Out, Up, and Down in Chile’s Valparaíso

Valparaiso, Valpo, Navy, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture

Chile is truly an amazing country.  Nature, in and of itself, offers a myriad different possibilities from the Atacama Desert and the salt lakes in the north to the fjords and glaciers down in Patagonia.  But Chile’s urban areas offer some incredible sights and experiences.  And Valparaíso may take the cake as its character is quite unique.  No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Valparaíso sits by the sea but it does not have the almost unmanageable scale of Rio.  It is old (founded in 1536) but does not have the colonial feel of cities like Old San Juan or central Lima.  And though it is large (the greater Valparaiso metro area is Chile’s second largest) and a center of portuary activity, it is not an economic center like Santiago is.  It faces the ocean but it is not where tourists go for their summer beach vacation – that would be neighboring Viña del Mar.  However, what makes Valpo, as it is referred to in Chile, so great is the charm it has which is a combination of its setting and that it has not been spoilt by becoming a megalopolis.

Out to sea

Valparaíso is surrounded by hills and exploring the city is not just exploring sea-level Valpo but exploring its hills.  But before going up those hills, the best thing to do is to admire Valpo’s lay of the land by taking a boat tour in the harbor.

Valparaiso, Valpo, boat, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

The boat taking us to cruise the harbor

Valparaiso, Valpo, sea lion, marine life, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Sea lion enjoying the summer day

Valparaiso, Valpo, hills, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Looking back at the town and hills of Valpo (notice a funicular in the center of the photo)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, National Congress

National Congress (on the left) sits in Valparaiso, not Santiago, the actual capital of Chile

Valparaiso, Valpo, port, ship, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View across the harbor back towards the center of the city

Up the hills

Valpo is quite famous for the funiculars (or ascensores) that help move people up and down its famous hills.  The oldest funicular was built in 1883 and it is still in service.  Many of these funiculars are an experience onto themselves with very unique stories and some are considered national monuments.

Valparaiso, Valpo, funicular,rail, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

One of Valparaiso’s famous funiculars – we didn’t take this one

When we went, we were advised by some locals to keep an eye out as we went up to the hills as not all areas above are equally safe for people who look like tourists.  We took the advice and went up making sure we were aware of our surroundings.

Valparaiso, stairs, funicular, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

For the sake of the experience, we climbed the stairs…

Valparaiso, Valpo,funicular, cat, rail, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

… and this cat had a similar, if different, approach to going up.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A house perched on one of the hills looks mighty precarious to me… one lil tremor and…

We were rewarded not only with views of the city and sea below, but also by some neat architecture in the hill we visited.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards some of the other hills (spot the funicular on this pic!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards the harbor

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

House up in one of the hills

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Another great sample of the neat architecture around

And then back at sea level

All this being said and done, I just enjoyed walking aimlessly through the city.  Here are some of the images from our exploring “sea-level” Valpo.

Valparaiso, Valpo, old payphone, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Charming “booth” for a pay phone

Valparaiso, Valpo, power cables, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A mess of utility cables… who knows how many legally set up!

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A side street that was not as interesting (they deserve to show up on a website too!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, bus, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

Valparaiso, Valpo, Navy, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture

Navy Building in Plaza Sotomayor

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, monument, war, history

Monument to the Heroes of Iquique (war memorial) in Plaza Sotomayor

Valparaiso, Valpo,Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture, dog

Dog laying in the middle of the street (right below where the bus shows)

My favorite souvenir from my year in Chile is a wood carving depicting one of the stairs and funiculars of this charming city.  A great reminder in my every day of this unique town!

Getting Up High in Sydney- The Amazing Bridge Climb

ilivetotravel climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia

When I got to Sydney, Australia to visit friends and finally explore that land down under, one of the first thing my friends told me was I HAD TO do the bridge climb.  The Sydney Harbor Bridge climb.  I was immediately mesmerized at the thought.  Normally, I try to go up any structure that allows me birds eye view of a city.  The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Christ Redeemer in Rio, the medieval towers in la rossa Bologna, St. Paul‘s in London, Sacre Coeur also in Paris, the Peachtree Westin in my hometown, … you get the point.  Nothing like being high up and looking down at man’s urban creation.  I had crossed the bridge on foot and snapped a photo I really liked looking at the Sydney Opera House (and you are already high from the bridge level) but a higher vantage point… THAT would be awesome.

So the Sydney Bridge climb was right up my alley.  Of course, I had to be OK parting with a good amount of dough, well north of US $100 (truth be told, around $200…).  But WHEN would I return to Sydney to do this?  I am not scared of heights when I feel secure and being on a walkway was good enough for me (vs. walking out on some diving board-like piece of something hanging of a needle or other such skyscraper structure).

