Corrugated City

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Hotel Colon

I've been posting slightly manically for the past couple of weeks so as tomorrow is May 1st, I'm going to take a short break until after the weekend. If you haven't checked in for a while, take a look back over the last 2 or 3 pages by clicking on 'older posts' at the bottom of the page.

So today's post is about the Hotel Colon. The hotel was built in 1846 by the US architect William Jenkins. It was Valparaiso's finest and most beautiful hotel of its day. In 1886, French actress Sarah Bernhardt stayed there. And that's your lot. There's pretty much no more information about the building available online. I really am going to have to go to the library and search through the archives some day.

The ex-hotel today is in an appalling state inside. It has been left to rot and chopped up into copy shops and tiny little offices. No maintenance whatsoever has been undertaken to keep this emblematic building in even half decent shape.

The ground floor Kodak locale is probably the best maintained of the entire building.

The marble entrance staircase is poor shape, cracked and broken.

What I assume would have been the reception area is now a little photo studio. My photo is glued to the display cabinet.

The main staircase, along with all the wood in the building, is in very bad condition although it wouldn't take a great deal of work to get it looking beautiful again.

The original skylight has been replaced with cheap corrugated plastic.

The ceiling on the first floor is suffering from water damage.

As are many of the rooms. The next two photos are from the second floor, which is used as some kind of carpentry workshop. I couldn't get to the third floor as the staircase was completely blocked up with wood. I could just about see up though-it's used as storage.

Here's a view of one of Harrington's.

The back of the building has sea views...

...which would have been especially pretty back in the 1800s-before Calle Blanco became a motorway- from one of the balconies.

Another piece of Valparaiso's architectural heritage in practical ruin.

Tuesday 29 April 2008

More Music

It's hard keeping up with new music when you live in the land of cheesy reggaeton or obscure 80s hits. But I do try.

So this week, I have been mostly listening to:

Vampire Weekend-Vampire Weekend. Preppy college pop/rock that's a cut above the rest of the genre. It's not as fantastic as a lot of people seem to think but it's a really, really fun album and music shouldn't always have to be difficult to be good. And fun music is certainly necessary before listening to...

Portishead-Third. Easy listening this is not a comeback. 10 years after releasing Portishead and 14 after Dummy, the trip-hop pioneers are back with a truly awesome album. It's not a re-hash of their old style, it's a fluid transition into how they should sound in 2008. Just don't expect to feel particularly happy after listening to it.

The Raconteurs-Consolers of the Lonely. The Raconteurs' (Jack White's-White Stripes- side project) second album is a fair bit better than the pretty great Broken Boy Soldiers. Bluesy rock at its best, just as you think it's about to turn into wanky stadium rock, the music or lyrics take you as far away from that place as possible. Brilliant stuff.

Elastica-Elastica. It may be 14 years old but I still love this album. Totally underrated, it still feels contemporary, a sure sign of fantastic-ness.

Radiohead-In Rainbows. It's been out for 5 months or so but I'm still listening. Best Radiohead album since Ok Computer. Now if I can just get a cheap enough flight back to England for the end of June, I've got a ticket promised to me to see them in concert. First time I'll have seen them since Glastonbury 1994.

And I'm still loving my Josh Ritter collection.

Monday 28 April 2008


I'm a West Brom fan. Greatest footy team in the world. Tonight we won promotion to the Premier League. On Saturday we will win the title when we beat QPR at Loftus Road. I'm a very happy boy. Boing Boing, Boing Boing. Cerveza time...

Sunday 27 April 2008

Cerro La Campana II


So after those teasing photos got your juices flowing, here's an account of my trip up Cerro La Campana on Saturday.

This was a trip that I'd been wanting to do for a while but I just hadn't got around to. Mainly out of pure laziness. My problem is that I love this kind of activity when I'm actually doing it. But getting to the start line, so to speak, is a real ordeal for me and something I'll find any old excuse to avoid.

I actually arranged to do this trip with Mike last weekend when I was drunk enough to really believe it was a good idea. But we confirmed during the week that we were definitely going to do it. That didn't stop me seriously thinking about phoning him up when my alarm went off at 6am on Saturday and saying that my back hurt. Turns out that Mike wouldn't have tried to change my mind.

As it was, we arrived at the park at around 8.15, only to be confronted with a sign that said the ranger's station opened at 9. Luckily the ranger turned up for work early, so we paid our 1500 pesos each and got underway. The weather was looking quite promising-it was terrible on Friday and Sunday but we got really lucky. The temperature was absolutely perfect for hiking, cool but not cold and more and more blue sky started to appear from out of the clouds.

Here's me at the very start of the day.

We had been told by various people that it's a four to four and half hour hike up and around 3 back down. A pretty long day.

I have to say that the hike is reasonably tough going. There's no problem with altitude as even at the peak, you're only 1900m above sea-level. However, the start of the trail is at 400m so you're hiking 1500m in altitude in just 7km. That's a pretty decent gradient-there's precious little flat ground on the way up. It's mostly solidly uphill. To give you an idea of the slope, Mike was less than a couple of metres behind me when he took this photo.

After about 30 minutes of walking, we'd left the cloud behind. The next two photos are looking west towards the Pacific. The blue line on the horizon is the water.

We covered the first 5km to the Area la Mina in just an hour and 40 minutes. It's quite a nice little walk up through Chilean Oaks with the occasional clearing allowing for views like in the photos above. I can't find out what was mined there...I've found three different stories about what was mined and until when. It could be gold, copper or quartz and it could have been going on until up to about 10 years ago. Maybe someone can help me out.

