Pablo Neruda was Chile's most infamous poet. He appears to be lauded whereever we go and he has homes one can visit both in Santiago and in Valparaiso, a coastal community about 150 kms to the northwest of Santiago. He also had a home on La Isla Negra which is on the Pacific coast northwest of here. He and his third wife are buried in the garden there.
The other day we went to Valparaiso on the bus with the sole intention of not only visiting this UNESCO world heritage city but to see his home high on the hilltop to learn a bit more about him.
We have decided that we enjoy visiting the residences of well known writers ever since we visited Franz Kafka's home in Prague a couple of years ago.
I also look forward to visiting John Steinbeck's home in Salinas California next time I visit my sister who lives just north of there.
We managed to find someone who told us what bus to take up the incredibly high neighbourhood that is littered with homes of all walks of life , sizes and colours.
The bus ride up the hill took about 10 or 15 minutes and dropped us off directly out front of his residence. His house is four stories high, looking not unlike a house of cards as different parts of the house were added on at different times.
When we walked up to the residence we went through a gate into the front yard area which houses a small building that is a cafe to our left. Walking forward we entered another small building which had beautiful art work, pottery and glass, some engraved with Neruda's poetry. They also sold posters (of which we bought one) and T shirts which I had to have.
We happily purchased our ticket, camera in hand and went back out to the front yard area. Walking into the ground floor of the house we encountered the rules. All places such as this have rules. No photography inside. That is always a disappointment and I never understand why that rule exisits. Then we received gadgets that looked like TV remote controls with a map of the house with various numbers to press along with the play button in order to hear the narrative. That was easy enough to learn and upon exiting the premises one turns in the remote but gets to keep the map.
The tour begins on the first floor so up the winding staircase we began. His living room, dining room and bar are on the first floor.
He enjoyed collecting antiquities and art and was often given gifts by friends that he decorated his house with. His living room is shaped as half a circle and on the edge of the circle he has a beautiful old horse from a Paris carousel. HE placed it specifically in a position so the horse continues to look as though he is going forward on the carousel.
The front wall is a complete window that looks out over the absolutely stunning vista of the city below and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Evidently Neruda enjoyed naming things in his home and the beautiful comfy lounge chair that sets in front of the window is called The Cloud. Evidently sitting on the cloud with a book was his favourite past time when he wasn't writing. I would have killed to have sent all the people out and relax on the cloud with a book of my own. It just looked like heaven.
The next floor up was his bedroom. He used to sit up in bed in the morning, again with the glass wall allowing the same heavenly view, have his breakfast served to him in bed while he turned on the radio and caught up with the latest news headlines. Once up his pattern was to take a short walk and then close himself up in his studio on the fourth floor and begin his days writing and reading for several hours.
We followed the circular staircase to the very top floor to see his study. His desk, a very old typewriter, his magazines and periodicals (many political) lined the book shelves and yet again the front wall window made us feel as though we had walked out of an airplane.
No wonder the man was such an amazing poet. Who wouldn't be with his lifestyle.
Pablo Neruda wrote incessantly of politics of the day. He was a strong Communist and believed in the Communist party whole heartedly. He also aligned himself closely with Allende who was latern chased out by the savage Pinochet. Once, Neruda was being arrested but he managed to escape over the Andes mountain on the back of a donkey.
He was married 3 times in his life and his house in Valparaiso was named after his third wife.
He led an amazing life, connected to politics around the world and wives and mistresses at home.
In his study he had a very large portrait of Walt Whitman, the American poet who Neruda idolized as a mentor. HE also idolized Ernest Hemingway as a writer.
We stayed in each room for quite some time, studying every little nook and cranny because all of it was so incredibly fascinating. We are now extremely interested to know more about his life and to read his poetry and continue to enjoy the life of this most interesting man.
The first thing I did when I got back to the apartment last night was to get online and order his biography from book depository knowing it should beat me home and we can enjoy it once settled again into our normal routines.
It will always be beyond my comprehension as to why people would rather drive past the ridiculously extravagant houses of movie stars and celebrities when there are exceptionally interesting lives awaiting our visits to the author's homes of the world.
Having only visited two of them I am now quite anxious to compile a list of homes I should try to visit on future travels. I would look forward to any suggestions from anyone who may come across this post.