Serena in Spanish is an adjective. It means ‘serene’ ‘quiet’ or ‘tranquil’. Little Spanish lesson for ya there. Though you may have guessed that serena can mean serene, as it’s a cognate and all, but still, never hurts to learn something new.
La Serena is the name of a coastal city in mid-north Chile. Not quite yet in the desert, but nice and dry, except for the ocean. That’s about as wet as you can get.
I had been to La Serena once, five and a half years ago on a bit of an adventurous trip with my study abroad friend Dani and her parents. It was a whirlwind couple of days including getting lost off the beaten path in the mountains in a Toyota Yaris, and a midnight horseback ride to stargaze with Dani, our guide and three other amorous couples (third wheel, anyone?). It was my study abroad days. Studying abroad pretty much means anything goes. Just read Jessica’s blog post. She’s a gringa studying abroad that found El Oasis this semester and is a pretty hilarious writer. I get a kick out of her stories.
Well, this time around, I’m a wife, a mom to a 10 month old, and all around not very interested in getting lost in the Andes. I’m all about the comfort, 150% of the time, every time. So, Andrés and I started looking at apartment owners in La Serena renting out their apartment for the long weekend. We opted for the more expensive option, but for good reason. The beach was across the street, the complex had a pretty wicked pool and it looked comfortable and had everything we needed for the weekend.
The only complaint I would point out is that it is pretty far from Santiago. And on a long weekend, there is always a massive Moses-style exodus to get out of the city ASAP. Kind of like there’s an evil pharaoh chasing everyone out. So, the added amount of cars on the country-long two-lane highways clogs things up a bit. It is 470kms from Santiago. For my metric-impaired readers, that’s about 290 miles. That translates to a little more than four hours if you are consistently driving 70mph and don’t stop. Which didn’t happen for us. We have a 10 month old, remember? So, with traffic, a major construction project, diaper changes and pee breaks, we made it in about five and a half hours.
The weather was splendid the whole weekend, so it made up for the long drives.
Andrés has conceded to not eating fish after getting married to a seafood hater, but when we’re visiting the coast, even I’ll go to a seafood restaurant. Probably because it makes up 99% of the restaurant choices. They always have something for complicated customers like me…aka chicken. There is an area between La Serena and the neighboring city of Coquimbo called Peñuelas, and that’s where the three B’s are at: bueno, bonito y barato (good, pretty and cheap). There is a whole section of the street on the opposite side of the beach that has little restaurants specializing in the three B’s. Andrés worked his latino charm and found us the best option for lunch on Saturday. He even made friends with the lady helping people park. That’s a thing in all of Chile. Some random person stands around and ‘takes care’ of the cars on a certain part of the street in exchange for a tip. Although, I normally don’t think that they would put up much of a fight if three guys tried to rob our car…but whatever.
Joaquin is getting very interested in all of the things his mom and dad are putting in their mouths. He is a fan of bread, muffins and cereal. Staples of mom’s diet. So when we went to lunch on Saturday, we decided to try out his taste for fish and shrimp. If we put it in our mouths, he apparently convinces himself that it’s good.
Success!And see those little white outlines in those little baby gums? Yeah, later that day I jokingly felt around in his mouth for teeth and surprised myself when I actually felt one! It took Andrés to feel it too to believe me. I guess I’m a trickster and fool him a lot. It’s a real life ‘boy who cried wolf’ story. But we were so excited, an innocent bystander may have guessed we had just won real money.
But really, there’s really a tooth cutting through. He has them, it’s official. No baby dentures needed. Thank goodness. We’ve had a few long nights, but he’s on the upswing…until another one breaks through. The endless cycle. We’ve taught him to show his teeth like a game, because previously he would scream and thrash like he was being attacked by a shark if we tried to get a peek.
We opted to save our nice camera from the dangers of sand, so we left it in the apartment when we were at the beach. Joaquin had a very entertaining time grabbing handfuls of sand and shoving his whole fist in his mouth. He learned after about four tries that it was not very good and his mom and dad weren’t eating it, so he shouldn’t either. The waves scared him a bit, but he crawled all over the seashore and Andrés scooped him up every time a wave came up too high. I spent some time looking for pretty seashells, and then Andrés party-pooped on my parade and told me that they were probably dumped back into the ocean from the restaurants much like the one we ate at two hours prior. I chose to pretend like I didn’t hear what he said and proceeded to continue looking for pretty shells with a rich history as to how they landed on the beach in Chile.
We roamed around the row boats and pretended to be sailors. Joaquin assumed the role of Jack from Titanic and was the king of the world (with Andrés’ invisible hand behind him).
And…as all vacations come, they go too. We made it back to Santiago safe and sound and happy from a fun weekend.