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Published: November 23rd 2010
We arrived in Buenos Aires by bus at 1 pm on the afternoon of January 30th. Our first impressions were not the best. Our view from the tinted bus windows showed a huge sprawling city, without much obvious beauty. Then we were scammed by the friendly taxi driver who took us to our hostel. He claimed that most of my bills were counterfiets, and in the process of finding money he would accept, he pocketed an extra 50 sols. Later, the help at the hostel checked my money and said it was all fine. The hostel was a little run down, though comfy in a way. After sitting in the lounge for a while, I realized it looked like the kind of shared houses I used to live in my twenties. I guess I'm getting older. Today I would look at such a place and wonder if it was fit for an overnight; seven years ago I would have signed a year-long lease.
Turns out it was unfit, no matter what your age. That night, both of us were bitten to death by flies? fleas? bedbugs? - not sure what, but we struggled to sleep and woke up with lots
across from main bus and train station
of tiny bites on our arms and legs. Next morning the staff told us there were no other problems reported, but they were gracious in refunding us our fees for the second night. We set out mid-morning to look for new accomodations. Unfortunately, all the country's university students were on vacation, and the city was packed. After walking many city blocks, we finally found room in the dorms at Hostal Granada in the old neighborhood of San Telmo.
San Telmo was bustling with its historic Sunday market. We wandered the streets checking out the art and handicrafts. Eva enjoyed some of the paintings of the city and tango dancers. Quite a few dancers were there in person, shaking their asnos. I was amused by the Spanish Homer Simpson T- shirts. Spanish Homer Simpson lives in Buenos Aires and sports a mustache. No Duff for him - he enjoys drinking red wine, playing the accordian, and tangoing with Marge. We discovered a small pub nearby, not a common sight in wine-loving Argentina, and ordered lunch. After the fiasco in Puerto Iquazu, I was pleasantly surprised with my steak, the first of several great steaks we ate in this city.
That night we were only a little more comfortable than we were the night before. We were sleeping about four flights up in a large mixed dorm room with only a couple of fans to deal with the sweltering night air. There were no fleas, but some misquitoes found there way into our room.
Next day was Monday, unfortunately a bad day for tourists as most of the museums are closed. We returned to the bus station to prebook bus tickets that we would need later in Patagonia, followed by a walk around the streets and through several large parks. We ended up in the Galerias Pacifico shopping mall where we had salad and French pastries in the food court. After lunch, we walked for maybe an hour, then caught the subway back to our hostel. That night we went to one of the many restuarants in the San Telmo area, and we each ordered a different cut of steak. They were great! Argentine beef lived up to its reputation! We went through a bottle of wine with our meal. Though not usually a fan of reds, Eva discovered she liked the local Malbecs. Our bill was almost half
of what it would have been in the States.
On Tuesday we decided to check out the Museo de Bella Artes in the Palmero district. The hot and humid weather brought massive showers and we got fairly wet walking to the museum. Unfortunately, we overshot the museum as we got confused by the buildings. We were wandering through a university campus building when we gradually realized our mistake. We found it eventually, although from the outside, the campus building looked more attractive than the museum! The museum was fine - most of the collection was of Argentine artists that we had not heard of before. There were some works by the famous French impressionists. The museum was free, but perhaps they should have charged a little as they seemed to need funds. The galleries were not even air-conditioned. How would the national Argentine treasures remain safe?
We left the musem and walked back to the Galerias Pacifico food court where I had a decent steak and beer for about $6, and proceeded to eat it with a plastic fork and knife. We took the subway back home and siesta-ed a little in the afternoon. We made plans to
go to a tango class that night but realized we would not be able to make it. With our room being too hot for sleeping, our 20-something 'roomates' were all out enjoying this city's great night life. We didn't feel like being the losers that stayed home, so we went back to the small pub. I had some beer, while Eva tried the very local mix of Frenet Branca and coke. I liked it more than her.
The next day was to be our last before our flight into Rio Gallegos. Although the flight was less than three hours long and didn't cross time zones, it had a rotten schedule. The departure time was 11pm! We spent much of the day blogging and browsing on the internet. Around 4 pm, we showed up at the Confiteria Ideal for our first tango lesson. Gowing strong since the 20's, the dance hall at the Confiteria Ideal is large, dark, and handsome, with a real hard wood floor and glittering chandeliers on the ceiling. It was filled at all hours with regulars - most of whom have been coming here for decades. Up front was a seperate area for the dance lessons,
where our teacher, a young, lithe, and very pleasant Korean woman was waiting for us.
Our feelings going to tango were a mix of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness. It is no exageration to say that salsa has come close to doing us in - Eva enjoys it, but I just can't get it! New to both of us, we were pleased to discover that tango is slower and a bit more accessible. Our instructor led us through a few of the basic steps. By the end of the lesson, we were comfortably fitting our new steps into the music. We were tangoing! Eva was smiling like I'd never seen her when I tried to salsa with her. We danced until about six, then headed back to grab a quick dinner at the pizza parlor across the street from our hostel before gathering up our bags and taking a taxi to the airport. The tango, the wine, the food - all the crazy hedonism of this great city would be left behind as we headed for the more austere and challenging attractions of Patagonia.
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