I awoke next morning feeling much better, and more in sync with my current country. I had breakfast and went for a walk around the city centre. The shops were packed with people, and a little wary of being a stranger, I dipped into several shopping centres. The heat beat down ferociously in open areas, but many of the pedestrian areas were covered in vines or climbing plants which kept the worst off. And several fountains or water features freshened the air as you walked past. It seemed incongruous to then look inside almost every shop window to see a jolly Santa riding along in a sleigh on snow, thick green and red tinsel; the colours of winter adorned every corner. A Northern Hemisphere Christmas was being imposed on the south. I looked around the glorious Catholic cathedral, in need of some serious renovation. I then plodded around some of the quieter streets in the central grid iron. Although there were some run down areas, it was a proudly set city centre. In one small shady corner of the city, next to a small canalised river called La Canada, stood an ornate war memorial. A bunch of soldiers in various poses, holding up a flag on a mound of earth, all in bronze. A list of names ran right round the base of the monument, and although my Spanish was ropy, I could make out the words; Malvinas; the Falklands.
The centre of the city was still manic with activity as I approached La Casa de Sobremonte en Rosario de Santa Fe e Ituzaingó. Did you get that? Built as the local governor’s house during the colonial period, it has been restored as a museum. Like many houses of Spanish origin, the exterior is rather foreboding, a high plain wall right against the pavement edge. But once through the gate, the interior is laid out perfectly. A number of small courtyards divide up the rooms. Each one had its own character, an old well here, some potted plants there. And the rooms were all laid out like a colonial house would have been. Looking down from the highest windows, I could see the busy street life, the hustle and bustle of Cordoba outside, but the little museum was an oasis of tranquillity.
Activity began to decrease by late morning and I retired to my bed again. Not so much jet lag, but the sheer length of journeying had tired me out completely. I knew I had to be fresh by Monday and I had some preparation work to do as well.
David picked me up from the hotel late afternoon and we drove out of town through some rather non-descript suburbs to his estate, on a slightly raised hill. I went inside this low white house and into a large open plan living room. Scattered around were tasteful antiques and artefacts, as befits a respected university doctor, but with a familial touch. I was introduced to his wife, who kissed me smack on the cheeks, I was introduced to one of his gorgeous daughters who reached up and also gave me a kiss. David laughed at my expression, especially as I had a hand extended towards her to shake. He explained that it was a natural greeting in Argentina. We went out into a back garden made for kids, a few plants banished to the extremes, the rest just a large grassy patch where kids and their imaginations could go wild. We sat and drank beer for an hour, and then enjoyed a magnificent barbecue. It was not just put on for my benefit, David had invited a whole host of friends who graciously spoke English in my presence. I tried a few Spanish phrases but the experience I had built up in Colombia three years beforehand had all but deserted me, and during BBQ chit chat you move away from the ‘How old are you’, ‘where are you from’, pretty quickly and I could not extend my Spanish to discuss the finer points of GIS or insect behaviour.
The evening passed too quickly, and the chill outside of a clear evening drove us indoors (after all, it was only early spring). In the warm living room, David got out his guitar and sang a bunch of folk songs, with a clear booming voice. Several others performed their party pieces. The kids went off to bed but still the party continued. David got the maté out. This is a bitter drink brewed from the bark of a tree. It is sometimes mixed with sugar but Argentineans generally drink it without. To get the full flavour, it is served in a small round bowl, and you suck it through a specially made straw. It has a filter at the bottom to stop the dregs of the bark rising up it, and a narrow opening like a pipe’s, that forces you to suck hard. The juice hits the back of the throat. I found the initial taste very acceptable, but the strong bitter aftertaste ruined it. I took a few polite sips then passed the cup on round the circle. The evening ended and David gave me a lift back into town and the hotel. We arranged our trip for the following day, David was to show me around the country to the west , the Sierra de Cordoba.