BA; capital of tango, polo, football & steaks

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bring it on! To be fair we arrived into BA having organised none of these things but our hopes were high.  After an argument with some dodgy taxi drivers (who should know better than to pick an argument with people who've been on a nightbus) we managed to find a proper cab to take us to San Telmo where we’d managed to arrange to stay in a gorgeous house (owned by a friend), complete with en suite rooms for all of us, a roof terrace, not one but two tango rooms and a hilarious free tango lesson (thanks again Anthony).   Before we got there though we had a date in a cafe where we were very excited to find our friend Poppy waiting, three coffees down, having arrived from London to also join us for a couple of weeks, and ready for some fun BA-styley.

Our first great excitement was when we found out that not only was there a polo match on while we were in town ... but it was England v Argentina.  Having managed to procure ourselves tickets we donned our finest clothes (which in our case it has to be said doesn’t mean an awful lot) and set off to cheer on the home country.  Now, none of us know anything about polo but handily there was an American sat behind us with some friends who was something of an expert and explained the rules to his friends all the way through which we could eavesdrop on.  We didn’t need much help to understand who was playing better though when, after a promising start and despite our enthusiastic cheering, it ended 13-8 to Argentina.  After the match most of the crowd swarmed the pitch to see the presentation of the cup and Claire, Poppy and Sarah decided that no, they had no pride, and went to have a picture taken with the team captain Luke Tomlinson (who confessed he was going to the Royal Wedding the next week and was indeed there to be seen in all his glory sitting in the nave on the BBC coverage).

Next up was steak and tango!  We’d had a recommendation for a steak house which turned out to be a few blocks from where we were staying.  We nearly had a family argument before we’d even managed to get an order in though when Gordon & Richard wanted to order extra portions of chips and the rest of us said they wouldn’t be necessary.  In a mature and sensible way they insisted that yes we would order THREE sets of chips and yes they would eat every single chip that was left over.  Needless to say we had plenty of food but took great pleasure in making them polish off every last one. As well as chips, the restaurant (the Gran Parrilla del Plata) served us steaks that were not only cooked perfectly, which is to say not very cooked at all (bizarrely we’d found steak in Argentina often overcooked- no matter what you said), but up there with the best steaks we’ve ever had.  So it was a brilliant meal already, and that was before the restaurant gave us two bottles of free champagne.  Fantastic!  We then rolled round to a tango show, at the end of which they sang an early happy birthday to Sarah and got her up on stage to dance with one of the dancers which she was hugely embarrassed about loved. Following tango, the younger generation headed off to show the people of San Telmo how to dance...

So polo, steak and tango; tick, tick, tick.  Final thing on our list was football!  Unfortunately Boca Juniors were away the weekend we were in town but River Plate were playing a Mendozan team and we managed to get tickets.  Another friend from university, Anna (aka Little Anna), had also come to join us by now so we were quite a crowd.  Having got to the stadium past ranks and ranks of riot police with huge tear gas guns, giant horses and what were basically tanks, we found that about 95% of the stadium were River fans making an absolute racket, and we were in the thick of them and soon trying to sing along to the songs and chants (Vamos Vamos Vamos Vamos River Plate!). The game started well with a goal to River and the stadium went mad.  So far, though, there was none of the madness and general nastiness we’d heard about at Argentinian football games, until at half time Poppy and Sarah went to look at the view out the back of the stadium only to have people shout at them to stand back.  It turned out the visitors stand was directly above them and they were peeing off the back to try and hit the River fans.  Nice.  The second half seemed to be going well until at one point when the players were at the opposite end and we couldn’t see what was happening.  The whole stadium went dead quiet... tumbleweed blew across the pitch and all the Mendoza players seemed to be bundling each other.  It took us a few minutes to realise that they had scored.  When they got a second twenty minutes later you could have heard a pin drop.  Despite the home team not winning the whole evening was quite an experience!  By the time we had been held in the stadium for 45 minutes while the visiting fans got safely away we were feeling a bit peckish and there was really only one choice – we went straight back to the same steak restaurant for more fantastic steaks and more free champagne.  It should perhaps be mentioned that Sarah at this point was still suffering from one of her worst ever hangovers and for the first (and possibly only) time in her life had to turn down free champagne.

In amongst the sport and eating we did manage to see a little of BA with a spot of shopping, trips to the cemetery, Boca, strolling San Telmo’s markets and generally (despite the hangovers and sporting results) had a fantastic family Argentinian Easter weekend.  Although we’re still annoyed we couldn’t find Hot Cross Buns.
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