Monday, February 1, 2010
Iguazu Falls was exciting, but not as exciting as the evening taxi ride from the Salta airport to our B&B. There are three speeds in Argentina: "AAA!", "AAAAAAA!", and "HOLY F***ING AAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" Argentinians drive like Parisiens with blindfolds. Especially fun is passing three cars and a bus while going up a hill. Naturally I'm delighted. Since getting home, Daniel has found my driving positively rational.
Salta is an astonishingly beautiful colonial city, the capital of Salta province in the north west. The province is a plateau between two mountain ranges, one being the Eastern range before the Andes. There are 600,000 people but all the buildings are low. There is a gorgeous central square dominated by the cathedral which is painted pink-lavendar. At night all the colonial buildings are lit up which makes the whole place look like a bunch of fancy wedding cakes. Exhibit A at the top of this post. Exhibit B here:
Here, by the way, are those cathedrals by day:
(I'd love to see Pope Benedict do mass in a pink cathedral, wouldn't you?)
BTW, the central statue in the park is of General Guemes, the northern hero of the War of Independence against Spain in the 19th century.
Salta was founded by a guy called Lerma who was about to be thrown in jail in Spain, but his well-to-do family managed to get him exiled here instead. Eventually the locals kicked him back home for being a totally major jerk -- but he still rates a statue by the town hall. Both statue and town hall are seen behind Daniel.
If memory serves, the town hall was on Avenido Belgrano, named for another war hero. In any event it was on route to a terrific artsy area by the old train station. Unlike the flea market in San Telmo in Buenos Aires, the craft booths here had really high quality workmanship. And the restaurants! OMG!
Speaking of restaurants, it is so hard to eat healthy in Argentina. For breakfasts, our B&B, Bloomers -- a place the guide books might call 'quirky' and 'charming' -- served dolce de leche (caramel) pancakes, and croissants with candied squash jam. Lunch at a neighborhood restaurant was an empanada and a provelta. The provelta was billed as an appetizer. What it was was a half pound of grilled, spiced provolone which they offered to drench in olive oil. Yesterday for dessert we had that squash jam under a slab of goat cheese. And then of course there are all the local ice creams which are, well.. necessary in order to experience the region.
One other fun thing we did was go up a cable car to the top of the main mountain in town. Here's the shadow of our car against the mountain.
And here's a long-distance view of a suburb of Salta.
And here's a shot I took it from behind a man-made waterfall in the summit gardens looking out through the water.
I promised I'd introduce Pablo today, the hilarious driver/guide who took us through some hair-raising experiences in the most gorgeous mountains you've ever seen. (All different colours, and some almost 5,000 metres above sea level!) You'll also see salt flats, miles of giant cactus, llamas, farms in the middle of nowhere, herds of cows in canyons. But, hey, I'm tired. Tune in to the next few posts and we'll be out in a 4 x 4! I promise, you won't be disappointed!