We returned from Iguazu for the second week in Buenos Aires wanting to take in as much as possible. It was hard to imagine this would be the last week of a 14-month long trip.
It’s the middle of winter. We planned on following good weather as we traveled east across the globe but crossing the equator can be a game changer and the term ‘good weather’ is a relative one. After all, South African and (north) Argentinean winters are not like the ones at home. Long sleeve shirts or light fleeces were warm enough for the harshest conditions. Buenos Aires’ winter feels more like a fall or spring New England day. The locals are wearing winter coats, scarves, and occasionally I’ll see a pair of gloves. The dogs are sporting their winter coats, too.
There are many museums here and we visited quite a few. One of the best known is The Museo Nacional de Belles Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) which houses one of the best collections of fine art from the late 15th to the early 20th century.
The museum did not lack spirit of humor as there was a special exhibit from Argentinean artist/cartoonist, Miguel Rep, which made light of the very museum.
The food here is great. They call barbecue, “asado”, and it is taken as seriously as futbol. We went to a restaurant recommended by hosts Maria and Enrique, called El Placio de la papa frita, or, in English and far less appetizing-sounding, The Palace of Fried Potatoes. The tenderloin was awesome, of course, but the reason for the restaurant’s name is the way the fried potatoes are prepared. Each piece of potato was crispy and puffed up with air. Cindy and I wondered how they produced this neat little trade secret. Were there little elves in the back injecting each piece with air? We also tried the fried calamari which were the most tender and smooth tasting, not even a bit chewy.
Regarding futbol, or “soccer” in the parlance back home (I’m not quite sure why we call American football as such since it’s not really played with the foot very much), the World Cup started play while we were there. One evening we were meditating when there were cheers from the streets, horns blowing, car horns blasting, and a general loud hubbub outside. We thought the game had ended, but in fact, it was only a goal made by Argentina. Vamos Argentina!
We learned to look down when walking the streets in most cities. Buenos Aires was no exception. The sidewalks were not all smooth but at least there were no gaping deep shafts to fall into as there are in some cities. Yet, all was not roses in Buenos Aires, especially in Palermo, the area in which we were staying. The streets were littered with dog excrement. Except where shop owners and doormen had cleaned up, it was inexplicable why people did not pick up after their dogs. After all, didn’t they risk stepping in some themselves?
Recoleta cemetery is like a small walled-in city where the streets are made up of tombs and mausoleums. Many of the city’s aristocrats, rich and famous are buried here. One of the stars is Eva Peron.
There are more twists and turns in Spanish than in dancing the Tango. In Buenos Aires there’s an accent exhibited by the double ll’s and the “y’s” pronounced with a “sh” sound. So, after learning to sound those letters as a “g” in Medellin, Colombia, then as a “y” in Ecuador, I had to make another leap in my mind by double-translating from “g” or “y” to “sh” in Buenos Aires. Of course, in Porto Iguazu I got thrown off again since, surprisingly, their pronunciation was like in Medellin. Go figure!
Our friends Gerardo and Antonela took us to a milonga (a tango dance hall) for a taste of the real local Buenos Aires. They are not tango dancers and had never been to this place either, so it just added to the whole adventure. The milonga, called The Catedral, was in a monstrous-sized hall, perhaps a former theater, and was decked out in funky furniture and decor; they used the old, “wooden cable dispenser on its side” trick for one of the tables. There was a tango lesson going on while we ate, and interestingly, we recognized a couple of the teachers as they were the same dancers we’d seen in San Telmo our first week in Buenos Aires. The skilled dancers were exciting to watch as they maintained their gracefulness despite steps that didn’t look simple to execute.
Fuerza Bruta was a unique theatrical experience. Audience members stand on a floor of a large hall while the theater staff push them around to make room for performers to wildly swing, run, drum, jump, stomp, swim, slide, and splash, over, around and among the audience. A flood of the senses!
The last night in Buenos Aires –and the last night of our voyage– was spent at our airb&b digs where our hosts became further embedded hosts for a night of music produced by ‘Songs from a Room’, an organization with venues in 80 cities that –by invitation-only– host audiences and musicians who play original music in hosts’ homes. The empty wine bottles stacked up over the evening for this byob event. This chance occurrence provided us a very unique and enjoyable evening.
The next day we headed back home. We flew through Santiago, Chile and Toronto, Canada. I wondered what they were like.
Cindy and I looked at the backpacks we’d been living out of for 14 months. Then we looked at the boxes upon boxes of stuff at home, and then back at each other and wondered together, ‘What are were going to do with all this stuff?’.