Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The most visited city in South America and a huge immigration point over the last 150 years.
The city is bustling, vibrant, historic and somewhat in a constant state of disarray – which I think adds another layer of charm. Food doesn’t come on time, tour guides might be confused, and what may seem exceptionally simple ends up having quite a few hoops to jump through.
It’s hard to describe Buenos Aires. My expectations fell to the floor absolutely everywhere… I had come to South America thinking I’d have to watch my bag consistently to not get pickpocketed, move phones and wallets to good spots and that I’d probably be whistled at, beggers would be everywhere and the food might even be a bit unsafe. Sure, I did pay more attention to my bags as I carried them, but only slightly more than I would in Europe, and I felt very safe the whole time.. occasionally there were beggers but that’s nothing in comparison to some places I’ve seen in Eastern Europe.
The vibe of the city is a mix of Spain and France, but with lower levels of posh-ness so maybe a bit more like Portugal…? Visually, French influence is everywhere and there were spots that I would’ve never been able to distinguish between Buenos Aires and Paris.
That disarray I mentioned earlier feels constant in part due to the political disarray. There were two political protests on the street outside our hotel in the three days we were there and most of the Argentinian art on display at the Bellas Artes museum was based on political turmoil. Scenes depicting death, lack of work, or art that demonstrated the fight going on on behalf of the people, were common sites.
While in Buenos Aires we were also lucky enough to see (and be a part of) a demonstration that filled the streets and lined avenues with thousands of police officers. Boca Juniors and River Plate are one of, if not the biggest, football (soccer) rivalries in the world. The passion that the fans have is insurmountable – with stadiums rocking as fans jump to chants, monthly fanatic marches through the city, physical fights between fans and a history of multi-generational support. Stephen and I jumped into the middle of a fan march in the historic Boca neighborhood and were surrounded by colourful banners, painted faces, dancing, singing and even a bit of jousting at police officers. It definitely got the adrenaline pumping…
A trip to the Recoleta cemetery was haunting and exciting as streets of mausoleums hold family and country history. This central, eerie and beautiful location in Buenos Aires houses the tombs of hundreds of families including the wonderful Eva Peron, better known as Evita (“Don’t cry for me Argentina”). Our family went on a tour and we stopped into the cemetery for about half an hour. The next day we were back for twice that, wandering through each avenue with little more on the agenda than giving the respect to these families and revering at the beauty of the place.
Over the three days we were there, Buenos Aires was a lovely adventure. Rain nearly kept us away from some tasty morsels at the Mercado de San Telmo, but a raclette later and we were feeling ready to keep moving. We visited the beautiful El Ateneo bookstore, a renovated theater that houses thousands of books and although captivating, also houses quite a few tourists. I spent some time deciphering Argentinian Spanish (the “ll” sounds like “sh” for one..) and between trying to consume as much filet mignon (SO GOOD AND SO CHEAP) and Dulce de Leche as possible, we barely had time for a museum and seeing a beautiful piece of recycled art next to the School of Law – don’t count the columns out front! People say you won’t graduate if you do!
Overall, it was a lovely, vibrant city with great food, tasty wine and an eclectic culture that I’m still trying to fully figure out. I was comfortable in the city and with the language and I can see myself coming back to explore more… soon.