A reader exclaims:

Oh beautiful Málaga!


San Francisco! Or very close to it. That haze the last few days has been gross.


San Diego! (or “whale vagina”, in the native German)

Another sees Italy:

Taking a shot here, though more out of sentiment than reason. Red clay tiles and pine trees say Mediterreanean. Satellites look to be pointing northwest. Some older buildings, possibly Austro-Hungarian architecture. Statue of … Garibaldi (?) So, since I lived there for a few lovely months some 20 years ago while researching James Joyce, I’m going to say it’s Trieste, or maybe Maggia, which is just to the south. “Yes I said yes and he loved Trieste yes but he’s got it all wrong yes…”

Another thinks it’s Naples. Or maybe Marseille? Another thinks he spots a flag:

Ok, European-style buildings, warships, oil tankers, a narrow strip of water and (what looks like) the flag of the Russian navy. All signs point to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, Russia. Except I can’t find those buildings! So I guess I’m wrong … Ah well, hopefully I’m at least closer than the wife, who guesses Gibraltar.

Another sides with the wife:

I have spent hours looking at this, and there’s one thing Im sure of: this picture was not taken from Gibraltar. Im going with Gibraltar anyway, because I really want that to be the answer. Gibraltar is awesome. It has wild apes. Nowhere else in Europe has wild apes.

I have attached a picture of one of the apes. Also, I may be going slowly insane staring at this window.

Gibraltar was actually the most popular incorrect guess:

First thought was San Diego – military base, semi-tropical vegetation – but after spending a few minutes looking at maps of San Diego, that doesn’t seem quite right – though it really could be almost any port in southern California. How about Sevastopol? (It’s certainly in the news – but I’ve never been there and again, the maps don’t seem right). Gibraltar seems a plausible fit – so I’ll go with that. The magazine display in the foreground looks like a high-end hotel spread. So if I had the patience and skill (I actually have some patience, but very little skill), I’d try and find a hotel window looking west over the harbor towards Algeciras.

Another looks east:

My guess is that this picture was taken somewhere along the Bosphorus in Turkey. I took a cruise down the straights a few years ago, and the cargo ships, naval vessels, river hillsides, pine needles, and satellite dishes on those balconies brought me back. Not going to get a more specific guess out of me though – about 5 minutes of searching for “Turkish naval vessles” and “hotels overlooking the Bosphorus” left me discouraged. Who are these people who can search for hours?

Two readers even guessed the Middle East, but this reader gets us on the right continent: “Cartagena, Colombia”. Another, like the majority of our contestants this week, nails the right country and city:

Holy crap – I think I finally got one.

I’m thinking it is in Valparaiso, Chile, and the view is from Pablo Neruda’s home La Sebastiana.

Not Neruda’s home, but close. Another focused on a single detail:

treeThe tree ended up being a very helpful clue for me. It has the distinctive look of a Cook pine. Wikipedia says that Cook pines are planted abundantly in Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, so I figured that was as good a starting point as any.

The cars are driving on the right, which knocked out a few countries instantly. I started looking around for cities with a naval presence in the remaining countries, and bam! Valparaiso. The picture is taken from a building overlooking Plaza Sotomayor. Another fun contest!

Another used the tree to figure out the right building:

The large pine tree resembles, at least to me, a Norfolk Island Pine (Araucia–it could be another species), which I associate with the South Pacific region. As the climate appeared temperate in the photograph, I started my search in New Zealand. When that failed, I went to Chile because of its temperate coastlines and grand colonial buildings and monuments, such as those seen from the contest window. Once in Valparaiso, all the clues fell into place. The large pine tree on the hillside was dominant in many of the photographs taken from Plaza Sotomayor and of the Chilean navel headquarters. A search for hotels in the area listed Hotel Casa Higueras. The large pine tree was conspicuous in many photographs of the hotel and promotional photographs posted on travel websites looked very much like that taken from the contest window.

A long-time contestant:

I wonder if any of your other readers had a strange sense of deja vu upon seeing the view for this week’s contest. That pier with the navy destroyers … those gleaming buildings across the bay …

And then it came to me. One summer day in August 2012, I spent the better part of an afternoon studying every nuance of the photo for contest #115, trying to figure out where in the world was this magnificent port city that I had never seen before. That photo obviously left an imprint in my brain, because this week’s view was unmistakeable: Valparaíso, Chile.

