Back in Buenos Aires but for more than a flight transfer this time. I’ve checked all my WhatsApp messages and my lovely hockey girls have updated me with the victorious Team GB hockey. Fabulous that they are in the final how exciting. For me though I think the exciting and hectic time of the last few weeks has caught up with me, feel rubbish and have a cold that I seem to be fighting. Anyhow I have a day and a half in Buenos Aires and off to the hostel I go. I had checked with my Argentinian friend that it was in a nice area and she had said San Telmo is lovely so I should enjoy it. It’s the older part of town with cobbled streets and crumbling decorative facades all around. So into my taxi I get speaking my pigeon Spanish and off we head. Panfilo (from my Iguaźu trip) had warned me that it doesn’t feel like South America but in fact more like Europe. And he is quite right. High rise modern buildings adorn the streets around, not like the understated buildings I’m used to seeing on my travels.
So half hour later I arrive at my hostel ‘The Art Factory. Named so, because its covered with art throughout the rooms, eve the kitchen and bathrooms apparently. Sounds interesting and colourful hey. The hostel looks a bit dingy out front, but it is late and maybe it’s just the oldy worldly nature of the area making the streets look darker, and you have to buzz to get in, so at least it’s safe.
It’s 10pm so no chance of exploring the area tonight even if I did feel in good form. Two flights of stairs with my ridiculously heavy suitcase (or is it my stupidly weak arm strength?) and it’s a welcoming reception. Boards and posters with activities for every day, maps to show you around the town and a fridge with drinks for purchase, artistic characteristics already around the reception and waiting area. So far so good. I check in, I don’t have enough cash and it’s a 10% charge for a card which is ridiculous, but they let me pay for one night now and get the rest in cash tomorrow which is very nice. I notice the signs of types of rooms and realise this is a real dorm style hostel. More for backpackers than the solo tourist suitcase traveller. Rooms of 6 with shared bathroom available! Hey ho.
I get to my room which is on the corner of the stairs to the bar, restaurant and kitchen. Think it may be a noisy stay? Rooms nice enough though, art on the walls, double bed, airy and a bathroom all to myself although not entirely clean. I immediately notice there’s no TV? How odd when I’ve not actually watched one for most of the trip and don’t need it at all! There’s a kitchen just down the corridor with a gas hob, whistle kettle and good old cupboards and fridge with labelled food. Last time I saw this kind of kitchen was on my travels down under where I stayed in hostels. There’s colourful art down the corridors, so it is quite unique.
Well what a bloody awful nights sleep. I’ve never actually worn ear plugs but I have a set in my suitcase just in case, and guess what, I had to get them out to try and stop the noise from keeping me awake. People talking and walking around, doors banging nothing particularly malicious just a poorly insulated room. So my cold has hit big time, and feeling miserable!
I prefer to have days and activities or at least ideas planned. However for the rest of this trip I have no idea what to do at all which makes me less excited about the last few days. So having woken up I suddenly decide maybe I could fly back to Rio and watch the hockey final?? What an experience it would be? So I e-mail Flight Centre and ask if it can be done, look up flights that are about £300 so maybe it can and as I have nothing planned in Columbia what would I miss out on? not a lot. The issue I have is time as although it’s 9am here it’s 3pm in the UK and I don’t want to use my phone to call at £2 per minute so waiting for e mails will be the issue with a time restraint.
Whilst waiting I head up to breakfast excited that is included, but that’s where the excitement died! Stale bread, cornflakes, weak squash, a variety of tea but no English breakfast (not that unsurprising) and a common room to eat in. It is however a very colourful common room, art on the walls, and there are a few others about so a bit of company of sorts, and you can order scrambled eggs so I do get something more tasty. Not sure why I’m moaning, at least I’m being fed!
Fuelled up and ready for who knows….I head off out armed with a map of the city and the one plan that I will join the afternoon walking tour by the free walking tours company at 3pm. I pass lots of locals milling around, one with a pack of dogs it seems. past little cafe’s, supermarkets, shops, garages and bakeries. A very bustling morning in Buenos Aires.
I get lost, although find a lovely portrait of Eva Peron on the side of a tall building (which I later find out is the Social Development Building) then find my way to the riverside which to be honest may as well be London South Bank it looks so European.
I mean it’s lovely, relaxing and bustling and I head onto the navy boat on the river to learn about the Argentinian navy (although mot of the notes were in Spanish so i am really just looking at pictures and artefacts), and their dogs, but it just isn’t as exciting as being in other South American cities.
I’m also constantly wondering if I will be heading to Rio tomorrow and need to find wifi to check my e mails. I stop at a cafe who had wifi for a drink and find out it’s going to be £900 at least and that’s if the airline will let me swap destinations, not guaranteed!! Oh the decisions!! I eventually decide it’s just too much, although a gold medal hockey match to create history would be amazing, I just can’t warrant it. I have spent loads already, need money for possible fertility treatment and do wonder what my reasons are for going back? Is it the glory and jealousy I’d get from people thinking it’s amazing I’d changed my plans? Is it to try and get on TV again? Is it to see history? Probably a bit of all three!
I continue my walk around Buenos Aires, pass a school that has hardly any open space for the kids to run around in, get lost in the criss crossing maze of San Telmo’s streets (but there are worse places to get lost in to be fair, its very safe here) before finding my way to the walking tour meet point. I say criss crossing as it’s very much like Milton Keynes. The roads are like a grid and forms a checkerboard look on a map.
That’s a school behind those bars!
A lovely local guide introduces himself, there’s about 20 in the English speaking group. A bunch of young travellers who have obviously met at their hostel, some Americans talking very loud, some couples and then me!
