Embracing the travelling life

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A day of getting to know my hostel mates. What shocked me was how friendly each person was. Most people would immediately introduce themselves or enquire how I was. Coming from Europe where things are laid back and cumbersome to say the least, this was very welcome. I met Mike (American), Sarah (Irish), Jan (Dutch), Henna, Jukka (both Finnish) and various others this day.

Before I could start the day I needed breakfast. Happy to say it was included and ecstatic that Hostel Estoril provided the best breakfast in Argentina. (Some of their competitors were so bad, I wondered if prisoners were fed better). The delights included sugar glazed croissants, coffee, hand squeezed orange juice, French stick bread with butter and jam, cornflakes, eggs and Dolce De leche. The latter is sweet milk chocolate spread and is incredible! However my diet would suffer with all this sugar; to that I say 'you only live once.'

I decided to go out for a stroll to see my new surroundings but with the temperature exceeding thirty five degrees, it took a while to get acclimatized. A Portugal shirt was worn and the reason I have included this detail will be covered shortly. The Spanish architecture going to Plaza De Mayo was incredible. From the detailed pavements to the brickwork; pictures do not do it justice. After a while, I rested on a bench in Plaza De Mayo which had a few hand made signs on white sheets behind it. What was written was unknown to me at the time. It is quite amusing to me now. I was told later that these were protest signs stating: jobs for Argentinians and opposing foreigners taking their jobs. Remember, that I was wearing a Portugal shirt. So picture me in that, in sunglasses, looking good and just reading a travel book in front of that sign. The place was as busy as Trafalgar Square or La Ramblas. The people who saw me must have thought I was mad or protesting their signs. I found out about the signs as I was catching some sun on the roof and just taking in where I was. It was a good hour before anyone came up on the roof and I enjoyed every minute of it.

To mark my first full day I had to introduce something special. A few of you will not what I mean, to those that don't; a customized Argentinean shirt. What is so special about this you ask? Well it is retro and it is designed from their most successful era. Oh and the coup de grce; on the back it reads 'Hand of God’. (If you are unfamiliar with it, research it, others no need to pause, read on). Being from England and supposedly looking like a Brazilian it is unusual to say the least. Needless to say I love this shirt as do all Argentinians.

Later that evening we dined at Plaza Asturi restaurant where I had my first steak. It did not disappoint. With the gang we enjoyed Argentinean wine, sardines, bread and Limoncello shots. Boy was I satisfied. I did imagine that would conclude the evening but heading to the hostel roof we started drinking. A curious figure came up and sat by himself. His name was Ben (Australian) and as we were nearby the hammock area, I casually bellowed him over. What stood out was he was dressed in a shirt and his mutton chops (side burns). As a great groomer, I have to say it was done well. The beers went down easily and we dragged him out to a Drum and Bass Club on Reconquista in the early hours. I felt we corrupted this poor chap. Anyone know how to dance to Drum and Bass? Me neither but it is a good work out.

After dancing for a while, it was time for sightseeing. Wandering around taking pictures at 5 AM? Yep. The highlights were Iona (Australian) asking an Argentinean shopkeeper in Spanish, ‘do you speak Spanish?’ and a group picture in front of El Obelisk.

What followed was some of us got back to the rooftop and continued drinking until 7 AM. The next day or two hours later, I got up and had breakfast. Not much sleep, eat, drink, sightsee, party, repeat cycle. This would be the pattern for twelve days straight. Relevant notes; no one else achieved this nor tried. I look back and wonder how I did it. During this time I met Nacho (Argentinean worker) for the first time. This was the first occasion I would witness ‘machismo’ in Latin America. His pursuit of women was single minded and ruthless. I am not ‘dogging’ him but it was full on and interesting. Again fluent in English and a good guy, just a shame he likes to wear a Chelsea shirt.

Embracing the new lifestyle, wearing flip flops (jandals, scandals, thongs), whilst not being on a beach. Today’s plan was heading to Palermo and Recoleta Cemetery, with the intention of seeing Evita Peron’s grave. Getting there was a metro ride and a short walk. The cemetery was huge and the tombs were designed and generally maintained well. They were similar to Rome’s version but not as well designed. Being so large our group of twelve managed two hours of exploring and then we were bushed. Ice cream was on the agenda and never tasted so good in heat like this.

Having a lack of sleep is bound to affect you at some point. There were no problems bar an occasional yawn. So around 8p.m. I went to the roof to meet everyone coming for dinner. Only two people were there, so I sat down at their table. As they were engrossed in a conversation I let them finish. I waited and waited and waited. Between a mix of sheer exhaustion, boredom and enduring rudeness, I passed out. I came too after a few minutes only to do the same a few more times. Around thirty minutes had passed and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. The two people in question were aware of me sleeping as I caught their glances. However unperturbed they carried on. I felt no need to bring it up. My mindset: if I am not good enough for you on face value, you are not welcome in my reality. To combat tiredness I started to drink to keep myself occupied. The highlight was getting George (from Greece), out for the evening. He was studying the Tango dance routines and very much kept to himself. However he was a ‘salt of the earth’ guy and it was nice to see him let his hair down.

The evening meal was at La Cabrera. This is the best restaurant in Buenos Aires and certainly the most expensive I have been to. We headed there via Metro and walked the remainder. Upon arriving at the restaurant, our group of twelve was too large to accommodate. Their second restaurant which was not far away held more hope. We walked there and waited thirty minutes for a table. In the meantime I spoke to a couple from New York in line with us. They heard an American accent and thought it was me. (When I hear Americans are some of the worst travellers I roll my eyes. Those who I have met are generally great and I share a great deal in common with them). One of our Americans, Mike was flirting with the Concierge. He has taste, she was hot. A little while later everyone in line has a glass of champagne. Whether or not it was Mike’s charm, it was a good thing. Either way it made her smile and possibly improved relations between their respective countries.

We were told the private room was the only option for our large group. It cost one hundred Pesos. So worth it. I had a Milanese Lomo (Tenderloin) which had bread crumbed cheese on it and four appetizers involving olives, tomatoes and feta. I loved it and to top it off the wines were excellent. A great, great night that involved some of us drinking and looking at the stars until the early morning from our rooftop.

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