What’s New, Buenos Aires?

Listen to this to put you in the mood…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaybmlPSwQM&spfreload=10

I know this is super late, but late is better than never or so Drake says. So here goes…

To be honest, I had zero expectations of what to expect in Argentina. Well thats a lie, I was basing everything I knew off of watching Evita once.  Honestly, I can say that whatever expectations I had were way off the mark.

You’re most likely thinking, why the hell would anyone go to Argentina for reading week. Isn’t that like 128075.42 hours away? Well friends, its not exactly THAT far, but its still a hike.

I think that I used up all my airport karma on my last trip because this was the literal trip from hell. (Not to hell… although I’m most likely going there anyway). Lets begin with shock #1 – the amount of Japanese tourists on the plane. I mean I was expecting some, because reasons. But the actual amount was way more than I expected. Turns out that there is a sizeable Japanese expat population in Argentina *Cues NBC’s The More You Know GIF*.

Anyway, back to the literal flight from hell. This is when I knew that I had zero karma left because why else would we be seated in the proximity of 5 babies, a man that got up and down more than an old man at a strip club and the most annoying old lady. Ever. Even though the flight was actually horrible, I did learn a good parenting tip – if you’re going to comfort your screaming child on a plane, make sure you know how much room there is between you and the overhead bin. I think this goes without saying but l actually witness a mother full on THROW her baby into the compartment. Yes, this is an actual thing that happened.

Thank god for sleeping pills because I honestly don’t think I could have survived without them. Yes, this may be SLIGHTLY melodramatic but I’m over it. Although, once we stopped in Santiago and the plane got significantly emptier, things got better.

Looking back now, I think the first sign of the state of the country should have been the wifi at the airport. Like everything else, the sentiment was there but the functionality wasn’t (read: did not work for absolute shit). Going through immigration was a breeze, although I think that may have been because the officer seemed to be as enthralled with his job as I am with babies on planes.

The cab ride in from the airport was another experience in and of itself.  The cabbie must have been at least 90yrs old and every time he hit a toll both or had to slow down, he stalled the car. Although he seemed to into his screamo to care. He got us to the hotel in one piece (maybe) which is all that really matters.

We stayed across from the world famous La Recoleta Cemetery, and as it turns out the area around it was a really nice part of town. It’s really easy to understand why this is one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Between its huge ornamental tombs and the fact that Eva Peron  is buried there, tourists flock there in droves. Beside the cemetery, is La Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar – a wonderful example of Latin american Church design, a huge contrast to those of Europe.

Another really interesting monument in the Recoleta neighbourhood is Florialis Generica. Aka a giant steel tulip (see picture). Legend has it that this flower once opened and closed depending upon the hour of the day, but like everything else in the country was broken.

The City of Buenos Aires has clearly spent a lot of money in this area of the city and it is definitely evident. Its clean, safe and most of all a great place to spend money. There are two malls within 500m of each other.

After exploring the area around the hotel we were able to get tickets to (read: bribe enough people) a BOCA Juniors game. Even though La Bombonera stadium feels and looks like its about to collapse under the weight of the 44,000 fans it holds, seeing a game there is one of the coolest experiences in the city. The fans are so passionate about the team and it is clearly evident. I don’t think there was a moment of silence during the game. It’s so cool to see that many people cheering and singing in unison!

We decided that we had explored the area around our hotel well enough, and spent the next day visiting the Delta of the Rio Tigre. Billed as one of the best tourist attractions outside of the city, it seemed like we were in for a treat. After the usual tourist shakedown takedown on the way there (which we managed to navigate like pros), we found the literal entire population of the country surrounding the river. Well ok, 40 million people is an overestimate but you get my drift. We got on a boat for a tour of the delta, and boy were we glad to escape the people selling ice cream. (I think the man screaming HEEELLLLLAAAADOOOOO still haunts my dreams).

The delta in and of itself wasn’t SUPER nice, but its easy to understand why so many people vacation there. Its calmer than the city, and is arguably better for swimming (although you’d have to pay me 910357130875807$ to get me to do that). The amount of people in the water was surprising given the fact that all the beaches were artificial, and the water is not pleasant to look at (or smell for that matter).  It is evident though that overdevelopment has taken its toll on the area (the water is literally the same colour brown as other things). We did have a nice cruise on the river, once the showoffs on jet skis buggered the hell off.  After this, we came back into the city and had the best steak dinner I’ve ever had.

The next day was sent exploring the city on foot, which we thought wouldn’t be that taxing. WELL BOY WERE WE WRONG. Something you should know about the city is that there are literally no good maps of the city. Normally, theres one are two that are pretty good for scale but NO. We had 4 different maps of the city with 4 different scales. Also one was turned 180 degrees to the others. WHY. WHY.

The Plaza Saint Martin was beautiful and was arguably some of the best scenery in the city, and probably one of my favourite places. I think it must have been the contrast between the green trees and the vivid pink of the flowers on them. Also, this is where the monument to the Falkland Islands war is, which is guarded by some Argentine solders (side note: how they don’t die of heat is beyond me).

The city planners had some A+ skills because the city is so pedestrian friendly and never once did I feel like I was going to get slaughtered by a motor vehicle. Even when crossing the Av. 9 de Julio (google street view it, I dare you).

One of the things you should know about the Microcentro area of the city is that there are literally 1305813 people yelling “Cambio, cambio, cambioooooooo” at you. While these guys do give you a better exchange rate than the banks, the way they attract the attention of the customers is literally the most annoying thing ever and should not be a thing anymore.

