Buenos who??? Oh yes, Buenos Aires!!!
Jan 21st! Arrived in Buenos Aires around 9am today and its hot, hot, hot! Decided to use public transportation in real backpacker style, and utilize my already finely honed directional skills to take the local bus from the station to my hostel, (AKA this obviously meant I had to ask approx. eight people where the bus was, and once I actually found it, was I on the right one!). But even with all that, I made it to the hostel no problem, with all my conversations in Spanish, so the ole` lingo is definitely coming along - "lentamente pero im que consiguen mejor" ! The hostel "Pangea" was great! People were lovely! So of course I did the usual traveler thing; dropped off the giant "mochilla" and my laundry and then headed out to experience Buenos Aires - cosmopolitan capital of Argentina .. and South America!
The city itself in incredible. A beautiful mix of stately European buildings, incredible restaurants, (almost all of them serving the world famous Argentinian steaks the country is so proud of), and colourful neighbourhoods like Palermo, Recoleta, San Telmo and La Boca! It´s also got great shopping, huge tango culture and the best nightlife in South America (ok, so i havent been to Brazil yet but still this city will be hard to beat... ). Essentially BA (as we travelers like to call it) in one word - is just AMAZING!! With over 13 million people living in the "ciudad centrale" and suburbs (in the barrios folks are generally described as "portenos". Literally translated this means poor city dweller. I dont think everyone in BA thinks of themselves this way, in fact those uppercrust folks living in the stylish areas of Recolota and Palermo apparantly think of themselves as a cut above the poor "portenos"!). For a big city, there is still a feeling of "tranquillo" about the place, with elegant, well dressed people chatting on cell phones, whiling away the afternoon sipping cafe con leche in atmospheric cafes. At the same time, there is alot of hustle and bustle and the folks here like to let you know their city is all business...have I mentioned I love it here!!!
So on to my adventures! I headed out to visit the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta where Eva Peron AKA Evita, and many other famous Argentinians are buried. As the name denotes, the cemetary sits in one of BA`s plushest neighbourhoods, ritzy Recoleta, and it is one of the key tourist attractions of the city. High walls surround this beautiful if somewhat strange, necropolis, where they say "in death even as in life, generations of Argentina`s elite rest in ornate splendour". It´s hard to capture the ornate architecture and detailed marble graves in photos, but I took a couple of shots.. see for yourselves.Walked around here for over 2 hours (is it weird that I love cemetaries so much!), then headed out to Plaza Francia where there was an amazing craft fair. Everything from mate cups... (the official addiction of Argentina. No self respecting Argentinian goes anywhere without their flask of hot water and mate tea!)....to beautiful hand made jewellery.. and tons more! Went a bit mad and bought lots of fun things.. AND i saw an infamous "paseaperros" aka professional dog walker!
Headed back to the hostel later in the afternoon and got chatting to Pablo, one of the boys that works there. He was very interesting and we talked for a good while before he had to head back to work. People are so friendly in hostels, it never ceases to amaze me. If they work there, they want to make sure you are ok, and share their tourist info with you. If they are staying there, they are just happy to chat and meet new folks! All very sociable indeed!
Then, in the tradition of this fabulous continent, I went for a wee siesta for a few hours and woke up around 10ish.. headed off for some dinner (quickly left the first restaurant I went into, as it had a giant cockroach walking drunkenly towards me!) then back to the hostel where I made 2 fab friends.. Netta and Joachim, both from Israel....and of course Jefferson, a mad Peruvian who worked the night shift! We all chatted over a cerveza or two, then around midnight Netta and I headed out to the newest and funkiest club in Buenos Aires - Opera Bay! Danced our hearts out till about 6am .. great place but very interesting going dancing with a girl from Israel. We met about 20-25 other folks at the club, all of them young, hip Israelis, currently hanging out in BA, with most of them having just finished their army time recently. The entire night i had to say "no entiendo" when people either asked if I spoke Hebrew or just started chatting to me in it. Now obviously "no entiendo" is Spanish for I dont understand but as I dont know how to say "I dont understand" in Hebrew yet, that was the best I could do! It was a really surreal experience being in this hip South American club in BA hearing and meeting so many people from Israel.. all fantastic people, and really, really sociable! In fact, the Israeli phenomemon is well known throughout South America- there are Israeli only hostels, many people in shops or hostels speak quite a bit of Hebrew `cos there are so many Israelis traveling ..... many are in their early 20`s either on their own or in big groups of 10 or more.. and I've now learned a few Hebrew words myself - "Shalom" - Hi, "ma nishma" - What´s up, "sababa" - its all good, "bevakasha" - please, "toda" - thank you and "leitraot" - bye!! So definitely a great night out with a very fun group of people!!
