A first taste of Argentina

After an epic trip to Buenos Aires, nearly 40 hours journey, I finally got to Argentina!

I made friends with Exequiel, a very funny Argentinian guy who definitely made my journey lighter and explained to me many things about Buenos Aires and places I should visit once there.

As soon as I landed people were incredibly friendly, I talked to many people while queueing at the passport control and once I got there even the immigration people were extremely pleasant and welcoming!I then took a taxi to the city centre (the driver was pretty verbose), where Nico, my boyfriend’s friend, hosted me for my entire stay in Buenos Aires. The first night we stayed at his grandparents’ house in the Recoleta area.

First day

In the morning, after a good sleep, I went out for a stroll in this lovely neighbourhood. This is a quite wealthy and visually interesting area of the city which reminded me a lot about Paris with its architecture. Even when I visited the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta, with its fat and affectionate cats lying on the tombs of this town of the dead, I had felt as I have when walking across Pere Lachaise. Here, I saw the grave of María Eva Duarte, better known as Evita, who was first lady and wife of Juan Perón. Evita died of cancer at the age of 33, leaving her husband and the people of Argentina with a huge void. She was venerated like a saint by the poor. The tomb surprised me because I was expecting something more spectacular, but found a quite modest construction covered with flowers.

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I then visited the Museo de Bellas Artes (free entry). The first floor with European art, didn’t really impress me that much, but I liked the second floor which displays the works of many Argentinian artists like Xul Solar, Antonio Berni and Benito Quinquela Martín, who I didn’t know before coming here and I now love.

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 I also bumped into a book shop in a beautiful old renovated cinema called El Ateneo on the Avenida Santa Fe.

On the way to Nico’s house, I sadly noticed that not too far from the Four Season hotel there was a huge Villa Miseria. Argentinians use the the term Villa to describe shanty towns. I was shocked to find such a poor and run-down area next to such a prestigious hotel.

A short car ride later, my friend introduced me to the concept of “barrios cerrados”, literally meaning gated communities, a stunning juxtaposition to the villa we had just seen. These barrios cerrados were mostly created for security reasons to guard the wealth of upper and middle classes.

Nico also showed me from outside the famous Monumental, which is the River Plate’s stadium (the Argentinians are mad about football).

I then met his lovely family who warmly welcomed me into their house where we had a nice coffee with his mum, dad and two sisters. Within a short space of time we were keen to go out and see the nightlife of Palermo, a very cool area of Buenos Aires with a bit of a hipster vibe, lovely coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Here we had a good pizza, papas fritas and a delicious dulce de leche ice-cream!

Second Day

I spend the morning of my second day visiting the city of Tigre, situated 35 km north of Buenos Aires, the locals call this the Venice of Argentina which is perhaps not the best comparison but does help to describe the network of rivers and canals flowing through the town and its environs.

I started at Puerto de Frutos, a big market where vendors sell furniture, mate items and local delicacies. I walked next to the river and saw moto-taxis, kayaks and canoes. This is an area used as a playground for wealthy porteños (the name given to people from Buenos Aires)  but less frequented by tourist.

I then went with Nico’s mother, Fernanda, to Buenos Aires’s city centre to visit the famous Plaza de Mayo, where every Thursday afternoon the “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” (now grandmothers), meet to continue their struggle for justice.

The square also hosts the Casa Rosada, which is the presidential building, which is actually used as an office and only for special occasions, the President does not live there. We went for a free guided tour (Saturdays and Sundays 10am-6pm) and as I walked through the building I felt wow! I am walking in the footsteps of Evita Perón! This was so exciting!

Third Day

Chilled Sunday at home for my first Argentinian barbecue, asado with carne (beef), chorizo (beef or pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), a lot of grilled vegetables and some good Malbec! A proper Argentinian lunch! Not easy being a vegetarian in Latin America!

In the afternoon Fernanda and I went for a stroll in San Telmo, which before being hit by a yellow fever epidemic at the end of the 19th Century, used to be classy neighbourhood. The rich porteños then moved to the Recoleta.

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In the evening Nico, her sister and I went to the cinema to watch “El ciudadano ilustre” which has been Oscar nominated for best foreign language film. Great movie! If you get the chance go and see it!

Fourth and last day

Fernanda and I visited the Teatro Colón which is located in the Cogreso area. We had an amazing tour guide, he was very charismatic and made the visit super interesting! I would recommend everyone to do it and if given the chance go for a show. There were so many interesting things I learnt about the theatre and its operation.

Following this, we went to La Boca which was the Spanish and Italian immigrants’ neighbourhood. The Caminito is perhaps the most famous area of this barrio and buzzes with life and colours. The houses are bright reds, greens and yellows,  there are tango dancers in the streets and smells and smoke from the outdoor parrilla. And in the background, once, again, a huge football stadium for the famous Boca Juniors, la Bombonera. It seems that football here is the second religion!

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I had a great time in Buenos Aires thanks to Nico and his amazing family, I really hope that I will be able to go back. It’s such an amazing city! But I am now ready to start my next adventure!

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