Buenos Aires

So after Rosario I parted ways with Crag and Paola again, as they wanted to head to Uruguay which meant a lengthy bus journey and a boat ride to get back to Buenos Aires; and having heard so much about Buenos Aires I was too excited and decided to skip getting the extra stamp in my passport and head straight for El Capital Federal.

Arriving in BA is mad. During my entire time there I felt like I had been shrunk by 50%. Everything is huge. The buildings, although not as tall as most cities feel giant as the dimensions appear to be on a bigger scale than usual e.g bigger columns, grander designs etc… It’s hard to explain, so I’ll move onto the roads which are also absolutely massive. They have the widest street in the world (Avenida 9 de Julio) and it is joined by a number of other Avenidas which can take several minutes to cross. All this and a very airy subway system makes the city a very pleasant place to just wonder round looking in awe at the architecture and watching the Porteños go about their business (name for the locals i.e. people of the port), which I tended to do quite a bit. I read in some travel guide that it looks like Paris, smells like Barcelona and moves like New York. Although, I feel comparing it to any city is an injustice because it is really very unique.

Colon monument on widest street in the world:

Congress (decisions made here) – this was just down the road from my hostel:

With a massive number of lodgings on offer and the fact I was planning to spend about a week, I decided to spend a bit of time researching my options to ensure I could make the best of my time. I stumbled across this website of the top 20 global party hostels and decided, having shied away from party hostels in the past, that I would book a few days over the weekend in the Milhouse Avenue. This was with the view that I would be partying over the weekend anyway; and afterwards I could move to a more sedate one, if there was too much vomit in the sinks for my liking etc… However I absolutely loved this hostel and ended up staying for the whole 8 days. With it having 6 floors I was always able to get away from the “party”; but it did mean that if I wanted to I was able to join in and there was always loads of people to meet and have a laugh with. It was probably the best hostel I had stayed in so far so can recommend it if anyone is heading to BA. They organised daily tours and everyday there was a party in this hostel or it’s sister hostel 10 minutes walk away meaning lots of choices for hitting the town.

So I had my nights sorted, and there was plenty to do by day as well. I actually spent quite a lot of time doing cultural experiences and learning about the history of the city and the country. This included: two free walking tours around the city around the historical downtown area and the aristocratic neighbourhood of Recoleta (both of which I can highly recommend); a visit to the Evita museum; strolling round the old port neighbourhood of La Boca (home of Boca Juniors – probably biggest South American footy team); visiting the famous city cemetery where all the country’s elite get buried in huge, grandly designed crypts to create a a massive “city of the dead”; and visiting the most famous historical coffee shop, Café Tortoni (est. 1858).

Massive Evita monument on side of building on the widest street.  Installed this year by the president ‘Cristina’:

Evita’s crypt (roses were fresh):

Cemetery city (all the buildings are crypts):

Crazy crypts:

Cafe Tortoni (most famous coffee shop in BA):

High tea at Cafe Tortoni’s (High tea is very popular in Buenos Aires.  The guide told us about Portenos: “They are Italien, they speak Spanish, they live in French buildings, and like to act English”):

Tortoni’s Interior (old skool):

Colonial church at twighlight:

At the start of the century Buenos Aires was one of the richest cities in the world due to exports of beef and grain.  So as to make friends European countries offered gifts in order to exploit investment opportunities.  This clock tower was the extravagant gift from Great Britain.  Locals call this Little Big Ben and those that haven’t see the real thing believe it to be a model replica:

One thing that was slightly unnerving was the strong feelings, in BA in particular, around the “Islas Malvinas” (Falklands). I never really knew much about the Falklands before I got to Argentina and didn’t have any strong feelings about it. Having not been a topic in school history lessons and not being at the forefront of public issues, it never really hit the radar, like say, for example, the 2nd world war. Not the case here; it is still a massive issue that generates loads of political graffiti around the city and everyone seems to have an opinion on it (that being that the islands have and always will belong to Argentina – they even get this taught to them in school). Personally I didn’t notice it but other travellers I spoke to said that locals’ attitudes and treatment of them worsened once they found out they were English. Some even went so far as to say they were Irish! The irony was (which a lot of locals seemed to keep quiet about!) was that upon losing the war, the country came out of it’s darkest 6 years in it’s history as the military dictatorship (responsible for 30,000 ‘missing’ people) was so humiliated that it lost any respect and was soon replaced by a democratic government. It’s hard to get away from politics when spending time in Buenos Aires and there are upto 20 protests per week!

Falklands memorial and Argentian version of the beefeater:

Protest relating to the military government that colapsed after the Falklands – people still want to have justice for the huge amount of ‘missing’ people:

For me the best experience of the week, and I couldn’t write about BA without mentioning this in particular, was: Steak at La Cabrera. Anyone who has been to Argentina and is advising you on what to do will undoubtedly suggest eating steak and drinking red wine. So it may not come as a surprise that I had my best steak ever in Buenos Aires. It also goes without saying I enjoyed a few glasses of very good vino tinto as well during my time there 😉 This one experience though was made even better as after learning that this was one of if not the best steakhouse in BA, I also heard that if you go between 7 and 7.30pm any day of the week then you can take advantage of their happy hour and get 50% off your whole bill (including sides and wine etc)!! To us gringos this appeared crazy and we wondered why there were queues around the block at 9pm when we were only a handful of groups (mostly gringos) taking advantage of this earlybird offer, but I learned to locals the opposite was the case and to eat out before 9pm would be absolute insanity! (In Argentina clubs open at 2am and people generally don’t leave home until 12am on a night out..)

Getting stuck into the Ojo de Bife (ribeye):

The last night in BA was spent freezing my bits off watching Boca Juniors at the Bombonera stadium. On my last day the wind switched to a Southerly wind from the Antarctic and despite going in my warmest clothes (ok, just a t-shirt, hoody, jeans and trainers :/) and being jammed in between thousands of crazy fans in the standing section I still couldn’t get warm. But despite this watching the match was an awesome experience. Compared to the Flamengo match this was much more of a spectacle. The stadium was nearly full (the cheaper standing sections, where the hardcore fans go, were definitely full as I could hardly move…) and the singing and bouncing was non-stop. The football was better standard than the Flamengo match with several meaty Argentinian tackles thrown in for good measure. You could really see the Italian influence on the football and the fans (over 50% of Porteños have their history in Italy). Although the Brazil football experience was more of a party atmosphere this was a much more passionate/aggressive affair. e.g. The away team and match officials arrive and leave the pitch via an inflatable tunnel that takes them to the middle of the pitch to avoid getting struck by missiles from the baying crowd… Local rivals Estudiantes were the visiting opposition, and a 1-0 home victory meant the fans left happy sitting at the top of the league.

I was thinking as I was strolling the streets at various points that BA would definitely be a place I could spend an extended period of time and was sad to leave it behind. It looks awesome and has a great atmosphere. But I had to move on and my next stop was Argentina’s 2nd biggest city Cordoba.

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