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Published: February 15th 2016
R: Apart from the various frustrations detailed in our previous blog, we enjoyed our time in BA. We had a great Airbnb for very little money which was on the 7th floor of a very smart apartment block with a old style lift which ran up through the middle of the stairs in essentially, a Victorian iron work cage. It was the type where you slide the doors open and shut to operate it. The apartment had a balcony overlooking our street (Montevideo) and pretty decent wifi. Though the TV had nothing recognisable except the Buenos Aires tennis championship, which only had a few people we recognised. So we watched a lot of Argentinians play tennis.
We've been eating out a lot in Salta and San Pedro due to not having a kitchen, so we decided to make the most of it here, though that in itself was a bit sad as BA had better restaurants than those places. We went to the Disco (strange name for a supermarket) and stocked up on wine for £3 a bottle and Bif Chorizo steak for £1.50 each. I wasn't going to let our eating in disturb our eating of Argentine
steak. It was a bit like a disco - I enjoyed listening to Brit pop favourites such as Blur and Oasis doing my shopping. I thought the Argentinians were supposed not to like us???
Our first day, in between the travel planning nonsense, we headed down into the city. It was shrove Tuesday by British standards, which is a public holiday in Argentina. The place was utterly deserted. There were no tourists or locals about. It could also have something to do with the heat - we headed out in the middle of the day and it was 35c again. We had a look round the cathedral, Cabrillo (town hall) and the exterior of the buildings in the main square before stopping for a well earned beer/Coke. Now speaking as fairly regular devotee, the beer in Argentina is rubbish in comparison to other places we have been. I tried a Porter from the Disco which was rubbish too. Perhaps it is their way of telling you to drink red wine. Refreshed, we had a look around the Casa Rosada frontage - which is where Evita Peron (and presumably others) gave many an impassioned speech. The main square
is currently being occupied by trade union workers, advocates of Peronism and many more hangers on and spectators, so there is a large tent village outside the government buildings that is being loosely supervised by means of large metal barriers and a heavy police presence. Mostly, it seemed to be filled with stalls selling bracelets or necklaces, but speeches were being given from a podium under a large gazebo.
After, quite frankly, a terrible lunch, we plodded some more around the deserted streets, noting that Buenos Aires has some very lovely architecture. The buildings are grand, and to look up at the roofs from below can be pretty special. We noted, however, that the streets themselves are pretty grimy and a lot of the buildings are graffitied. We supposed that as Argentina struggles with its debt crisis, public sector workers may be in short supply, but we did think it was a bit spoiled by the public's apparent will to spoil the city. We also remarked that, as most of the shops were closed for the public holiday, the shutters were down which bore a lot of graffiti. And not decent street art - just tagging. I
hate tagging. It's incredibly self centred, and doesn't offer anything to anyone apart from the human equivalent of a dog peeing on a tree. Unfortunately, this will be one of our abiding memories of BA, as I say, made worse by the shutters being down across many of the shops, and pretty colonial buildings being covered in it from floor to as high as could be reached.
This theme continued as we headed out to see a parade of the last main day of Carnival, though some festivities go on until the end of the month. We wandered up Avenida Cordoba (which gets increasingly scruffy as you walk along it) to a place where we had been told by our Airbnb host something would be happening. It wasn't. When we got there, we found the street closed, and a stage erected, but nothing doing. It was 8pm. There were no spectators. Carnival was something we were keen to catch the end of, and Cate still not feeling well, we weren't keen to wait all night for it. We sat and had a pear Fanta (that's a thing here) and by the time we had finished, we found
that some people had gathered, and some people were dancing in an enclosure in the street. We stopped to watch as various troupes of dancers swarmed off waiting buses and took to the stage and performed various dances in front of the, by now, fairly large crowd. The dancers were all done out to the nines in brightly coloured costumes, and a rather overweight clown wandered about encouraging adults to clap, and frightening the hell out of children. The devil himself made an appearance, though by the looks of the sweat on him, I can now with confidence say that it was "hotter than hell" in Buenos Aires that day. Children celebrate the festivities by buying cans of spray foam, and covering the other kids and nearby adults in a thick layer of whiteness while shouting and shrieking. We only got hit "a few times".
