An amazing end to an amazing trip

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

First stop in Buenos Aires was the shops. We had read that we might not get into some of the nicer places in the city wearing our traveller chic clothing so we kitted me up with a dress and some sandals and Kevin with jeans and a nice t-shirt!  Shopping done and we decided to do something more interesting.  Despite being our 3rd arrival in BsAs – first time for the passports and 2nd time before we went to Areco – we hadn't yet seen any sights or wandered around much and we only had 5 days to get the whole city in!

The first evening we arranged to meet up with Nico, the Argentinian guy that we had met over a year earlier on the Everest Base Camp trek, and his girlfriend Julia.  Before we went out we got to see one of the sights that isn't in the guide book, the fantastic view from their flat.  A few photos later and we headed out for a drink and some meat – we are in Argentina after all!  It was really nice seeing Nico, although we felt a little lazy as we've done nothing but travel since we met him last November and he's now working and has a lovely apartment! We exchanged some stories about our travels as Nico had continued travelling for 6 months, and then moved on to something else so as not to bore Julia too much! 

The next day we had booked ourselves in for a trip to the football. A big passion of the Argentinians obviously! I would have preferred to just buy some tickets and head along but we had heard that the crowds can be a little dangerous. So much so that a couple of weeks before there had been a riot at the El Monumental, the stadium of River Plate. This meant that they were only allowing 70% of the tickets to be sold meaning we weren't even sure we’d get one through the tour company we’d booked with. We shouldn't have worried. Our pick up was at the McDonald's around the corner from our hotel. We were expecting a little mini bus but what finally arrived was a full 50 seater packed with tourists. Great. Most of them looked like they were on the way to the beach rather than a football club. Flip flops, big sunglasses and girls in dresses all round. We were going to be so inconspicuous!  We got to our seats at about 3 hours before kick-off, again to avoid the crowds for safety. There were already a lot of people there and it was really cool to sit there and watch the stadium fill with colour and noise. Huge flags and plenty of drums got the atmosphere really going and it never really stopped for the whole match. The game itself wasn’t the best but the whole experience was great. Even Liz enjoyed it I think (except for the odd occasion when she zoned out!)! Old Trafford will never match up when we go!

Sunday is market day in San Telmo and we joined the hordes of locals and tourists wandering up and down the street perusing the countless stalls.  We bought a couple of small things, including a freshly cooked Choripan when we got a little peckish – amazing, but most of the time was spent soaking up the atmosphere.  In the heart of San Telmo we came across something else that Buenos Aires is famous for, street tango.  Obviously it’s just for the tourists, and it was a little uninteresting when they pulled up a gringo with two left feet to dance with them, but when the 2 'professionals’ were dancing together it was pretty cool to watch.  Once we had had enough of the market we started walking towards La Boca to get a glimpse of Maradona’s stadium.  On the way we walked past a band playing tango music – watching 4 accordion players moving their instruments in unison was pretty impressive.  As we passed into La Boca we started to feel a little uncomfortable.  The area doesn't have the best reputation – the hostel owner in Bariloche warned us that if we passed into one particular area we would definitely die!  Not knowing how far away we were from that area we nearly turned around but then a tourist bus went past and we followed its route to the stadium, where there was a pocket full of that type of tourist who isn't adventurous and gets bussed from one place to the next!! After Kevin had posed with the statue of Maradona we walked into La Boca for a beer and got another free tango show.  We then had a wander around to see some of the amazing colourful buildings in the area, before grabbing a taxi to get quickly and safely back to our hostel as we had evening plans.   

