As much as we loved western Argentina and busking around, it was time for the main event, BUENOS AIRES! We’d been hearing so much about it and were really excited to get to know the city. To be honest travelling so much and not having a kitchen meant a large part of our diet was almost exclusively sponsored by empanadas, so we were looking forward to using a proper kitchen. The fact remains that they’re quick, not greasy like fast food, taste different almost every time, and honestly were still going down easy. But I digress, we grabbed a bus from Cordoba to the Retiro station in Buenos Aires for 395 Argentinian pesos dreading our 5:00 am arrival time.
We had arranged to first try out a little place called Garden House Hostel near San Jose metro station for 70 pesos a bunk, quite affordable. The metro lines were quite easy to navigate and use, each pass was about 5 pesos one way, or 4.50 with a card. Unfortunately we got to the hostel extremely early, but they were nice enough to let us lounge around until the bunks were ready. It’s a nice hostel, tall with a few computers, lounges, activities for tourists, and a nice outdoor patio. I don’t remember much except that we were spread over the couches and one of the employee’s 5-year-old kept coming up to us as we were about to fall asleep and would grab our foot or smack us. This was not a good start to our stay, and it was infuriating that even when I went downstairs to try to nap on the floor in the library nook he came down to bother us. I mean I understand that lonely kids need playmates but smacking adults or poking them with darts is a little much.
After our power naps revived us somewhat we consulted the almighty travel book for Buenos Aires and decided to head downtown as it was the weekend. After a quick free breakfast of bread, jam, and dulce de leche, we hopped off the Independencia metro stop and headed towards the Plaza de Mayo. It was a sunny crowded day, and we were geared for a stroll. First we checked out the “Casa Rosada” aka the Pink house which is more of an executive mansion, used by the President I believe, as an office of sorts. All of the architecture around there is interesting – it’s very reminiscent of old Italian or French buildings. If you ‘forgot’ for a second you are in Latin America, your eyes would tell you that you’re undoubtedly in some European mix of Italian architecture, French terrace cafés and speaking Spanish! It was beautiful and surreal. We found an anthropology museum in the book that Tom was keen on checking out but alas it was closed. In a twist of fate we randomly heard a small group of Aussies heading down the street; they were as “fresh off the boat” as us, but told us they were checking out the huge Belgrano weekend street market, and that it was a sight worth seeing!
Man it was a party, 15 blocks of people milling around different stalls, stands, galleries and offerings. It was packed elbow to elbow as we examined different crafts, goodies, edibles, and stuff in general. We saw horrible ice cream cones filled with nothing but dulce de leche; to each their own I suppose. I had a Columbian arepa sold out of a Styrofoam icebox which was delicious, and we even stumbled upon a courtyard with an asado or grill station set up. Tom and I figured any grill with a 20 person line must be good and man it was a mouth-watering asado sandwich which I’ll never forget. The sheer choice of snacks in Buenos Aires is amazing: from savory pies, pastries and little mouthfuls, to sweet frosted cupcakes, chocolate covered breads & sweets and the ever-present caramel which is spread over and scooped onto anything and everything. One of the most famous candies in BA is a small rice cake sandwich with slathers of caramel in the middle. It must be some kind of speciality, because on arriving in Brazil people wanted to know whether we tried them. Anyway, Ryan when on a stone hunting spree finding beautiful specimens and doing some gift shopping at the same time. We watched Tom drum with some rastas, and even saw a bad-ass teen Peruvian flute band which was fluting up a storm. With that and other other guitar players’ music in the background, we enjoyed a sedate stroll through the river of creativity evident at the market: paintings of all types, carvings and figurines, and jewellry in all shapes and sizes too. And so many colours! Almost at the end we saw a couple doing amazing tango dancing routines, for which Argentina is famous of course.
Overall it was a nice chill, exploratory kind of day and we slowly made out way back to the hostel. After a typical paste dinner, Ryan and I grabbed our guitars and we joined a group of the resident students playing music, listening to theirs, all while passing around fetid concoctions of fernet and coke. It was very festive! 🙂 And the festivities didn’t stop when we turned in for the night… Tom was inelegantly rocked to sleep by the vigorous couple sleeping on the bunk bed beneath him 😉
The second half of our Buenos Aires trip involved some couch surfers, and an amazing night out…