Another twenty-something hour bus ride later, and we reached our first major city (we don't think Santiago counts!) of our holiday. A lot of people had told us how much they loved B.A., and we were expecting to be underwhelmed by it, but we're converts too...I can see why people want to move here and become portenos too!
B.A. has five main areas, each with its own identity and vibe.
1. Downtown. This is where we stayed, and being fairly central, it was easy to get to most areas. There are many pedestrianised streets here, though surprisingly not a huge number of restaurants or bars given the number of tourists. Quite a few important buildings and monuments here, and many people selling their wares on the streets. It also has the world's widest road...8 lanes in each direction!! I'm sure someone in Dubai is building a larger road right now!
2. Recoleta - this is famous for it's parks, but especially it's grand graveyard. Many rich and famous families here own sizeable "buildings" in which their family gets buried. You can peer through cracked windows to see coffins inside - quite creepy! If you didn't know better, you could easily think you were in a small town, not in a cemetary! Probably the most famous resident here is Eva Peron (Evita) - there were hordes of tourists here taking pictures of her grave. By the way, the building next to hers was for sale, so if you fancy mingling with the rich and famous in the afterlife, here's your chance!
3. Palermo - this is the poshest part of town, full of joggers in lush green parks. Its split into Palermo Hollywood (full of trendy boutiques and awesome cupcake shops!) and Palermo Soho (restaurants and bars). We didn't get to spend much time here unfortunately (or probably fortunate for Rav's bank balance!).
4. San Telmo - known for being a haunt for hippies and artists, we visited the bustling Sunday market here. Although it's mainly aimed at tourists, they still have some pretty cool stuff up for sale apart from the standard souvenirs - there is a thriving antiques market, funky jewellery, and awesome asado's (big bbq pits) where Rav got his daily choripan - a sausage sandwich which he went crazy over.
5. Boca - An area which you shouldn't wander into late at night, stories of people being mugged and held at gunpoint here made us pretty weary, but we still wanted to go there to see the brightly painted houses for which Boca was famous for. Taking only the bare essentials, we headed down...only to be faced by tourist-central!! The main couple of streets are packed with travellers, with plenty of restaurants and bars about. However, wander a couple of streets, and you get to some pretty dodgy-looking parts. La Bombanera, home to Boca Juniors, is also near here.
One of the things that B.A. is most famous for is tango, and we were fortunate enough to be there during the annual tango festival. They shut down one side of the 8-lane road, put up a stage in the road, and we were able to spend hours watching a live show. The balance and footwork was spectacular! Rav was trying to do bhangra to the beats at one point - such a freshie!
Another things that is huge in B.A. is the nightlife. In typical latino fashion, no-one gets to a bar here much before 12pm, and clubs don't get kicking til after 2am, not finishing til 6am. You can find a party every night of the week...we certainly did!
But the biggest thing in B.A. is the steak! Pretty much the entire menu in most restaurants was some form of steak, which made eating out pretty difficult for me - fortunately most places also did some form of pasta too. Rav on the other hand ate enough for both of us, washing it down with plenty of red wine! Have I mentioned how cheap wine is in Argentina? In the supermarkets round here, you can buy some tasty red wine for about 10 pesos...thats less than 2 pounds!! Even in the top restaurants around here, the average price for a good bottle is about a tenner. No wonder Argentina exports so little of its wine...it all gets drunk by the locals!
Rav's been pretty deprived by the lack of sport he's seen since we've left London, so had been dying to get here and watch a Boca Juniors game. Unfortunaely they were playing away that weekend, so he decided to watch River Plate's (Boca's biggest rivals!) first home game of the season. The atmosphere was crazy...the fans were singing and dancing in the stand, flags were waving everywhere, drums beating...and this was about 2 hours before kick-off!! The first half wasn't great, but the second half came alive, and River won 2-0. Hopefully we can catch some more football in Brazil too!
OK I'm going on a bit here, but want to mention one last thing. Every Monday night, there is a show called La Bomba. About a dozen poeple line up with instruments of some sort (mainly different types of drums), and a conductor freestyles, making up music on the fly. All the musicians (and much of the crowd) are quite stoned, leading to a really cool atmosphere. The music is awesome (and loud!), everyone is dancing in the crowd...a really good party, and one of our fave things in Buenos Aires.
A fairly small road..only 6 lanes wide!
Tango on the road - can you spot the traffic light?
San Telmo market
Choripan! So good!!
Can you believe its a cemetery - a bit eerie!
La Bomba de Tiempe...crazy beats!
Roops and her tango-dancing partner
The brightly coloured houses in La Boca
Checkmate? Old guys having a game in the park..
Atmosphere building up nicely ahead of kick off