Ten Days in Buenos Aires
Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
66Trip End Nov 29, 2014
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Happy New Years from Buenos Aires!!!
Some interesting facts;
Us Brits are not on the greatest terms with Argentina at the moment, cut a long story short... They want the Falkland Islands... It's under UK rule. You can thank Thatcher for that.
On a happier note, Buenos Aires is the birthplace of the current pope, Francis.
Tango originated in brothels in the immigrant ghetto of Buenos Aires in the late 19th century, in what is the present-day harbor of La Boca neighborhood
In Buenos Aires, soccer is like religion, and the best-known clubs are River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club and San Lorenzo. The nation boasts two World Cup prizes and countless world footie stars.
We had no idea what to expect from the most visited city in South America, many of our friends had said they loved it, a few expressed that they felt unsafe and one guy told us that he spent a week here and "there was not much to see, but it's a hell of a good party boss!". You know who you are!
With it's European influence, the city has been referred to as the 'Paris of South America' and it's just gorgeous. Stepping out from the speedy tube or "subte" in the metropolis, we span around with our mouths and eyes wide. We've collectively been to a fair few European cities, but neither of us could think of one comparable. Tree lined wide streets (oh, the widest in the world), mary poppins-esque lamp posts, park upon nature reserve upon garden of stunning flora. It was the diverse 18th century architecture throughout Buenos Aires that got me. I got a little snap happy in the centre... I have a weak spot for historical structures, which were everywhere! From the phallic obelisk, the pink presidential palace casa rosada, from which Evita pleased her crowds, the colourful homes in la boca, the interesting colonial boutiques in San telmo... Pillars, angels, gargoyles. Even the zoo is crammed with beautiful structures and aviaries
We were advised to stay in the Palermo district as this was safer. It has also seen a surge in 'hip' restaurants and bars within the last decade making it a hotspot for backpackers and tourists alike.
Arriving in Buenos Aires I'd regretfully given David the task of getting us from the bus station to 'El Dogo' hostel in Palermo. I'm fortunate enough to memorise a map and navigate from there, but David has a tendency to disbelieve my spacial awareness. He thinks this is a male attribute and "men are better at map reading; FACT". So he got the "macho" job. I thought he could manage this slither of responsibility after all, I'd organised the bus trip from Paraguay and sorted our first place to stay. I was super wrong. I must have written about David's spacial awareness?! He couldn't get from A to B if the co-ordinates were at adjacent ends of a singular straight road. He's hopeless, yet he has continued to hog the maps along our travels. Walking around lost is an everyday occurrence. Anyway, we ended up on the complete opposite side of Palermo. In the sweltering heat, with 18kg upon my bad back (he got away with 12kg) we walked around 20 blocks to our final destination. Everything was soaked with sweat. The guys that ran the hostel checked to see if it was raining: "your hair is so wet maaaan".
El dogo hostel was a huge change from anything we'd been used to...small, the slowest air con fans, a bland breakfast and they'd ran out of maps...?! Well, it was run by men after all. After showers we headed out for a steak and beers..
In hostel dorms, rather than having a bed each, we tend to take one up for our luggage and the other single bed, we share. On our first night in Buenos Aires we did this as normal. The said AC was failing us, six bodies in a confined hostel dorm took it's toll. And about ten minutes into our snuggle we ended up top and tail, falling out of the bed... "Don't touch me... You're bloody touching me... Get the hell off me.... If your radiating toe even thinks about coming anywhere near me I will kill you". Funny night.
After two nights we moved to 'Buenos Artes' hostel. There was art on the walls, it was a real hippy place, none of the staff looked over 20, were all high and slept on the roof. Think stig of the dump and you can't go wrong. The hostel is the kind of place where you're pleasantly surprised when there is toilet roll available and where you're not surprised when you go to use the sink and someone has clearly trimmed their pubic hair into it without so much of a swill. Great! The breakfast here was not so great... Oh how we longed for the protein of 'El dogo'. We asked if there was any coffee and the polite Amanda Seyfried look-alike was happy to make us some coffee. Some 20 minutes later, she brought it to our table. David kindly poured it into each plastic mug, we both added several heaps of dried milk and tilted them toward our mouths. It was turd. We then proceeded to bitch about the breakfast, the weird staff and this god awful coffee that no caffiene addict would ever be able to finish. Then someone at the next table turned to us and said "I'm sorry about the coffee, it was the first time I made it". It was Amanda Seyfried... David waffled on how it was the dried milk or the heat or something or nothing..
Another morning, 90 minutes into the allotted breakfast time, we reluctantly stumbled into the dining area and we're met with a flask of coffee and 20 empty plastic cups. The coffee was still gross and no Amanda to blame it on... Was there supposed to be breakfast?!
