One trip I knew I would take while in Buenos Aires was up to Rosario. I met Valeria in Kerala, India and we instantly hit it off, spending a few days together exploring Fort Cochin before she headed home to Argentina. Who knew then that I’d be in her ‘hood less than a year later!
When I told her of my Buenos Aires plans, she insisted I come stay with her, which of course I happily accepted. I’d take the bus from Buenos Aires on Friday and return Monday. The journey is about four hours, and because buses leave every 30 minutes, I didn’t need to pre-purchase my ticket. I just showed up at the bus station in Retiro, picked my bus provider and waited a short while. Buses in Argentina are run a little differently. Instead of one window to purchase a ticket, there are maybe 100, each representing different bus companies. To the uninitiated, it can be more than a little intimidating. Lines of booths with brightly-colored neon signs boast trips to Iguazu Falls, Bariloche, Mendoza and Ushuaia. One definitely needs to do a little homework before deciding which to take. Luckily Valeria did it for me and recommended El Rosarino. The ride was comfortable and tickets easy to purchase (once I found the correct booth!).
Valeria met me at the Rosario bus station upon my arrival at 3pm on Friday. There was a lot of eating, of course, and one great dinner was had at Parilla La Estancia. Yep, a steak place! It’s one of the better-rated ones in Rosario, and just happened to be around the corner from Valeria’s apartment.
Rosario is the largest city in Santa Fe province, located north of Buenos Aires. It ranks third on the list of Argentina’s biggest cities after Buenos Aires and Cordoba. One of the draws is the river front; it sits on the Paraná river. You can eat a sandwich while enjoying the water view at one of many restaurants. Green grass dotted with mature trees runs along the river, providing the perfect spot for a stroll, picnic or… in the case of little Picassos… place to paint.
One of Rosario’s top attractions is Monumento a la Bandera (National Flag Memorial). It was inaugurated in 1957 to commemorate Manuel Belgrano, creator of the Argentine flag, which was raised for the first time on the other side of the Paraná river in 1812. Flags from all North and South American countries line the outside of the memorial. Valeria and I quizzed each other in naming them. It took our combined effort, but we got most- I think. A bonus to this attraction is the sweeping view of the river.
The weather was absolutely PERFECT when I was there, so we decided to take a river cruise with Barco Ciudad de Rosario. Two-hour tours run Saturdays, Sundays and holidays for 90 pesos per adult (about $7 USD). The tour was fantastic. Not only were we able to sip beer in the sun, but the views were awe-inspiring. It was like a forest with coastline: thick trees and swimming beaches dotted our route. Vacation homes peeked out from the thicket with wooden docks leading straight to the water. Our boat shared water space with small yachts, motor boats and kayaks. This was definitely where the upper class played on weekends. Valeria and I took turns picking out our second homes (or for me, I guess, my first home!). I could picture myself lying on a lounge chair during an asado (barbecue), smoke wafting across my nose while the sun shone brightly above. Turns out I was foreshadowing my next weekend escape.
While hanging out on and along the river was relaxing and scenic, I most enjoyed spending time with Valeria. We laughed at her parrot Gervi who would scream out, “hola!” when he felt ignored. I learned that there is actually a word in Spanish for a person from the United States. I always called myself American because that’s the only word we have, although it always felt a bit strange since there are two entire continents of people who could rightfully call themselves American. Turns out I’m Estadounidense. I find it interesting and a bit ethnocentric that we don’t have a word in English. Maybe because United States-ian sounds funny? It’s ironic that I had to go to Argentina to learn my proper nationality!
Valeria’s English is infinitely better than my Spanish, but we spent our meals trading vocabulary lessons. I learned el tenedor (fork) which I remembered pretty quickly, but I couldn’t for the life of me recall la vereda (sidewalk). Valeria was a little quicker in her memory of napkin (la servilleta) and belly (la panza). We also chatted about life and future travel. It’s amazing how much Valeria, an Argentine attorney, and me, an Estadounidense former marketer turned vagabond, have in common. Times like this make me feel there is serendipity in this world.