Argentina | A Sunday in Salta

My how I love Argentina – I cannot even describe. On a Sunday in Salta, the shops are all closed, leaving a stillness in the city that only empty streets of cobbly stones and cathedrals can provide. In Salta, I am taken back to Milan. In Salta, I am in Europe.

We started the day with a late lunch, typical for Argentineans, who often dine late into the night (sometimes not until 10pm!). Our dive of choice was a crowded place just across from our guesthouse, which is set in a pedestrian street of sorts, where the sidewalk is the predominant central strip and the car lanes are merely alleys that you’d be lucky to maneuver properly. The restaurant was loosely assembled from plastic chairs and wooden tables of various sizes and shapes; people were eating over a spread of eclectically differing heights. Yet, the place managed to keep a relatively prim atmosphere, and many were dressed in their Sunday best. When we ordered an agua con gas, a seltzer bottle arrived, much to my delight. It’s like a carafe outfitted with a nozzle-like apparatus – you essentially squeeze your fizzy water into each glass. Naturally, in the course of our meal, we went through two – I can drink a frightening amount of carbonated water. The highlight, of course, was the meal itself: a warm bread basket, large side salads, and two finely-spiced, juicy, tender steaks. It was the most mouth-wateringly delicious meal since the alpaca in Peru. Argentina certainly lives up to its reputation as Queen of Steaks…

The rest of the warm Sunday afternoon was spent wandering the sunny, amiable streets of Salta, which is, by and large, a really lovely place. In addition to the splendid colonial architecture, which is partially responsible for the European aura, the plazas are stuffed with greenery and the quality shopping plentiful. We spent a good while soaking in the day by the main plaza, just beside the massive peach-colored cathedral, where I ended up purchasing earrings from a charming jewelry maker clad in gypsey-like garb and inhaling my weight in gelato. Then, after taking an early evening rest, we ventured out with the rest of the Argentines at around 9pm to grab dinner – an enormous plate of steaming empanadas. We liked our Sunday in Salta so much that we decided to stay even longer than originally planned, giving us time to explore the many cathedrals and shops on Monday. One cathedral, the Iglesia y Convento San Francisco, is a particularly fascinating sight. The church is, indeed, so eerily beautiful in its blood red facade that it leaves a haunting and unforgettable image, especially on a gloomy day.

A distinct highlight of the extra time was the Nuevos Compositores de Salta concierto of the Teatro Provincial de Salta, which we attended after an evening of wining and dining at an Irish pub called the Goblin. Seeing new composers is, of course, always a gamble, and only two of the four performances were enjoyable, but it was a pleasant evening nonetheless. Salta, gracias por el tiempo precioso.

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