After reaching the mine area in so little time, we were determined to get to the summit in under three hours. It's only another 2km from the mine but the trail becomes progressively steeper. The first half hour was ok, just steep. But then the walk becomes less of a walk and more a scramble over rocks and scree along a terribly marked trail. Still, we were making good time.

After about 20 minutes, we reached this plaque. It turned out that I wouldn't be the first European to reach the top. Some bloke called Charles Darwin had rather beaten me to it, some 174 years earlier. Bastard.

Here's me looking pissed off at Darwin.

It was at this point that the trail becomes rocky and scree-y. I have to say, it's not that much fun but you know you're just being tested to see whether you're worthy of what awaits at the top.

The three hour mark was starting to come up fast. Every time it looked like we were about to arrive, another bloody rock was laughing at us. Eventually, we did reach the top, to be rewarded with some incredible views.

Look west and you see the Pacific Ocean.

Look east and you see the Andes and Aconcagua, just about visible through the cloud in the centre of the photo.

Some random people.

Someone had left their trousers at the top. Bet they were pissed off when they got back down to the bottom.

After 40 minutes or so at the top we headed back down. We chose well arriving early. We ran into quite a few others climbing up. It was really nice to have the mountain all to ourselves for the time we were at the summit. Also, just as we started to descend, the cloud rolled in and ruined the views for all those who started the day later than us. Ha-ha.

Here's me at the bottom.

We went for a huge lunch at a restaurant called No Me Olvides in Quebrada Alvarado. After a massive costillar, empanada and a well earned beer we set off back home.

If you like a bit of hiking, then a day climbing Cerro La Campana is highly recommended.

So how am I feeling? Well, apart from severe pain in my calves and thighs, crippling pain in my shoulders, a slightly twisted ankle and stabbing pains shooting down from my lower back to my knees, I feel absolutely no ill effects from the hike at all.

Actually, I don't feel all that bad and certainly a lot better than I expected. This is the first hike I've done for about 6 years. Hopefully it will be the first of many over the next few months.

Oh, by the way, we took 2 hours forty five minutes exactly to reach the top and 2 hours five minutes to get back down. Not bad for a slightly overweight Englishman with crippling back pain, eh?

Saturday 26 April 2008

Cerro La Campana

I just got back from Cerro La Campana. I'm not going to bother writing about the day now-that'll have to wait 'til Monday. My body will be aching so much by then all I'll be able to do is sit in front of the computer. But here are a few photos to keep you on the edges of your seats. The lens of my camera was dirty so most of the photos came out with a mark in the top left corner. Bugger.

Friday 25 April 2008

Restaurant Review: Pasta e Vino

Pasta e Vino is probably Valparaiso's best known fancy pants restaurant. Whenever I tell people where I live, if they don't know I'll say 'around the corner from Pasta e Vino' and they'll suddenly get their bearings. I've even met someone who bought a flat here just so they could go to the restaurant more often.

Now I never really understood all this fame and praise. The first time I went, I was served possibly the worst spaghetti carbonara of my life. It was so dry I had to drink over a litre of water to get it down. The second time, a filthy waiter clearly didn't wash his hands properly and I came away with mild food poisoning. I assumed I wouldn't be going back.

Another problem was its reservation system. The restaurant was only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it was impossible to get a table. Actually trying to get through to someone outside of those days to at least try to make a reservation was hit and miss. Very frustrating. Because of this, Pasta e Vino got a terrible write up a few months ago in the Mercurio magazine. Words along the lines of 'haughty' and 'pretentious' were used. I couldn't have agreed more.

However, everyone kept telling me to give it another go. And a couple of weeks ago, I had a dinner planned with some acquaintances. So I phoned Pasta e Vino to try to get a table. And joy of joys...they no longer take's now first come, first served. A much better idea.

So we turned up at just after 8pm when it opened and we got a table straight away. And this time, the experience was a huge improvement on my last two visits. The service was good, the wine pretty fantastic (although I can't remember what we had...) and the food finally lived up to expectations.

I went for the spaghetti carbonara again (I thought it important to try the same thing). Really good-not dry, nice and creamy, decent bacon.

My memory is failing me a little as to what the others had but I'm pretty sure the photos (I'm terrible at food photos as you can probably tell) show duck and plum ravioles, crab ravioles and gnocchi with a white sauce of some kind. Everything was excellent, including the dessert-an apple crumble with vanilla iccream. Even the coffee was good. Well, it was hot-and that's some achievement in Chile.

Pasta e Vino is on the corner of Templeman and Abtao, on Cerro Concepcion. Highly recommended.

A Few More Foggy Photos Of Valparaiso

Some more photos from Cerro Artilleria.

As I mentioned the other day, the low lying cloud of fog reaches pretty much exactly to where the ocean used to before the land was reclaimed. Mankind 1 Nature 0. Looking at the photos, the main bulk of the fog ends at Calle Blanco and starts to dissipate before ending completely at around Cochrane.

Here's a digital zoom photo of the Palacio Barburrizza. More photos here. You get a pretty good idea of its humungous size-the house with the red roof to the left is at least 600m2 and it looks tiny. As I've mentioned before, the PB really doesn't look very big when you're standing next to it.

I love the 'ghost' ship in this photo.

Tomorrow, I'm off to conquer Cerro La Campana. I believe I shall be the first European to do so, the trek being so perilous that only the natives have dared undertake it before. Photos of that on Monday.