Not Ready for the Big Time,...Yet

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rosario really touts itself as being the finest city in Argentina with the most beautiful women, but from our personal point of view it isn't ready for the world stage…yet. It is a great city full of nice people (river people for sure) and an unquenchable thirst for mate (as seen in any available grassy knoll). There are beautiful sites such as the costanera and colonial architecture but the entire city is in need of a serious power washing and it just doesn’t have the "it" factor to have a seat next to Venice, Barcelona or Amsterdam. We later found out that the provinces beyond Buenos Aires still have not fully recovered from the country’s economic collapse over a decade ago and that may play a part in the city’s lack of “it”. If they get moving we can see great potential for Rosario in another ten years, but with the country’s inflation out of control we foresee the potential for another meltdown before the great prosperity of this city.

Note: We also can’t understand the “Chicago of Argentina” title. Maybe they’ve never been to Chicago.

Day 1

We have learned that we can just show up at the bus station and hop on buses with relatively little difficulty. I guess our travelling skills are starting to shine. Upon arriving at the Cordoba bus station, we did a little shopping but all three companies were the same price with the same schedule. We caught an11am bus for $31.50 on Sierra de Córdoba bus. We are going to have to suggest avoiding this company. The bus was old and beaten up by Argentinean standards and 30 minutes into our trip, the bus stopped along the side of the road in a broken down manner. After a 45 minute wait another bus (the company’s parent company Urquiza) picked us up to get us into Rosario a little before 7pm.

After a quick taxi ride, we checked in at the Hostel La Comunidad. We had a nice big room but the whole building is paper thin so it wins the loudest hostel all of the time and the shared bathrooms were horrible. The staff was nice enough but we definitely don’t advise staying there. It is just not that comfortable.

Since we were starving we headed out considerably earlier than our fellow Argentineans. We first stopped at Angus O'Connell Irish pub for happy hour albondigas and beer. This is a pretty nice Irish pub but it definitely has the feelings of being a chain. Also, there is no Irish beer.

We were advised to try Espana Plata for some parrilla fish so we walked along the river which smells really clean and keeps the area feeling fresh. Upon finding the restaurant we had to take a two story elevator from the street level down to the river level in order to enter the restaurant. There are several other very cool restaurants at various levels around the river as well. We had a complete Dorado (river fish) parrilla for two and it was absolutely scrumptious – of course perfectly complemented with an Argentina Malbec-Syrah (Infinitus).

We ended the evening with some more wandering around the city and a stop at the Jekyll & Hyde café/theater for a coffee. Very nice spot. We would have loved to stop back for a show in their little basement theater.

Day 2

A day for exploration – We decided to walk a couple miles along the Parana River front today. The city has done a really great job with developing the public spaces along the river. They have installed parks, cafes, health clubs, a huge skate park and there is even a bike park in one of the old warehouses. There are numerous additional empty warehouses along the water ready for development as some are being used for children’s weekend programs. Although the city has built numerous fishing docks and have installed No Pescar (no fishing) signs along the boardwalk there are fishermen everywhere with their lines in the water. We didn’t see anyone pull in a single fish though. Maybe the sign should have read “No Fish”.

At the west end of the waterway the city has built a Bandera Monument that rivals anything from Washington D.C. or Paris. This grand monumental space dedicated to the Argentinean flag is wonderful to walk through and you can go to the top if you don’t show up during lunchtime (like we did). The monument also represents the end of the Cordoba pedestrian commerce street.

We were getting quite hungry at this point and since it was close to the start of the Championship game between Barcelona and Manchester United of the Champions League we set out to find a restobar with a nice TV. We ended up searching for miles with little luck. Finally, a nice older couple observed us wandering around the streets and peering back and forth at our map. They stopped us and asked us if we needed help. I told them we were searching for a place to watch the juice (mistakenly saying juice “jugo” instead of game “juego”). They got it and pointed us to Bar Blanco across the street on the next corner. We were still a little too early for the game but we were pleased to check out this muy autentico Argentinean restobar. This place was classic from the old beer sign décor to the meat cutter to the kind waiter to the funny little bar. Very charming. Since the TV was small and we had time before the start of the game we decided to try our luck searching for another location. We eventually hit the VIP restaurant outside the park by the monument and had a nice bottle of wine and a piece of lemon meringue pie that tasted exactly like grandma’s sugar cookies. Although it is a nice structure and we had a good time it is really not that great of a place.

Later this evening we had an extremely important primary directive – to make it to the fountain show at Parque Independencia. The show of colorfully light spouting water is very nicely choreographed with blasting orchestral melodies blaring from the pond’s island. Along with the park’s beautiful décor and structures, and the loads and loads of young girls dressed up as princesses for elaborate photo shoots (it must have been prom) this was an extremely fun activity.