I walked up to one guy; "does this place include breakfast? Cause we've not had any for three mornings..." This guy was sorry, he'd run out immediately to buy breakfast. He came back to ten or so hungry people.... With a single loaf of bread. About a slice and a half each. We bought breakfast from a lovely cafe from then on. They must have hated us...snobby gringos.
Talking of gringos, the Argentinians really make use of the foreigners and their hard cash. If a museum entry is AR$ 50 for Argentinians it will be AR$ 130 for foreigners... When you board a bus, they charge you for putting on your rucksack... Then when you get off, before you're aware of where you are, some guy has taken off your belongings and has placed it 3 metres to one side and are looking at you rubbing their thumb and fingers (think of Rob Shneider in Home Alone 2 as he waits at Kevin's hotel door for some cash) I wish I had chewing gum. AR$70 down 5 steps on Argentinian soil.
As any half-knowledgeable Economist knows, Argentina has experienced some troubled times with their beloved Peso.
In recent years, the street-wise traveller exchanges their cash for US dollars in neighbouring countries (Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguary) before entering the land of Peronism
We met a few cautious travellers who were dead against using the black market in this way and scores of people from Europe who were completely unaware of the financial benefits of the 'blue dollar'. Then again, if it wasn't for our friends Michael Sotnyk and Chiara Perano, and there wise words, we might not have used Azimo to turn our Pounds into Pesos... Cheers guys, we owe you a drink!
Azimo are a financial services company who specialise in money transfers across the globe. So, online, you send them your pounds and pick up your money from a selected location in your chosen currency. Luckily, there are about 20 locations in Buenos Aires to pick up from.
A quick maths lesson; through Azimo we were able to get a rate of 15.28 Arg Peso to the British Pound. The official exchange fluctuates between 10.3 and 10.7... A no-brainer indeed. Get on the 'blue dollar'.
We made two pick ups in Buenos Aires
David found the whole process pretty exhilarating, bounding down Avenia Corrientes after completing the transaction and gripping his bag in sheer dread of any passer by that might have X-ray vision!
He's compared his 'daring deed' to that of George Jung in the film Blow. It's gone to his head, he's reckons he's some kind of big shot, full of bravado just because he's exchanged some money.
So much so, that he's been reminding me of this scene over and over and over again, help!
I've adored Johnny Depp for longer than I can remember and struggle to see how exchanging a bit of money in an entirely legal manner compares to smuggling cocaine across international boarders
For the second pickup, I decided to go with him for two reasons.
One, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Would it be as dangerous and thrilling as I'd been led to believe? My other reason, was that David had got lost the first time, and he admitted to me how frustrated and annoyed he was...I didn't want him gesticulating at speedy motorists and cursing himself for taking a wrong turn...again
Upon arrival at the money exchanged booth, you take a ticket, which acts as your place in the queue (just as you would at the deli counter in Sainsburys) and take a seat.
Handling in your passport and a reference number is easy enough. It was fairly daunting to see so much cash, but they have money counting machine which gives you reassurance that you aren't being ripped off. Knowing that we had to walk down the street and carry so much money back to our hostel was a little unsettling but you'd be stupid NOT to take advantage of the 'Blue Dollar', and taking risks keeps you young!
All in all, the whole process wasn't as thrilling as David made out, but hey, if we'd walked the wrong way for 45 minutes, like he did the first time, we might have been more relieved to get back to our hostel
We've been taking fully clothed showers during the night and getting into bed dripping, as there is no air con here in this hostel. So refreshing.
And although we continually drink litres and litres of water daily, we rarely pass urine and when we do it's of apple juice colouring. We would have a fluid balance of 3000ml per day. Showering two/three times per day is of minor relief... As our bodies start to dry we start to sweat again. Relentless.
Apart from heat, there is nothing similar in Argentina's and Paraguay's capital city. In Paraguay, men ceased everything to have a good old gawk and more often than not a slur in their native tongue... I was glad my Spanish is poor enough to have no idea what they said. In Argentina you're just another gringo.
We haven't dined like gringos, we have eaten like kings (Let's not even mention breakfast). We've had sirloin steaks, succulent lamb, the tastiest quarter pounds, beautiful cakes and croissants
We haven't ventured out of Palermo Vieja in the evening, it has the highest concentration of bars, restaurants and clubs in Buenos Aires.
We found US$60 in our bag one night, David's sister gave us before we took off... Kerrrching! Thanks to you Kath, we've dined in one of the top restaurants in South America, La Cabrera... Mmmm tucking into a big juicy medium-rare steak, washed down with fruity Malbec from Mendoza!
