Our wander over to La Sebastiana took us first down to El Plan and a stroll over to Plaza Sotomayor, then a vertical hike up in the creaky Ascensor El Peral to Cerro Alegre for 100 pesos each. Then up and up into the hills along vividly painted streets and houses piled on top of each other, then around the long mercifully level curves of Avenida Alemania which links the cerros through Cerro Miraflores, Cerro Carcel, Cerro San Juan de Dios and finally into Cerro Bellavista – and what a vista!
I have to say that La Sebastiana is a rather unremarkable house, quite domestic really. Surprisingly cramped interiors with even some pokey rooms, though all with some quirky touch, items from Neruda’s own collections (of coloured glass bottles for example), spectacular views and a nice Mediterranean style garden below. Unfortunately, of the five floors of his tightly packed (and stacked) house, the fifth floor was closed for renovations, but then it was the smallest of the (small) rooms, so I guess we didn’t miss out on much.
Neruda is a Chilean national hero and as such his homes are often teeming with visitors – whilst we were there it was fairly busy, making the small rooms feel even smaller with people wandering around with a speaking guide device clamped to their ears – visually quite strange and oddly silent. It all felt rather intrusive as the house has been left much as it was, including the made-up bed and the rather simple (suburban) bathrooms (with harlequin pale green and white tiles in one). And that most human of sixties touches – a corner bar. The locker rooms – set away from the house – indicated just how many visitors the house must see at peak times.
From the house it was a winding downward wander through Cerro Bellavista all the way to the hustle and bustle of El Plan, along the miniature slice of Fleet St that’s Calle Cochrane with its 50’s trolley buses and grey stone Victorian buildings – then finally, full circle, up Ascensor Artilleria and home for a late lunch on the balcony with snow-capped Aconcagua all the way over there (some 150 ks away) in Argentina glowing in the afternoon sun.