Tuesday 10 March 2009 - Wednesday 18 March 2009 27 °C
Finally made it to Buenos Aires!! Everyone I had met in Argentina who had been to BA had nothing but praise for the city…throughout my whole trip I’d never experienced such a positive reaction across the board to a destination so was very excited to see for myself. I definitely wasn’t disappointed!
Arrived at the bus station in Retiro and caught the subte (tube) across the city to Av. de Mayo, a big avenue that cuts east/west through the city, connecting the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada and the seat of government, Congreso. Had fun crossing the immense Av. 9 de Julio which runs north/south, all 17 lanes of it! Depending on who you ask- the widest avenue in the world/ the widest avenue in South America/ formerly the widest avenue in South America, whichever it is it’s the widest road I’ve ever seen! On a good day, walking really fast I eventually managed to cross the whole road in one green light but any dawdling or snapping pictures of the Obelisk meant you were stuck in the middle to wait for the next little green man! Hostel Estoril was on the 6th floor of an apartment building, really nice friendly place, the best thing about it was the massive roof terrace giving us a great view of the gorgeous Palacio Barolo across the street. When it was completed in 1923 it was the tallest building in South America and is topped by a lighthouse which can be seen all the way in Montevideo, Urgugay. It was so nice to open the windows in the morning, step out onto the balcony and gaze up at the Palaco Barolo and other buildings and down to the busy Ave de Mayo.
Time to start exploring the city!
Went to the Eva Peron museum, in Palermo, its in a lovely building, a mansion that was actually converted into a temporary home for women and children, founded by Eva Peron. The museum had some interesting displays including some of Evitas outfits but was wasn’t that thorough in telling the story of her life which was a shame! I think if I didn’t know a bit about her already I’d have come out scratching my head!
The next evening we went to watch a tango show in San Telmo, some fantastic dancing, the rest of the show was a little rough around the edges though!
Visited the Recoleta cemetery, sounds like a strange tourist destination but this cemetery is rather unique. Recoleta is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in BA and its residents are buried accordingly in wonderfully elaborate crypts. The cemetery is full of family mausoleums, creating a mini city within the walls, with small ‘streets’ lined on either side with imposing crypts, their facades full of plaques dedicated to the deceased within. At first it doesn’t seem that creepy although the narrow alleys do make you feel far away from civilisation but as you walk around and start to peer through the doors to the crypts you can see the coffins on shelves inside. Some with as many as six on the ground floor with a staircase leading underground with space for more family members below! I came across a few people crowded around one crypt and it turned out to be the resting place of the Duarte family and their most famous daughter….Eva Peron nee Duarte. Walking around a bit more the place started to give me the heebie jeebies so I headed back out into the sunshine and the land of the living!
Time for another steak, this time at La Cabrera, a highly recommended steak restaurant in Palermo. It was busy and we had to wait 20 mins for a table, they gave us free champagne while we were waiting though so we weren’t complaining! They really do eat late in Argentina, we weren’t seated until about midnight and finished our meal about 2am! The steak was really good though and was served with lots of small tapas dishes. For desert we had ‘flan’ which is basically crème caramel with massive dollops of dulce du leche!
On Saturday we caught the bus down to La Boca, definitely the most colourful neighborhood in BA, from the bus it was hard to miss the blue and yellow football stadium, home to Boca Juniors. La Boca was built by Italian immigrants from Genoa, historically home to the artists of Buenos Aires this is reflected in the houses which are painted in a myriad of colours. Great atmosphere, lots of people around, restaurants on the pavements, people dancing the tango, little street market. A samba band even came though at one point and filled the street with the sound of rhythmic drumming! La Boca is a bit of a dodgy neighborhood but we stuck to the tourist streets and felt perfectly safe. I heard from other people that when they wandered off the main streets they were chased down by the police and herded back onto the Caminito! That evening I met up with Mariella a friend from London, we discovered that we were on the same flight out of Buenos Aires, it had a stop over in Sao Paulo where I would deplane and Mariella would carry on to Heathrow. What a co-incidence!
Sunday and it was time to visit San Telmo and its famous antiques market. It was a lovely sunny day and we spent all day wandering around the markets which take up the main square and branch off into the side streets. Ended up in the Plaza de Mayo and took photos of the Casa Rosada, where Eva Peron famously appeared on the balcony and made her emotive speech declining the calls to run for vice-president whilst in the grip of cancer. We headed back into the heart of San Telmo for dinner and for pudding went to Dylans ice cream shop for some gorgeous Dulce de leche ice cream!
Monday we spent the day wandering Av. Florida the busy pedestrian shopping street and had a nice relax in the sun on the rooftop! Tuesday it was St Patricks Day, I didn’t know if they would celebrate it in Argentina but like everywhere else in the world everyone became honorary Irish and used it as an excuse to drink beer! The Kilkenny pub was the centre of the action, everyone wearing green and drinking green beer, we went for one drink but it got so packed we headed for somewhere a bit quieter, it was my last night in Argentina so went for a final steak! Really am a convert! Earlier in the day we had come across the United Buddy Bears art exhibition in Plaza San Martin. Travelling the world since 2002 it’s aim is to promote tolerance and understanding between different countries and cultures. 2m tall fiberglass bears are arranged in a large circle, colourfully decorated and representing over 140 countries from around the world. The UK offering is nice with a union jack draped across it but with some very random and dodgy goggles!
Was very sad to leave Buenos Aires the next day, it really is a great city, so much to do, I feel like I only scratched the surface. 2 ½ hours into the flight I said goodbye to Mariella and stepped off the plane in Sao Paulo, Brazil!!