New Years Eve was a huge treat too, after a 40 minute walk around anyway. South America around New Years just shuts down, it's a family occasion... So there were very few restaurants and bars open. Every time I suggested one, I got a big whiney "it's too quiet, it's too loud, I want to sit outside, I don't want a set menu". We settled for a restaurant with a set menu.... I could see David grimacing as we sat there looking at the menu...
"The musician... He needs to turn that amp down"
I looked past David and there was a guy covering the Beatles on his guitar
David actually asked the waiter if we could move our table to the other end of the outdoor seating area.
The waiter scuttled off, had a word with someone, the next thing we knew, "here comes the sun" ceased midway through and off the busker went.
David was happy... "Oh he has Nike's on... He's not homeless Tash".
We had a lovely night anyway, the Argentinians like to set fireworks off in every street... After our lovely lamb and two bottles of red, we proceeded to the bars, downing beer after beer until 5am, when I fell asleep.
This was only one of a few nights out. Buenos aires is the party capital. However, most nights we were in bed by midnight and getting up when our roomies were getting in. Old farts!
We have been complete culture vultures and made the most of pretty much every day. Two hangover days in bed don't count. We have been everywhere that a tour bus would take you, but we've done it all on foot.
First up is the micro centre, we walked around stunned at how pretty it all is, crammed with buildings of historical importance, the cathedral metropolitana, the palace, churches dotted around the 18th century buildings. We queued for over half an hour to have coffee and cakes at the charming, famous Café Tortoni. We took a detour to a tourist friendly book shop "El Ateneo", a gorgeous building which used to be a theatre and has renaissance paintings on the ceiling
The cemetery in "ritzy" Recoleta is as showy as the rest of the city. It seems the deceased's families have tried to outdo each other with the tombs. Evita's tomb drew a lot of attention.
We went to San Telmo, pretty little cobbled streets. On Sundays there is a street market, not dissimilar to Brick Lane. Full of art, antiques, tango street performers and boutiques.
Took a taxi trip to out of the way La Boca football stadium, home to the Boca Juniors team. Took a little tour around, not much I have to say about that. However, there was a little boy with a laser, I'm sure they got banned back in the UK. Every time I looked down, I could see a red dot of light focused upon my body. He started doing the same to David. We were scowling at him, this only made it worse. We thought we might lose our sight if he pointed it at our faces. Very scary! We spent a large proportion of our time, ducking and diving away from him
David wanted an Argentinian football top. We had a good look around and he picked up the one he wanted with a big smile. In true David style, it was a vest. And it was pink. He bought it in a large and went on a big ramble about how his footy team at home would look great in this kit.... "Yeah, this pink vest, navy shorts and a purple bandana". He cannot wait to send a picture to the lads!
La Boca is also home to the 'caminito' a stretch of really colourful metal buildings and trees, bollards and posts decorated with brightly woven wool. We thought we'd grab dinner here as we wanted to watch tango dancers who seemed to perform at every restaurant. Being the old farts that we are, we settled for a quieter pizzeria. As soon as we were shown to our seats, I could see why it was quieter, I looked at the tango dancers. Their performance was ok but, the male dancer was LOVING himself... When the music stopped, he put his smouldering face on and kind of pointed to us and did a trot around the stage... Clip clopping his tap dancing shoes all over the show. I took a picture of the cringe-fest... Phew!
There are plenty of museums and art galleries, we visited two art galleries, one Renaissance Art, where the staff's eyes followed us around as though we were about to stuff a Van Gogh into out pocket
Quote of the trip: while sipping on fizzy water; "this doesn't hydrate you as normal water though"
Due to our longer than average time in Buenos Aires, we've noticed a little more. Here, they love a protest, to eat late and party until breakfast (possibly why their breakfast is so awful), cigarettes cost around 80pence, they love a late night film. Yes, at 11pm on a Sunday, the cinemas are heaving. We participated in Sunday cinema EVERY SUNDAY! The 2nd 'Hunger Games' and 'The Wolf of Wall Street' we're luckily not dubbed and Argentinians as well as the rest of South America have to read subtitles! We were so smug.
Last couple of nights we had someone stay in our dorm. In this heat, I'm accustomed to sleeping in knickers and a vest. No one has blinked an eyelid. While getting ready one night, prancing around in my knickers I felt the eyes of our fellow dorm dweller. I'd been crouching, bending and jumping up to the top bunk, then as I settled down, David reminded me I had Lacey knickers on: they were completely see-through.
We're gutted to leave Buenos Aires, it's been awesome seeing the New Year in here and we have seen and done everything Buenos Aires has to offer.... Off to Uruguay we go!
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