Buenos Aires

I wasn’t feeling the best for much of our week in Buenos Aires (just a bad cold but it really knocked me out) but still we managed to have a great time. Buenos Aires is a wonderful city, full of history and character and really big and spread out -it takes a good few days to get around to all the different areas, but the transport is good and easy to use. There’s lots of dramatic old European-style architecture; some large old buildings had front-facing iron balconies, which reminded me of New Orleans. In many ways it’s like being in a misplaced European city but with an added edginess which makes it quite different from being in Paris or Berlin. The Argentinians have had a bad time of it in lots of ways and often take to the streets to voice their concerns. We saw four or five street protests during our week there, and we regularly saw police riot vans and barricades waiting to be deployed. Also, like the other cities we’ve visited in South America so far, there’s quite a bit of really good graffiti art & murals adorning the walls as you wander around the city.

Riot Proof Government Building, BA Night Protest, BA

Ssssh... Street Art Street Art

While we were in Indonesia we had met a woman from Buenos Aires, Jessica, who we arranged to meet up with on our first night in town. She was going out with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday, in a cool pub called Le Bar somewhere on Calle Tucuman and she invited us to join them. So we went along, but after taking a quick walk around the bar without finding her, we sat up at the bar where we thought we’d have the best chance of spotting her if she arrived.  After a couple of drinks, we were about to look around again for her when the barmaid told us it was happy hour and so we could have the same two drinks again each for free. Of course, we couldn’t afford not to, and so almost another hour later, it was a very enthusiastic and slighly boistorous pair who finally greeted Jessica and all her slightly stunned friends, who had been there all along.  At about 11pm, we left the pub and were whisked away in a car to a local-style restaurant in some unknown location, where we feasted on meat, meat and more meat. Our starter, shared between everyone, consisted of Achuras (organ meats or offal as we would call it at home) including liver, kidney, intestines, and God knows what else. This was followed by steak and chips. This is where our earlier drinking session served us proud as we threw caution to the wind and tucked in with mucho gusto! The Argentinians love their meat and we’ve eaten very well our whole time here, but we’ve stuck to regular steak ever since!  Anyway a fun night was had by all and with the extra bit of confidence, the spanish was flowing out of us! Thankfully, our loud behaviour didn’t put Jessica off us (despite what we read in our guide book about Argentinians not tolerating drunkeness) and we met up twice more during our stay in Buenos Aires.

On Saturdays, the Portenos (inhabitants of Buenos Aires) flock to Palermo, a trendy area that would make you think that the city was soley populated by the young and affluent. Jessica told us that this is a false impression, as even in the worst of times, Portenos will go out to eat, drink, see and be seen.  It was also Jewish New Year so it was an extra busy day. We strolled around the Saturday markets and cool little shops with Jessie and her friend, and once more I lamented the fact that I have neither the bag space nor the budget to go clothes shopping on this trip. Palermo is full of restaurants, bars and boutiques, some of which you have to ring a bell to enter – although the prices are fine by Irish standards (starting around 20 euro for tops). All very fancy, but out of the average Porteno’s budget. That Saturday I also made an appointment at Jessica’s very trendy hairdresser’s for the following Tuesday. Muy cool, I tell you.

Nike shop in Palermo, Buenos Aires Palermo brickabrac merchant!

Which flavour? Hairdressers, Palermo

San Telmo is another area with lots of cool bars, restaraunts and shops (slightly less expensive), and I spent a very happy few hours there browsing through lots of cool, cheap clothes and wishing BA was our last stop. Ah well, I’m sure NYC won’t disappoint on that front (provided I have any money left!). I actually got shat on by a bird in San Telmo, which although was unpleasant at the time, did bring me good luck I think. My cold cleared up that day and I’ve felt particularly wonderful ever since!

On our last night in Buenos Aires we went to Jessica’s house for a few beers, followed by a trip to a Milonga (dance hall). Jessica’s house is deadly! It’s really airy with a tree growing inside the house. Yes a tree! Her living and dining area has a really really high glass ceiling which opens up in summertime, and she also has a fairly large outside area with BBQ. We loved her house, and are already thinking of how we can incorporate those design ideas if we ever build a house of our own. We left her place at about 11.30, but didn’t go to the Milonga til after 1am as it was emptier earlier on and it was free after 1 (saving us a whopping €3 each, every bit helps!). The place is called ‘La Viruto’ at Armenia 1366 and I’d recommend it if you want to see a bit of tango without having to go to a full-on expensive show. They do classes too if you’re brave enough to join the local pros! We stayed a couple of hours and I really enjoyed it.  Similar to when I went to swing class in Dublin, it made me think how much our generation has missed out on the whole dancing thing. The dance hall was packed with young people, who either came with a partner or just asked others to dance – it must have been like the showband era was in our parent’s heyday. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t try out a few steps; firstly because no-one assked me (Eddie hadn’t a notion), and more importantly because I was not wearing the requisite high heels! I was reliably informed that they are absolutely essential and I didn’t want to offend anyone with my scruffy grey runners! (If you’re ever planning to visit Buenos Aires, I would recommend anyone to stay in either Palermo or San Telmo, as in both places you’ll be able to walk home at night after being out for dinner or drinks – even decent restaurants are hard to find if you stay in the centre).

Riona and Jessica Traditional Dancehall

Before we left for our 24 hour luxury bus ride to the Iguazu falls, we passed a few hours in the Japanese Gardens and went back to the Plaza de Mayo to see the ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’ do their weekly protest. The Japanese Gardens turned out to be a real highlight – we were there on a beautiful day and the place had a real magical quality to it. I really really loved it, which I know sounds a bit sad as its only a park, but it reminded me of the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film and I just got a magic feeling in it. The photos don’t do it justice but here’s a couple of pics:

Little Bridge, Japanese Gardens Waterfall in the Japanese Gardens

The Madres de Plaza de Mayo are a group of Argentine mothers whose children were some of the estimated 30,000 people who “disappeared” during the Dirty War, the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Each Thursday this group of elderly women gather in Buenos Aires’ main square to remember their children and raise awareness about what happened, wearing white headscarves to signify the color of peace. U2 wrote a song about their plight, it’s on The Joshua Tree Album and called “Mothers of the Disappeared”. You can read more about the madres on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madres_de_Plaza_de_Mayo or www.abuelas.org.ar/english/espontanea.htm).

Symbol of the Mothers of the Disappeared

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