The Biddington's Bentley Takes to the Road
Cordoba fountains

Touring Córdoba, Argentina

Editor's Note: Jake Biddington takes over for this South American installment of The Bentley--published in January 2008.

Northwest from Buenos Aires across 450 miles of flat, grain-rich pampas lies Córdoba, Argentina's second largest city. Despite its proximity to croplands, Córdoba is not at all a cow town. Nestled at the edge of the gently rolling foothills of the Sierras, with impressive 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial churches defining it architecturally, generations of Catholic influence--and resistance to it--have marked this historic city since its birth in 1573.

Synchronized Fountain and Music Display at the
Paseo del Buen Pastor

Cordoba churchCordoba cathedral

Córdoba: Jesuits and Academia

Córdoba is the seat of several prestigious academic institutions. The two most important have Jesuit roots: National University of Córdoba founded as Collegium Maximum in 1610 and Catholic University of Córdoba, known for its strength in the sciences, founded in 1955.

Inglesia de la Campaña de Jesus (left)
part of Manzana Jesuitica that also housed the
Collegium Maximum

Inglesia de la Merced (right)
The Jesuit Order funded their projects in the region for 150 years using the proceeds from innovative farming projects called Estancias. In 1767, the Spanish crown grew nervous of this autonomy and ousted the Jesuits, literally overnight, granting their properties to the less intellectual, less troublesome Franciscans.

Modern day Córdoba, a university town complemented by a modestly affluent industrial base, boasts an educational level considerably higher than the national average. Commercial establishments are well organized with attentive, intelligent service being the norm.

Cordoba sculpture

Córdoba: Arts Policy & Art Museums

Support of regional artists in a theme taken seriously in Córdoba where local laws require that any new construction, be it apartment or office, must have an artwork by a Córdobese artist on exhibit in the lobby or in front of the building. Also, despite a population of only 1.5 million, Córdoba still manages to support significant cultural institutions.

Sculpture in Front of A Privately Owned Building

Museum Caraffa

A neoclassical-style building dating from 1916 was expanded vastly in 2007 to serve as Córdoba's center for contemporary art. Its inaugural show appropriately called "Todos invitados" (All Invited) exhibits works by 300 local contemporary artists. The curatorial staff managed to solve the daunting problem of making sense of so many individual entries in different media and styles. Artworks play-off and enhance one another in a way that no one ever expects from a huge survey show. This marvelously well-composed exhibition does credit to all concerned: artists, curators, architects and the province of Córdoba. A guided tour is offered in English once a day. Both of the major art museums are located on Plaza España in Nueva Córdoba.

Ferreyra Palace Spilimbergo Poster

Museum of Fine Arts Ferreyra Palace

The French Beaux Arts style was the inspiration for this grand private mansion constructed in 1916, an era when rich Argentines considered Paris the epicenter of the civilized world. (The Parisian design firm Krieger was responsible for its interior.) New renovations have modernized certain areas of the building to make it more utilitarian as a museum, but in a manner that hasn't undermined its period charm.

The Ferreyra Palace houses mostly 20th century Argentine painting with fine examples of Fernando Fader (1885-1932) and Lino Enea Spilimbergo (1896-1964) two important Argentine painters both of whom spent the last years of their lives in the province of Córdoba. Fader combines a heavy impasto post-Impressionist technique with a pantheism that anticipates in spirit the type of Surrealism that was to develop in Argentine art in the mid-20th century.

Museum Ferreyra Palace with
Spilimbergo Poster
On temporary exhibit on the top floor of the Ferreyra is a show of drawings by Carlos Alonso, a brilliant draughtsman and native son of Córdoba. The exhibition entitled "Manos Anónimas" (Anonymous Hands) shows graphic, imagined drawings of the abduction, torture, rape and murder of the artist's pregnant daughter Paloma who was "disappeared" in 1977 during the period of the military dictatorship in Argentina. "Disappeared" seems such a bland, Orwellian expression for this systematically executed brutality that claimed more than 20,000 victims. Carlos Alonso's images haunt the viewer, as they surely haunt his own nightmares. The exhibition deserves to be on permanent display.

Villa Carlos Paz: A Summer Retreat

A scant hour via shuttle bus west from downtown Córdoba, the town of Villa Carlos Paz borders Lago San Roque, a dammed reservoir. The original dam was built in 1886 making it one of the first in South America. The current dam was constructed in 1944 to provide hydroelectric power as well as serving flood control and water supply functions for Córdoba.

Not surprisingly, the artificial lake enticingly close to the city developed into recreational spot where outdoor activities are the primary focus: on land--go cart tracks, some for kids, some for aggressive grown men; on water--excursion boats, paddle boats, jet skis, wind surfing, kite surfing and fishing.

