Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
32Trip End Feb 26, 2010
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Where I stayed
Carlos Gardel Hostel, San Telmo
We stayed in San Telmo, the birthplace of the Tango, where rows of old Spanish colonial buildings are crammed in around cobbled streets, and the cafes that dot every corner are full of very stylish locals having more fumes than can possibly be healthy coughed into their faces by rattly old buses.
The only down side to our lovely hostel was a rather sinister old woman, who might have lived there. She decided to set up camp outside our door despite seeming to have a perfectly good room of her own and spent her days looking dangerous pretending to use an iron that wasn't plugged in. She smiled like a crazy lady whos wed and buried more than a handful of husbands in her time and cashed in multiple life insurance policies along the way. We tried to avoid her at all costs but she seemed to melt out of the walls as we tiptoed in at night and fumbled the key in the lock thinking all was clear. Before we had a chance to slam the door shut and brace it with a chair she would utter her chilling greeting "Hola chicos", guaranteeing us another sleepless night.
Having no rhythm or coordination Carol and I were at a considerable disadvantage when taking Tango lessons and we both got a bit sweary when we weren't really good at it straight away. Carol's annoyance peaked when a harmless middle aged lady in the class cut in and forced me to dance with her. The unfortunate woman was then the victim of whats known on crimewatch as an "Uxbridge stare", a malevolent glare that precedes an act of terrible violence which is all too common in that dark corner of Middlesex. The crone took her cue from Carols homicidal gaze and scuttled away into the shadows like a cockroach when the lights come on.
Speaking of Uxbridge, Carol was obviously feeling homesick and missing the manicured lawns of UB10 when she decided that we simply had to go to a polo match. In the interests of maintaining our relationship I am now banned from whingeing about it anymore, suffice to say we were ripped off to the tune of 500 pesos for the privilige of being driven to a game by some toff who was going anyway and gave us tickets to a match that was free to get in to.
Lots of fun was had and amazing sights seen, including an eerie cemetry the size of a small town which is home to the great and good of Argentinas dead.
This entry is already too long so below is an account of our favourite day in Buenos.
We decided to attend a football match at "La Bombonera" home of Boca Juniors, Argentinas most famous football club.
Their fans are mental and every season someone gets stabbed. During a derby match against hated rivals River plate three years ago, play had to be stopped several times because fans were throwing BULLETS at opposition players. Being a veteran of two West Ham v Millwall encounters that got a bit tasty, I was confident I could handle myself. Carol I wasnt so sure about, but I was still angry about the Polo so found it hard to care.
Boca is the roughest part of Buenos Aires and notoriously dangerous for tourists. You can only buy tickets from the ground on matchday and the natives dont take too kindly to gringos turning up at the 11th hour and pretending to support their team by buying expensive seats that hardcore working class fan could never afford. Football is all that some of these lunatics think they have to live for and they will gladly kill or die or do both to protect its sanctity. It was very important not to stand out.
With that in mind we arrived at the ground in club t-sirts we´d bought the day before and bowled out of our air conditioned cab, clumsily unfurling a wad of 100 peso notes to pay the driver in full view of a half mile long queue of dangerous looking football thugs who had been boiling in the heat all morning. After taking our place in the cauldron of hate that was the line for far too long, a steward who didnt want to have to talk to the Police about a double murder that day (he might miss kick off), took pity on us and steered us down the road to a different queue.
After waiting patiently for three kids and an old guy to buy their tickets we got ours but my excitement was instantly dented when Carol verbally tore my balls off for "booking seats next to a load of kids in the family section" when she "thought we were going in with the hardcore?!". After explaining the dangers of mingling with these lunatics and pointing out that even Danny Dyer wouldnt go in there, she smiled sympathetically and as if she was talking to a 4yr old who´s scared of the dark said: "OK don´t worry it´s only a once in a lifetime experience we´re missing out on, lets go before these nasty men get you".
Sometimes guidebooks tell you that going to a certain place is like "stepping back in time", that´s exactly what San Telmo sunday market is like but it doesn´t take you back to a more innocent and idyllic time when you left your front door unlocked and let tramps look after your car keys, it was more like being in an episode of ´love thy neighbour´. Thanks to the worlds most bizarre marketing strategy the local stall holders seem to think that they´ll hoik far more of their unsellables to tourists if they black up for the day, the thinking being: who wouldn´t want to buy a knackered gramaphone from a man dressed up as a gollywog?
Other than for being a covert Klan and black magic stronghold, San Telmo market is also famous for it´s world class pickpockets. Whilst browsing the stalls a couple of years ago one of George Bushs kids had her wallet lifted from her purse despite the presence of ten security guards, they are that good. Luckily Carol & I look quite shabby on this holiday so we were left unmolested to enjoy the unique sights of the worlds most un-pc market.
Meanwhile it was time for the match which was well worth it if only for the fans who go crazy at every opportunity. Even Carol had to admit that the seats were perfect as we had an excellent view of the drunken throng behind the goals, it was like watching a riot from a hotel balcony as they danced like loons all drunk and shirtless at any near miss. Match was terrible though 0-0 and the only disappointing thing to happen to us in Buenos Aires