Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Muchos Buenos Aires

Yes, perhaps I should have arrived nice and well rested after what I think was a 14-hour, 1st class trip from Sydney (they greeted me with Qantas PJ’s- how nice!), but I was pretty sleepy trying to adjust to the 16-hour time difference from New Zealand (even with my friend, Ambien).

Day 1 in Buenos Aires was pretty much a waste. All I did was sleep and wander around trying to find a mobile signal (un- beknownst to me I found one in the “don't cry for me Argentina” plaza).

Finally motivating, at 9:30pm I decided I should probably grab dinner not realizing this was WAY early by Argentine standards. This became clear when people continued to arrive (with small children) as late as midnight. I am still puzzled how they manage to do any work? In the land of beef, I had to get my first steak, mashed potatoes (there are NO vegetables here) and Argentine red wine (plus a glass of free champagne for some unclear reason)--- so far South America is off to a fine start. ;-)

The following day I walked around Puerto Madero, the old port that was only used from 1898-1926 since it became too small to handle the amount of cargo by 1910. Complete with cobble stone paths and brick warehouses, the area has been converted into an upscale neighborhood.

It is charming and apparently brings out the romantics--- as I was sitting on a bench a young, Argentinian man asked if he could sit and chat (in our broken Spanish and English). Before I knew it he kissed me--- my, they are quite forward here in Buenos Aires! Needless to say I was taken off guard (but found the whole ridiculous incident pretty amusing.)

After lunch I visited the Museo Fortabat, a new museum showcasing the collection of Argentina’s wealthiest woman, Amalia Lacroze. I loved the art as well as the building which has movable aluminum panels above the roof that open and close depending on the position of the sun- cool!

Since it was still relatively early, I decided to do Lonely Planet’s walking tour of Central BA, or at least most of the 5km route (who needs to see Congress up close, especially when it is modeled after the U.S. Capitol Building).

Along the way I saw Plaza San Martin with the obligatory statue of the hero/general who helped liberate Argentina from Spanish rule (there is stuff named after him all over the country). The plaza is surrounded by beautiful mansions and South America’s former tallest building (1935). Across the street is the British donated Torre de los Ingleses which they now call by another name after the Falkland Islands War (or Malvinas Islands as they are called in Argentina).Yes, they still hold a grudge.

After a walk on Ave 9 de Julio (‘the widest street in the world’- 16 lanes at some points), passing by the city’s 67m obelisk (build in one month back in 1936 and the place for celebrating sports fans), I ended the abridged tour at the Plaza de Mayo where the Cathedral Metropolitana (containing the tomb of General San Martin) and Casa Rosada stand, besides other impressive buildings--- the architecture in BA is stunning! The Casa Rosada houses the President’s office, but it is also where Eva (aka Evita) and Juan Peron (and Madonna) addressed the public from the balcony. I couldn’t stop singing the tunes from “Evita”!

After another steak dinner (not as good as the night before), I had another lazy morning (this is the Argentine way!) before heading off to the ritzy Recoleta neighborhood. I walked along the streets marveling at the stunning buildings (and disgusted by the fact that the Vatican embassy was the nicest of them all--- maybe they should sell that and give some money to their needy believers?). 

I later learned on a free walking tour of the area a few interesting tid bits:

#1- BA is often called the ‘Paris of South America’ since when trading with Europe back in the early 1900’s they needed to load the ships for the return trip, so the former Europeans and current residents of BA had the good idea to ship European construction materials: stone, ironwork, fountains, you name it.

#2- With a good insurance plan Argentines get one free plastic surgery every two years--- there were many ‘plasticos’ in this neighborhood!
The Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes was a brief stop before the walking tour, which was randomly full of Americans, including a lovely couple from San Fran who I joined for some yummy Dulce de Leche gelato afterwards (the Argentines have incredible ice cream so I tried to fit it in every day).

Each day in BA seemed to get less and less productive. Following a late night in San Telmo (4am) of more steak (getting worse food and service wise!), vino, Jenga and Connect 4 (I said you had to be a moron to lose at Connect 4 and then I lost 3 games- wow, I have really lost it!) with Anil, my new friend from Colorado, I slept yet another day away.

Luckily I rebounded for dinner with Ilse (Holland) and Guy (Belgium) at a buffet restaurant with the most adorable, young, attentive waiter (what a difference from last night!). Over the course of dinner we befriended Arian, a local who entertained us for days to come.

Since Arian invited us to a New Year’s Eve party, Ilse and I decided to go shopping in posh and trendy Palermo, (you can get Havianas down here for $10!!!!).

Arian’s band was playing at a party for what turned out to be Peruvians in BA. It was pretty hilarious and we felt like we crashed someone’s wedding--- we were definitely the thing that did not belong! Although midnight was fairly anticlimactic, the rest of the night dancing salsa was SO much fun (or whatever it was---- I had no idea what I was doing, I just followed my lead as the Argentines can dance!).

Wait--- it is 7am!!!!!!!!!!!!

It won’t be a shock to learn that yes, I slept a lot of the next day away too. ;-)

BA is going to kill me! Up all night, sleep all day. How do these people get anything done???

I did arise in time to see a bit of the start of the Dakar Rally and a late lunch along the waterfront (which was littered with beer and champagne bottles which as you can imagine didn’t smell too hot a day later…. prob worse three days later since no one works here on holidays or weekends!)
One of the only things left to check off the list was visiting La Boca, the meat- packing/ warehouse area that is known for its brightly colored houses. The houses were originally splashed with leftover paint used on shipping barges. Caminito, the famous street, is pretty touristy, but cute for a quick, sleepy stroll to see the houses and performers tangoing in the street (you can´t leave this street since the rest of the hood is a bit dangerous).

At this point I had to flee Buenos Aires- too much drink, too much steak, too many skipped meals and lost night’s sleep. It was starting to takes its toll. No mas!!!!!!!!!!

The city is AMAZING-- it is beautiful, vibrant, fantastic. Each neighborhood has its own distinct look and feel. I loved every minute of it (well, I could have lived without the morning headaches)!!!!


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  2. I love the kissing on the bench. And dulce de leche?! Free plastico?! Ahhhh

  3. Oh god, I think you have to be very talented to dance such a difficult dance. The steps and moves are complicated and there has to be synchronicity. One of the reasons last year I decided to rent apartments in buenos aires for me and my friends to go there and stay for a month was because I wanted us to have a real experience in the Tango country. We were able to go to a lot of Tango shows and also take a few classes. It was great!