So our carnival experience came to an end, not quite what we expected, but Carnival isn't as big in BA as the Brazilian cities. Although we didn't see a parade as such, we still enjoyed the spectacle. We didn't enjoy the walk home so much as it was incredibly hot and we
lost the GPS signal on my phone, so weren't exactly sure where we were till we were nearly home, and had consumed several cold drinks on the way, using the money I had brought for a taxi, should we need one.
Next day, we headed out to Recoletta and Palermo, the supposedly posh elements of the city, and home to various museums, parks and cemeteries we were interested in seeing. It was another hot day, and we headed out once again at the height of it, having been travel planning / trouble shooting for several hours. We headed first for the Recoletta Cemetery (BA's biggest tourist attraction). The tombs are massive family tombs, most of which are about 10m3 but some are the size of small churches. It's a peaceful, shady place, but filled with tourists all hoping to glimpse the final resting place of Evita Peron. We did just that and it's quite understated in comparison with many of the other tombs. So instead we spent more time photographing and admiring the graveyard cat before making for the nearby air conditioned mall to cool off.
After that we stopped in for lunch at
a bakery. While Cate was sensible and ordered a Coke, I asked for a Vasos of wine, knowing the word "vaso" to be glass. I got a half bottle of a red wine called "Vasos" and I understood why the waitress asked to reconfirm my order. Note : if anyone asks you if you want a half bottle of red wine on a very hot day, it's probably best to decline. We went on to the Evita Peron museum, which was a nice little air conditioned house with information about her life, and the events after her death that lead to her body being shifted around the globe for about 15 years.
We returned to our apartment via the Botanical gardens, and the back streets of Palermo. The botanical gardens were nice and an apparent favourite with locals and tourists, though we decided it was too hot to go and see the European section which was the other end. Palermo is a fun looking place, filled with bars, restaurants and parks that encourage people to sit out, but the book did rather over-promise, so we were a little disappointed when we got there. After a short subway
ride, we were home to our lovely air conditioned flat, and straight into the shower.
For our final day, we went back into the city proper. This was the day that we had to make our decision about Patagonia, so we were feeling angry and sad as we left the flat. The first stop was the main square, which we took a subway too, as they cost £0.25 per ride, and we were in no mood to walk. After a quick look around Avendida Florida - the pedestrianised shopping street - and a look into some of the pretty shopping galleries, we headed around the newly renovated dock lands area. Like in London, it has been filled with banks and big international business hubs, and delis and eateries to match a big fat banker's budget. Having merrily walked past McDonalds at an early stage, the only thing that stopped us going back was the blistering heat. We decamped into TGI Fridays - not Argentinian at all, but had very welcome air conditioning, and it was cheap by the international standards of TGI Fridays. After walking down the docks, we headed to the Costenera Sur, a marine wetland
area in the shadow of a large power station which you can cycle about and look at the birds, which included flocks of green parrots. From here, we walked back into town, after being diverted around some massive construction projects, and headed for El Zanjón de Granados, which turned out to be closed. Great. (The lonely planet did predict this, but we hadn't read it properly).
On the way home, we found the war memorial to the Falklands War, which as British people we felt slightly uncomfortable at. The inscriptions weren't in English (for obvious reasons) but you realise how many Argentinians died for this cause, which in the long term proved pointless for both sides.
Our next day, we headed out by taxi to the port to take a boat to Uruguay. It took half an hour and cost £4. The driver was quite fun and tried to give me a bit of a Spanish lesson. Why can't the other transport in Argentina be as cheap as it is in Buenos Aires? Overalls, we enjoyed our time here, but we feel we may have been able to make more out of it it
we hadn't been so distracted.
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