Having nailed that down, a scan of Google Maps identified the statue in the foreground as the Monument to Naval Heroes in Plaza Sotomayor. Over to Google Earth, where some careful triangulation with the 3D buildings helped me line up the view just right. When I looked around that spot, I found a geotagged Panoramio photo with the name of a hotel: Casa Higueras.

And now I’m booking my ticket to Valparaíso.

A happy reader adds:

I’m guessing this week’s contest was intended to give those of us who never get it right a chance to feel good about ourselves. Thanks for showing a little mercy.

Sounds like next week might be time for a more merciless view. More than 60 people answered the correct city this week, and most of them got the hotel as well. To add some geographical context to the range of guesses, below is a map from OpenHeatMap, developed by Dishhead Pete Warden, plotting all of the entries this week (zoom in by double-clicking an area of interest, or drag your cursor up and down the slide):

Several readers took advantage of a useful clue:

Given the diversity and globetrotting nature of your readership, I imagine you’ll get a lot of correct entries for this week’s contest. I didn’t find it by identifying any of the several visible landmarks (the Naval Building, the monument to naval heroes), but by discovering the magazine with the word “MOSSO” on it that’s visible on the table.

mossoSome Googling led me to find out that Ernesto Mosso is sort of the Ralph Lauren of Chile, and may be the most interesting man in the world. He publishes a magazine called MOSSO Life, which apparently goes to a lot of hotels in Chile. It didn’t take much searching to locate the port of Valparaíso and recognize I was in the right place.

A first-time contestant:

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the level of detail of the winning entries. But this is the second time in the last few weeks I’ve looked at the photo and thought, I’ve been there …

The first was Guam. When I saw that picture my gut told me right away it was Guam, but a cursory search of Google maps didn’t reveal any obvious location, so I figured I was wrong. When I saw the picture this time my mind was screaming Valparaiso, so I wasn’t going to be deterred. A little background: I visited Valparaiso as a merchant marine cadet back in 1991. Of all the ports around the world that I visited during my time in the merchant marine, Valparaiso was one of my favorites.

Anyway, the Navy pier in the background is a dead giveaway. Using GoogleValparaiso 1 maps I was able to draw a line from the end of the pier through the tower that is visible in the photo.

The photo looks like it was taken from a hotel on a hillside, and the line passes directly through a building on a hillside. The view from the window was likely from a hotel, since there was a neat arrangement of brochures on the table. Zooming in on the map, I was hoping Google would give me the name of the hotel. Of course, nothing is so easy, clicking on the building gave me nothing. My next hint was a street name, Higuera. So I tried a google search for “Valparaiso hotels Higuera”. Bingo. Casa Higueras.

A Boston native is struck by coincidence:

Of all days to get this view. A year ago I217415929 was staying at a quaint hostel in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood of Valparaiso from where this photo was taken when I learned of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. We had spent that day wandering the streets Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre, Plaza Sotomayor, and venturing the hills to see the home of Pablo Neruda. When we found out, we spent several hours on the phone and on Skype with relatives and friends back home to find out what had happened and to make sure that everyone we knew was okay.

So it’s fitting that a year later and on the eve of the first marathon since the bombing, I get a view of Valparaiso while in my apartment in Somerville. I’ve included one of the photos from my trip.

Another gets nostalgic:

YES – for the first time ever in a VFYW contest did I know within a couple of seconds what city I was looking at: I spent several years growing up, on and off, in Santiago, and the occasional trip to the coast would involve a visit to the harbor city of Valparaiso, and when I was little, a boat ride through the harbor. The pier in the middle of the picture, even over 40 years ago, always had a few navy ships and the occasional submarine docked on in. Harbor tours leave right on the waterfront behind the white tower in the picture.

In a country known for its nature and landscapes (Atacama desert, Andes, Patagonia) but relatively short of interesting architecture and cityscapes, Valparaiso is an exception. It was the leading commercial port on South America’s Pacific role in the late 19th and early 20th century on shipping routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific (via the southern tip of South America). Its importance was much diminished with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. In 2003 parts of the city were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. For an interesting overview, click here.

Unfortunately, the city earlier this month suffered from devastating fires in the hillsides that killed 15 and destroyed over 2500 homes.