While tourists and day trippers throng here, the town and environs are large enough to absorb many people, so it retains its easy-going, relaxed feel even in high summer. Continuing around the lake about 30 miles, the town of Cosquin hosts a summertime (mid-January) folk music festival so popular that it is broadcast live on national radio and television stations.

Tourism Notes

Cordoba dome Traveling to Córdoba from Buenos Aires on First Class Bus
Because of the ongoing disarray at Aerolineas Argentina, consider opting for an overnight first-class bus trip, the reliable, cost-effective transportation that most Argentines choose when traveling within the country. Of course, bus travel in Argentina exposes the tourist to the dangers of Argentina's highways where the mortality rate is high due to an almost universal disregard for speed limits and traffic regulations. (Think twice before renting a car.)

Betel, (a "clean and sober" Christian-operated bus company), seems a reasonable hedge against such risks. After attentive dinner service with a glass of malbec, it's easy to nestle into their comfortable recliners and doze. Stirring awake at 3:30 am in the pampas town of Bell Ville, the traveler finds Cargill's enormous grain elevators outlined in lights like a Broadway stage and the bus station bustling with activity: the middle of the night is the only time that major carriers provide service through these remote rural towns.
Roundtrip Fare Buenos Aires/Córdoba: about $80US.

Public Transportation within Córdoba
Some people travel to enjoy luxuries they don't have at home; others travel to imagine life in another environment. For those of the later stripe, taking a ride on local public transportation is an illuminating experience. In Córdoba, the bus system is efficient and heavily used. Bus tokens called "cospeles" can be purchased from most kiosks that sell candy. Taking nearly any line from center city to its terminus, one travels from commercial center, to pleasantly urban residential, to modest residential, then to poor residential with unpaved streets and an atmosphere in which you wish you were carrying a weapon. This "ring" phenomenon explains why, is most of the world, the term "suburb" means "slum". In Córdoba, the "N" buses that travel to the fashionable ex-urban zone called Cerro de las Rosas is an exception to this rule.

Traveling to Villa Carlos Paz from Córdoba
Many bus lines shuttle passengers along this route with service several times an hour. On weekends, it's advisable to purchase a roundtrip ticket because the return to the city is a crush of weary travelers.
Roundtrip Fare Córdoba/Villa Carlos Paz: about $3US.

Cordoba spire Córdoba & Environs Restaurants
Al Malek
Just across from the Ferreyra Museum near the Plaza España, this Lebanese restaurant is packed with people dining, awaiting tables and picking up take-out. Its popularity is testimony to the success of ethnic restaurants throughout Argentina.
Address: 255 Calle Derequi.

Johnny B. Good
For a burger and full bar, this spot will do.
320 Yrigoyen.

Rancho Grande
In the upscale, ex-urban neighborhood of Cerro de las Rosas, this large restaurant serves good fish and chicken--as well as classic parrilla-cooked beef--to a crowd driving SUV's.
Address: 242 Rafael Nuñez, Cerros de las Rosas.

Pueblo Mio
For a quiet Sunday lunch overlooking Lago San Roque under the shade of a cooling thatched roof, this restaurant serves classic Argentina parrilla-cooked beef as well as pasta.
Address: 675 Arturo Illia St., Villa Carlos Paz
Iglesia de los Capuchinos (right)

Córdoba Hotels
Hotel de la Cañada
Reasonably comfortable, moderately priced hotel centrally located near Nueva Córdoba.
Address: 585 Calle Marcelo de Alvear.

Hotel Panorama
Moderately-priced hotel situated very close to the historic city center.
Address: 280 Calle Marcelo de Alvear.

More South American Destinations:
Restaurant Guide to Buenos Aires--2007
Argentina: Jujuy Province, Humahuaca and Tilcara
Northwest Argentina: Tucumán, Salta & Cafayate
Santiago & Valparaiso, Chile
Tigre, Argentina--Day Trip from Buenos Aires
San Antonio de Areco, Argentina--Weekend Trip from Buenos Aires
Colonia, Uruguay--Overnight Trip near Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires--Basic Guide
Travel Guide to Montevideo, Uruguay

Other Archived Destinations:
Visiting New York City 2007
Visiting New York City 2006 (Archive)
New Haven, Connecticut
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Touring in Lisbon
Touring in Milan
Touring in Antwerp
Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City
Tourism New York City 2003 Update
Tourism New York City 2002
Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Tourism Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey


Here at BIDDINGTON'S, our work is also our play. When we're not exhibiting and discussing art online, we're learning about wonderful objects in shops, at great shows and in museums--or simply exploring the world's fascinating cultural diversity. In this article, Jake Biddington offers tourist information and descriptions of this interesting destination.

Contact Jake Biddington about His Travels

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