Valparaiso wakes up like an infant, bleary-eyed and disorientated; overcast, quiet and cool. I roll over and go back to sleep. It was a late night – a few beers and a cocktail of nationalities.
By mid-morning, Valparaiso is an eager toddler, walking and talking with great potential. Blue patches sever the monotony of the morning’s sky, the sun eases through and the temperature begins to climb. I start to climb too – there is no other word to describe walking around Valparaiso. The city clings to its many undulating hills like sailors to a sinking ship. There are many casualties. The houses range from the immaculately preserved, to the dilapidated and derelict. Almost all of them teetering, almost all painted every colour you would never consider painting a house: bougainvillea pink, Granny Smith green, hyperlink blue. The varieties of colour are exceeded only by the quantity and skill of the street art. Creatures of every imagination accompany my stroll through these unusual alleyways.
Sometime after lunch, Valparaiso shakes her adolescence and her hazy horizon lifts completely. She is suddenly bright and clear and hot. I climb. Up stairs, down stairs, along cobbled streets with meowing cats, across major thoroughfares with slumbering dogs. Another day of this and I am certain that my ass will be as tight as the fists of Cassius Clay.
Even the funiculars, cruising the hillsides, are brightly painted
As I write this, the city is easing gently into her retirement. The heat of youth is lost, sounds and colours muted. A dinner of lentils and vegetables awaits me – oh joy, no white flour in sight. No jamon. No queso. Without much effort at all, I realise I’m getting into a groove.