Mar del Plata - The City by the Sea
1 Nov 2006
|Mar del Plata seemed quiet when I arrived. A siesta time taxi took me to the hostel through sleepy roads languous with the heat. I dropped my bags at the hostel and walked to the beach, thinking how this would be my first sight of the South Atlantic. The beach is deserted except for a few locals taking the oppurtunity to soak up some sun on a beach which is so crowded in high season you cannot walk on it - let alone find sufficient space to lay down you towel.
I skirt the sea, it quickly becomes clear to me just how big this resort is. Great tower blocks thrown up with seemingly little planning control rear over the beach, thousands of apartments with sea views, buildings of all shapes and sizes, nearly all the windows shuttered against the winter storms. Here and there shutters are unrolled Spring air entering long enclosed apartments, early weekenders or cleaning staff, preparing for the invasion of Portenos to come.
This huge resort is everywhere stretching and yawning from it's winter sleep, working off the cramps in it's long disused muscles. The city holds it's breath, just a month to go before they come, by train, bus or car. Men are laying board walks under the sand. Resort hotels are preparing their beach huts and private sands. A few stall holders, practising for the summer, are already selling their wears.
Over an hours walking sees me reaching the end of the main beaches, I turn inland amongst the houses and bungalows. Mar del Plata is a city, big enough to have a sizable permanant population. Near the beach signs of life are evident, the locals continuing with their daily life, but as I penetrate block after block after block of this enourmous chess board city the streets become quieter and quieter, the houses shuttered and secured, little guard posts on each corner secure the property of these lucky wealthy few who can afford a holiday home away from Buenos Aires. Mar del Plata must number millions in the high season.
Walking back the way I came I finally penetrate the commercial heart. Thousands of shops, restaurants, cafes, heladios, locutorios, tenador libres, souvenir shops, gift shops, electrical shops, beach wears, supermarcdos, antique shops and bars glut the core ten square city blocks, hidden from me as I skirted the sea. Although quiet during siesta I realise that this must be a vibrant flourishing city, even in Winter, and in Summer it must be hell!
Apart from it's fame as a beach resort Mar del Plata is known for two other things, one a micro brewery - I was always going to find it - which brews really quite good beers, so much like English beer it feels like home. The other is the Alfajore, a sickly sweet triple decker biscuit or chocolate sandwich usualy with the ubiquitous dulce de latte filling. One is enough for a week!
Antares page on the Mar del Plata site.
Check out the yummy Alfajores here.
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