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March 6th 2020
Published: March 7th 2020
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Wednesday 4 March, 2020 - Buenos Aires

Our 12.40pm flight was delayed back to 2.45pm, which was inconvenient to say the least because it meant we missed our Air Canada connection in Santiago. We were rerouted to a flight 2hrs later but we had to scramble with communications to our driver in Buenos Aires, as well as our Airbnb host. The flight itself was completely packed and Dwayne was bumped out of his aisle seat into the middle, so that was not fun. Same happened on our Latam connection. On a positive note, we flew over the South Island of NZ and had a bird’s eye view of the southern alps, from Mt Cook to Milford Sound. Very pretty.

Finally arrived in BA at our apartment at 7pm, did the handover and made our way out to grab pesos at an ATM. Those plans changed quickly when we saw that they capped the withdrawal at A$120 but charged $15 for using an overseas card! We walked to a restaurant that accepted Mastercard and had empanadas. Went home and slept through from 9.30pm to 8.30am.

Thursday 5 March - BA

Decided to explore our local area of Puerto Madero in the morning. This is a gentrified dock area with a few restaurants and Catholic University. The area consists of renovated red brick buildings and high-end apartments. It also had 3 ATMs so we went in search of pesos. Unfortunately, they were all the same $15 charge so we decided to exchange USD 50 that we’d brought from Sydney, and run with that instead. Note to all future travellers to South America. Bring USD.

We walked up one side of the docks and down the other, looking for somewhere to have lunch. It was a humid 30C in the sun, so we found Starbucks instead. The guide book says this area is worth seeing but in my humble opinion, it was devoid of any real character or interest.

For lunch we found a Carrefour supermarket, bought some cheese, tomato and a baguette, and headed home. After a quick snack and maintenance nap, we headed out to explore our local neighbourhood, San Telmo. This is the oldest part of BA with cobblestone streets, tree’d plazas, hole-in-the-wall eateries and artisans selling their wares. We wandered up and down the neighbourhood, finding little places to stop here and there. One of those places was the Mercado San Telmo. This is a large indoor market of stalls selling a range of products from leather, to fresh food, meat, bakeries and eateries. We even found a stall selling Raclette (French cheese on a slab). I wanted to come back here for lunch or dinner, but with only 2 evenings in BA and lunches on the go, it wasn’t to be.

The other place we stumbled across thanks to a tip from a friend, was Plaza Dorrigo. It was a small square shaded by trees, rimmed by restaurants and bars, with the feature in the middle of a dance floor, surrounded by tables. It is here that local buskers dance the tango in front of crowds lounging around their drinks, appreciating the skill of their footwork. There was one such couple dancing when we arrived. They were an odd mix – she was in her 20’s and he looked to be in his 50’s – but they were beautiful to watch. Their frame caressed each other as they moved cheek to cheek, their feet effortlessly tracing lines across the floor. Occasionally, the arms would change position and it would be slow, purposeful and complete as they repositioned from the back to the neck, to the hands. No doubt they are regular buskers but they seemed totally enthralled in their little world and with each other that I almost felt guilty for watching such intimacy. We gave them a tip and made our way to a locally recommended restaurant so Dwayne could try the ½ kg Argentinean steak. His critique: Ok, but no different to Aussie steaks.

One thing that did surprise me today is the lack of English-speaking tourists. I heard one or two couples but apart from that, we were somewhat alone.

Friday 6 March - BA

Given we have a limited number of pesos, we can’t really use public transport like we normally would, so we opted for an Uber because it gets charged straight to our card.

La Boca was our first stop. This is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in BA, mainly because it used to house immigrants who worked the old docks before they were relocated. They paint their houses in all manner of bright colours, so there are several streets of this rainbow splash, with the most famous being the Caminito – an alleyway named after a famous piece of tango music. There are shops selling overpriced souvenirs and restaurants charging tourist prices for mediocre food. There are tango dancers on every corner dancing one song as a teaser and then hustling tourists for photos of or with the dancers. Compared to the couple at Plaza Dorrigo, these couples felt tacky, less genuine and almost cringeworthy to watch. There was little finesse, commitment or authenticity about these staged performances.

It can be a shady part of town at night but during the day it poses no problems to the hordes of tourists that usually ply its streets. Today, there were only a couple hundred people and of those, only ¼ seemed to be English speaking. It was certainly noticeably higher than in San Telmo, but still outnumbered by Spanish-speaking tourists. You can see and shop the neighbourhood in an hour or two.

In the afternoon we caught an Uber to Palermo Soho, which is a trendy tree-lined street filled with good restaurants and brand name shopping. Our first stop was the Museo de Evita, outlining the life of Eva Peron. It was an interesting look into her rise to fame, political views, social work and fashions. I can see why the people loved her. The museum is housed in a beautiful old hotel as well.

We roamed the streets for a couple of hours, walking through plazas and parks, appreciating the more affluent suburb for its Surry Hills feel. There were artisan ice creameries, great coffee houses and a good selection of restaurants on every street. Apart from shop and dine, there isn’t much else to do in Palermo. We opted for an early dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called Fifi Almacen, where I dined on a $13 falafel bowl and Dwayne downed the $14 veggie burger. Both dishes were yummy and it was a shame that the $6 lime mouse cake was somewhat horrible.

We uber’d home, happy with what we’ve seen in BA so far. Our last stop will be the Recoleta Cemetary on Sunday, but for now, this is the end of my access to wifi. Tomorrow we board the Holland America “Zaandam” for our 14-day cruise, with no internet.

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