After the main event we chilled with coffees from the illustrious McCafe, canvassed the city a bit and had a couple drinks at the hostel. However, the other highlight of the evening was the infamous Carlitos sandwiches at Club de la Empanadas. For some reason, small ham, cheese and ketchup sandwiches are a delicatessen not to be missed in Rosario. Although you will see everyone from partiers to professionals eating these juvenile sandwiches they really don’t inspire the taste buds, and for God’s sake don’t even think of asking for hot sauce – they don’t have it.

Day 3

We have really enjoyed the kioscos during our time in this country. They have all the offerings of your typical 711 but many also have a place to enjoy your coffee or beer. This morning we decided to check out our local kiosco for coffee and media lunas (croissants). Another really nice stop with great prices, nice people and a newspaper so we could check out the housing and jobs classified section of the paper.

One of our Rosario objectives was to check out the River Parana and its beach offerings so we found a two hour river cruise leaving from the park across from the Monumento de Bandera for only $5.75. This is considerably cheaper than any other offerings we saw and they offered reasonably priced on-board service, such as liters of Quilmes for only $3.75. We arrived just on time get the best seats in the house and found out later that the early boat is definitely the way to go if you are adverse to waiting in lines like we are. The cruise took us around the Islas Entrerrianas, Puente Rosario-Victoria and the Costanera, not to mention past rows and rows of river homes complete with stilts, handmade signs, livestock, and the possibility of electricity and running water.

Taking a rest from constantly gallivanting about the city we completed tonight with a trip to the grocery store to pick up ravioli, cheese, bread and wine for us to prepare and relax at our loud hostel.

Day 4

After a nice rest we did some organizing and laundry. The Laundromat around the corner was a bit pricey so we wouldn’t suggest using them. The Newport Café on the pedestrian street is a nice place to get a cup of coffee but is on the poorer side of the service spectrum. They were not nice at all. Then after searching for some time, we finally found a place to exchange out Chilean Pesos for Argentinean Pesos. It is surprisingly difficult to exchange money in this country legally. Most places had a long line and once we finally talked to someone about exchanging the money, we had to show passports, wait for the cashier to type at least ten minutes worth of information on the computer and sign at least three documents. Not sure what the government is trying to defend against but based on the economic situation it probably has to do with the surging inflation.  Make sure you shop around for the best rates.

Since we had yet to make it to the country’s largest casino (so they said), we grabbed a taxi to take our well-rested bodies to the complex for some dinner and some gaming. The City Center Casino is quite a distance from downtown but the taxi only costs about $5. The casino is quite impressive – multiple levels, several restaurants and even a small shopping mall attached. The food and drinks are somewhat overpriced, as is to be expected, but the space is really beautiful and comfortable. Argentineans love Roulette – we have never seen table on top of table full of roulette players like in this country. After dinner the tables started off cold for us but eventually turned around as we left about 4am being ganadores continuing our amazing streak of winning.

Rosario day 5

We had been getting up around the 9am hour for the last month so we were forced ourselves to stay in bed as long as possible. We managed to make it until 12:30pm before heading out to La Victory for pizza a la piedra. La Victory had great pizza and a really nice atmosphere except the waiter was somewhat arrogant to the point that we thought we were being bashed for being Americans. This was the first time that we felt uncomfortable by such bias but after watching the waiter interact with other people, it seemed to be his typical prickish attitude. I hope someone tells him that he is obnoxious because he seems oblivious to his own actions. Once again we witnessed multiple people including business men in suits enjoying the famous Carlitos ketchup sandwiches. We don’t understand it.

Today is a beautiful day and the city really lights up when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. It reminds us that we are travelling through the country in early winter and it must be quite different in warmer months. Our typical long walk took us to Parque Independencia but to our disappointment and grief the mosquitoes swarmed heavy; even too many for a nap on the lawn or a paddle boat ride. At least Helado Place provided us protection, a decent coffee and wifi.

After some final day canvassing the last undiscovered streets of the city and an impossible nap at the loudest hostel ever, we set out to find a nice place to watch the first game of the NBA finals. We searched for quite a while to no avail and finally decided to sit at Angus’ Irish bar. Although the atmosphere is nice, the food was painfully dreadful – we actually laughed out loud at the plates we received - Stick to the happy hour drinks. The fish and chips dinner arrived with 3 measly pieces of fried fish with a mound of fries before the chef came out and brought us 3 more measly pieces. We met a guy from New Zealand who was living in Buenos Aires for a while and told us stories of how awful the city and the Portenos were but we were going to decide for ourselves.

Day 6

Continuing to develop our professional traveling skills, we casually got up this morning and in no time at all threw our stuff together, taxied to the bus station and hopped on a bus for Buenos Aires.
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