There have been a few places along this journey where either Pete or I have looked at the other and said: "Holy shit. I can't believe we are in X!" This has happened probably less then you might think, as many places we have visited we had never even heard of before we got here. But every once in awhile, this feeling hits us like a tonne of bricks...
Holy shit, I can't believe we are in Buenos Aires!!
Visiting Buenos Aires has been a longtime dream of mine - I've always wanted to dive into this large, cosmopolitan, European city of South America that everyone loves. And after almost five entire months since we left Canada, we made it here.
Another lengthy overnight bus trip from Puerto Iguazú brought us into the city mid-morning on Friday. I had actually found myself looking forward to the 17 hour trip - not only have we found a seriously comfortable way to travel, but it saves paying for a night in a hostel! However, as the law of Murphy goes, as soon as you get comfortable with something, it changes, and this bus ride was not our most enjoyable. A last minute bus change meant less comfortable seats, the dinner was only made better by adding copious amounts of mustard, and we were seated near the only bathroom, which meant constant interruptions from the many people who visited. The only saving grace was that we finally got a decent movie (Quentin Tarantino's latest, Inglorious Basterds), but then they followed it up with Disney's Princess Protection Program. What kind of a line-up is that?
Regardless, we made it. But after only two days we leave again as we are booked on a ferry to Uruguay. I wish I could say that we made the most of this time, but our first day was spent in recovery from the bad night before, plus from the many hours we've spent on a bus and generally just rushing in the past week or so. We were also frantic to get some planning done for the next stage of our trip (we are touring this area in the height of summer holidays, we have no choice but to book in advance to secure rooms).
We did however, need to eat, and part of experiencing this great city is indulging in the many fantastic restaurants! Luckily, we are withing walking distance from a few good ones, and we were very happy to indulge in something other than steak, pasta and pizza (menu mainstays across this country).
We woke up yesterday well rested and ready to explore this section of the city. We stayed in the historic neighbourhood of San Telmo - famous for the severe fighting that took place during the early 1800s between Britain and Spain. We decided to follow a walking tour guide from Lonely Planet and ventured out on some of this areas most notable streets.
We fell in love with the traditional streets just around us. We loved the sounds of the cars driving by on the cobblestone roads. We loved all of the original colonial architecture, and even the graffiti that decorates much of it. We loved the many, many little antique shops that dot the streets and the quaint little designer shops and cafe's in between them. The size of my backpack dictates that no shopping is allowed...but oh, how I wanted to make it overflow with the many amazing things we found!
Our walk took us into to the city center, and one thing startled us immediately. For the size of this city and it's many inhabitants (around 13 million), it is awfully quiet. It could be because we are visiting on a weekend during summer vacation time, but it doesn't have the rushed pace of other big cities we've been to. For these country mice, that is a big plus. We walked through the main city plaza enjoying the expanse of the buildings and green space almost entirely to ourselves.
The appeal of the buildings and atmosphere was lost though, as the walking tour then guided us down a pedestrian mall complete with a mix of North American brand names that take away from the foreign charm of any place we visit. We were also constantly accosted by people shoving pamphlets in our face for their nearby restaurants. We picked up our pace and got out of this area - we had far to go yet, and the oppressive heat was starting to wear on me.
Well, we didn't make it too much further, and that was enough for me. I started to feel dizzy and very tired - we had walked quite far in the extreme heat (we are in the muggy 30s here), and were also in need of lunch! Resolving ourselves to the idea that we would could just continue our tour on our next visit, we got into a cab and back to our neighbourhood we went.
After a good lunch, lots of water and a long siesta, we got ready for a traditional evening out - it was time to tango, baby! Although the concept of a dinner/tango show has become a totally touristy, kitschy thing to do, we knew it was a must in experiencing Buenos Aires. And there is one very good reason why things become touristy - it is because it is that damn good, that everyone must partake!
While the dinner was nothing to write home about, the show was nothing short of amazing. Incredibly passionate performances by various singers, a tango pair, and finally a flamenco dancer that took our breath away. I had never quite seen anything like it - the flamenco dancer moved like her feet and hands were controlling her, and not the other way around. The whole evening was quite moving and a perfect way to spend a hot, Buenos Aires evening!!
And so, after this little gratifying taste (an appetizer, if you will!) of this glorious city, we are out the door. The beaches of Uruguay are beckoning, but we will be back in Buenos Aires for at least a week in February to enjoy the main course...