City of shimmering lights

Trip Start Sep 22, 2007
Trip End Nov 10, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

12000km and half a day later we begin our descent into the capital of Argentina. For me, the flight has been uncomfortable with Alitalia. The seats seem even smaller than usual, the bathroom is dirty and the wine had little effect to help me sleep. Still, even before we have touched down, it seems as though we have already arrived in South America as there appears to be no other British tourists on board. Most of the other clients are middle to old aged, well dressed and extremely friendly. John sits next to an extraordinarily large guy who looks as though he has eaten a lot of beef steaks. Within 1 hour of the flight has introduced himself, told us where he lives near Bariloche and has passed on his phone number, insisting that we call him when we reach the Lake District.

Our plane gently descends into the city. Miles of urban lights set in a grid structure shimmer in the darkness. From our elevated view, the morning is beginning with a beautiful sunrise with streaks of orange and red lighting up the horizon. It is a spectacular entry into South America.

As we touch down, the Argentinians applaud with real joy as though happy to be returning to their home country. New friends exchange handshakes and farewells as we empty the plane. 

By 8am we have collected our bags and are sitting on a coach which takes us into the centre. The seats are gianormous and even though the price of the journey is double that (9USD per person) of the quoted price in our Footprints Argentina, 2003 edition we find the 1 hour trip extremely comfortable and a pure pleasure.

We have travelled from autumn to spring and it is suprising to see the winter trees bearing new life with fresh green buds and young leaves. As the sun rises, still low in the sky, beams of light filter through the branches. In the fields, the overnight dew rises to form swathes of magical mist.

In the centre of the city it takes some time to find some accomodation. We have a shock as the first two hotels we try are fully booked and even worse, have doubled their prices. However we find a room in the V&S hostel (USD 50 per night). Our double room has bags of character with a curved wooden entrance door, 2 inner doors with beautiful stained glass, high ceilings, a balcony overlooking a square. It is tastefully decorated with simple but classical furniture and it has a nice finishing touch of a posy of freiscias which welcomes us to the 'primavera' from all the staff.

I visited Buenos Aires in October 2004 for a conference and I have always wanted to take John to this fantastic city. Unfortunately we discover that my most treasured memory of the Theatre Colon, a colonial theatre complete with numerous workshop rooms for the artists, ballerinas, sewing and costumes, is now closed until 2010.

We visit all my favourite sites, starting in La Boca where we stroll around the artists lined streets of Caminito. Colourful corrugated houses richly painted in different bright colours line the main street and in the square we watch a couple of tango dancers.

La Boca (the Mouth) was once a busy port for the city with plenty of traders and sailors passing through. Now however it is a poor area and we are recommended not to stray from the main streets. We visit the Museo de Bellas Artes "Benito Quinquela". Quinquela was originally from La Boca and is famous for his paintings of the ships, docks and workers. The atmospheric galleries of bright orange swirls of hot fire with black sillhoutes of the ship workers are emphasised by the sound of local children taking classes in the large rooms below and a talented student playing scales and very complicated music on the piano.

San Telmo is our next stop. This area is filled with mansions and is now the antique district. The antique shops are packed with high quality furniture. I am really impressed by some of the wooden chests that contain 2-3 drawers of silver cutlery. John takes a keen interest in a selection of old telephones. Each one is different with wooden bodies and brass handles. They have been reconditioned and cost a mere 400 Pesos (stlg 80). Given some time and patience it wont take much to find some unique treasures.  

During my last trip, I had the most delicious beef sandwich from El Desnival (855 Defensa, San Telmo). I am convinced that all the food from Buenos Aires is excellent, but we re-visit this cafe, just to re-live the memory. Nothing has changed inside. There are wooden tables with leather seats, it is packed and there is a large open barbeque for cooking. We order 2 lomitos with a bottle of sparkling water. The chef places 2 beef fillets onto the barbeque, opening a small side door to shovel some more hot coals underneath the meat. After splitting open some thick crusty bread and slicing a pickled pepper to go inside, he momentarily presents us with the cooked meat which is dripping with juices before placing them onto the bread, closing the tops and handing them over on a paper plate. The sanwich still tastes as good as I remember, and we eat them in Plaza Dorrego feeling the warmth of the sun. We both feel pretty good and it is a pretty good buy at stlg 3.50 for us both.

From San Telmo we walk to Plaza de Mayo. Here there is the pink Casa Rosada which houses the government seat. Peron famously appeared here before crowds of happy people. It has also witnessed the masses of angry people during the economy crumble in 2001. The cathedral (first church of Buenos Aires) is also on this plaza. Inside it houses the tomb of the liberator of Argentina from the Spainards, General Jose de San Martin. It is one of the only catherdrals to have guards armed with swords.

The day is almost over. We take a siesta back in the hostel. Then we visit a travel agent recommended by the hostel. We nearly opt to take a 5 day guided tour to Esteros del Ibera which includes all transport and full board in a luxury resort for stlg 177 per person, but then we decide to make the trip ourselves. Apart from the potential lower cost, making our own decisions (and mistakes) is all part of the fun of travelling independently.

We take the metro (10p each) to Retiro where we find the bus station. The station is huge with literally hundreds of companies. We locate some companies offering cama (big fat, fully reclining seats) and book up with Fletcha bus (stlg 15 each). We leave tomorrow at 9pm and will arrive in Mercedes 9 hours later, at 6am.

Feeling extremely tired, we return to the centre and find Broccolino (776 Esmeralda). I order fresh black taggliatelle with primavera sauce (this of course includes Broccoli) and John takes the 'Tony' sauce with Ricotoni pasta. We wash this down with some fine Malbec wine, followed by desserts, and the bill comes to stlg 14.

Its strange to think this is the end of our first day. Its 15 months since we were last in South America, yet within less than 24 hours we both feel completely at home. It feels as though we never left.    

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samira_steve on

Back at home hey?
I am back in Rushden after 15 months, and it feels like I never left! But somehow I don't feel like at home!!

Even worse, I came back to Uni today to visit some friends, and I find myself in a place that hasn't changed much, with people that haven't changed much, except all my friends now are married, or engaged or are giving birth, as we speak! :)

take care and drink lots of beautiful red wine on my behalf and eat meat :)

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