Salta, Argentina

31 Jan

Our bus pulled in to the Salta station right on schedule at 3:30am and our first order of business was to find a bank machine as we had yet to exchange our Bolivianos into Pesos. The boys were convinced that a cab driver would accept Bolivianos, but Tal and I disagreed and so we were on the hook to get money.

We finally found a bank machine, only to be chased and barked at by 3 street dogs. This was our first encounter with aggressive street dogs and luckily 3 security guards happened to turn the corner at that moment and kicked the air between us and the dogs to shoo them away.

We arrived at our hostel and were given a 4-bed dorm, as opposed to the 6-bed dorm we’d booked online at Hostel Bookers. It is the smallest room we’ve all stayed in so far, but clean and hey, it wasn’t the lobby. We’re moving on up in the hostel world!

We woke up the next morning to lukewarm showers, which were great because Salta is hot and muggy, and a breakfast of pastries and coffee on the table for us.

Shortly after, we headed out to explore Salta and ran into our New Zealand friend, Rachel, outside of our hostel. We made plans to have a traditional Argentinian steak dinner with her and her boyfriend, Pete later that night.

It was Sunday and we had been warned that many things would be closed. We opted to have a local beer, Salta, and $1 CDN empinadas on the patio of a little café off the main square called Monaco. We had this sweet portly waiter who taught us a few more Spanish words in exchange for us teaching him the same words in English. The sun was hot, the sky was blue and looking around you could swear you were in the town square someplace in Europe. I loved everything about our first experience in Salta.

Slightly tipsy we decided to walk around and found tons of people enjoying a Sunday fun-day with their families in the various parks around town, not unlike a Sunday fun-day in Trinity Bellwoods. We also wandered in to a paddle court and watched a bit of a game, before deciding to go up the gondola for a view of Salta.

The ride up was open and breezy and felt amazing in the late afternoon heat. When we reached the top we found the oddest little outdoor gym consisting of stationary bikes, free weights and a few weight machines, located on one of the first lookout platforms. The music was pumping and people ages 7 to 57 were givin ‘er.

Around 8pm Rachel and Pete met us at our hostel to go out for dinner. What we quickly learned was that an 8:00 dinner in Salta would have the equivalent cool factor to a 5:00 dinner in downtown Toronto, read: totally un-hip.

We found a happening cobblestone street lined with boisterous outdoor patios full of people enjoying their pre-dinner cocktails so we changed up our game plan and embraced the local ways – drinks on the first patio, some wandering and then a 10:00 dinner on different patio.

Salta feels like a modern European city so Tal and I were beyond excited to share our first taste of salad since being away, and it was amazing. We also shared a sort of veal parmesan dish that was also amazing. When the bill came we couldn’t believe that 3 nice bottles of red wine and huge portions of delicious food came out to about $20 CDN per person.

A short stumble later we had snuggled in to our cozy 4-bedroom dorm for some deep z’s.

We were slow to get up the next morning (red wine and red meat has that effect) and again, the lukewarm shower and breakfast on the table were amazing. Tal and I had big plans to shop since we were in a city for the first time since leaving Toronto, while we sent the boys to exchange our Bolivianos and buy bus tickets to Mendoza, the next stop on our South American journey.

Because we were late in getting going, siesta had already started. Figuring we would have to kill maybe an hour or so before we could hit the shops, we were disappointed to discover that on the whole siesta in Salta begins at 11am and goes until 5pm. Maybe Salta’s on to something – work from 9am – 11am, siesta from 11am – 5pm, work from 5pm – 9pm? Sure explains the relaxed atmosphere!

Instead, we met the boys back on the Monaco patio for more Salta and empinadas where we made our plans to hit a grocery store for produce so that we could make ourselves a salad at Canadian dinner time and then go out for a big traditional Argentinian meat dinner around 10pm.

