We left the market and Hugo took us through the city - showing us a few sites such as the Plaza de Armas and the governmental buildings
. We stopped along the beach at the lighthouse and then drove along the beach back to Coquimbo. The beach area is very nice lined with nice restaurants and beachside bars. There are hotels and condominiums along the route and they have a big casino as well. The area was a bit deserted while we were there - summer vacations had just ended and the kids were having their first day back at school today.
Coquimbo which is the port area where most of the fruits and vegetables are shipped from, is not quite as clean as La Serena, but it was still very nice to see. We went up to the large cross on the hill of Coquimbo and had a nice view from the top.
We were very impressed, once again, with the beauty of Chile. Being one of the oldest cities in Chile, the Colonial Architecture has been preserved and the nice wide streets and parks were lined with large, old trees. The people are so kind - we felt very welcome - first by our taxi driver, Hugo and then by all of the people that we encountered in the markets. The most common question was whether we liked Chile - the people take a lot of pride in their country and it shows.
Our first port of call was Port Coquimbo near the second oldest city in Chile, La Serena. This was the first settlement outside of Santiago by Pedro de Valdivia. La Serena was about a 20 minute drive by taxi and we were successful in finding a very nice driver to take us there and then wait for us while we explored a bit. Hugo took us to the Mercado Municipal and waited while Jim did a little work on the internet and I did a little work in the shops. There were many jewelry stores full of Lapis Lazuli - a stone that is mined only here in Chile - and then in Afghanistan. Shops with soapstone carvings - woolen goods - sweaters - hats - mittens - scarves - blankets. We picked up a couple of scarves which should come in handy in the following days. Handmade dolls and colorful hand woven baskets could be found in every shop and stall. Papaya products are very popular from this area - whether dried - preserved or made into liqueur.