Let's go to Córdoba, the second biggest city in Argentina, actually founded before Buenos Aires and first capital of the country. Today, its prime location, rich colonial legacy, amazing gastronomy and buzzing culture are only some of the reasons it continues to grow and attract tourists like us everyday. This time, my travel companions were my dad and my siblings, with whom I spent most afternoons chatting about life and family stories while drinking iced coffee. I've been trying to spend more time slowing down, people watching and enjoying a good conversation while traveling. It can be so exhausting to try to do and see everything around, so I'm choosing quality over quantity from now on.
After settling into our downtown apartment, we decided to take the streets to get a sense of where we were. Imagine our surprise when we began our walk to find most streets empty, businesses closed and blinds locked. Córdoba is well known for its young population, being home to thousands of students of the many colleges and universities of the city, but it's easy to forget that, in the southern hemisphere, January is the middle of summer and like August in the North, it's a time to escape, take a break and travel. It was quite strange seeing the squares empty, most streets deserted and windows shut. No, not everyone leaves but everyone avoids the hottest hours, only making an appearance when the temperature drops. Businesses also close in middle of the day for lunch or siesta (or both), so our very first impression was one of a ghost town with harsh shadows and a burning sun.
Córdoba is a great city to explore by foot so you can pay closer attention to the colorful details, architecture and spot cool street art. The city is not too big and all the things to see and to do and see are pretty close from one another. At first glance, I saw a dirty, empty and chaotic city where modernism and tradition clashed in a weird architectural mess. But then I opened doors to inconspicuous patios, artsy bookstores and charming cafés, hidden behind the old facades, and that's where the energy suddenly emerged. To really experience Córdoba, you need sit down and have coffee in one of the many plazas and people watch. All girls in Argentina wear really tall platform shoes, and I kept staring at their feet wandering how they could walk with them without falling. If you can, befriend the locals, sneak into one of their asados, enjoy the lengthy meal and hear the stories.
Take the streets and learn some history in the old jesuit block. Keep going and marvel at the beautiful architecture of the many churches and cathedrals. I had never seen so many in the same city, so close to each other. There is one almost every other block, from gothic to classical, all styles are represented. They glow at the center of big squares or stand out between the modern buildings. The Capuchin church was my favorite, the most unique and beautiful church I've ever encountered. Color will always win me over and this one is full of it! Plus, it stands without a bell tower as a symbol of human imperfection, such a beautiful metaphor!
Córdoba is also famous for its culture. The city has tons of theatres, museums, cultural centers and concerts going on every night. Don't miss out on the artisanal fair on Belgrano street, held on Sundays. Creative individuals, antiquity stores and art galleries invite the city to the Güemes neighborhood to shop, drink, eat and hang out. Tons of bars, colorful walls and good vibes all around. Remember the lively patios and beautiful rooftops I mentioned earlier? Some of the nicest ones are here! Dada was one great place for diner and drinks. On the same street, I took refuge from the rain in La Bruncheria, where you can find yummy coffee and sweet snacks and sit in the cutest blue and yellow decor.
Only a few kilometers away from Córdoba, there are also tons of places to explore, and tourists come as much for these as for the capital. The surrounding sierra is filled with trails leading to gorgeous waterfalls and the landscape is a perfect playground for campers and extreme sports aficionados. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see this area of the Province (this time) but we did escape to Villa Carlos Paz for a day, lured by the promise of an asado and a pool. Only about an hour away from Córdoba, this town has become one of the most popular summer destination for Argentinians. We only spent a few hours, enough time to eat some incredible meat, walk and drive around the beautiful mountains and even see the local landmark: this very ridiculous cukoo clock. 100% not worth the detour and a brilliant example of a tourist trap, but still fun as a social experiment.
One last tip! Bring cash, and lots of it! Most Argentinian businesses and cafés don't take credit cards and ATMs have pretty ridiculous limits and fees, so plan ahead and order some pesos at the bank before getting here!