COQUIMBO AND LA SERENA, CHILE
Some of our best and most wonderful travel experiences are completely unplanned – they happen by serendipity – by accident. Our day in Coquimbo and La Serena was just such a day.
Coquimbo is a Chilean port city that exports a lot of Chilean copper, among other products. We docked in the commercial port area and, not having had anything planned, we decided first to look around the commercial area outside the port and then to go to the small resort town called La Serena, located on the other side of the bay.
Since we have come on board we have made friends with the water colorist instructor on board and with her husband, and so the four of us decided to go out exploring together.
Coquimbo, like most other South American cities we have visited, loves its statues and displays of public art. Coquimbo is built on the side of a big, steep hill that runs down to the sea,
and people go up and down by using either buses or taxis or – if they are brave and strong enough – by climbing up and down hundreds of stairs that reach from the top of the hill to the bottom near the port (and also from bottom to top!).
An art sculpture commemorates what are apparently iconic steps in Coquimbo – only these are steps to nowhere:
One of the charming aspects of Coquimbo’s public art is that sculpted people seem to appear on balconies and rooftops from out of nowhere, and you have to look carefully to find them.
After walking around Coquimbo for a while we decided that rather than take a taxi to La Serena for $20, the four of us would catch the adventure and ride a city bus there for the equivalent of a buck apiece. So we got on the bus
and off we went ….
La Serena is a resort town, and it’s summer now in Chile. The bus driver let us off in the center of the city at the Plaza de Armas which, like all the sidewalks in La Serena, are made of a sort of brick.
But here I saw something I had never seen before anywhere else:
See those black bars running down the center of the sidewalk? They are there to help the blind get around with their canes. What a wonderful civic idea!
The obligatory civic building on the Plaza de Armas was a courthouse with a representation of the Ten Commandments on its top
and, of course, no Plaza de Armas worth its name would be without a church. La Serena’s had huge, beautifully carved wooden doors that must have been over 25 feet high:
Around the park of the Plaza de Armas were signs put up by the Future Foundation of Chile. They described the roles and contributions of various groups and communities to the Chilean nation. Included among the signs was one for the Chilean Jewish community.
We then walked into the commercial area of La Serena, which has a crafts market and small shops, nothing much different from elsewhere in Chile.
After walking around for an hour or so, we decided to cool off by stopping in for drinks at a small corner café across the street from the Plaza de Armas:
And it was here we bumped right in to serendipity….
As we walked by the window facing the street Nina noticed a young man sitting in the window cleaning his water color brushes.
Remember who we were with in La Serena? The ship’s water color instructor? Well, she starts talking with him (he speaks some English), then the rest of us join in the conversation, and we find that he is an architect by profession and teaches at the University of La Serena but that his passion is painting in water color. He invites us to visit his studio, which is in his home, a short walk from the café. It’s an offer we can’t refuse……
Francisco takes us to his home, where we first meet his wife Francesca and daughter Montserrat,
and then he takes us to his studio, where he shows us some of his work:
As we are talking, he is drawing and painting in watercolor.
Francisco finishes the watercolor he is presently working on
and gives it to us as a gift, with another watercolor as a gift to the water colorist and her husband!
After spending a couple of amazing hours with Eduardo and his family, we take our leave as we have to catch a bus back to Coquimbo and back to the ship before departing.
Just to let you know, Francisco’s paintings are for sale, so if you are interested, let me (Nina) know.
Some of the colorful things and characters we saw on the way back to Coquimbo were:
Balloon street vendors
A Chilean chorus line
A Cabbage Patch Baby model
and a few others we didn’t capture in photos. And then we were back on the bus and back to the ship…….Tomorrow is Valparaiso, the port city to Santiago, Chile.