I’d really hoped it would line up like this, and it did. My team got drawn against a team from Paraguay for the Libertadores da America tournament, and this would be my visit to Paraguay. My brother-in-law and I planned a short trip to go the day of the game and back the next day.
The city was cool, we just wish we could forget the 2 hours of the game. Oof.
We flew to São Paulo and then to Asuncion. I was off the plane, walked fast, and was first in line to the visa on arrival registration window. Great. Not so great was the fact the guy was slllloooowww and the entire plane arrived, got in line for passport control, and I was literally the last person to get through from our flight. My brother-in-law was texting me asking if I’d been denied entry or something–it took that long.
We exchanged some cash, sorted out a taxi, and we were off.
We told our taxi driver in our broken Spanish that we’d come for the game and that it was our first time in Asuncion, so he took the Costanera along the river for a more scenic drive to our hotel. He said he’d be cheering for us to lose that night, we all laughed, and he had the last laugh about 8 hours later.
We checked in, got stuff situated at the hotel, and wanted to go get our tickets immediately, since we weren’t sure exactly where to buy them. We got a taxi to the stadium and figured we’d start there. Turns out the ticket booth was open.
Imagine finding out the ‘locals’ in line in front of you paid about $5 for the ‘home team’ tickets, but the visitors’ tickets were $50. Wow.
The taxi had waited for us, and we asked about this park we’d passed coming to the hotel and about food. The best restaurant in the city that he recommended was also a place I’d seen online as having a ton of vegan options, it was near this park I wanted to check out, and we had him drop us there.
Plaza de la Libertad and the nearby Panteón Nacional de los Héroes were both interesting.
We walked over to Bolsi, a well-known restaurant with typical Paraguayan food. Outdoor seating and great people-watching only added to my pleasure with the large vegan section on the menu.
My first request was for 2 different flavors of empanadas and the chipá as recommended by the waitress for trying something local. I was told the chipá was sold out, and same with 1 of my empanada choices. OK…the empanada and Pink’s Guacamus. Sold out. Empanada and hummus wrap. OK? OK.
Imagine my surprise when the empanada, the chipá, and the wrap showed up. It was sooooo much food. Chipá is best described as making corn bread but using a vegetable soup instead of milk. Thick, full, and HEAVY. Great soy meat empanada, mediocre hummus wrap. Great people watching.
My brother-in-law decided to just eat heavy and not need a meal after the game later, so his jumbo steak & fries & onion rings really fit that description.
We walked through some neighborhoods back to our hotel, killed some time, and then we were off to the game.
Let’s sum up by saying that we scored first and then forgot that there were another 80 minutes of the game. 4-1 is brutal.
The stadium was pretty cool, though.
We tucked our tails, got a taxi back to the hotel, and went to sleep.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel (which was actually a really great breakfast, as far as hotel breakfasts go), walked around a bit, and tried to redeem the trip.
We’d stayed at the Crown Plaza, because I had some points to stay there, and it was the closest hotel to the stadium where I could use points. Turned out to not have a lot going on. Imagine being in a residential neighborhood as a foreigner.
Once we checked out and got a taxi to the airport, we passed through a super modern, cool area with tons of hotels we could’ve stayed at and would’ve had many more options for things to see and do, as well as restaurant options. We didn’t know…
We also passed the CONMEBOL headquarters, which is the federation of South American football (soccer) teams. This is where they draw from the hat for qualification games for all the team and national competitions and was the center of tons of corruption. They say they’re trying to change that and even asked Paraguay to renounce the law that prohibited investigations against CONMEBOL activities. We’ll see.
Cool spot, though!
At the airport, we commiserated with the other people on our flight who’d come down for the game.
And at least there was this guy playing some awesome music.
We boarded and were off. What a short, crazy, ‘that was a bad game’ experience for my first visit to Paraguay.