View down the alley from my Valpo refuge

I am writing this from my room in a beautiful soon-to-be student home which currently acts as a refuge for nomads and backpackers passing through the wonderful city of Valparaiso, which you might best imagine as a mixture of Barcelona, Marseille and Lisbon. We have a roof terrace that overlooks the tumble and jumble of this hilly city, its harbour and the pacific coast. It's perfect and makes me want to quote you a hundred Pablo Neruda quotes he wrote in this very city, but I have been warned not too get too pretentious.

The last weeks have been rough, and even more, the last week since I've come to Chile, as due to the first real rain in the Atacama desert for 20 years and the end of the school holidays in Chile, the north in the country was in a crazy state because everyone who wanted to go or came from to Bolivia, Peru and San Pedro de Atacama tried to get south at the same time, resulting in all buses and hostels, even upscale hotels, being booked for a week solid. In the end, I swallowed the bitter pill and paid £220 for a flight to Santiago.

Santiago I didn't like much... very clean, efficient, boring... even though I was stying in the so-called bohemian Bellavista, it seemed fake. You know, just because you get drunk every night in a house that's covered in graffitti, you are not suddenly an artist.

Valparaiso is a different beast. It's only got three supermarkets worthy of that name, one mall, one department store, but as everybody lives on the hills, people tend to do most of their shopping in tiny little shops and local markets.

Everyday, there are little artisan and craft markets all over town, everybody seems to do something creative for a living and wine is $2 a bottle... I've decided to settle down here for a bit after a crazy 6 countries in six weeks and relax, learn and write some stuff I have meant to do for a long time.

There aren't any special touristy things to do in Valpo, unless you count the harbour full of expensive touristy things (Chile is on par with European prices!), but it's a wonderful place to just be. I didn't imagine me ever saying this, but after all this travel, just doing nothing, cooking some pasta, having tea and reading a book is all I am craving right now.

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