July 20, 2009
Monday morning we breakfasted on our goat cheese and headed out to explore the city by daylight. We began on the Plaza 9 de Julio and visited the cathedral. We booked a day-trip to Cachi, dropped our laundry off to be cleaned, then visited the post office to mail postcards. Finally, it was time for lunch.
Lonely Planet recommended the Restaurante Portazuelo, offering a vague description (beautiful view, interesting dishes, Av. de Turista 1), which lead us to doubtfully climb a very large hill crisscrossed by unmarked streets that lead off our Lonely Planet maps.
Our faith was rewarded when we reached the Hotel Portazuelo, and followed the stairs to their classy restaurant. They offered a 45 peso ($12) Menu Ejecturivo, which was a fabulous deal, if not a bit more than I liked to spend on lunch.
We were served bread with a thick, creamy basil sauce and then Tammy and I split two of the appetizers—a veggie-filled Spanish-style tortilla and spinach crepes filled with corn. While this alone could have served as a sufficient lunch, my entree was spinach gnocchi with a delicious tomato-basil cream sauce. I ate way too much, but has the foresight to only order the fruit salad for dessert. And, then it was too sweet for me, and probably just as well that I left it behind. Service was impeccable, as was expected at a restaurant of this caliber. The view was nice, but wouldn’t have made up for the long, uphill walk on its own.
Heading out again, we stopped by the bus station to buy tickets for La Quiaca, then headed to the Museo Antropológico “De Leguizamón.” A fancy display in an architecturally designed showcase held the collection of Juan Martín Leguizamón. It was interesting, though not incredibly sophisticated.
We then passed by the Monumento al General Güemes on our way back downtown, a giant statue overlooking the city. Once downtown, we found the famously gaudy Iglesia y Convento San Francisco, an amazing event of colors on the outside, and an extravagance that rivaled the city’s cathedral on the interior.
The sister site, the Convento San Bernardo, was quite dull in contrast, consisting of plain white walls and old oak doors. As a working Carmelite nunnery, we were unable to enter.
We headed back to the plaza for some coffee, which quickly gobbled up the few hours before dinner.
I picked out a couple healthy restaurant options from the guidebook while we waited for our overwhelmed waiter to bring us the check.
Apparently, healthy food doesn’t do well in Salta, as both restaurants were no longer in existence. We then selected Mama Mias Trattoria, which proved to be an excellent find, aside from a lack of healthy options (not even a side salad!).
Our bread basket was accompanied by a little pizzeta, brushed with tomatoes and sprinkled with cheese.
I had a delicious homemade fettuccini with olive oil, tomatoes, and grilled red peppers and the Vasija Secreta cabernet from Cafayate. We were tired, so we went back to the hostel to catch up on email before our early morning trip to Cachi.