Salta, Argentina, 9-12 May 2011

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May 14th 2011
Published: May 14th 2011
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After our train and bus trip we arrived in Salta and settled into our Hotel which was a 10-15 minute walk to the main square. This is the 1st time we have not stayed close to the city centre. Once in the city centre we got our orientation walk from Betzy and noticed all the one way streets and 2 walking malls. There were many shops and good quality goods inside.

We walked down San Martin Avenue to the centre. The footpath was wide and level (a little different to Bolivia) and clean. There were a few stalls on the way as well as a small lake, water feature and bridge.

Once in Plaza 9 Julio, the main square, Tom and I spotted a coffee spot with outside tables and chairs. It was a beautiful day to sit outside. The rest of the group joined us for food and coffee.

We also noticed a promotion going on in the Square. There was a racing car event scheduled for 15 May and there were 3-4 racing car drivers and their promo managers being interviewed. The locals were pretty excited. We then did some people-watching and noticed school girls with their short skirts (reminded me of Kerrie when she was in year 11 with her short school uniform).

Tom & I then walked around taking shots of this attractive city.

Salta is a city in northwestern Argentina and the capital city of the Salta Province. Along with its metropolitan area, it has a population of about 500,000 people, making it Argentina's eighth largest city. It is situated in the Lerma Valley, 1,152 meters above sea level, at the foothills of the Andes mountains.

Nicknamed Salta la Linda ("Salta the Fair"), it has become a major tourist destination due to its old, colonial architecture and the natural scenery of the valleys westward. We saw the attractions in the city centre including the 18th century Cabildo, the neo-classical style Cathederal, and the July 9 central square (Plaza de 9 Julio).

The city's museums exhibit a wide range of artifacts and art work from the native civilizations that flourished in the area (Salta is located in the Southernmost region of what was the Inca empire, belonging to the Collasuyu, one of the four areas the empire was divided until the Spanish conquest), as well as from the 16th century Spanish conquest and the colonial and post-colonial periods.

During the war of independence, the city became a commercial and military strategic point between Peru and the Argentine cities. Between 1816 and 1821, the city was led by local military leader General Martin Miguel de Guemes, who under the command of General Jose de San Martin, defended the city and surrounding area from Spanish forces coming from further north.
Within walking distance of the 9th July Square we saw the impressive Saint Francis Church and the city's two pedestrian streets: Alberdi and Florida. The three blocks in Balcarce Street closest to the train station are now the center of night life in Salta, with restaurants, pubs and cafés on both sidewalks and concerts every night. The 1st lunch in Salta, Tom & I had a very pleasant lunch – shared a toasted sandwich and salad but as a standard edition we were given bread rolls, chili broad beans, spicy chicken and chili tomatoes spread while we were waiting for our meal. Very pleasant.

The 2nd night we went to one of the restaurants in this street which had some entertainment – 2 bands, 2 different singers and flamingo and gauche dancers. We went to dinner at 9.00pm and we were the 1st ones in the restaurant. Action doesn’t start in Argentina until about 12MN and it really gets going by 2.00am.!!

On the morning of the 2nd day, I ran up San Bernardo Hill. I couldn’t find the steps I had heard about but after asking the locals, ran up the very zig zaggy road. Its summit, from which I got an awe-inspiring view of the city and the entire valley, was worth the effort. It was a bit misty and overcast but the views were still fantastic. You can also go up by cable car or stairway. The last day in Salta, Tom went up by cable car and the day was very clear with a temperature of about 21 degrees. Beautiful! There is a restaurant at the top and water features and beautiful gardens.
I also found the steps which I couldn’t find before so decided to walk down them to see where they start at the bottom of the hill. There is apparently 1020 steps. It was about 15 minutes away from the road. It took 40 minutes to get up the top but only 25 minutes to walk down the steps. I saw the statue of Martin Miguel de Guemes at the start of the steps.

On the way back to our hotel I walked through a very up market suburb with beautiful houses. We were definitely in another country.

Salta is probably the most Spanish-like city in Argentina, so much so that visiting tourists from Spain often find a strong resemblance between Salta and Andalucian cities. The local culture, however, is a blend of Spanish and gaucho (mestizo, criollo, both indigenous and non indigenous) traditions, lending the city a distinctive identity, somewhat different from the more European-like metropolises in the south.
The 1st night in Salta we were all looking forward to a steak. We weren’t disappointed. We also tried some Argentina wine which was also lovely. After the meal, about 3 doors down, we found an ice-cream place so for those of us who could fit one in, we had the best ice-cream since being in South America.

Salta was a really attractive city which we enjoyed and was a good introduction to Argentina.
At 3 pm we walked to the bus station ready for our 18 hour bus trip, again on a bus with fully reclining chairs with all the services laid on.

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