Jan 22nd.. just a little tired today! Packed my bag as I´m heading over to my friend Jo`s for a few days (a new found friend from our Spanish school days in Cuenca, Ecuador earlier in my trip! She is very nicely putting me up for the rest of my time in BA). Decided to go to check out the San Telmo area with Netta and Joachim. Six blocks south of the key Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo attracts artists with its low rents and aging, but still beautiful mansions. Its also all about tango here! We had a fantastic day pottering around the incredible antique market in Plaza Dorrego. From antique watches, beautiful crystal, vintage clothes and vivid colored glass - this place had it all! Then we went for an amazing traditional Argentinian lunch -- yup i finally had my Argentinian steak!!! and there was a tango show in the restaurant - incredible! How lucky am i!! Eventually headed back to the hostel to pick up my bag ..had to say good bye to my new friends.. ahh the heartbreak of hostel living!
Over to Jo`s apartment in a different part of the city - Palermo . really cool area. Went out for dinner with Jo, her friend Amanda also studying to be an English teacher in BA and Helene, a good friend of Jo`s from their Columbia days together.. !Had a great time and saw tons of tango in the squarewhere an old man of about 75 almost pushed me to the ground to get at Jo and swing her around the square!!! Huh - old folks today - really!
Jan 23rd. Helene and i went out to conquer the city today. Caught the bus (not this one, i just liked the look of it!) to the Recoleta cemetary again- yes id been before, but was happy to act as a mini-tour guide for Helene... and i do LOVE cemetaries, especially this one! Then of course it was time for cafe con leche and we were having a great chat before these two Columbian businessmen started chatting to us - gosh we couldnt get rid of them! Eventually, we headed off again, this time down to the Plaza de Mayo, and checked out Catedral Metropolitano, the square and of course Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace. . Look carefully and you can see the balcony where Evita gave many a stirring speech during her heyday in the 1940´s! Then it was over to Puerto Madera the port area of BA which apparantly has been given a much needed face lift recently, and is now a very trendy restaurant area with great bars. No rest for the wicked, so we walked back to the Ave de Mayo to meet Helene´s friend Rodrigo, who lives in BA, at the famous Cafe Tortoni..I loved this traditional old cafe, known for its charming old time atmosphere and ambience...
On our way back to Palermo, Rodrigo treated us to a speedy (and i mean speedy! This boy zoomed us all over town in about half an hour!)tour of BA - from the Hipodromo (race track), Little Ben aka "Torres de los Ingleses", the Palermo lakes, the famous white Obelisk that punctuates the giant Av 9 de Julio, and of course, the Campo de Polo polo grounds, where only the elite take part in this very Argentinian sport! We saw it all! Awfully nice of him and again many more reasons to make me love BA even more!
Jan 24th - the Museo de Evita. This provided a really interesting review of her life and the love she had for both her husband Juan Peron and also her country..ok maybe ive read too much of "her" story but she did do alot for the poor and for womens rights.. but I suppose she did also enjoy an incredibly luxurious life style, and apparantly used her considerable influence to "get rid off" those opposing political figures that didnt agree with her and her husbands political philosophies. Did you know she was asked by her party to become Vice President, but although she wanted it so much she was asked, and agreed, not to accept it because she was such a controversial figure! And when she died of cancer at the age of 33, her body was sent to Spain and buried under a false name (again ´cos the new regime hated her so much!) and when it was finally sent back for burial in Argentina, it was concluded that her body had been beaten quite badly... and after death! Fingers cut off, lots of cuts and bruises, her feet were put in some type of acid, and there were also other more dodgy rumours that i wont go into ... It is amazing how one woman could bring about such love and hatred in her short life!!!
Jan 25th - last day in BA for a while at least... thankfully could cut the mochilla contents in half and leave a ton of stuff with Jo - LOVE HER for that!! We met for lunch then I headed off to the bus station for my ride to Santiago.. actually its weird, but I´m really quite enjoying the bus journeys now.. and of course it goes without saying, that i LOVED Buenos Aires.... and cant wait to come back in a few weeks!