As the sun sets, the houses that cover the city's many hillsides change tone, chameleon-like, from strong and vibrant to dusky shades of pink, gold, sage and pale blue. On the park lawn, a trapeze artist is balancing on a high wire in the last fingers of sunshine and two actors rehearse their lines under the violet blooms of a jacaranda tree. In the auditorium at the far side of the park, in a high-ceilinged room with wooden floors and long black curtains, a small audience settles in to listen to a series of international musicians taking part in an experimental gig. Welcome to Friday evening, Valparaíso-style.
Only two hours from the Chilean capital of Santiago, Valparaíso spreads across a series of hillsides that form a natural amphitheatre overlooking the sea. Where Santiago is all about business and government, Valparaíso is more laid-back. Its streets are still pleasingly ramshackle in parts and it has the vague seediness that often characterises large ports. Chilean artists, writers and musicians have long made the city their home, drawn to its picturesque location and bohemian mores – Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda is one notable former resident. With its artistic vibe and slightly crumbling feel, Valparaíso has an ambience akin to a smaller, seaside, Latin version of Berlin.