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Valparaiso is a coastal town, and hour and a half from Santiago. Before the Panama Canal, all ships passing Cape Horn stopped there; the city was quite cosmopolitan and wealthy at the time. As a result, it has lots of great Victorian architecture, as well as some art deco and modernist buildings.

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And some wonderfully bizarre hybrids.

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The town is built on a set of very steep hills by the ocean, and each of them has at least one funicular railroad.

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Homes are perched on treacherous hillsides, supported by rickety-looking scaffolding. Many look like real feats of engineering.

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Valparaiso is a bit shabby, but two of the hills have been cleaned up quite a bit, and have great restaurants and a few shops. There´s also a mural project; noted Chilean artists have painted outdoor murals in and around one hilltop. But we mostly preferred the unsanctioned public art.

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The poet Pablo Neruda considered Valparaiso his home, and had a house built on one hillside. We went to the house/museum, called La Sebastiana, not expecting much. It was actually quite an amazing place. Neruda collaborated with an architect, Sebastian Collado, to create a home with nautical lines. Neruda apparently decorated the interior himself, and it´s quite an eclectic mix of styles and objects, ala Nest Magazine. A painting of Queen Victoria coexists with bright pink and white striped walls; centuries old maps of Chile; a wacky wet bar with tchotchkes; and a taxidermy bird, dyed pink. I´ll have to read some Neruda now. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.

Like Santiago, Valparaiso has many large stray dogs. And, well, dog shit.

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