Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Feliz Nuevo Año from the Pearl of the Pacific

Perhaps no city in the world has as much spite for the Panama Canal as Valparaíso, Chile´s 2nd biggest, but most important (historically, culturally) port. Before the canal was built it was a major stopping point for ships heading from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans (and the other way around) taking the southern (the only) route around the Straits of Magellen. The canal cut Valparaíso out of the loop and dealt a devestating blow to its economy, but it continues to be an important cultural and shipping center for Chile. It boasts the 2nd largest population in Chile, and is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. It also makes a big deal out of new year´s eve, throwing the 5th largest fireworks show in the world, the largest in South America, stretching along 23 miles of coast line. I watched the show from halfway up one of the city´s dozens of hills; the main show were the fireworks being set of from the port below us, but over the hills to either side we could see the sky lighting up from the continuation of the fireworks going on in Viña del Mar to the North as well as towards the south. Viña is an overbuilt beach town with thousands of skyscrapers and all the charm of an English beach resort (I suppse Viña gets a bit of sun at least). While Reston VA has a zonig code limiting house colors to 4 colors (at least 3 of which are shades of brown) Valparaíso heads in the opposite direction, with neighbor´s seemingly engaged in a contest to have the brightest house on the block (the current leader has a hot pink house, with even hotter pink trim). The city was also home (at least sometimes) to Chile´s 2nd most famous export, Pablo Neruda...He built an amazing ship themed house up on the hills and the stuffed it full of all sorts of stuff; for a commie, he certainly loved collecting luxury items.

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Viña del Mar
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Neruda´s house
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Valparaíso houses
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19th century hotel
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hotel and ascensor...the precursor to the escalator
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the city´s raison d´etre, the port

i can't believe how brilliant the colors are! happy new year jacob!
Reston, Virginia also allows some rather nice daring shades of gray in in its house colors. Radical Dude!!
Just a note. English beach towns don't have overbuilt skyscrapers, that would be Spain you are thinking of. English sea side towns are quite charming, with the howling wind and driving rain to protect you from skin cancer and any chance of looking healthy, the distinctive crackling sound of well-used anoraks to cover you up in case you do look healthy, the whinging of bored holiday makers, the smell of tea shoppes, the visual delights of fish and chip shops, the abandoned defense installations to fend off repeated Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman and German attacks and of course the hoards of huddled and lost English Language leaners from Italy, Argentina, Slovenia and Greece wondering why the hell they wanted to learn English in the first place, against whom all defenses seem pointless.

Happy New Year from
Colonel Mainwaring, Sargean Wilson, Corporal Jones and Private Pike,
Walmington-on-Sea Local Defence Volunteers (LDV)
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