Published: February 19th 2011February 4th 2011
Before coming to Buenos Aires we had signed up to an online community called couch surfing. The aim of the project is to bring travellers from all over the world together; people create profiles and allow other travellers to stay with them at their place when they are travelling to that location. A lot of travellers that we met use the site regularly, and have raved about it, so we decided to give it a go. We had met Eric through couch surfing, and he had offered to host us throughout the duration of our stay in the city. Eric is a similar age to us, and although Argentinian, is a fluent English speaker. He owns his own software company with his brother, who, incidentally, was out of the country travelling South East Asia with his girlfriend.
We arrived into the Buenos Aires Retiro terminal for the second and last time on our trip- we felt that we had come to an end of an era having completed our final bus journey in South America, and having racked up over 380 hours on the bus (yes we keep a log). Putting it that way is a bit impressive-over 10 working
weeks, and we have only been away 16!
We weren't able to go round to Eric's apartment until later in the evening as he was at work, but we wanted to find the place so we wouldn't get lost later. As we had our huge packs with us we needed somewhere to store them so we could use the rest of our day exploring some of the local sites. After consulting the luggage storage area at the terminal we stormed out with no lighter a load as we were quoted something ridiculous. We decided to take our packs with us and hoped that we could later find somewhere that would look after them for the afternoon for a small fee. Eric's place was really easy to find and in a great location. After finding it we headed to a local hotel to ask if they would be so kind as to let us store our bags for a few hours. The lady said it was no problem and offered the service free of charge which was a complete bonus. We decided to tip her anyway.
In the afternoon we headed out to see a number of the local
sites. First of all we went to the Plaza de Mayo for some lunch. Pizza was only £4 for the two of us so not bad at all. Other than eat thre didn't seem to be much else to do around the area in the middle of the day, and it was sweltering. We saw a free bike rental scheme, so went and inquired, but were told the bikes were only for locals which was a bit of a shame.
After the Plaza de Mayo we headed down to Puerto Madero the yuppie area of the city, which is very similar to the regeneration schemes we have back in the UK, think London docklands or Birmingham Mailbox. It was really modern and pleasant, so we sat and drank in the atmosphere as the sun began to go down. We decided not to take the metro back, but to walk and see as much of the city as possible. We ended up discovering the microcentre which is the business/financial district of the city, but was also a really trendy hangout during the evening where many hippie types and market sellers set up stalls along the length of the main street.
We spent the early evening walking along the street browsing in the open fronted shops and the markets. We decided against having a beer in one of the street cafes- the area was clearly far too expensive for the backpacker budget, but we did discover an amazing rock band just outside the Catederal station fronted by a really talented girl singing loads of old time rock songs.
Luke had to drag Katie away so that we could get to Eric's in time, also he thought that someone had tried to open his bag whilst we were watching the band. As we knew the way to Eric's it only took us 15 minutes to get the tube back, collect out bags, then arrive to his apartment. We buzzed his intercom anxiously awaiting our first meeting. Eric's voice told us he was on the way down. We shouldn't have been nervous as Eric was so friendly, and he had invited his friend Irena over to break the ice. It was great to meet both of them and they invited us out to dinner at an Armenian restaurant. After a few setbacks trying to find the place, and Irena demanding to Eric:
'Why did you trust me, I don't even live in Buenos Aires, AND I wear bigger eye-glasses than you?!' (it's funny how some things translate) we eventually sat down to eat at midnight. We love this about the Argentinian culture. We ordered falafel and houmous and steak in yoghurt. The dinner was soo good, and really cheap for a restaurant at about a fiver each.
The following day was Saturday, so Eric was free. He had said he would take us to see the Recoleta cemetery where many famous people such as Eva Peron were buried. The Recoleta was a very touristy place which had another artesan fair lining the outside walls of the cemetery. There was a really flashy church which was practically dripping with gold, which we were informed is only used for very important weddings (or when people can afford to pay the huge fees). The cemetery was very similar to those that we had seen back in Mexico with all of the excessiveness; however it was a little better kept, and everything was built pretty high up. It was like walking through a labrynth between the graves. We managed to see Eva Peron's grave site
but it really was a very touristy thing to do, and there were about 50 people crowding around. After the graveyard we headed over to an ultra modern shopping complex which had loads of nice eateries and shops selling art and home furnishings.
We continued to walk towards a local park where a giant aluminium flower monument had been built. On the way we saw the university's law building which was really impressive with all of its' columns out the front. The park felt like Hyde Park in a heat wave; everyone was out in their bikinis sunbathing, people were (bizarrely) cleaning their bikes, and there was an overall relaxed weekend feel. After the park we stopped by the museum of art, where we were surprised to see how empty it was. We decided to walk back to Eric's, and on the way he took us by a little arcade that had a number of bars, only really visited by locals. It was so much of a different experience spending time with a local as Eric showed us all the best places. As we were walking back he took us to a real state of the art shopping mall
which had so many designer brands- none of which we could afford unfortunately. After we headed back to the apartment where on the way we saw a man get knocked down by a car, but he was ok. When we got back we ate pasta and watched the Argentinian version of X-Factor, before Eric took us out to drink at the local 'Soho' in Palermo. We didn't even arrive at the bar until 1am, and it didn't start to get busy until 2.30. It is so different to at home. We were only on our third drink by 4am when we decided to call it a night. The clubs were only just opening; we resigned to the fact that we are a complete let down with regards to South American night life. Luke had spent most of the time questioning Eric on his extensive knowledge of computers and gadgets which he found very interesting indeed.
The following day we had been recommended to visit San Telmo to see the market and outdoor tango dancing. We headed there as soon as we got up (not until midday) where we saw a variety of crafts and clothes. It is shocking the
difference in prices between the South American countries, as we saw the same products that we had seen back in the likes of Ecuador and Bolivia selling for around five or six times the price. An example was little woven bracelets- we spoke to a lady selling some- she told us she was from Ecuador- she was selling the exact same bracelets we had bought back in Ecuador for around 10p, here they were selling for around 50p. We were told that the South Americans are able to move freely between countries and settle wherever they like, so it is no wonder that so many end up in Argentina. As we headed over to see the tango dancers Katie recognised one of the women from off a local postcard she had seen in a shop. She asked the woman if it was her, and she seemed delighted to have been recognised which was sweet. We seemed to have missed the dance unfortunately, and Katie had a bird do a giant poo in her hair, so we decided to head back but not before she skidded through a pile of dog poo. Not a successful afternoon. On the evening we just
chilled out in Eric's apartment with a McDonalds and the TV, preparing a box to send home the following day.
The next day we woke early and left with Eric, who had the advantage of being able to arrive into work whenever he pleased- being his own boss. We spent the morning shopping for a few bits and pieces, then the afternoon in the post office; an experience we do not wish to remember as it was so annoying. We waited an AGE with two different numbers, being pushed from pillar to post being told eventually that it was not possible to send a box of our size to the UK, and they didn't have any big boxes in stock for us to use. What a load of rubbish. As we had spent so long in the post office we didn't have time to visit La Boca which we were really disappointed about, but it will give us a chance to come back. We headed back to Eric's place one last time to collect our packs and say goodbye to a new friend. We decided to catch a cab to the airport which worked out the same price as
the bus would have, which was not bad at all. We were really sad to be leaving such an amazing continent. We really have had the most fantastic time here, and will definitely return.
There are more photos below