Valparaiso, or Valpo as it's known locally, is an odd place. It is a port town and was once the busiest in S America (before Panama Canal opened). Its location was obviously chosen for it usefulness as a port, rather than its suitability as a place to build a town. There is a small flat area around the port but the dominating feature is a ring of steep hills that surround that area. The flat bit has all the buildings that you would associate with a old major port - grand old warehouses, big public buildings and expensively built offices that would have once belonged to shipping agents and importers. Like most other old ports, these buildings are in a state of neglect and there is a rather rough air about the place, but it still has an energy and did not appear as defeated as many old port towns (e.g. Liverpool) can. The houses on the hills are a chaos of colour, corrugated iron, wood and concrete. There is little evidence of town planning and nice well built houses sit next to a mass of shacks that have an air of shanty town about them. Masses of phone and electricity wires form huge nests on every corner and every view is obscured by them to a degree. It is not sold as a safe place, but we felt safe throughout and experienced more warmth in the poorer area off the beaten track than we did in the safe tourist areas.
The B&B we stayed in was high up on one of the hills and with the exception of the lovely building next door, was surrounded by poorer housing. It was run by Ulysses, an ex software designer in his early thirties who could not have been more helpful. Our room had fantastic views over the bay and had the most comfortable bed we had had for ages. The place was comfortable enough to relax in, which was good as I was suffering from a 'funny tummy' so spent rather more time there than I would have otherwise. After spending far too long sitting in foul smelling public loos, sweat pouring off my nose, staring uncomfortably at the empty space where loo roll should have been, I realised whoever decided to call the affliction 'funny' must have been a bit of a knob.
The guide book says that there are few sights in Valpo, and it is al about 'getting the vibe'. Whilst that strikes me as traveller tripe, it is exactly what we did, spending time in cafes, wandering the streets and travelling up and down the hills in the ancient funiculars. We also took the bus to the next door resort of Vina Del Mar, which is a concrete jungle, similar to a bad resort in southern Spain. It also smelled of horse poo. We didn't stay long.
All in all, it is a place worth a couple of days stop. It is not the 'Greek village' that some poor American tourists had been told to expect by friends (too big, too ugly and far too much dog poo for that) but it is unique and interesting.