Another used some triangulation to pinpoint the right window:

In the photo, the statue in the square lines up exactly with the inside corner of the far tower, while the spire at left lines up somewhere in the middle of the bluish office building. The intersection of these lines suggest that the photo was taken from somewhere near the western edge of the white building on the map:


It appears that this building would have an address on Calle Higuera. Searching for that street in Valparaiso finds the hotel Casa Higueras. A Trip Advisor photo for Casa Higueras from 2011 titled “la baie vitrée du salon de lecture” shows nearly the exact scene as the contest photo, suggesting that the photo was taking from the hotel’s “reading room”:


The inimitable Chini:

I should have known. Two days after Marquez dies, what chance was there for us not to wind up in the reading room of a South American hotel? (For the Marquez fans, when I heard that he had died I discovered that an old website that I used to go to is still kicking. Definitely worth a visit, especially for the bio.)

This week’s view comes from Valparaiso, Chile. The picture looks northeast along a heading of 40.60 degrees from the Casa Higueras Hotel over the same harbor featured in VFYWC #115.


Although this contest was relatively easy, it also provided my nerdiest moment yet. Upon loading the view, the very first thought that ran through my head was “That looks like a Type 22 Sheffield” – as in, the class of British frigates. And the ship in the center is indeed the Amirante Williams, a former Type 22 that was sold to the Chilean Navy. So that’s my pro tip for the week: get in a time machine, spend your childhood developing a uselessly encyclopedic knowledge of NATO ship profiles, and you too can track down views more quickly.

Another joins Chini in nerdom:



Simple, really.

Another has more details on the ship:

It’s a nice change of pace to be hunting ships instead of buildings. Plus, I learned a whole lot about frigates. The central warship in this week’s view is a Type 22 frigate, originally built for the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy decommissioned its last Type 22 in 2011, but several frigates sold to Brazil, Chile, and Romania remain in service. The architecture and coastline clearly suggested South America, so I took a quick look at the four Type 22s in the Brazilian and Chilean navies. The ship in question is the Almirante Williams, Chile’s only Type 22 frigate. (The Almirante Williams was previously HMS Sheffield (96), named in honor of the Type 42 destroyer of the same name that was sunk during the Falkland Islands War.) After a quick search of Chile’s naval bases, I finally ended up in Valparaiso.

One of the most detailed entries:

Every website I visited for information shows a beautiful and vibrant city. (Though of course Valparaíso is still recovering from the wildfires last weekend that left many dead and thousands homeless.)

Contest photo with ships and monument labeled

The Monument to Heroes of the Battle of Iquique sits at the center of the picture above the table. Although Chile lost this naval skirmish, it won the War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia. As a result of securing territory from Peru and Bolivia, the Chilean border moved much further north and Bolivia became landlocked. Bolivia has been attempting to regain access to the sea ever since, and just last week filed a lawsuit against Chile at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. I used photos of Chilean naval vessels, Wikipedia, and the navy’s own website to identify the ships.


Congrats to the two dozen people who picked the right window this week. If you’re one of them, see if you can spot yours:


One of those belongs to this week’s winner, who had the best overall record without yet winning, having participated in 24 contests over the past few years:

I always love it when a gut feeling pays off in this contest. When I first looked at the picture, I thought it looked like either Lisbon or Valparaiso, and Valparaiso it is. Nailing down the actual location was a little harder because Google street view isn’t especially accurate or helpful here. Long story short, it’s taken from the bay window in the reading room (thank you TripAdvisor) of the Casa Higueras Hotel atgraffiti 133 Calle Higuera in the Cerro Alegre area.

I’m too lazy to paste either of them in, and I’m sure you’ll get several other copies of them anyway, but both the hotel website and TripAdvisor have pictures out the same window, and I have to admit it’s a pretty great view. I did attach a picture from Street View looking back up at the hotel from the plaza with the statue with the window circled.

I was in Valparaiso a couple of years ago and really loved it. Somehow I’d totally missed the news about the devastating fire there until I was searching for this view. It sounds like it was uphill from the historic areas, but I was sorry to hear about it. Valparaiso is not a wealthy city, so it will be a lot to recover from. The thing I remember most about the city is the graffiti art that you find all over, but especially up in the hills. I attached a picture of one of my favorites that’s actually only a few blocks from the Casa Higueras.

Great job! And see everyone Saturday for the next contest.

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