It may have been the Salta beer but Jonny’s grocery store antics had me in a laughing fit of tears to the point that I had to walk away. I can’t even describe what was so funny but it involved a child’s baby doll and pool noodle (even as I write this I’m laughing to myself).

Despite the pitiful produce section at the grocery store we managed to pull together enough ingredients to make a delicious salad following our siesta and before heading out into the light rain in search of meat.

As soon as we made our way to the restaurant district we came across Patio Balcarce, a restaurant that was cooking nothing but meat on an open grill in the front window. Sold – hook, line and sinker.

The 4 of us ordered a meat medley for 2 that is delivered to your table served on what looks sort of like a Hibatchi BBQ to keep everything warm, along with a basket of fresh bread and delicious spreads. The food was pure awesome and the atmosphere completed the experience with local gaucho dancers, and musical performances.

At one point in the meal, one of the female and one of the male dancers came up to our table to get J.J. and I to dance with them on stage. J.J. was an awesome sport, but I have the worst case of stage fright and it kicked into high gear. Tals went in my place instead. The 3 of them razzed me all night about being a disappointment, but Tals and J.J. did great!

After dinner, we found a bar with a loud local band so we popped in for a Salta. Jonny was on a mission to party and slammed his glass back before any of us had even taken a sip, and then moved on to Tal’s drink. He grew bored of the lack of dance floor and slow bar service and settled up quickly, moving us out of there in search of a better scene.

We wound up at a disco that looked like some small section of Houblan, the first bar I’d ever been to at 16 in Hull, QC. It took us about 5 solid minutes of broken English on the bartenders end and broken Spanish on our end to explain that we wanted to do 4 shots of anything but tequila. In terms of drinks, our usual vodka-sodas had to be traded in for vodka-Sprites, which also made me feel 16 again. To add to the way-back throw-back, each song was accompanied by the video – elementary school Much Music Video dance, anyone?

The clientele consisted of the 4 of us, 2 Australian girls, a very drunk French couple (the girl was CK’d) and what I assume was a local couple. LMFAO came on at one point (bear in mind, there are only 10 people in this bar) and the French guy unbuttons his pants and whips them down in one smooth motion, and continues dancing in his brightly striped briefs. Hilarious (to everyone but the local couple – the girl was completely offended).

We stumbled home and slept a bit more restlessly as our room was hotter and muggier than the previous night.

We all woke up feeling fine hangover-wise, but the lukewarm shower was essential. We packed up our things, paid the hostel but kept our bags locked up there, as our bus to Mendoza, Argentina wasn’t until 10pm.

We wandered around pretty aimlessly, stopping only to buy popsicles and hang out in a park, as our only plan had been to visit a contemporary art museum that was closed for some unknown reason, unknown because the person we asked didn’t speak English at all.

It looked like rain so we made it back to the hostel around 3pm to make another salad with what was left of yesterday’s produce and hang out until 9pm when we have to catch the bus, which is why I’ve had the time to get completely up to date on my blogging today.

Stay tuned for any bus adventures en route to Mendoza (it’s a 15 – 20 hour ride with 18 stops) and in Mendoza – wine tours and hot springs are in the plans!

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2 Responses to “Salta, Argentina”

  1. Erin M January 31, 2012 at 18:28 #

    Welcome to the land of delicious wine and steak and to the most beautiful country I have ever been in (other than Canadia of course!). I am so celosa (jealous) of you all right now!

    You might as well forget about vodka waters… you will get nothing but strange looks if you ask for that hahah.

    ahhhhh I wish I was there soooo badly! don’t forget to try ‘mate’ if you meet a friendly argentine and to take lots and lots and lots of pictures. My only request is MORE pictures in your blog (I don’t have facebook right now and I am dying to see your pics of Bolivia and everything else).

    Update often & cuidate!
    besos

  2. Kelly McNulty January 31, 2012 at 23:47 #

    Thanks for all the wonderful updates! I NEED to find someone to do this with me some day! Stay safe.

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