Valparaiso is like Wellington crossed with an Umbrian hill town and then multiplied by a factor of 10. Early city fathers built their little port on a site surrounded by 42 steep hills. Now it's a city of 300,000 people who have to live on these hills, with steep cobbled streets and 15 rickety, 19th-century funicular railways taking locals and tourists up slopes too steep for cars.
But it's a wonderful place, full of colonial buildings from an earlier heyday, painted in an infinite variety of bright colours, supplemented by thousands of murals. It seems that anyone with a patch of exterior wall needing renovating gets an artist not a house painter to do the job.
Our time in Valparaiso had been cut short by staying an extra day in Santiago to sort out police reports and the purchase of new computer items (note: shopping malls in Chile are no more enjoyable than those anywhere else in the world). So we had only one day to explore Valparaiso's central suburbs, climb hundreds of stairs, test as many funiculars as we came across, photograph picturesque streets, and eat a large, delicious, cheap "menu del dia" lunch in a cafe overlooking the city. The sun shone and all was extremely right with the world.
We also visited the house of former Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet, writer and diplomat Pablo Neruda. Now a museum, it gives a glimpse of a man as expansive and eccentric as the city he lived in. (Well, he lived there some of the time; he also had homes in Santiago and Isla Negra.)
Neruda was keen on things nautical and some of his windows were portholes. He was also an avid collector of random stuff that took his fancy, including a large wooden fairground horse, a stuffed flamingo-like bird, which he hung from the ceiling, and Chinese paintings he used as wardrobe doors.
The poet apparently never ate alone, saying that a meal on your own was "like eating in a tomb", so he would gather friends for every lunch and dinner. Fitting two boozy, discursive meals a day around prize-winning poetry and being Chile's representative in Jakarta, Buenos Aires and Paris must of been quite something. Oh and he always had a nap in the afternoon.
Perhaps that was the secret.