We could have stayed on either side of Rio Paraná: in Paraná, state of Entre Río or in Santa Fe, state of Santa Fe. We ended up in Paraná because it floods less often and we had found a better hotel—since we had never been to either of the two cities, it was a completely random decision, one of the dozens we make every day.
In hindsight, staying in Paraná was a good choice.
We took a day trip to Santa Fe, a forty-minute ride across the river and through the Raúl Uranga—Carlos Sylvestre Begnis Subfluvial Tunnel, almost as long as its name. We got off by the bridge and walked back and forth across Rio Paraná just for the sake of it. It was a beautiful day, no wind and blue sky. It was also hot. Very hot and humid.
We found the tourist info centre by accident, pushing the door of the very big and empty Estación Belgrano. The young employee was delighted to see foreign tourists. She grabbed a map and began to mark all the cool places we could go to. There was the brewery, free entry from 6 p.m., kids very welcome! The shopping centre and the casino! The harbour! The historical centre! Then she took a selfie with the three of us and wished us suerte.
Wow. It was going to be a busy day!
Or not. It was 1:30 p.m. and we had already established we wouldn’t visit the brewery at 6 p.m. because we had to pick up our laundry from the lavandaría in Paraná before 8:30 p.m. Besides, Feng found it strange that kids were welcome. And as we walked up one of the main boulevards, we realized that, like in Paraná, every single shop was closed for the siesta. A long siesta, since businesses only slowly reopen around 5:30 p.m.
Main boulevard? Empty, everything closed. Pedestrian streets? Deserted. Eventually, we ended up at the small mall close to the harbour. It was predictably boring but we enjoyed the air con for thirty minutes. Overall, I found Santa Fe a bit bland. It didn’t have the intimate small-town feel of Paraná. It felt too ambitiously modern and polished, probably a side effect of being the state capital.
Determined to explore the entire city, we walked through the historical district and reached the Plaza 25 de Mayo, the centre of colonial Santa Fe. Quiet, again.
Exploring an empty city does have its perks, you see buildings differently and you feel you own the city. I kept on wondering about the logistic of shutting down for four or five hours in the middle of the day. French businesses used to close for lunch for about an hour or two at noon. Inconvenient for customers? Probably. But it kind of made sense to me, employees or business owners needed a break to eat, smoke and possibly have sex with their lover/mistress. But shutting down for most of the afternoon? Where did employees go? Home? They had to live nearby, then. And wasn’t it more exhausting to start a second shift after relaxing for several hours?
When we walked back to the bus terminal, the city was slowly awaking.
We would get back to Paraná just in time for the late-night fun. Perfect timing.