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Córdoba, Argentina -- Very Personal Opinions

Córdoba, Argentina -- Very Personal Opinions

Old Nov 19, 18, 8:59 pm
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Buenos Aires
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Córdoba, Argentina -- Very Personal Opinions

This isn’t a trip report because: a) on this occasion I didn’t fly, but rather drove; and b) I am very bad at pictures, so I didn’t take any. I’m posting it on the Argentina forum because Córdoba is starting to become a sort of international destination (Copa flies twice daily from Panama, LATAM has flights from there to Sao Paulo, Lima and Santiago, and even American is starting a 4x weekly MIA-COR next year), and thought some FTers might be interested, as there aren’t many threads on the city on these forums. But mods, please feel free to move it to wherever it fits best.

So, Córdoba — Argentina’s second largest city, also known as the “anti-Buenos Aires”. Many years ago I lived in Córdoba for a while, and I still go on occasions, mainly for family reasons. In most opportunities I fly to COR, which is one hour away from Buenos Aires, but on this particular opportunity I decided to drive. I got my new car a few weeks ago and the 700 km highway is a good place to try new a new vehicle. It’s a pretty straightforward drive — a two or three-lane highway, depending on the area, which is in excellent shape save for the closest 50 km to Rosario, where the smallest pothole has someone living on it. Funny thing, Buenos Aires and Córdoba have provincial governors who are close to the President (Córdoba, in particular, is Macrilandia: the guy got 71% of the votes in the 2015 presidential run-off), while Rosario voted for the opposition. The bad shape on the highway off Rosario, as opposed to the pristine nature of the rest, seemed to be a nice reminder to the people of Rosario from the federal government: “next time, vote well!”.

All in all, respecting speed limits “à la Argentine”, I was in Córdoba 7 hours after leaving Buenos Aires, including a refuel-and-coffee stop at Leones, a 10,000 people town which holds the distinctions of: a) having the only petrol station on the Rosario-Córdoba highway (a YPF for that matter, you earn Aerolíneas miles there); and b) being, as per the highway signs, “the National Capital of Wheat”.

Córdoba is Buenos Aires’ eternal antagonistic. While BA is somewhat cosmopolitan, Córdoba is “federal”, in the Argentine sense — people from all over the country (except BA) move there to study at the National University of Córdoba, and the city has a somewhat bohemian, student feel. It isn’t a particularly beautiful city, but it’s got its allure. I usually stay at Y111 Hotel, which is a 4+ star hotel in a good location, but this time it was sold out so I checked in at Caseros 248 Hotel. It’s a brand new hotel, inaugurated less than 4 months ago. The room was large enough and so was the bathroom, the hotel had great air-con, wi-fi signal was strong, everything was clean, breakfast was not splendiferous but they had some fruits, coffee and croissants, and the cleaning lady even came in the evenings to open your bed and place a toffee candy next to the pillow. For 75 USD/night inclusive of parking on the same building, I was happy. Compared to Y111, which is 5 blocks away, I only missed the swimming pool. Córdoba in November is very hot.

So, say you are in Córdoba — what is there to do? Well, the best part of the city is its surroundings. Córdoba is located next to the Sierras the Córdoba (duh!), which are a chain of hills with rivers, forests and some man-made dams the cordobeses call “lakes”. Avoid Villa Carlos Paz, which is dystopian, and head to other places. Traslasierra is a 3-hour drive but it’s beautiful, Villa General Belgrano and La Cumbresita are Alpine-esque villages with good breweries and you may even spot Hitler living there, and at Ongamira there is a wonderful horseback-riding 5-star lodge. This isn’t Argentina’s nature at its finest (Patagonia and Iguazú are, in my opinion), but it’s worth a look, or, as the Michelin guide would say, “ça mérite le détour”.

As for Córdoba the city, this time I visited its museums, and I have to say I was surprised. There is a fine arts museum, “Palacio Ferreyra”, which is interesting, with paintings mainly from local artists, a modern arts museum, “Museo Caraffa”, and a natural sciences museum. They are all on the small scale, but outside of Buenos Aires it’s strange to find the government investing in arts in this country. The natural sciences museum even has some dinosaur bones in there, which I liked. Other than the museums, there is a sort of cultural center at the “Paseo del Buen Pastor”, which is a former prison turned into a restaurant area (there's even a Starbucks in there, in case you are craving for a frappucino). There was a jazz band playing while I was there. I like jazz. The guys who were playing most certainly didn’t. And there also is the “Paseo de los Artesanos” on weekends in Güemes neighborhood, where you can buy some presents. This time I did find two old books I had been looking for a while.

As always, the biggest problem in Córdoba is food. If you are from abroad and want to eat meat, then Córdoba is fine. There are some very fine parrillas over there. But other than meat (including empanadas, lomitos —beef sandwiches with ham and cheese and an egg— and hamburgers), there rest is not so great. For a city where two thirds of the population is of Italian descent, pasta and pizza are very average. This time I tried a place called “It Italy” (sorry for the guys of “Eat Italy” at the US), and the spaghetti were on the bland side. “La Mamma”, which is a classic for pastas, was also just OK.

It gets a bit tiring as a local, but outside of Buenos Aires and some very specific destinations (Ushuaia, Bariloche, the Northeast where they have fish), food in this country is always beef or die.

As for nightlife, Córdoba is a student city, so there are plenty for bars and night-clubs. Most of the bars are tiny, and are located in an area close to downtown and next to the Suquía river. I insist: this is a student town. Remember when you were a student? You were young and beautiful and gorgeous and broke. Well, you get it. Nightlife in Córdoba is inexpensive, is lively, is not luxurious. In Güemes, next to the artisans thing, there is a bar called “Los Infernales de Güemes” — it’s very Argentinian, in the sense that young students from all over the country seat with friends drinking cheap wine and playing popular tunes on the guitar. When wine makes the singers jolly enough, you can expect a singing competition between the different tables.

So, Córdoba. If you could split Argentina in two countries, namely “Buenos Aires” and “The Interior”, Córdoba would definitely be the capital of the Republic of The Interior. I am a 100% Buenos Aires person, so I am very biased. I believe Argentina has better places to offer (Patagonia and Iguazú are spectacular, Salta and Jujuy are gorgeous), but if you happen to be on a mileage run or find a very cheap flight to Córdoba, well, it’s worth a look — or, in the words of the Michelin guide, “ça mérite le détour”.
Marambio is offline  
Old Nov 20, 18, 5:33 pm
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Thanks for the enjoyable read, as I enjoyed my shortish stay in Cordoba in early May (note for future reference: don't try to travel on 01 May if arriving by bus)

But then I am definitely the 3* hotel type - especially if they are of the "old school" type. We did leave Cordoba by plane as the overnight bus (or train) into BA looked a bit tedious.

Happy wandering
wandering_fred is offline  
Old Nov 22, 18, 11:53 am
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Thanks for the report.
Despite my wife having a couple of relatives living there I've never been to Cordoba....can't say I have any desire to go either. As for the lack of food choices on offer I can't say I'm surprised...Argentines aren't very adventurous when it comes to food. Here where I live it's meat, pizza or pasta although a couple of sushi places have opened recently so I'm interested to see how long they last....I personally can't see them lasting too long.
HIDDY is offline  

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