Valparaiso in central Chile is inconveniently sprinkled across a series of steep ravines running down to the port and bay. Skipping up and down the stepped alleys to and from the city centre turns every journey into a gym class. However, I discover that if you stay on Calle Hector Calvo in the up and coming boho barrio of Bellavista, which is home to the Museo a Cielo Abierto (Museum of the Open Sky), you don’t need to go far to see what Valparaiso is all about. Above all, there’s the view over a multi-coloured hotch-potch of corrugated iron-clad houses, some tiny, some spacious, but all clinging onto the steep hillsides like limpets.
This proves the perfect colourful background for an Alice & Co photo shoot. This silk jersey Senorita Blouse folds up to nothing when packing while a pair of Uptown Trousers made in cotton and lycra sateen with a ribbon belt allows plenty of space for eating the delicious local avocados, empanadas and ice cream!
The municipality has taken a positive view of graffiti here, handed out pots of paint and encouraged murals and mosaics of every style and design.
This includes birds,
and mythical creatures.
Even the local mini-market has a rather jolly one.
At the top of the hill Museo Sebastiana was once the home of Chile’s famous poet, politician, diplomat and bon viveur Pablo Neruda. It is built like a ship with magnificent views and an eclectic collection of paintings and artifacts – no photos allowed but I couldn’t resist breaking the rules to take a shifty snap of his wife’s silk evening coat hanging up in the wardrobe.
I think this will be an inspiration for a new Alice & Co design – I love the simple, elegant line and sailor collar.
Silk has been my fabric of choice for much of my wardrobe for this trip. It’s light, folds up small, dries quickly and is much tougher than you think.
It doesn’t have to be dressy – this silk twill Intrepid boilersuit is great for everyday and acts as both head-to-toe sunscreen and a useful mosquito net! Click here for details of how to make one. A pair of Tracey Neuls reflective ‘Geek’ plimsolls are another essential item for my travels. It’s handy to be able to see your feet in the dark!
Culture always makes me hungry, so after my museum visit I’m very happy to come across the Sep7ima patisserie at decorated with a mural of course and selling dainty macaroons in lots of delicious flavours – I tried most of them! Well up to Paris standards I say – especially the pistachio ones.
The summer weather in Valparaiso divides the day neatly into three: foggy mornings are perfect for a lie-in with a good book, or getting on with this blog! Glorious sunny afternoons are great for exploring and fashion shoots, while slightly nippy evenings are crying out for enjoying a good meal. Right next door to where I’m staying at the friendly Hotel Boutique Cabernet, Laura Moreno and her chef son called Subercaseaux have created the restaurant Hosteria Espirito Santu offering elegant dishes such as cod with barley pearls, pea shoots, basil and a ponzu and ginger reduction. If you need a lie down after they also have rooms.
A few doors up, ebullient Italian pizza chef Fabrizio spins his dough and a yarn in his tiny corner cafe/take away Amore Mio. It’s the best pizza I’ve had outside of Roma and a great place to meet the neighbours. A little further down the hill on another night I fill up with some hearty German fare and enjoy a Teutonic-sized beer at Hotzenplotz. There is a substantial German population in Chile who clearly need a sauerkraut fix from time to time.
It’s worth stepping outside of the barrio to visit the extraordinary Palacio Baburizza, an over-the-top Jugendstil mansion built for a Croatian industrialist who having no heirs left it to the city to become the Museo de Belles Artes. Its collection of paintings by Chilean artists neatly illustrates how European innovations of the early 20th century made it across to South America. I’m very taken with this double portrait.
To get there you can ride the Ascensor el Peral, one of Valparaiso’s famous lifts built on the funicular system to link the steep hills. Over the years many have fallen into disrepair but some are now being restored and they make a fun and inexpensive way to travel around.
Down on the seafront the semi-derelict industrial landscape looks in need of a few billion dollars of investment and a bit of town planning. This also has some colourful art work and a modern tramway running along to the popular seaside district of Viña del Mar.
I’m not sure who these heroes are but an Alice & Co Volcano skirt made in red cotton broderie Anglaise, (click here if you’d like to make one), and a jolly sweater from Antoni & Alison in London match well with the brightly painted colours.
After a week here, I certainly agree with the sentiments of this mural…
Valparaiso, my first taste of a Latin American city, has impressed me with its laid-back charm, creative energy and superb avocados!
All warmed up, now I’m off up to La Paz, Bolivia, in the high Andes.
All images © nigeltisdall.com
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