BUENOS AIRES

Sleeping on the bus ride to Buenos Aires we woke to the feeling of a wet floor below us.   When I say we woke, really Will woke in a panic that perhaps he had wet himself in his sleep!  It had been pouring down rain ever since we left Cordoba and it appeared that not even the inside of the bus had escaped the storm.  Luckily, we had picked up our belongings before they got too wet unlike the poor man next to us who we watched on arrival as he squeezed the water out of his bag.  Unfortunately, relief had struck too soon and as I retrieved my backpack from below the bus it also felt quite damp.  Continuing on to our hostel I was surprised to find the whole contents of my bag was soaking wet – welcome to Buenos Aires!

Buenos Aires_003Buenos Aires_004It was Easter Monday and the streets were quiet (although luckily I did find a laundromat to sort out my soaking clothes)! We walked along Buenos Aires’ (or as many call it B.A) newest neighbourhood Puerto Madero, the old waterfront and as it goes in many cities, now some of the most expensive real estate in B.A.  The weather was still recovering from the incredible amount of rain and we once again were victims of the worst of it when we joined an incredibly lame pub crawl on our first night.  According to their website they “take you to the best bars and hottest clubs” whereas the reality is they take you to empty excuses for pubs complete with “bar crawl hosts” that exude tacky tourist.  I guess the one advantage of that was, we went out of our way to get drunk really fast (not hard when they sell beers on tap in 1 litre plastic cups) and this also numbed the pain when it absolutely poured down rain as we waited to get into one of their “exclusive” venues.

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Will and his big cannon..

Buenos Aires_005Buenos Aires_017Buenos Aires_034Buenos Aires_050In our days to follow we participated in various walking tours, our first to Retiro and Recoleta, two of the most exclusive and wealthy neighbourhoods of BA.  We walked down Av Alvear which is full of impressive old mansions and continued to Recoleta Cemetery, home of the tombstone of Argentina’s most celebrated first lady, Eva Peron.  The cemetery is quite incredible, almost like a small neighbourhood in itself (except your neighbours never stop to say hello… sorry, really bad joke).  We walked through the grid of family crypts, containing the remains of the city’s elite before continuing on our tour and visiting the famous flower artwork which used to open and close its petals throughout the day however no longer works.  It was given to BA as a gift from an artist but when it broke down, BA claimed it never actually wanted the gift and therefore refused to fix it, which is quite a shame.

Buenos Aires_053Buenos Aires_059Buenos Aires_058Buenos Aires_194Buenos Aires_193Our next day was spent exploring the Microcentro and Congreso neighbourhoods of the city, home to business suits, skyscrapers and old European buildings.  Separating the two neighbourhoods is the ‘widest street in the world’, Av 9 de Julio which at its widest is 16 lanes!  In the middle of the street is the Obelisco, a 67m high monument standing tall amongst the hustle and bustle.

Buenos Aires_077Buenos Aires_080Buenos Aires_082Buenos Aires_087We couldn’t come to BA without experiencing a futbol (their spelling not mine) match and the best team to watch is Boca Juniors, Argentina’s, if not South America’s most celebrated futbol team.  We joined a group tour to the stadium, somewhat of a relief as the atmosphere at the stadium was tense to say the least.  Argentinians really take their futbol seriously, so much so that armed guards and barb-wired fences separate the away team from the devoted Boca supporters.  Buenos Aires_093Buenos Aires_094We watched as the stadium filled in, firstly the many Boca supporters but then followed by the entrance of the rival team – Ecuador’s confusingly named team – Barcelona.  They tried their best to make an entrance, complete with drums and chants however were incredibly outnumbered by the home supporters and their cheers dissipated amongst the home crowd.  Last but not least, Boca’s most passionate supporters entered the stadium, bringing with them their many chants and the loud beating of their cheer squad drums.  Blue and yellow flares were ignited throughout the stadium as it erupted with cheers before the arrival of the players themselves.  Luckily, Boca won the game 1-0 and after the game we safely walked the streets back to our bus.  I can only imagine what it would be like should the opposing team had won (I must say I was secretly sort of hoping for it but also sort of afraid of what may happen if they did!)Buenos Aires_097Buenos Aires_100Buenos Aires_108Another day, another walking tour, this time exploring San Telmo and La Boca.  San Telmo was originally won of the most attractive and affluent neighbourhoods in BA however in the late 19th century, following a Yellow Fever outbreak, it was deserted by the elite as they searched for higher and drier ground.  Immigrant families flooded the area with old mansions divided to house the many poor families.  Many say San Telmo was the birthplace of Tango with the various background immigrants coming together to create an emotional and original dance form.  Nowadays its cobble stone streets are filled with antique stores, remnants of its past life and incredibly fun to explore.