A friend of mine who is also a travel blogger (Erin, from The World Wanderer) was telling me she wanted to do the climb.  I encouraged her to do it and she encouraged me to write about my experience (it was on the long to-write-about list).  The bridge climb is a fairly recent offering having been started in the mid 1990s or so.  They claim over 3 million participants so far – become one, like Erin will some day, and help them get to 4 million!

The prep

So I made my way to the place where they brief you on the entire process and suit you up on this very not glamorous attire.  The important thing, though, is that you part ways with ANYTHING that could POSSIBLY fall off you during the climb.  It is not only that you would lose the whatever-it-is.  It is that there are likely cars right under you that could be hit by anything falling off!  If it is not covered completely by the suit – it comes off.  Your sunglasses, mercifully, are given a contraption so you can keep them and they won’t fall off – whew.  They go through some instructions and -voilà- off you go!

Modeling the jumpsuit used in the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb

Notice all the gear on the model

The hike

Once you are ready to go, the first step is to hook yourself up to the “cord”.  This cord thing runs the ENTIRE route you will walk and you will be hooked to that cord the ENTIRE time you are out there either UNDER the bridge or climbing up.  Yes, that is why you should not fear doing the hike.  You are tethered to the bridge.  The only way you are falling to your death is if the bridge falls into the harbor hundreds of feet below.  And then it does not matter if you are climbing the bridge, on a bus crossing the bridge, or a pedestrian on the sidewalk on the bridge.  So no fear!

ilivetotravel climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia

Notice how I am strapped to the bridge

Once you start climbing, yes, the effort could be significant for some.  I exercise frequently so the physical effort was not extraordinary.  But I think you don’t have to be in great shape to go up.  Just don’t have serious heart issues or other serious illnesses.  Oh, and don’t be intoxicated.  They check and won’t let you go up!

The guide will make stops along the way but she/he is explaining things along the way.  The headphones you get are AWESOME.  They don’t go in your ear but over the rear of your cheek close to your ear – the sound vibrations emitted by the thing get to your eardrum and you hear perfectly fine – how cool is that?!  Our guide was phenomenal – great explanations, great humor (I am sure the same jokes he  and his peers say every tour but nevertheless funny), and great Aussie attitude and friendliness.

Say cheese!

As you hike the bridge, they will be taking photographs.  Remember the bit about not being able to bring a camera?  (You leave your stuff in a locker.)  Well, they know you want a picture or two.  And they know we will buy them so they won’t be cheap.  But since you already dished out a couple hundred buckaroos, what’s another limb, right?  The photos will be great – admire mine but do not laugh at the suit cause you will be wearing one too!

Climb of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia with Opera House in the background

One of the worst smiles I’ve given in a photo but, overall, I can’t complain!  And it’s windy up there if you can’t tell!

“Closing arguments”

If I ever return to Sydney, I am likely to splurge again – but this time to do the night climb which I hear is also phenomenal (and cheaper!).  Hopefully, I’ve had enough time by then to save up for the cost of another climb.  But one thing I know, it will be WELL worth it!

I give this a completely certain thumbs up even if it feels gimmicky.  Gimmicks like this, though, have to be gone for (here is where English teachers cringe).  They pay you back with an incredible view of this great city by the water!  Did I convince you to do it??

Photo of the Week – Harbor in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Harbor or port in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Everything in Dubrovnik is picturesque (check out other sights in this jewel of the Adriatic!), including the view below of a harbor used by smaller craft including local fishermen.

Harbor or port in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photo of the Week – Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

Nyhavn harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark

I finally visited Copenhagen in 2011 with my family.  One of the most picturesque areas of this city by the sea is Nyhavn.  Nice waterfront cafés (and also good eateries in the side streets!).

Nyhavn harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark

Photo of the Week – Sydney Harbor from the Sydney Bridge

Sydney Harbor from Sydney Bridge, in Sydney, Australoa

I loved the opportunity that arose unexpectedly a couple of years ago to make the long trip to Australia and New Zealand.  It is not often I take more than 2 weeks off work at a time so having a month to go Down Under was pretty special – and yet not enough time by 200%!

One of my favorite discoveries was the incredible natural setting combined with man-made structures that is Sydney Harbor.  Though I could not take a camera up when I climbed the iconic harbor bridge, I did strive to take pictures from the bridge.

The picture here takes me back to that visit and to the incredible setting that is Sydney Harbor.  Here is to returning some day!

Sydney Harbor from Sydney Bridge in Australia

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