Hotel Review: The WineBox Valparaíso, Chile – Smart Media Magazine

Hotel Review: The WineBox Valparaíso, Chile

Rooms from 53,000 pesos (or about $80 at current exchange rates).

In Chile, Santiago’s rakish sailor brother is the port city of Valparaíso, with its handsome looks, edgy creativity and whiff of salt-air decay. Valpo, as residents call it, was entirely rebuilt after an earthquake in 1906. Its present mix of crumbling Victorian stone facades and sharp-edged, galvanized-metal shacks are splashed with colorful paint and arresting graffiti. They clamber up from a wide Pacific bay and ramble across some 40 hills. Although design-forward shipping container hotels have been popping up worldwide lately, the Valparaíso winemaker Grant Phelps lays claim to being the first to build with them in this historic port. Mr. Phelps stacked 25 decommissioned containers like blocks to create 21 graffitied guest rooms. He also created jutting private balconies and two decadent terraces that beg for adult beverages (children under 12 aren’t allowed at the hotel). The WineBox Valparaíso opened in February 2018 as sustainable lodging with attitude. It’s also an urban winery — Mr. Phelps, and often his guests, crush grapes and monitor aging barrels of wine in the parking garage.

Most visitors wander a couple of Valpo’s most colorful hills, Cerro Alegre and Cerro Bellavista, which vibrate with both clever graffiti and multistory street-art murals. The WineBox opens an adjacent hill, the previously residential Cerro Mariposa, to tourism. The hotel is still a quick, if gradually sloping, walk to the most Instagram-ready sights — especially the late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s fanciful Valparaíso home, La Sebastiana, rising like a ship’s prow from Bellavista. Valparaíso’s former prison, now the Parque Cultural, is about a mile away. Restaurants, as I found during a recent solo visit, remain a bit scarce in the immediate area.

The WineBox’s environmentalism is also evident in the rooms. They were insulated with projected cellulose, a material that includes recycled newspaper, from the noise I’d expected inside a metal shipping container. Even so, turndown service included earplugs (as well as dulce de leche candy). The container kept its original long-rectangle shape, but felt bright and open, the far end a glass door leading to a deep balcony. Binoculars were provided for scoping the hillsides and port. Recycled pallets had been crafted into a bed, which felt cozy as a ship’s berth. The room also held a kitchenette, which was stocked with not only salt and pepper, but also Chile’s favorite smoked pepper, merkén. The wine-only minibar offered a selection of five reds, two whites and a sparkling (from 9,000 to 19,000 pesos, or about $13.25 to about $28), all Chilean wines from independent vintners.

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