BA’s thinnest building

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Just a small sample of the antiques…

Buenos Aires_125Buenos Aires_120Buenos Aires_177Buenos Aires_001La Boca is a locals’ neighbourhood that was also home to many immigrants who worked in the warehouses along the river.  The main attraction is the various colourful corrugated buildings, a result of the immigrants splashing leftover paint on their dwellings in an attempt to distinguish their small properties.  We walked the most famous street – Caminito, a tourist attraction by day however one of BA’s most dangerous areas come night.  For us, one of the highlights was the “Bee Man” some old guy in a red bee suit walking the streets and saying hello to everyone.  I think he was going on about being in some movie many a year ago dressed as a bee and I also think that perhaps that also led to him becoming completely insane.

Buenos Aires_139Buenos Aires_144Buenos Aires_142Buenos Aires_155Buenos Aires_135A tour to BA would not be complete without learning some more of its long and interesting history.  Settled in 1536, it has suffered attacks by foreign countries (as well as being bombed by its own navy), control by ruthless dictators, lived under the shadow of Gestapo-like police while also being home to some of the most important writers and artists in Latin American history.  It has seen both economic booms and growths in wealth as well as complete economic crashes resulting in crippling poverty.  We walked through the streets, learning about the kidnapping of thousands of children and the rise and fall of Juan Peron.

Buenos Aires_165Buenos Aires_170Buenos Aires_171Buenos Aires_169In our last days we explored the final neighbourhoods of BA, enjoying Palermo’s cosmopolitan lifestyle and relaxing in picturesque Parque 3 de Febrero where we had the whistle blown on us for lying down on the grass.  The famous San Telmo antiques market was on Sunday and we walked the many streets full of old soda pop bottles, cameras, street signs and other antiques of early BA.

Weirdest statue in the park…

Buenos Aires_190Buenos Aires_210Buenos Aires_161Buenos Aires_220Buenos Aires is an incredible city, the perfect mix of old and new, with colonial architecture reminiscent of Paris, shopping and nightlife to envy other European cities but all mixed with its own Latin American flavour.  With so many different neighbourhoods to explore it is hard to not fall in love with some part of the city.

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CORDOBA

It was Easter Friday when we arrived in Cordoba following our 14-hour bus ride from San Juan.  Cordoba is Argentina’s second largest city yet on our arrival, its streets were quiet and empty.  The Argentine Easter weekend coincides with another National holiday making it a six-day break and many had gone away.  As a result, perhaps we did not get to truly experience Cordoba city and our days were spent doing not much more than walking around, viewing the old cathedrals and buildings throughout the town and visiting a number of museums.

Cordoba_008Cordoba_023Cordoba_032We took a paddle boat ride through the park, something that was becoming somewhat of a common past time as we explored the various cities.  In addition to the many old buildings throughout the city, Cordoba has now devoted a whole area of the city to modern art and encouraging a new generation of Cordobites (no idea what you call them, that was Will’s suggestion) to break out from their traditional ways.

Cordoba_063Cordoba_034Cordoba_047In the evening on Easter Friday, the streets were filled with local and visiting Argentines walking with candles to the various churches throughout the city.  Pope San Francisco paraphernalia lined the streets, from posters to t-shirts, Argentines are very proud of their new Pope.  It was very quiet and somewhat peaceful in the city which I am sure is a contrast to most normal weekdays.

Cordoba_013Cordoba_021Cordoba_071On one of our days we took a day trip to Alta Gracia, a tranquil little town set in the mountains surrounded by leafy trees and parklands.  Alta Gracia is home to a 17th century Jesuit estancia, now a UNESCO World heritage site and we walked through the grounds learning about the history of the Jesuit history and various Spanish occupies over the years.

Cordoba_079Cordoba_081We had a parilla lunch for two and I ate my only Easter egg before continuing to Che Guevara’s childhood home.  Che’s family moved to Alta Gracia from Buenos Aires after a doctor recommended the dry climate for his asthma.  The house is now the Casa Del Che Museum, full of family photos, Che’s belongings and information about his time spent in Argentina.

Cordoba_084Cordoba_088Cordoba_092Our ticket gained us entry to two other house museums – a French artist and a Spanish composer, both who had lived in Alta Gracia at some stage. It was a little strange to have their houses and museums on display – really all 3 of them were famous for what they had achieved outside of Argentina and had only spent a small portion of their lives in the town. Nevertheless it was a peaceful place and nice to relax outside of Cordoba for a day.