Mar del Plata

Published: May 31st 2012
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We woke to the bus joggling us along. I was still quite snoozy after a late night blogging. As breakfast was served on the bus, we pulled back the blinds and enjoyed the ride towards Mar del Plata.

Around 10am we pulled into the bus terminal which was a great relief. I was looking forward to, and more than ready for our arrival. This meant I did not have to use the bus toilet which was shorter than me and not much wider than me. Definitely more relaxed after my “pit stop” at the bus terminal, it was time to purchase a local bus pass, the equivalent of a Wellington “Snapper card”, which cost 20 pesos (NZ$6) for six trips.

I suggested to Eileen that we walk to our accommodation rather than the usual taxi since it was early and looked close on the map. Lady Eileen did a count of blocks on the map and had a think; “16 blocks with a 20kg wheelie bag, a day pack containing assorted food/water and electronic equipment, one large handbag containing the usual stuff and important paperwork while nursing a dodgy back from a fall and an increasingly painful toe over long distances ... hmmm”. I pointed out that the blocks looked small on the map so I suggested that we venture forth and see. We fixed our daypacks to our wheelie packs and we were off!

The blocks were small and they ticked over quickly. I pulled Eileen’s bag every second block. We stopped at a confiteria for some empanadas (South American Cornish pasties) and pastries which cost half the price charged in a tourist spot. The next block was a park – perfecto! We agreed it was enjoyable walking because we got to see the non-tourist part of town.

The last couple of blocks were the hardest on uphill rough cobbled footpaths but eventually we dragged our bags up the road way. The top of the road revealed the sea front and wow, what a vista. Our hostel was a grand old lady from the 1930’s still with most of its character. We looked at the room options; magnificent view with a shared bathroom at the other end of the corridor, and the other option was a room with no view and an ensuite bathroom but it was “el stinko”. We took the room with the view and then we hauled our bags up the stairs to our little haven for the next three days (note to each of us – be careful descending these wooden stairs).

The downstairs sun room looking straight along the beach would be our favourite haunt for the next few days. This was where Eileen and I worked on my report, almost a pleasure in such a relaxing setting.

Mar del Plata is a famous Argentine beach resort where, in summer, there are so many people that you can hardly move. I love beach places in the off season. You can tool about doing your own thing enjoying the coastal setting and the smell of the ocean.

We caught the bus to the Centro Comercial Puerto area. We found the restaurants famous for their seafood and the tourist trinket shops but we could not enter the port area and walk amongst the berthed ships. After we marvelled at the huge shop containing stack-upon-stack of tinned fish (up to 2kg sized tins) and the tinned fish gift baskets, we jumped a bus back to town. It’s interesting the anxiety we feel trying to choose a stop nearest the next site of interest.

We walked up the Stella Maris hill to Torre Tanque, the water tower featured on our tourist map. We had 15 minutes before closing time so we turned the closed door handle and discovered it was locked – very welcoming!! We wondered could they have closed early. Finally we found and pushed the door bell and “open sesame”, we were welcomed by a woman with a big explanation in Spanish. None the wiser, we were soon in “el lifto” (refer to Leigh’s Spanish lesson in a previous blog) speeding to the top. A great viewing point!

When we arrived at Avenida Colon for our next point of interest we found ourselves looking down the hill at a wide canyon of apartments. This seven lane wide one way road through the heart of Mar del Plata took us completely by surprise after walking through the quiet narrow side streets.

We crossed the road on Avenida Colon and arrived at Museo Municipal de Arte 'Juan Carlos Castagnino' set in the old mansion of Villa Ortiz Basualdo. Built in 1909 as the summer residence of a prominent Argentine family, it was extended and remodelled in 1919. Villa Ortiz Basualdo is said to resemble a Loire Valley castle with a Belgian interior. The homestead is largely original, with kitchen and servants quarters having half the stud height of the main areas. The paintings, photographs and sculptures by Argentine artists, were largely forgettable but still worth a quick look. It was displayed in two sections, Castagnino and avant garde work and some pieces related to the history of the Basualdo family.

As the rain started we decided to head down to the waterfront for a coffee. The highlight was Eileen’s hot chocolate, a submarino, which on this occasion the usual rectangular chocolate bar to be dissolved in the hot milk ,came in the shape of a submarine – very cute.

We are getting used to scouting for a supermercado (supermarket), a verduleria (green grocer) and a carniceria (butcher) as soon as we arrive in town so we were able to cook all our meals in Mar del Plata which was a first.

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