EXPERIENCE COLONIAL SAN ISIDRO
People are often told to cross the River Plate and head for Uruguay’s Colonia de Sacramento to get a taste of the colonial period. Charming as it is, I would be tempted to say why bother? If it’s a colonial feel you’re after where could be better than the beautiful Argentine ‘barrio’ of San Isidro. Just outside the hustle and bustle of the city the leafy streets of San Isidro easily match Uruguay in colonial charm, whilst also being easily accessible.
The colonial delights of our journey start at Mitre Train Station in Retiro where the impressive glass and iron framework designed by four British nationals is reminiscent of the great stations of Europe. Dating back to the beginning of the nineteen hundreds, it was built to replace the Estacion Central which was sadly destroyed by a fire in 1897.
After six long years of construction the station, one of the biggest of its time, was inaugurated in August of 1915 by President Victorino de la Plaza. It was seen as a symbol of progress in the 1880s, a culmination of the railroad network connecting the Northern Provinces with the metropolis. Suddenly travel became possible and Buenos Aires city was flooded with immigrants and new and exciting products and services which before had not reached the city.
The daily wear and tear of almost a century of comings-and-goings lead to the gradual deterioration of the station. This was put right, however, after its recent restoration which recovered its former splendor.
We board the train and head north. As it leaves the capital and makes its way through the increasingly green and peaceful streets of the Buenos Aires’ province, there is a noticeable change in atmosphere. Life seems to slow down a few paces.
Before pulling into San Isidro station the train passes the President’s suburban pad complete with private golf course.
Not only does San Isidro boast some architecture equally as outstanding as that of Colonia, its history is also as impressive. San Isidro takes its name from a church established in 1706 called San Isidro Labrador. Having previously been conquered by Juan de Garay this area was controlled by the Guarani Indians to the north, and the querandies to the south, stretching out to what today is La Boca. On taking command of the land along the coast, Juan de Garay decided to split it up into 65 plots and share it out amongst his men, the first settlers, so they could use it to grow their crops and tend to their animals.
We start to walk east along Mitre until we hit Mitre Square. Those who love architecture can stop here to admire a breathtaking Neogothical cathedral built in 1898, as well as the eclectically designed Spanish-Moorish prep school. Others who are interested in Argentine handicrafts can browse the stalls and pick up a variety of quality items.
Just a brief walk to the west takes us to the Anchorena family’s Victorian summer mansion and Mariquita Sanchez de Thompson’s home, where figures such as Juan Martin de Pueyrredon and Jose de San Martin met under the shade of the historical cob tree to discuss the emancipation of South America.
Now we follow a zigzagging staircase to lower San Isidro and the coast. We stop for lunch at a beautiful wooden-clad restaurant, one of the many sailing clubs overlooking the river where one can watch kite and wind surfers dodging in and out of the billowing white yacht sails. People gather in groups on the grass to share mate and put the finishing touches to their suntans. We enjoy a wonderful grilled trout with a delicious Torrontes wine from the Cafayate region of Salta. The flavours and colours of the coast complement each other perfectly and we sit back, enjoying the experience.
So if a day spent walking the historical streets of the very Argentine San Isidro, sampling the atmosphere at the local yacht club and enjoying some good food and wine appeals to you, contact us for your very own San Isidro Experience.
We also have many other wonderful Buenos Aires Tours -
Please note that our day cruises on the delta with a BBQ (Asado) is getting very booked up for the rest of the year, please contact us now to avoid disappointment – I was recently asked by a very nice lady why I do not have more than one vessel – ‘well my dear….’.