That night we headed to out to experience a Tango show. We decided to go the whole hog and booked a dinner alongside the show in one of the more up-scale spots on Avenue 9 de Julio, Tango Poteņo.  We got ourselves all dressed up in the fanciest clothes we’d worn in a while (although I still looked like a bit of a tramp with my beard) and headed in to town. The show also included a short tango lesson with two of the dancers before it started and we were keen to show off our skills from the one lesson we’d had back in London.  I must say we didn't exactly wow them with our skills, but we had to follow the lesson in Spanish and we did get a certificate each in the end! Fully qualified now. We had a great table for the show and the food was tasty. The show itself was very impressive. Not exactly the traditional tango I’m sure and maybe a little ‘Hollywood’ but the talent was very impressive and well worth a night out.

The next day we toured around the Microcentre of Buenos Aires, the heart of the city. We headed first to Plaza de Mayo, the scene of some of the biggest rallies in Argentinian history and the square that would have been filled with people when Evita stood on the balcony to sing her songs (!). The square is surrounded by some impressive buildings like the Banco de la Nacion and the Catedral Metropolitana and at the eastern end the enormous Casa Rosada, home of the El Presidente. The building is a reddy-pink colour which one theory says comes from the fact it was painted with bovine blood! We walked around the building and visited a new underground museum about the history of the building, that was also a bit of a shrine to the last president of Argentina who died a few years ago and whose wife is the current president. A bit weird really.  We walked from there down the Av de Mayo, crossing the 24 lane Av 9 de Julio (mental!) to the Plaza de Congresso. We did our usual, found a park bench and sat down to chat surrounded by the pigeons! We snapped a few pics of the Palacio del Congresso and kept walking. At this point the skies decided to open so we took refuge in an ice-cream store! A couple of cones later and we were back on the streets. It’s a very European city and you could be in Paris given a lot of the architecture of the city. We headed to Florida next, one of the major shopping streets of BsAs.  We picked up a few presents for people back home and had a look around some of the big fancy shopping galleries. One had a really cool Christmas tree up and we of course took the opportunity to visit a coffee shop and have another sit down. That night we went to La Bomba del Tiempo (The Time Bomb), an incredibly impressive live percussion show. The venue was a really cool arty warehouse type place and I think if the weather is guaranteed good they do the show outside, but this time we were inside and boy was it hot. The show was brilliant though. About 15 guys lined up on various different drums and bongos with incredible rhythm. They had some guest musician on trumpet for some of songs but the noise and atmosphere they could create with just beats was amazing. We went back to the hostel buzzing and promising we’d do more cultural/musical stuff when we get home.

The next day we went to see the enormous, slightly over the top and a little weird Recoleta cemetery.  It’s like a mini city where the ‘streets’ are lined with massive mausoleums, statues and sarcophagi. Anyone who was anyone in Argentina is buried here, including Eva Peron, past presidents, military heroes (including the odd Irishman who helped in the war against the Spanish) and all the rich and famous. Some of the tombs are a little ridiculous and must have cost a small fortune but I guess at that point you don’t have much else to spend your money on! We didn't stay too long as there wasn't much shade and it was a very hot day. We decided to walk back to the hostel though and on the way stopped in on the Evita museum. She’s a divisive figure in Argentinian politics, kind of like Maggie Thatcher I guess, but it can’t be denied she had a huge impact for someone who died at the age of 33. The house gives a good insight into her life and has an impressive array of memorabilia including some of her clothes, shoes and hats which Liz loved.

That night was the last night of our trip. I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. It’s been an incredible fourteen and a half months that always seemed too long to ever actually finish! We met up with Nico and Julia again for a drink before we went to dinner which was really good as they could ask us all the ‘top country’ ‘top moment’ type questions that got us thinking back on all the parts of the whole trip. It was also nice to finish it with someone who had met so long ago near the start. As a final fling we went to one of the most recommended restaurant in BsAs, La Cabrera, and went the whole hog which cheese to start, huge steaks, chocolate desserts and two really great bottles of wine. I tried to make excuses for it to the waiter about it being our last night but he didn’t seem too bothered! There were quite a few tears as we talked back through all the amazing times we’d had together and came to the realisation that it was all over. :(
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