Buenos Aires, Argentina
30 Dec 2008
With a metropolitan area of 13 million, Buenos Aires is not only the largest city in Latin America we visited, it also dwarfs every city we've been through in Europe as well, save for Istanbul.
And what an amazing city Buenos Aires is! With life and vitality, neighborhoods with distinct feels (like Chicago) from working class Boca to posh Palermo, Buenos Aires could have kept us busy for weeks!
Tim and I arrived Tuesday evening via ferry from Uruguay, and headed straight to the outdoor cafes of San Telmo, a short hike south of our downtown hostel, to bask in the nighttime warmth and enjoy a relaxing beer.
We stuck around the city center on Wednesday, New Years Eve. The center was bustling all day, paper shreds flying down from the windows above as locals toss out calendars and business papers per tradition.
Our walking tour around the city center lasted most of the day, starting with a stroll down Avenida de Mayo, from the Congressional building near our hostel to the Plaza de Mayo which houses the Casa Rosada (the Presidential palace where Evita once made her famous balcony addresses) and the baroque cathedral.
We continued up Avenida Florida and its surroundings, a series of pedestrian streets and the heart of commercial Buenos Aires. We continued all the way to Plaza San Martin, a relaxing piece of greenery on the north side of downtown.
New Years Eve was difficult. Having planned our trip around being in Buenos Aires for New Years and flying home shortly after, we didn't realize that Buenos Aires isn't a happening spot to ring in the new year. Instead, many locals head to the beaches of Uruguay or elsewhere. And, like the rest of Argentina, no one goes out to the nightlife until 2am at the earliest, and hence no one rings in the New Years at a public place like a disco. No organized outdoor activities either.
So we ended up cooking a nice dinner (this time we had an oven!), and rung in midnight at the rooftop bar of our hostel with some other travelers, enjoying good views of random fireworks launched by individuals throughout the city.
Tim and I had plans to party later that night at gay club walking distance from our hostel, recommended by a friend who had traveled to Buenos Aires a few years ago, but it was closed. Ugh! All the other options were much further and we ended up heading back to the hostel in defeat!
Ravi and I spent the day after New Year's (Thursday) nursing a disappointingly mild hangover. That said, we also discovered that Buenos Aires has some amazing parks. We walked over to the Palermo neighborhood to check out Parque 3 de Febrero.
Lots of folks were out on the 1st of January to enjoy this beautiful summer day! It was windy, but the sun was warm and the park a great place to check out. Too bad that the famous Rose Garden was closed (yes, I know...shamelessly gay, but I really did want to see it!), but otherwise, Ravi and I had a great time hanging out in Palermo with other portenos.
On Friday, we took a walking tour of the Recoleta neighborhood. Every city has its fabulously wealthy district, and Recoleta is the Buenos Aires iteration. To be honest, though, the main attraction is the Recoleta Cemetery. Argentina's A-list corpses repose in splendid style in this sumptuous boneyard, including Argentina's notoriously beloved Eva Peron (Evita). The place would make a great field trip for any student of Argentina's history, but as A-list graveyards go, Ravi and I still prefer Pere LaChaisse in Paris. I mean seriously, who'd you rather visit? Jim Morrison, or Evita Peron? Morrison's corpse is surely a much bigger draw.
Saturday, our last day abroad! And we were determined to make the most of it!
Tim and I headed that morning to La Boca, a working class neighborhood a few miles south of the city center. It was once the main port of old Buenos Aires, and now home to the Boca Juniors soccer team and its humungous crescent-shaped stadium.
The biggest draw here was La Caminata, a few blocks of streets full of artists and colorful buildings and people performing tango: a great draw for tourists especially on a busy Saturday. We ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant which shared a stage with another, where professionals danced to tango and brought diners onto stage to try it out for themselves. Both Tim and I partook, and though we were far from apt in our tango skills, at least we didn't step on our partners' toes!
We ended the afternoon with a daytime stroll around San Telmo, stopping into a few of its famous antiques shops. Then it was back to the hostel to finish packing before heading off to the airport for the voyage home.