#23 - Buenos Aires Beautiful
Jeff Willner - 8 January, 2002
(Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA) – "You slacker! This
food is awesome, and all the time we have been on the road you said
you didn't know how to cook." Jody glared at me. Oops, a miscalculation.
I stammered, "Well you know I do almost all the driving and get
tired at the end of the day, plus I really need to have a full kitchen
and oven..." "Whatever!" Jody cut me off. "You
are totally going in the cooking rotation when we are back on the road." Ahh
well, it was worth giving up my secret.
For three weeks the Hostal San Telmo in Buenos
Aires was our home while we waded through the insurance and shipping
details. Located in a working class district of downtown Buenos Aires,
the hostel is surrounded by century-old cafes, fruit and butcher shops,
antique galleries, and shaded plazas. Before each evening meal I would
walk twenty steps across the street into my favourite little grocery
stall, pick out a single tomato, onion, pepper, or maybe some broccoli
and fresh bread. Hold up my fingers to show how thick I wanted the
butcher to cut the steaks. Select a bottle of nice red wine, pay $5
for all of the purchases and head back across the street into the kitchen
to whip up another sizzling bit of heaven. So relaxing, so laid back,
and the crowd that passed through the hostel included some really excellent
individuals. People to relax with in the evening, swapping travel tales,
sharing some cheese and crackers, going to a tango show, or just vegging
out and watching 'The Untouchables' till 1am.
Normally our insurance claim would have been processed
in about a week, but due to the meltdown of the Argentine peso, our
repair quote was delayed for days and then weeks. Though it took an
accident to get us back to the city, by the end of our stay I was captivated.
Buenos Aires rocks. It's a city of European sophistication and Latin
temperament. South America's most beautiful women in the latest styles,
stately buildings, midnight dining where the clubs don't get going
till 2am, tango in the squares, art, architecture, and cobbled avenidas.
Our 36hr bus
ride to Buenos Aires from Rio Gallegos in Patagonia was a
bit more challenging than normal since we were all banged
the accident. The day after arriving was a weekend, no way
to do work, might as well see the city. Thankfully the swelling
in my leg had gone down and it didn't look like I was clumping
around with an elephant's foot. I popped an anti-inflammatory
and Jody and I decided to make a short walk to nearby San Telmo
plaza. It was so pretty. Shade trees, clusters of cafe umbrellas
with seats, and on the corner of the street this 100 year old
cafe. That's gotta be at least twenty years of graffiti scratched
into the wall.
After the park
Jody and I retraced our steps and went north to the old
port. It has been converted into a mix of condos, restaurants,
and modern office buildings. It has been really well done
a quality level with Battery Park in New York or Queens
in Toronto. Urban cool.
blocks to the south of San Telmo is La Boca (or the Latin Quarter).
This was a heaving immigrant community at the last turn of
the century and from this hodgepodge of tin shack houses and
narrow alleys came some of Argentina's best tango music and
art. It is completely touristy today, but is still home to
quite a number of art studios.
||We decided that
since we were in Buenos Aires we had to go see a Tango show.
Gulin had befriended a Turkish backpacker and he had taken
her out the evening prior. She came back raving about the dancing.
So a group of us from the hostel went down to see a show. The
dancing was fine but the accordion players were the most entertaining.
Two sixty year old guys who were totally into their music.
They were head bobbing, doing the facial expressions, even
bouncing up and down on their chairs when the music got hot.
Dinner was interesting too. First course, some bread. Wait.
Wait. Then second course, a plate with a gigantic slab of meat
and a wee bit of salad. And ice cream. That is all. They love
their beef in Argentina!
||The next Sunday
was the famous San Telmo market. Hundreds of vendors set up
stalls with antiques, records, pictures, precious stones, silver,
handicrafts, you name it. In the center was an open area that
had been curtained off and tango dancers performed for tips.
Unlike the cool professionalism at the tango show a few nights
prior, this was open air, sweaty, passionate dancing. Somehow
it seemed a lot more real.
wandered the city one weekend intending to walk a dozen blocks
to see the Plaza del Congresso and have a cafe cortado. But it
was such a fine day that I just kept on walking. Along the Avenida
de Mayo with its stately old buildings. Over to Corrientes, the
city's theatre district lined with dozens of venues, and then
down to Teatro Colon - the majestic national theatre that overlooks
Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the world's widest boulevards.
Still walking, I went north into the swanky neighbourhood
of Recoleta lined with glamorous townhouses and exclusive
apartment buildings. Cartier, Rolex, and Tiffany are crowded
into the streets of upscale stores. At the heart of the neighbourhood
is a large park that includes the Cemetery of the Recoleta.
There are hundreds of mausoleums ordered row by row, shaded
by trees, interspersed with statues. Odd as it may sound,
it would be the perfect place for a picnic - the solitude
and sense of permanency, of peace. The main attraction is
Evita's tomb. Not well marked, you have to note it carefully
on the map outside and walk about 2/3 of the way to the back
in the rear left. Or you just follow the regular stream of
tour groups. It is always covered with flowers, personal
notes, and is carefully cleaned unlike some of the other
mausoleums. I saw one of the workers carefully taking a piss
on one tomb of an old muckety muck - calculated? Who can
|West of Recoleta is Palermo, slightly less posh but
with its own cool elegance. One ten block square is known as
Palermo Viejo, a collection of fine restaurants, clubs, shops,
bars, and restaurants. Because Palermo is middle-class there
is a great mix of different stuff. We went out one night with
Jody's cousin who lives in the city. "Don't bother coming
over till midnight cause its dead till then." And sure
enough, things started filling up around 1am. Man, I don't
know how they keep up their pace.