Back to the Atlantic

Friday, June 25, 2010

I arrived in Rosario a little later than I’d hoped. It was dark, I was alone, and there were wolves howling in the distance. Alright, alright, so there were no wolves but as I wandered around the perimeter of the bus station trying to find the intersection that would take me to a nearby hostel, I could almost feel their eyes watching me from the orange-cast shadows in sidestreets and alleyways. I circled the entire station and did not find a single street I recognized from the Lonely Planet map and realized that I must be further out than the one listed there. So I took a cab and you were right... no wolves. It cost 12 pesos to get to my hostel, Rosario Inn, and there the friendly woman at the counter toured me around and introduced me to other backpackers. Specifically, I met a Berliner named Edgar who had essentially done the same trip as me but in a completely different way. He’d started in Mexico City and spent about a month in Mexico to my 12 days starting from Cancun. He’d hated Belize, spending only a day in Caye Caulker for example, and had been wise enough to get through Costa Rica in three days to my two weeks. For some reason, he’d skipped over Ecuador (where I’d spent a month and a half) and this is when, in spite of starting his trip a month after me, he overtook me. Still, here we were, he seven months with two to go and me eight with one, shaking hands in Rosario. But we didn’t talk about this all there; he wanted to find a good steak restaurant and who was I to say no?

We went for steak, walking about 20 blocks to get there. Even though it was probably around 10 PM and dark, I was immediately impressed with Rosario. Avenida Cordoba in a very long and leafy pedestrian street taking you past beautifully designed buildings and the air had a pleasant after-rain freshness owed, probably, to my moisture sensitivity after so long in dry climates and the Rio Parana emptying into the Atlantic nearby. And unlike the bus terminal area, no imagined wolves. The restaurant we’d been recommended was La Estancia and the entrance was adorned with photos of famous Argentines dining there. There were no less than five of Lionel Messi (star of the Argentina World Cup team) dining there at various ages and hair lengths. So we knew that it was probably going to be a good steak. The price was not cheap (contrary to reports from the hostel reception) but for what it was, and compared to home, it was pretty reasonable. I got a bottle of wine to go with my filet which, interestingly, they never asked how I wanted done. It came out mostly medium but I wasn’t too upset (I like medium-rare) once I took my first bite. Only my dad can grill a steak this tasty and it was the best steak I’ve ever had not cooked by him. Tender, juicy, and with a nice proportion of fattiness, I could almost have gone again the next day if not for the price being a little out of budget. That said, the meal cost 70 pesos including tip and wine bottle (I only finished half and kept the other half for dinner the next day) or about $18.

There is another meal that Argentina does really well, and that’s pasta. After dinner I went back to the hostel to catch up on my sleep and late the next morning I went in search of it: homemade pasta. It wouldn’t be my first pasta meal – I had some pretty nice ravioli in San Luis, for example – but I had to try some different varieties. So I wandered around the town a bit in the morning, even more impressed with the architecture and eventually found a place with a pasta-drink combo for 14 pesos. I’m not sure what happened but by the time I had eaten and had dessert (that’s probably what happened, along with the ‘cover’ for bread and spread that they usually do here) it cost 22 (with tip). It was supposed to be cannelloni but they were essentially crepes stuffed with hamburger and some leafy green and topped with tomato sauce and melted shredded mozzarella. Not what I’d expected but still very tasty.

After lunch I wandered around some more. Along the river was an interesting if unexplained complex of brick with stairs leading up and a hole in the centre where shops and things were lined. Out of this thrust two massive Greek pillars. While I was photographing this, three high-school aged girls called out to me to take their photo from a nearby grassy hill. This is not the first time this would happen today, though I can’t explain why. Continuing on, I wandered for a long time, passing Che Guevara’s home/birthplace here in Rosario and noticing all the buildings painted in art or with domed tops and rounded corners. There was little else to do with the day but take those arty photos so that’s what I did. I wanted to check out the flag monument around sunset but it was still far away and so when I passed the cinema I took in a movie that finished at just the right time: The Road. I didn’t know anything about it other than it wasn’t dubbed (I still can’t follow movies well enough to watch them in Spanish) and had Viggo Mortinsen. It was a bleak vision of an unexplained post-apocalyptic future that was a rather painfully obvious lesson in trust as well as the need for hope. I can’t say I’d recommend it but I didn’t walk out either.

The movie ended just in time for me to walk to the flag monument for and catch not only sunset but also the lowering of the flag. Here I was again asked to take a couple’s photo, which I did, but they had neither paper nor pen for me to email them and seemed entirely unconcerned with getting the photo which again perplexed me. The monument itself was really impressive and would be equally at home in Rome or Washington. A bridge crosses over a fountain littered with statues to a Parthenon of pillars covering the eternal flame which overlooks the obelisk of the monument and the flag that had just been lowered not to mention the river valley below. I had bought a mini tripod that afternoon (my third on the trip, hope I can hold on to this one) which came in very handy and all I could’ve hoped for was more cloud to catch the beautiful colours in the sky. Then it was back to the hostel, night having fallen, and while I’d planned to go out and get some groceries to compensate for last night’s dinner, Edgar had made way too much pasta and offered me the leftovers which went nice with my wine and my budget. It was in a blue cheese sauce and was really good especially for free (though I told him I’d pay half he wouldn’t take it). I didn’t go out as Buenos Aires is my next stop and I’m sure there will be plenty of that there, so I got some rest again and hope I’m ready for the big city. We’ll find out.

Rosario Photos

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