Matthew has left us so we’re back to two. The strange thing is I think he’s actually looking forward to returning to work after one month off. We’ve been off for 13 months and we’re still not ready to go back… well at least I’m not – Anna’s probably getting sick of me by now. Yesterday we planned the last five weeks of our trip coming up with an itinerary through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia which we’re both pretty excited about. The best part… not one single flight! Although there’s about a thousand hours of bus travel with many of the trips being overnight journeys. It’s going to be tiring but it’s our last leg, we have to make the most of it. We owe a big thank you to Al and Marie for sending us their South America spreadsheet – it was super helpful for figuring out where to go and the logical routes.
It’ll come as no surprise that our flight from Rio to Buenos Aires was also late. Only two hours this time, but it wasn’t too bad – just more time hanging out at airports trying to entertain ourselves. We flew with Emirates and it’s the first time we’ve had an entertainment system and a full meal in a long time. It made it more pleasant but we’ve had enough of flying. Once we arrived we joined the 15 minute ATM queue, followed by the 30 minute taxi queue but we made it to our AirBnB apartment without issue so no complaints. Matt organised this one and he did a great job. It was a two storey penthouse on the 14th floor which had plenty of space for us since we were there for five nights. The funny part was it felt like we were staying at grandma’s place because everything was from the 70’s including the old JVC vinyl player. I’m guessing grandma died so the kids decided to cash in by putting her place on AirBnB.
Having five nights in Buenos Aires allowed us to dramatically drop the pace, which was most welcome, after a fairly hectic itinerary and a party week through Sao Paulo and Rio. Each day we started with a sleep in and then breakfast at home followed by an easy day of exploring one part of the city. Our first day we explored the surrounding neighborhood and then walked through the town centre. You really could believe that you were in Barcelona walking around town. The architecture and city layout with diagonal streets cutting across the grid leading to monuments or important buildings. Just like European cities, many of the historic buildings and monuments were under restoration which always makes for funny moments when you walk around the corner with the camera out in anticipation only to find a tower of scaffolding. After checking out the key sights like Plaza de Mayo, the National Congress and Catedral Metropolitana we decided to head for Puerto Madero for a cleansing ale. To be fair it was pretty hot in the sun and I’ve been told that beer is the best thing for hydration. The area along the man-made canal seems to be progressively becoming an entertainment quarter with hotels and restaurants starting to line the waters edge.
One thing Buenos Aires is known for is pizza which was news to us. With all the immigrants coming from Europe I guess the classic pizza had to come too. We went to a place which is quipped as one of the best and it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t the traditional thin crust that we fell in love with in Italy nor was it the epic deep dish from Chicago, but it was the cheesiest pizza we’ve had on the whole trip. There’s no such thing as too much cheese! The only problem was Matt couldn’t eat his share (once again) so I had to sort that out for breakfast the next day. I know, I know… diet starts when I get back to Sydney.
The next day we headed to Cementerio de la Rocoleta which sounds strange to go roaming around a cemetery but this isn’t the typical cemetery. This is where various important figures for Argentina are buried including Eva Peron (Evita). It wasn’t just about who was buried there though because some of the mausoleums were intricate and grand. After sneaking around the graveyard we strolled through the crafts market on our way to Floraris Generica, a 13 tonne metal statue of a flower. It’s quite impressive because each morning the petals open at sunrise and close again at sunset. From here we walked to the Palermo district but it was getting hot so we stopped in a park for some rest. While we were sitting there a group came over and rolled out their yoga mats. The next thing we know they’re doing this crazy couples exercise called acroyoga where the guy lays down and holds the girl up with arms/legs while she twirls around. It was very entertaining but scary at the same time. We walked down to Plaza Italia and then made it to our dinner destination, Don Julio which is a famous Argentine BBQ restaurant.
At 5.30am Monday morning I woke up to a marching band echoing from street level. My first thought was that I was dreaming of the Carnival block parties from our time in Brazil, but after a few seconds I realised I was in fact awake. After some google searching we discovered that two days of strikes were planned for multiple industries and there were going to be rallies all over town. This made getting around town a bit harder because traffic came to a grinding halt waiting for the demonstration to pass, which usually comprised of protestors, flags, marching band and a dodgy person at the back setting off explosions. The protests didn’t stop us, but they definitely slowed us down a bit, and we were always a little wary of keeping our distance in case things turned violent. Thankfully we didn’t see that, but we did notice plenty of protestors treating it as a big party and were pounding the beers and getting smashed. It didn’t really reflect well on their cause. Perhaps they were Brazilians who thought they found a block party!
We went to the Florida shopping strip which is a pedestrian only street but we were quite surprised by how narrow the street was. Since there were plenty of tourists around there were street performers, people offering currency exchange from their backpack and dodgy looking onlookers. It wasn’t that great out on the street but we had a look at Galerias Pacifico which reminded us of the QVB in Sydney. It was beautifully designed and had a water fountain and painted dome ceiling. Of course we can’t shop anyway but it was still good to look at. The number 1 attraction on trip advisor is a tour of Teatro Colon, which is one of the top five opera houses in the world. We’ve been to La Scala in Milan and the Paris opera house so we thought we’d see how it compares. The building was very impressive with grand lobbies and galleries but the highlight was the auditorium. We were lucky enough to have a singer in our tour group and he belted out some notes for us. It sounded great without any amplification required. The guide then pointed out all the little design features that helps the sound reverberate and travel around such a large space.
Once we returned back to our apartment it was time to get to business. We had to shower, shave and get preen’d to perfection because we had a hot date. One of the highlights from the last time Matt joined us was the degustation lunch we had in Barcelona, so we decided to do another one in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately trying to find one for lunch was impossible, so we settled for dinner. We did it properly with the matching wines because I’ve been itching to see what Argentina has to offer. It was a nice meal with well presented dishes with the highlights being the Patagonian smoked trout and the 17 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder. The wines were good but only two reds. I know whites have their place but bring on the reds!
Our last day with Matt 😦 We caught a taxi to La Boca which was exciting because the driver was crazy. At one point I thought he was going to drive through the crowd when we hit one of the protests. La Boca is a blue collar area that is famous for having brightly coloured buildings made of corrugated iron. It was ok for a look but really it’s just a bit of a gimmick to get the tourists there. We went to San Telmo which is one of the original districts of the city and it’s know for its antiques. We had a bit of a look around but we decided that we’d head back to the apartment and enjoy our last afternoon with a couple of beers, especially when a one litre bottle is only $2.50.
Matt had a morning flight so the taxi came at 5.20am to whisk him off to the airport. We got up to farewell him and then went back to bed. I’m glad his first flight wasn’t delayed and he made his connection ok. He’s back safe and sound. We transferred to a nearby hotel for two nights to allow us time to work out what we’re doing for the last part of the trip. We were tempted by Patagonia but we’d have to fly down there and we don’t really have the right gear for hiking. So we have a plan but we haven’t booked anything in. We’ll just take it one step at a time.
Meal of the Week
Don Julio the parrilla restaurant is the clear winner this week. It wasn’t cheap but the mammoth T-bone I had was cooked to perfection. All that was missing was Mum’s pepper sauce. Considering even Matt ate a steak, which I’ve never seen before, it must’ve been good. Anna ordered chorizo and provoleta which is grilled cheese with olive oil and spices. Soooo good.