Further south from Buenos Aries is the seaside town of Mar del Plata. It was probably an awesome resort in its heyday…but that would have been about 20 years ago, and the city now has a jaded, tired feel to it. The highrise apartments and hotels are looking a bit shabby, and there’s a general dilapidated feel to much of the city.
Unfortunately the grey weather we encountered didn’t help with the overall impression of the place, and our view was somewhat tarnished by the first hotel we’d booked. The greeting at reception was less than welcoming, and within two minutes of being our room, we were both thinking the same thing: “Let’s get the hell outta here”! The bathroom was filthy, with the roof caving in in places and the floors were uneven, with threadbare carpet and various interesting stains. In all the travelling we’d done, we’d never checked out of a place early, but we dropped off our bags then went straight to an internet cafe to book into somewhere else; we stayed one night in Hotel Cr*ppy (sleeping in our clothes on top of the bed covers!), forced down the complimentary stale croissants and thick, muddy “coffee” the next morning, and checked into somewhere far more habitable.
Then we relaxed and started to enjoy our time in Mar del Plata. We spent almost a full day at the beach, lazed about in the comfort of our nice hotel and stumbled across a surprisingly good little French restaurant.* We also ate a “café” which was a big hall, where you could order Italian, Mexican, Argentinian, American…any kind of meal you can imagine. Here, I ordered a hamburger (and was asked how I wanted it cooked – medium rare, perhaps?) that was astonishing in its size – after Tall’s steak in Buenos Aries that was the size of my foot, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the burger was the size of my head!
Mar del Plata apparently means “sea of silver”. Maybe once upon a time that was an apt name for this city, but now it feels more like “sea of tarnished bronze”. Perhaps if the weather had been better and the buildings saw a lick of paint every now and then, it might actually be a great place for a summer holiday. Other travellers we met along the way had varying opinions of the city, so perhaps we just struck it on a bad day.
*Mar del Plata was home to two hilarious language encounters though, which still make me belly laugh:
~ Walking along the esplanade, Tall is wearing his watch for the first time in ages. A gentleman on a bike stops and asks: “¿Puede decrime la hora?” (“Can you tell me the time?”). Tall shakes his head, “No”, and keeps walking. The gentleman on the bike looks taken aback and stares at Tall’s wrist for a moment before cycling on.
~ After finishing a lovely meal at the aforementioned French restaurant, the chef asks a question to which Tall replies, “No entiendo” (“I don’t understand”). Chef then asks “Donde a viende?” (or something along those lines) to which Tall replies, “Aaah, cappucino?”. Chef looks confused and the exchange is repeated a couple more times. I suddenly click – he’s asking “Where are you from?”!