Mar del Plata is a coastal city with spectacular beaches, countryside, and a rich cultural life along the Atlantic ocean. Vibrant and interesting all year long, Mar del Plata is located about 5 and a half hours south of Buenos Aires by bus and longer by train. The fishing port and beach resort is known as La ciudad feliz translated from the Spanish to mean The joyous city. And it makes sense as there is no dearth of places to see and fascinating activities to engage in. Naturally, quite a happy state of affairs for any adventurous traveler.
The summer home of one of Argentina’s greatest feminist writers, Victoria Ocampo was at one time converted into a cultural center and museum. It’s located in Mar del Plata’s posh neighborhood known as “Los Troncos.” Villa Victoria hosts an array of musical concerts and performances during the summer season. In the winter, travelers can enjoy exploring the home which at one time contained a Steinway piano Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet used to play. As you enter the rooms, the echoes seem to still linger in the spacious English house.The magnificent house gives the traveler a taste of literary Mar del Plata.
La Feria de los Artesanos (Artisan’s Fair)
This unique vendor’s market is situated in Plaza San Martin and thrives during the summer months, although it is also open in winter. The wares range from hand-crafted silver jewelry to leather goods. The artisan’s creativity is evident in their work and you can find unusual items such as mate gourds embellished with beaded motifs and modern, innovative jewelry design.
It’s a perfect way to shop and chat with the very informative vendors.
Sierra de los Padres and la gruta de los panuelos (the grotto of handkerchiefs)
Sierra de los Padres is within a 15- 20 minute drive from Mar del Plata. It’s a scenic rural area consisting of farms and orchards. Camping areas are available for travelers wishing to extend their visit, but one can also enjoy a glorious day trip. One of the most enchanting spots is a grotto called la gruta de los panuelos. The grotto stands just under an enormous overhanging rock. Many locals consider it a sacred place for devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Pilgrims who make their way to the grotto, leave behind colorful cotton handkerchiefs that they brace between the rock’s crevices. You will also find a collection of knotted handkerchiefs hanging in layers and decorating the grotto. It’s an astonishing display akin to a marvelous soft sculpture. After walking through the contemplative grotto, one can rest at a cafe on the grounds and a enjoy a coffee, brandy, mineral water and alfajores, a sweet confection filled with dulce de leche.
Casa del Folkore ( House of Argentine Folkoric Music)
Colorful murals depicting gaucho life surround the visitor to Casa del Folkore. The evening I attended, a popular group Los de Salta were performing. Many local visitors come to enjoy an evening of soulful traditional music and getting together with friends and family. Casa del Folkore’s kitchen serves favorites like empanadas and grilled meat. The warm ambience adds to the evening’s enjoyment.
Monument to Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni
The streets close to the beachfront are great places to walk and take in the healthy salt air.
If you meander to La Perla beach, you’ll happen upon a memorial to Alfonsina Storni. The image of a woman in bas relief sculpture stands next to a monument etched with the words of the poet’s very last poem Voy a Dormir (I’m going to sleep). The words and image are evocative of Mar del Plata and Argentina’s rich literary tradition.
About the Author: Jackie O’Neal is the author of Born in the Land of the Tango http://borninthelandofthetango.wordpress.com