, starting off in a church in Belgrano and with the reception in the absolutely stunning Palacio Sans Souci in Victoria, Provincia de Buenos Aires. If you're looking to get married then I'd highly recommend the venue, a Parisian palace in South America. Beautiful.

After the pretty decent food and a thoroughly entertaining best man's speech came the music. It started off quite horribly with a mix of cheesy wedding disco songs like YMCA and a horrible amount of unbearable, anti-music stuff by Queen. Thankfully, that ended and on came the live, Brazilian version of reggaeton, complete with girls in bikinis and 10 foot Brazilian dolls. The groom was not particularly excited by this development (exact words, "I'm not getting involved in this rubbish") but the bride was in her element.

All in all it was an exceedingly fun night. Made even more fun by endless free champagne.

So congratulations to Tim and Soraia for getting married.

Congratulations are also in order for another Buenos Aires based friend, Graham (and Caro), whose son Simon was born on Wednesday. 

Apart from the wedding, football and baby visiting I also met up with an old friend from university who timed her visit to coincide with my time in BA. We had dinner in El Trapiche, my favourite parrilla in Buenos Aires, and had one of the best steaks I've had in almost 5 years of visiting and living in Argentina. Sooooooo good. We also went to Milion, a beautiful bar in an old French style mansion. I got a bit bored of it when I lived in BA-it is sometimes lacking in atmosphere- but it was great to go back and to be able to drink champagne in a place like that for under us$20 a bottle you just can't complain (I like champagne if you hadn't guessed).

A fantastic trip.

If you're heading to BA and want somewhere to stay than I'd highly recommend getting in touch with Silvina ( gorostiagarealestate @ ). I don't like staying in hotels in BA as I used to live there. Also, cheap and decent hotels are really hard to find these days unless you're really willing to slum it or do the backpacker thing (again, not going to do it in a city in which I used to live). So I rented an apartment. This one was half a block from Recoleta Cemetery, one bedroom with cable, internet, decent bathroom and kitchen for us$60 a day. Really good value especially as you can save a lot of money by not eating out all the time. I think Silvina has a couple of other places available as well.

Monday 20 October 2008

Valparaiso Earthquake1906 III: The Dead

As I mentioned in the first post about the 1906 earthquake in Valparaiso (second post here), the death toll was around 3000 people. This number doesn't include the many people who died after the event in the days and weeks that followed. Many more died due to the fires that raged in the Almendral and also due to injuries caused by the earthquake.

Below are a few more images of the catastrophic nature of the quake and a list of the people who are known to have died during the actual earthquake.

Errazuriz y Edwards

Plazuela Bellavista

Fire on Avenida Brasil

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Bombon (El Perro)

Quien carajo le puso el nombre 'Bombon' a un Dogo?
Of the many films that have come out of Argentina's fantastic film industry in recent years, one of my favourites was Bombon (El Perro). I first saw it in 2005 and then a couple of weeks ago I downloaded it from Pirate Bay -it'll take a while to torrent the film as there aren't many seeders out there. If you don't understand Spanish I'd recommend getting it on DVD with subtitles. Also, the Argentine accent might make it difficult for anyone who hasn't had much experience with the form of Spanish used over there. There's not much slang though so it shouldn't be too hard.

Anyway, the film is set in Patagonia and tells the story of a down on his luck and wrong side of 50 mechanic who lost his job in a service station and is trying his luck selling hand made knives. Whilst travelling around, he stops to help a stranded woman, who repays his kindness by giving him her late father's pure bred Dogo Argentino.

Bombon is beautifully acted by the largely amateur cast and it even manages to make the Dogo look cute. Villegas, the main character, is just so pathetic (in a really nice way) that you can't help but feel moved by almost every action he takes. His almost permanent look of misery, his stoicism and his pride make you want to cry with joy when he smiles. It's not a sad film but neither could it be classed as happy. It just is what it is; the story of a man and his dog.

Monday 13 October 2008

Cerro Concepcion Doesn't Need Giant Hotels

For anyone who's read this blog for a while or who knows me in real life, this won't come as a shock: I'm a capitalist pig who loves money, exploiting the poor and pie. But even evil-doers such as myself can see when someone is simply taking the piss. And that's what's happening right now on Cerro Concepcion: Someone is taking the piss out of everyone who lives here.

Now the local residents' association and I agree on some things and disagree on others. They want nothing at all to change on the hill whereas I'm generally in favour of new restaurants, boutique hotels, cafes and boutiques. I'm also in favour of old properties that are in terminal decline and pose fire and other risks being converted into loft apartments and offices. This is the way to attract new investment in the city, new life and new residents. It won't happen overnight but I believe it's the way forward as this city desperately needs investment and it won't get any from a public source.

But I truly don't believe that there's space for a 43 room hotel on Cerro Concepcion, particularly one that insults the architectural heritage of this neighbourhood. Enough mistakes have been made like this already. This hotel will put a massive strain on the infrastructure of the Cerro. It's just too cramped up here to support a hotel of this scale. For those of you that know the area, the proposed site is on the former carpark on the corner of Abtao and Templeman.

The area of the city for which this project would be perfect is, quite obviously, Barrio Puerto. This is a neighbourhood that needs revitalising. The design of the hotel (which actually gets easier on the eye the more you look at it but is not suitable for the cerros) would fit in much better down there. It could be even bigger than 43 rooms. It could be a part of the regeneration of a really run down neighbourhood. There are possible sites in Calles Serrano and Cochrane.

Hell, even a little further up on Cerro Alegre would be more suitable for a project this size, where there's more space and everything's a little less constricted. But Cerro Concepcion is simply not the place for this hotel. This is something the Junta de Vecinos and I can completely agree on.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Dying in Valparaiso: Murder, Made Easy

Right at the very top of this photo of El Cementerio de Playa Ancha are various vaults that are abandoned, falling apart and no longer have the little inscribed tombstone to cover the shelf like space in which the coffin is placed. Some of these vaults are at ground level and are actually quite deep. This area of the cemetery is the furthest from the entrance that you can get and pretty isolated. You can drive all the way up.

My friend commented, "This would be a great place to dump a body. Drive here, throw it in and brick it up. No one's going to notice."

Just a thought.