Monday, 18 April 2011

Buenos Aires

Buenos Dias  We have just spent the last few days in one of the nicest cities I think I have ever visited. Buenos Aires has charming and elegant european architecture, buzzing streets & neighbourhoods, never-ending nightlife! People from BA tend to rise late and eat and party till well into the early hours, so this was a bit of a culture shock to us as we are usually fed, watered and in bed by 11.00!
The main areas we wanted to visit were located in downtown and its neighbouring area's Recoleta, Palermo & Retiro, to the North, We stayed just to the South in San Telmo next to the infamous La Boca.
Our first 24 hours was just spent wandering the streets of downtown and San Telmo with its cobbled streets and mansions no longer fashionable. We ended our tour at Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace, where Evita inspired the adoring crowds from the balcony. As it was Friday night we decided to check out the Irish bars in the microcentre, which were packed with locals ready to party.  As it was a bit of a walk back we bar hopped our way down Av 9 de Julio, past the Obelisco to our hostel and were surprised to find it was 3.00am when we fell through the door as everything was still going strong.  Saturday was Dad's birthday so we skyped home after a long lie in and then took the Metro to Palermo to saunter around the market. It is known for its artisan jewellery & leatherwork. We realised by about 6.00pm we were starving, so ambled up a couple of blocks to La Cabbrera a Parilla that had been recommended to us by a number of people. It wasn't open when we arrived so we settled in at a bar next door and started chatting. The next thing we knew there were people everywhere  and by the time had finished our drinks and made our way to the restaurant, it was 8.30 and there was a two hour waiting time....... oops.
 Well we put our name down and trundled back next door to await our summons! 10.30 came and went & so did 11.00pm. We eventually got seated around 11.40 for our dinner. Was it worth it I hear you say..................... well yes it was we had some sublime steaks with the most amazing accompaniments & there were still couples and groups waiting to be seated when we left at 1.50 and staggered into out taxi home.
 Given our late dining the previous night we rose late again and decided to just stroll down the main road in San Telmo, which is closed on Sundays to host its weekly antiques market. There are also stalls selling tourist souvenirs from tat to some really nice stuff. Every so often there were small groups/couples demonstrating the tango on the streets. on the whole a really facinating way to spend the morning.
 Once we reached to end of Defensa, we crossed over into La Boca to try and get some tickets for the afternoon game at the Bombonera. We walked around the side streets near to the gound trying to find places to buy tickets but apart from touts it was nigh on impossible. Worried by reports that most of the tout tickets were fakes we decided to carry on to nearby Caminito, an area within La Boca renound for its colourful houses and beautiful tango dancers and memorabilia. Just as we arrived we met a tour group on their way to the game and managed to pursuade the guide to ring her office and secure another two tickets for us - at 5 times face value!! Game on!! We just had enough time to quickly have a look around and then we were off ! The game was against Tigre a club just north of BA so the ground was packed and we had to hurry to get under the stand as we had the opposition fans above us firing all sorts of unmentionables onto those exposed below!!  The fans here have a passion I have never seen anywhere else in the world and they will climb on every available space to hand a flag or tie one of the huge banners which run over the three tiers of the home end
. Once the game started the band (& I mean band as they must have had 50-60 drummers, trumpets, trombones, tubas & other random instruments) and the fans played and sang for the whole game - non stop. The football itself was barely at league standard, but the score ended up being 3-3 so we did get to see lots of celebrating but we would have preferred to see a Boca win. We consoled ourself on the way home home with a meal at El Desnival a place we had heard mixed things abou, but I thought it had a very down to earth, verging on late night dingy drinking hole feel with amazingly good value food for the price. Just the finish for a day like ours!
Our final day was at the other extreme as we spent the afternoon walking around Recoleta, the Knightsbridge of BA. The streets were pretty and we had a beautiful lunch in a small, but perfectly formed cafe across from the Cementario de la Recoleta. You might have thought it a little macabre, but the cemetry is one of the most excentic places I have ever been. Within the high walls lies a mini city of ornate and towering sarcophagi. It is facinating and eventually you reach Evita's grave covered in fresh flowers even now - then you have to try and find your way out!!

Our time in BA seems to gone in a flash and although neither of us profess to be city people I think we will always carry fond memories of the place. I may have to just pencil a tick in my 'bucket' list for now as I am going to find a way back here sometime!

Tomorrow we depart on the ferry across the River Plate to Uruguay
Nite all