Now, one of the most interesting parts of the city. The obelisk. Someone though that it was a bright idea to plop one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city in the middle of a 12 lane street. It does provide some great views of the city down the Av. 9 de Julio but still, LIKE WHOEVER THOUGHT OF THIS MUST HAVE BEEN ABOUT 8 FRIES SHORT OF A HAPPY MEAL.

We managed to somehow trek back to the hotel, and I thought I was actually going to keel over right there. Turns out we walked 25+ km, A+ planning skills on our part. We found out much later that there was a hop on, hop off bus that did the same thing we did. But like with significantly less walking – which is what we decided we would do the next day.

Again, the City of Buenos Aires was clutch, not only for providing free wifi throughout the city but also because they sponsored the bus. Yes, it was a little expensive but saved me from being a double amputee by the end of the day (my feet were that sore).

The bus took us to the big tourist spots of the city – La Casa Rosada, the congress, El Caminito among others. This was a great way to see the city – and boy did we see a lot of it. We didn’t get off the bus until we got to San Telmo – the oldest area of the city.  This was by far one of the coolest parts of the city, the history in the area is palpable and you feel like you’ve travelled back at least 200 years. We saw the Plaza Dorrego, which on the weekends has a great market, the Pasaje de La Denfensa (an old mansion turned into a tenement house) and then decided we were in the mood for some art. So, against all our wisdom, we decided to go to one of the Modern Art Museums. Bad choice for two reasons: 1) MODERN ART BOGGLES MY MIND and 2) SOMEONE ACTUALLY PUT A FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN THEIR EXHIBIT, which was enough for me to tap out.

Back on the bus, we decided to go to El Caminito. This colourful street is admittedly in not the best area of the city, but you can feel its old world charm. The colours of the houses on the street are amazing for photos. This is somewhere where you should pay attention to your belongings – even the locals will tell you that.

We spent a good hour here – you don’t really need more than that. Trust me. We decided to head back in the direction of the hotel, and hit up the National Art Museum. Its a good thing the bus was covered because the Heavens decided to open up on our heads on the way back. I should also note that this was around rush hour, and traffic was picking up. This prompted the woman giving the the tour on the bus to ask us if we were planning to go 1 of 10 different stops because the traffic was too bad and they really didn’t want to go to there (Classic Argentina).  We made it to the museum without difficulty (minus being a tad bit soaked).  Its a beautiful building with beautiful art AND ITS LITERALLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION. We had toured the main floor and I was ready to leave (Bc art is only fun for a little bit of time) but then my dad decided that it wouldn’t be bad to go upstairs. TURNS OUT THE ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND THEY JUST LET PEOPLE WANDER THROUGH IT. Admittedly, there is a photography exhibit (and a good one at that) on the second floor, but still. A+ planning skills. Soaked from the rain and worn out from trying to understand art, we headed back to the hotel.

Now, we had planned the next day around the fact that it was Thursday, and on thursdays theres a quasi-protest on the Plaza de Mayo (google: abuelas de la plaza de mayo). So we ventured down that way, saw some of the sights and then it was time to check out this protest. Turns out it wasn’t that much of a protest, although it was very interesting to learn about the Argentine Dirty War and the “disappearances” that happened.

Also on the Plaza de Mayo is La Casa Rosada, the seat of power of the Argentine President. It would be hard to explain the significance without a description of the political system of Argentina. On paper, the country is has a bicameral legislature with the president as head of state. In reality, the president is accorded much more power (the symbol of the president is on anything remotely related to the government). The fact that the president is Cristina doesn’t really help the system at all (one google search and you’ll find out why).

The Plaza de Mayo is where everyone comes to protest anything government related (there was a 400,000 person protest here during our stay) and some of the surrounding buildings still bear these scars. However, the Casa Rosada itself is an immense building. While we weren’t able to tour it, even the view from the outside is spectacular. Fun Fact: the main balcony is where Madonna actually sang “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in the movie Evita. Just behind the building is the Bicentenary Museum and gives incredible insight into the tumultuous history of the country.

Something you should really know about Argentina is that just because something says something on paper doesn’t mean its actually a thing. Case in point, museums. Just because it says its open,  this doesn’t mean anything. In fact, we went to the front doors of the best museums of the city – but we couldn’t cross the threshold for one reason or another (construction, the fact that the desk lady left and we were chased out by an angry security guard are among my favourites).

That sums up our adventures in the city. In brief, just like the country, everything is beautiful to look at from a distance but doesn’t actually function that well (like most beautiful things).

On our final day we decided to head out to the countryside (La Pampa) to see the Gauchos! We took a tour to “La Estancia Santa Susana” where we were fed copious amounts of wine, empanadas and meat.  Nothing to complain about there. In a shocking turn of events, I actually rode a horse and lived to tell the tale (almost – 2 old ladies ran into me on their horse and my entire life flashed before my eyes, spoiler alert: it wasn’t that great). During lunch, we were treated to some amazing feats of tango and salsa. However, nothing came close to the gaucho show. I found it amazing that these men were able to pick a ring off a post at high speeds. After their prerequisite “macho man” show, they invited some of the ladies to join them on their horses (BECAUSE OF COURSE). After this show, it was time to head back to the city and look back on the journey we had.

Overall, I enjoyed this trip immensely. Not only because I got to spend some much needed quality time with my dad, but because I found the dichotomy of the city incredible to see first hand (within 10 km you have the most expensive part of the city, and the poorest).

TL;DR: Buenos Aires is a beautiful city (even though it isn’t as windy as the name implies). Argentinian wine and steak are A+. I want to go back.