Published: July 17th 2012July 17th 2012
This entry is a bit bittersweet for me as it will be my last one, and I am fighting the urge to be sentimental. Tonight I am DC bound, but not before relating a bit of my travels in Argentina.
The difference between Bolivia and Argentina wasn't immediately apparent to me - the chaos of Bolivia seemed to spill over the border, and I was relieved when I finally got on a bus heading further south to Salta. A few hours into the trip, however, everything began to look familiar - actual highways, no garbage on the side of the road, livestock confined to their fields. I could have been back in Montana it all felt so familiar.
As a treat to myself, I booked a night at a real live rancho called "Sayta" about an hour outside of the city. Enrique, the owner, met us with full gaucho regalia. Though I was nervous to get on a horse again after my experience in Ecuador, I was determined to get it right this time. Our gaucho guide was fantastic, and actually bothered to show us how to trot and canter properly, making it clear that we only had to
do what we were comfortable with (all the while asking me the traditional gamut of questions - do I have a boyfriend, how many babies do I want, and then laying out his argument as to why I should move to Argentina with my imaginary family - all and all he was quite convincing). In the afternoon we had a massive "asado" lunch with about 10 kinds of salads, three kinds of meat, and more wine than I care to recall. Enrique sat at the head of the table, asking all sorts of personal questions, and peppering his speech with the few swear words he knew in English. At the end of lunch, bouyed by several glasses of wine, I hopped back in the saddle and was basically feeling like an honest to god gaucha. There must be some kind of rule about drinking and riding, but fortunately you don't need a license to ride a horse.
My next stop was Cafayate, one of the wine districts of Argentina (second to Mendoza, which I did not have time to visit). The surrounding countryside was a riot of color - the hills were positively prismatic and accented by incredible rock
formations. At this point in the journey it takes a lot for me to sit up and actively look out the window of a bus, and this was definitely one of those times. I fit in as many bodegas as possible during my 2 days, in total about 7 places (all of which give really generous tastings). For those of you who know my interests, this basically amounts to a little slice of heaven. My favorite bodega was called El Porvenir de los Andes - a place I had to visit three times before getting the visiting hours right, but well worth the effort and the 45 peso fee.
My final stop is obviously Buenos Aires, and I am ready to start looking for an apartment in San Telmo. My first impressions are somewhere between Paris and New York, the old and the new, but definitely a thing of its own (not the "real" Argentina as almost everyone outside the city will tell you, despite the fact that a full third of the country's population lives here). There are enough cafes and smart restaurants to last a lifetime, and the abundance of antique stores would entice even the most hardened minimalist to pick up a chandelier or two. The big Sunday antiques market was particularly impressive for both the wares and the characters involved - a delightful mix of hippies, hawkers, and artists, and at least two guys dressed like Jack Sparrow.
I think what I love most about BA, and San Telmo in particular is the sense of stepping backward in time. Everyone seems to understand that it is 2012, but are willfully holding back, staying put inside a buble of nostalgia and romance clearly belonging to another era. The buildings reflect a kind of tattered beauty, like an aging madam who still "puts on her face" every morning without fail. I imagine that the cafes look much the same as they did 60 years ago with their chalkboard menus, solid wood bars, and crowded, clinking, chattering interiors. It's a rather delightful feeling to wander around this atmosphere, pretending to belong to a different world, a different time, if only for the afternoon.
And since I only have a few hours before my plane takes off, I'm going to go soak up as much of this magical atmosphere as possible. My sincere thanks for reading my ramblings over the last three months. It's hard to believe that time can pass so quickly, but I am thankful for every moment of it :)