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The first time I visited La Serena, a midsize city on the coast in the Norte Chico of Chile, about six hours by bus from Santiago, I was wholly unimpressed. First of all, it was winter, and therefore very quiet. The main plaza was also wrapped in construction fences, the only internet cafe I could find had private booths (ick), and I had my arm in a sling.

At least one of these things was not La Serena’s fault, but I held her in low esteem anyway, and hadn’t been back in the past 8 years.

And then a dear friend moved to La Serena (booo), and invited four of his friends (including me) to come up and spend his cumpleaños postizo (fake birthday, a tradition I started a few years ago, since I’m often out of town for my actual birthday) with him.

So up we went, by plane and by bus, and we ate good food, bought an amazing, never-ending cake, wandered around, stayed up too late, and even went on a little trip (details to follow).

And I stand corrected. La Serena was homey, lovely, warmer than Santiago, and my arm was no longer in a post bike accident sling. All was good.

See for yourself:

You can buy cotton candy.

Or walk on a pedestrian mall.

Or look at a church.

Or peek in a doorway.

Or buy some popcorn.

Or peek in another doorway.

Or even take a self-portrait.

Look mom, no sling!

In summary: La Serena, friends yes, middle eastern food, yes, lighthouse, yes, pretty, yes. Revisit? Yes.