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Published: March 9th 2015
Coquimbo, Chile and its next door neighbor, La Serena.
450 miles north of Santiago on the coast of Chile, we come to Coquimbo and its next door neighbor of La Serena. The first thing we learned was that these two cities are mortal enemies, at least when it comes to futbol! The Coquimbo Pirates (yellow and black) vs. the La Serena Papayeros (red and yellow). Well, as it happened, our driver, David, was from Coquimbo, and our tour guide, Patricio is from La Serena and both are avid futbol fans. Throughout the morning the rivalry continued with Patricio showing us a very small yellow and black Pirates shirt, but then when he wanted to tell us about Los Papayeros, he brought out a very LARGE red shirt with the number 10 on it to honor the World’s Greatest Soccer Player, Pele. ;-) You may remember our blog from Santos, Brazil where we showed you Pele’s home field.
Coquimbo and La Serena occupy a beautiful horseshoe shaped bay, made up of one hill after another, with the harbor in the middle. On the top of one of the hills, is a gigantic cross that has an elevator in it so
that you can get views from the top. Along the coast and of special pride to the La Serenas is the Lighthouse, Faro Monumental de La Serena. It is on a point in the middle of 5 miles of magnificent beaches and anchors the end of the most important avenue in La Serena, Ave. Francisco de Aguirre. The other end of this wide palm lined avenue, with a lovely and clean park down the center, is the Plaza de Armas La Serena.
Both these cities are resort cities and also have all the amenities of lovely small cities. The streets and beaches are constantly being cleaned; the people are well dressed, well-educated and very friendly. In fact, while walking down one street I noticed some unusually beautiful, ruffly yellow hibiscus and started to take a picture before I realized that someone in the yard was trimming them…ooops ;-) I told him in Spanish how pretty I thought his flowers were and he smiled and broke one off to present to me. Nice.
Cope was a real trooper today as he picked up a little cold on the ship and wasn’t feeling too well. But he hopped on and
off the bus with nary a complaint ;-)
After visiting the lighthouse and the Mercado de Recova (the local market), where we found beautiful alpaca and leather goods, we walked down the street (yes, there are traffic signals and the cars obey them here ;-) to the Archaeological Museum. This is a small but impressive museum with artifacts dating back thousands of years to the migrations that brought people to Chile. There was also a Moai (Mow-ee) from Isla de Pascual (Easter Island); Chile purchased this island, 2000 miles to the west for $368. Nobody wanted it. Can you imagine?
There is a major soccer stadium in Coquimbo currently but, of course, not to be outdone, La Serena is building one too. The Coquimbo one looks a lot like the “birds nest” that was built for the Olympics in Beijing.
On our way back to the ship we passed through neighborhoods of smaller “tract homes” like you’d see in the USA and like we saw in Santiago. They also have a huge mall, called “Mall Plaza La Serena”. It looks just like any upscale American mall. In addition over the last few years they have gained some
American companies like, of course ;-) McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Truly Nolen (the pest control company that has the Volkswagen beetle cars that they put mouse ears on ;-) Right by the mall we noticed a Chuckie Cheese! We were told that it just opened 2 days ago and everyone is so excited! ;-) The Chileans are happy to have more places for employment and more choices on food and goods so they are very happy to have these companies here.
As with other Chilean cities there are large stay dogs here that are well fed and just part of living in Chile. We were told that the Chilean government is neutering the dogs and then letting them lose again. They are not aggressive, and in fact, they are inordinately friendly. Many people feed them. They seem to belong to everyone and no one. Next Port: Pisco, Peru
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