Off we walk down the Avenue de Mayo starting in a small park at the Plaza del Congresso, by the congress building. Walking down past the monuments, particularly discussing the Monumento a los dos Congresos with its triumphant Republic figures sculptured on top.
The pigeons, making it feel like Trafalgar square, were brought over here to help make it feel European. Nutters!! Who wants pigeons if they have a choice??
The young American girl is so bloody annoying even after five minutes. With her purple hair, stand out sunglasses and loud voice she certainly likes to be centre of attention. She screams when pigeons fly in front of her, when asked to wait at traffic lights she tells everyone she’s been hit by a car before so knows what it’s like. Some bouncy castles are in a play area and she starts telling everyone how she wants to go on them, ‘I love bouncy castles!’ Oh dear god. Shut up already!! (Miserable old English girl alert)
This square has a few random grassy areas where dog owners walk their dogs for some greenery to sniff and scent. There are several statues with various historical stories that we are talked through. There are some homeless people sleeping in the shade, some locals out walking, the mismatch of light coloured buildings overlooking the square from the streets at the sides. It just doesn’t feel South American?
As we talk about the history of Buenos Aires and come across the topic of Evita I realise I’m wearing a Madonna t shirt. Completely by chance as I can’t be that choosy over clothes this late on in the trip, makes me look like some superfan!
A lovely American lady started talking to me as we walk around, she saw my Rio jumper so used it as a talking point. She’s a soccer coach and over here for a last minute two week break. Off to Cusco next so we discuss our travels, teaching and general life. I love meeting new people!
The tour takes us down the Avenue de Mayo. The variety of building styles is so fascinating, how some are Italian inspired, others French, and we get to look in a traditional and famous cafe, Cafe Tortoni, with its full length double doors, round wooden tables, huge floor expanse and Art Nouveau mirrored walls to give the oldy worldly feeling.
We stop at a fake Iguazu Falls water feature, funny when you’ve been already. If you haven’t it may be cool, I had to have a selfie anyhow just for the fun.
As we head across the main road through the city, Avenue 9 de Julio, we pass the opposite side of the building I saw whilst lost, with the Ava Peron mural, and we learn her sad story. She was the second wife of the president Juan Peron, and served as the First Lady until her death in 1952. She was also called Evita (the movie I’m sure most of you have seen) which is the Spanish language diminutive. The side we are seeing is the serious political face. It faces the North where the divide of the town sees the moneyed classes and the other side is the happy face facing south to the working classes, her preferred Barrios (neighbourhoods).
Our guide tells us that Argentina has the most public holidays in the world because of all the independence days it’s had, 19 public holidays in total. That there are 14 million people in the city. And that it the 1990’s $1=1AP so it was party time. Everybody was happy, rich and spending until 2001 when it all collapsed and the country has struggled to recover. It’s now $1=15AP, how mad is that.
We finish our walk at the Plaza del Mayo at the ‘Pink House’ where Eva Peron gave her last speech from the balcony and that famous scene in the Evita the movie. I must say it has heightened my interest in that movie which as yet I haven’t seen, and intrigued me on the history of Argentina.
A lovely afternoon learning about the history of the city. Well worth doing. Alison (my US friend) and I then head off to find a restaurant for some dinner although really a bit too early for it in South America being only 5pm. As much as I’d like to see a tango show, neither of us has much energy, my cold is taking hold unfortunately and it’s really something to do with a friend not solo?
So we head back to the riverside I was at earlier, find a nice restaurant and order some steak. It’s fit for a family!! Three pieces! Lovely though and a lovely evening too. It even has an apparently Scottish Dessert which I try for the sheer hell of it. My Scottish friends back home have since commented that it is of course, pure fabrication. Nice dessert though.
The nighttime view along the river is quite lovely, especially with a full moon reflecting onto the water. Would be very romantic, and I did just sit an admire it for a while.
We say our goodbyes whilst hailing taxis. She is off to do a day trip on horseback tomorrow, I am off to Colombia, not the Olympics, although it is constantly on my mind.
Will tonight’s sleep be any better?
Well I didn’t need my ear plugs, so it’s either quieter, I’m knackered or I’ve got used to it? I have a an hour before taxi pick up to get some wine. I’m keen to take some home after the insightful wine tasting in Peru telling me Argentinian wine is the best and Malbec particularly. So I get 5 bottles and pack in my already heavy suitcase, and make it back just in time for the shuttle bus. At the airport I pick the wrong bloody check in desk. The man is an arse. My case is as usual over their weight of one piece at 23 Kg, but its passed through three flights so far without issue . He tells me I have to pay, gives me a ticket and sends me away. No discussions or help just matter of fact. At the payment desk it’s £50. Sod off am I paying that for a few Kg of wine. So I refuse, well plead poverty, which isn’t untrue. I head over for some help and burst into tears. The tiredness has definitely got me. The helpers were great, the man who checked me in, Laureno, not. He was rude to the staff, rude to me. Told me it was my problem and not his and i will probably miss my flight now. Anyhow I eventually had to trek over to the other terminal, collect my case, take out 5Kg, carry it as hand luggage and check the suitcase back in. What a complete waste of time. The hassle lost me an hour and a half but saved me £50 and I got on the plane in time. Result I say!
I even had time for a photo of me in my GB hockey top and GB flag to post as a good luck to the TeamGB girls in the final. Still a little unsure if I’ve made the correct decision not to go but what’s done is done.
Thank you Argentina for an insightful 36 hours, not my favourite destination in South America by far but interesting none the less. Country number 5 beckons on a 6 hour flight.