So after our “quick” trip home – our holiday from the holiday – we stepped back on a plane to finish the South American leg of the journey. Our first stop was Buenos Aires, a city which has achieved somewhat legendary status in my mind thanks to the many stories I have been told by several friends.
Walking around this city I felt at home right away, possibly because it has quite a Western/European feel to it. The city itself is enchanting. Wide avenues, tree-lined streets, bustling plazas, blooming parklands, not to mention some of the most gorgeous 19th century architecture you’ll ever see. Avenida de Mayo is lined with beautiful pastel-painted buildings decorated with curving wrought-iron balconies and window frames. They look positively Parisien, but then I think that was the general idea. At one end of this central avenue is the delightfully pink presidential palace Casa Rosada – famous also because that is where Evita delivered her speeches – while at the other end is the Palacio del Congreso, a hulking behemoth of a building that dominates everything in the vicinity.
We paid a visit to the famous Cementario de la Recoleta, the cemetary where the illustrious are buried. I don’t know if it is proper to describe a cemetary in this way, but was just fabulous. The tombs and crypts were so beautiful and so ornate they will hold you attention for hours. Everywhere you turned was another tomb crafted from fine marble, fixed with wrought-iron gates and inscribed with large golden letters. Then there were the statues that adorned the tombs. They peeked out from all angles; here a cherub weeping, there a guardian angel watching over a loved one, over there a saint giving an eternal blessing. The tombs were by turns stately, exquisite and at times just downright ostentatious but the whole place was just fabulous. They certainly know how to bury their dead here.
Then there is the BA nightlife. People in this city don’t go out until 2am – and that is early. I haven’t decided yet if that is super cool, or just super lazy. A few nights we fought our shocking jetlag and headed out, making it to a couple of bars and a couple of shows. The highlight was undoubtedly La Bomba Del Tiempo (Timebomb). This drumming group is something of an institution in BA, every Monday night the 17 member group gathers in a warehouse in Abasto and beat out an amazing hour of music – all percussion instruments, all completely improvised. The energy they create during their time on the stage is fantastic – I know I’ll be going again when I hit BA for the second time.
And of course what would a visit to BA be without watching a tango show. Argentina is renowned for this dance – they did invent it after all – and it is not uncommon to see people of all ages dancing a tango on a street corner or in a market square. Down at the Palermo Viejo milonga (dance hall) we watched as the some tango instructors strutted and glided across the floor in perfect tango step. They were elegant, they were sexy, they were wonderful and then they opened the floor up to our group of petrified Westerners. Thankfully the invitation came with a beginners tango class, and we all took to mastering the basic seven-step tango routine. It took a little while but I can now emulate something that, in a darkened room, might be mistaken for a tango.
We spent a week in BA, wandering its streets, exploring its flea markets, visiting its galleries and just generally soaking up the atmosphere of this amazing city. I could have easily spent months doing this, so I’m really glad that my return flight home is from BA, which “forces” me back to this city for a few weeks.