Sunday, 25 December 2011

Buenos Aires – wannabe europe

Having mulled and worried about only having a one-way ticket into Argentina and after the Consulate’s warning that we might be sent back to Africa upon arrival – it was no problem, no body even bothered checking us … So we each forked out the $US100 ‘reciprocal fee’ and wandered onto Argentinian soil.

6471964111_804de461b9We’d found it interesting that every report we’d read emphasised the need for coins for the local bus into town (the bus costs 0.40 cents/pp and a taxi costs $US50, so we’d decided to take the bus!) We soon realised that it had been emphasised so much because it was really difficult to actually get coins. None of the banks would give change and neither would the cafes, so in the end we broke our ‘No McDonalds in a foreign country’ rule and bought an overpriced McFlurry just to get the right change for the bus (and yes the McFlurry was tasty, but probably not the best breaky choice!).

We boarded the bus and used the brand new ticket machine that only accepted our hard earned coins and settled in for the long ride into town. We actually managed to get off at the right stop for once and walked to our expensive hotel (Sarah had accidently thought that A$70 was Argentinian Peso when in fact it was Australian dollars…. well at least our first two nights in a new country were comfortable!) On the way to our hotel we noticed that one of the major streets was completely blocked off, there were police and camera crews everywhere and loads of people queued up at barriers with some people standing outside cafes watching TV in tears. Very curious as to what was going on we later learnt that a building had partially collapsed as a company was digging underneath in order to create an underground carpark. Luckily most people were evacuated in time before they started the demolition, but unfortunately a few days later they discovered that an old man was missing and he was found dead in his apartment in amongst the rubble. It was a tragedy as people lost their homes and pets along with someones life..

On our first full day in Buenos Aires (after a fairly poor continental breakfast with coffee that was so burnt - no amount of sugar could save it…) we did a free walking tour - http://www.bafreetour.com/ . Its something that we’ve done in nearly every 6471994623_c97ba6bf8bcapital city, it’s a great way to learn and explore a new city.  Our guide Gaston was fantastic and we learnt lots of interesting things like if an Argentinian in BA has premium health care they get free elective surgery each two years.  Gaston insisted that Argentinians are extremely body conscious, but despite this; 90% seem to be sporting what would be a beer gut in Australia, but what here we’re pretty sure is a result of the constant ice cream eating! Which they do for good reason, the Italian influence here is clearly obvious with quality gelato available on each corner, so you can buy your next delicious portion before you’ve finished eating your current one… our favourite new flavour being ‘dulce de leche’ (or manjar, for our Chilean friends) which we are addicted to in every available form.

6472203825_6babe59d1bThe next evening we took the 2nd free walking tour which explored the area where our hostel was, Recoleta.  This is also where the famous cemetery is with the mausoleum of Evita Peron is.  Her grave is actually not that impressive, but the rest of the cemetery makes up for it.  It is immense and full of mausoleums that elsewhere would be cathedrals. The rich and wealthy were historically buried in this graveyard and even though you can’t take your money with you it seems that many people insisted that their money be spent on at least housing themselves comfortably for the afterlife! The ambience of the place was greatly aided by the brewing hail storm that gave the sky an eerie green colour and really set the mood for cemetery exploring!

Three days exploring BA was enough of the cosmopolitan city for us.  Mainly it just reminded us of being in Europe, but not as relaxed and cultural as Europe.  So we were excited to board our next bus and head from the capital city to the gaucho capital – San Antonio de Areco.

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