We left Copiapó at 9:50 am and arrived in La Serena 1:40 pm 345km 3hrs 50 min, averaging over 100 kph on a good road. The flowering desert/desierto florido wasn't blooming but there was a noticable green tinge to the sand along the highway. We had been told that the (unpaved) road to the national park at Jorge Frey had flowers but an unpaved road was not for us.
We liked where we had stayed in La Serena in 2007 (and the meals we had there) but Dimitri remembered that there had been a hotel on the water that he wanted to check out. So, we turned toward the ocean coming into town. We saw lots of cars in front of a Chinese restaurant and decided to stop for lunch at Hoi Kong, Av. Videla 151, La Serena, fono: (56-51) 31 07 85. It was "eh".
After lunch we drove to the coast road and south. We never found the hotel that Dimitri had wanted to check out. But we found something better. A new hotel and casino with a terrific ocean view. We stayed at Hotel De La Bahía, Av. Costanera 5351 at the Enjoy Coquimbo Casino & Resort, Coquimbo, La Serena (51) 423-030, web: enjoy.cl. We had a beautiful (standard) ocean view room for US$100. They brought in an extra comfortable chair so that there were two. We had wi-fi in the room. The people were very nice and there were lovely amenities, such as fresh raspberry juice and three different kinds of fresh fruit in the lobby.
We used the beautiful new spa (unfortunately we had to use the separate men's and women's sauna, steam and Jacuzzis). Then we had a fabulous dinner at Cire Restaurant, Hotel de la Bahia, Av. Costanera 5351, Coquimbo, Chile tel (56-51)423-000, web: enjoy.cl.
We spent CLP$20.084 plus tip. The restaurant bills itself as the only 5-star restaurant outside of Santiago or some such. It's name means land/earth/soil in the local indigenous language. The restaurant has nice modern, clean lines and is comfortable. The service was excellent and the food was delicious. There was a lovely amuse bouche and the bread was good too. We shared everything and started with Altura de ostiones y láminas de pulpo con quínoa de Pisco Elqui, en confitura de chalota y mezclun de hojas (CLP$8.700). The scallops were a lovely texture and very sweet. For our main we shared the Filete de Turbot con gajos de papa al horno, hierbas aromáticas y perfume griego (CLP$9.100). The fish was very good and beautifully prepared. For our wine, we brought the bottle of Mont Gras that the hotel had left as a gift in the room. The restaurant even exchanged the Cabernet Sauvignon that we were given for a Carménère that we prefer. And, notwithstanding our "one glass of wine at dinner" regimen, we drank the whole bottle. For dessert we had one Panzerotti de chirimoya y pistacho en láminas de piña con gilficado de moscatel y polvo de merengue (CLP$3.700).The restaurant also gave us a big piece of chocolate cake for our birthdays in a couple of months. A delightful experience.
And we had a great night's sleep and a lovely breakfast the next day before leaving.