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Monday, December 12, 2011

Salta/Jujuy: Day 1 - Salta City

This year, the Argentina government added a whole bunch of extra days to their already ample holiday calendar (totaling 14 non-workday holidays in 2011, wow!).  For the first set of added holidays, we decided to have a baby (obviously, this was a coincidence that worked amazingly in our favor), for the second set of added holidays, we decided to go to the Salta and Jujuy provinces in the northwest part of Argentina. We were fortunate to be joined by our friends, the Newhooks, who also have an adorable baby girl that is a month older than Gretchen.

For some reason, Salta seems to be a second-tier destination to foreigners living in Buenos Aires.  It ranks behind some of the more popular trips, Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, the glaciar in Calafate, but now that we've gone, I'm convinced it is just as spectacular.  Salta is the name of a province in Argentina, as well as the capital city of that province, and it is where we began our trip.

The altitude in Salta is something to be aware of, the city itself is 3,780 feet (1,152 meters) above sea level and though that is not enough to bother most people, some of the other destinations nearby can cause altitude sickness.  It is approximately 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires, so we decided to fly, which took a little under 2 hours (if you don't count the delays, courtesy of Aerolineas Argentinas).  We headed directly to the hotel, Casa Real, which was a simple, but clean and friendly hotel located a few blocks from the main square.  They did a hilarious job of setting up the rental crib for Gretchen:

Aside from the fact that the crib is from the 1940s (or so it would appear), they made it up like a little bed!  Pillow and turndown service too!  This cracked us up at every hotel we stayed at, the Argentines give us a baby pillow and multiple blankets, the Americans believe that a pillow for a baby means certain death.  (We did, however, remove the pillow and extra blankets, just to be sure...)

Iglesia y Convento San Francisco
We did have a bit of rain on our first day in, luckily, it stopped raining just long enough for us to stroll around the city. The city of Salta has retained much of it's old-world charm by preventing the construction of new-style buildings.  Additionally, there are laws that limit the height of buildings, so there are very few items breaking up the skyline.  Some of the tallest buildings in the city are these beautiful churches, including the Iglesia y Convento San Francisco.  This church and convent was built sometime during the 18th century, and then the front facade was added in 1870.  This is by far the most well-known landmark in Salta, and it stands out due to the height, color and grandiose of the building.  We arrived as mass was starting, so we didn't see much of the inside, but the outside was worth quite a few pictures.

Inglesia Catedral

The other landmark that we visited was the Iglesia Catedral, another beautiful church near the main square, Plaza 9 de Julio.  This church dates back to 1882 and though it is not quite as intricate as it's partner San Francisco, it is still a nice demonstration of the European architecture that dominates the city's buildings.

Jon and Jeff were driving the babies through town.  It was cooler than either of us had expected, we had heard that Salta was going to be unbearably hot, I assume the rain helped us out a bit, and then the altitude makes for cool mornings and nights, even if the days are quite warm.
Daddy Driving Duty
Gretchen loves her stroller and was pretty excited to be pushed around town by her Dad.  Here she is kicking back during the walk around Salta.

We made dinner reservations at Jose Balcarce (for reservations: (54) 387 421-1628, at the corner of Mitre y Necochea), which was recommended by more than one of our travel books.  It was a fantastic dinner.  They had a great mix of regional cuisine and everything we ate was delicious.  Check out the cool decoration and ambiance:
Turquoise skulls, I never would have thought of it, but I like it!
We tried all sorts of different dishes, from an octopus appetizer to llama to trout to chocolate volcano dessert, it was all beautifully presented and very tasty.  Here is the llama that both guys opted for, served with quinoa and Andean potatoes (though our guide, Yaco, told us later in the trip that all potatoes in this area are Andean).  I preferred my beef, but the llama was more tender and delicate than I would have thought.

Here was one of our pretty desserts.  I couldn't even tell you what it was, but I know it was delicious.

If you are staying in Salta, Jose Balcarce is a great dinner option.  The staff was friendly, they were polite and helpful with our babies, and the food was delicious.  Another high-point to Salta, the prices are about half of what you would pay in Buenos Aires.  There were a number of bottles of wine on their list that were US$10 - US$15, a price that is virtually non-existant in a US restaurant.  We tried some of the regional varietals, especially the Torrontes, which this area of Argentina prides itself on.

Our stay in Salta city was short, but eventful, as we drove out of town, you can look down on the Lerma Valley, and over the whole city.  Hasta luego Salta, thanks for the hospitality!

From Salta, we headed north to the province of Jujuy, to a town called Purmamarca, but that will need to wait for my next post.  For more pictures of Salta city, and for the rest of our trip, I've added an album to the Shameless Photo Sharing, enjoy!

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