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South America: like America, but South.

Trying desperately not to write an Ode to Steak. Entry may not be suitable for Vegetarians.

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 23 March 2012 | Views [484] | Comments [1]

  It´s become difficult not to feel slightly philosophical about the amount of red meat i have consumed in the last three weeks. After a slightly disappointing bout of food in Rio (a girl's digestion system can only handle so much rice&beans) i had my hopes set incredibly high for the impending meat feast that would be Argentina. Let me tell you, i was not disappointed. But my juicy morsel does not start in Argentina, oh no. We nipped across the border (whilst travelling, such impossibilities as ´border hopping´become a casual 4 day pleasure weekend) to Uruguay. This had not been in our initial plan but my new culturally broadened mind insisted the more countries i get to see in these four months, the better. I´ll be perfectly honest, i didn´t LOVE Uruguay. I liked it. It was nice. We went to Colonia del Sacramento which is an old, slow paced town: some nice ruins, alot of dread locked ruin lovers and, my favourite, sea the colour of bronze which was pretty apocalyptic. There was a lot of leathered goods and a lighthouse that cost 15p to go up and it was all round a pleasant experience.After two nights of pleasantries we went to the burgeoning capital that is Montevideo. Again, it was a little on par, you know? Like getting a normal Double Cheese Burger without super-sizing.  It was fine, but you could have done with those (metaphorical) extra five chips. To be fair to Uruguay, i only stayed four nights, which gave me no time at all to immerse myself in what im sure, is a wonderful place. But, instead of desribing the relatively ordinary cityscape, blah blah, im going to tell you where my meat journey began. Right here. Montevideo gifted me my first piece of Latin American steak, at nothing less than a whole market dedicated to the stuff. We heard whispers of the place in our hostel, ´Meat market? ´´Sounds alright, maybe i´ll find some bacon, a fry up, you know...´but my mediocre expectations were outdone. This was no ordinary butchers: this was a cooked meat, or more to the point, a seriously large grill´ meat market. Walls of deliciously charcoaly animal produced goods, as far as my camera lens could stretch, all tempting me away from the cheap vegetarian options i had cooked attempting to stick to my budget. I even ordered conservatively, a ´petit filet con papas fritas.´There was nothing petite about it. A wonderfully proportioned steak, chimcurri dressing and chips. If i was a judge on masterchef i would have something far more descriptive and intellectual to say about the effect it had on my pallet, but in lamest terms, it was REALLY REALLY NICE.

 On that positive note, i´ll leave Uruguay and move on to the hubub of Buenos Aires. I ended up staying in BA for two weeks, which is quite a long time out of the four month period im over here. I suppose i really rather liked the place. We arrived on a Thursday at a hostel called Millhouse which we had been informed was THE party hostel (of course i had to be informed, ´party hostels´aren´t exactly my forte unless tea parties come under that banner). We got to our 6 person dorm to find two crazy Irishmen, one of whom was a professional gambler but could have easily passed for a professional leprechaun, some ham on the floor and a moody welshmen. Turns out EVERYONE in this hostel was English, Irish or Australian. Grrrrrrrreeeeeaatttt. Everyone was very pleasant, and the Irish gents introduced us to their equally Irish friends, one of whom was called Paddy ( i mean, COME ON) and we figured out that in Argentina they dont eat until 10/11pm and don´t go out to party until 2/3am. Ouch. We stayed 3 nights at Millhouse hostel, went out to three clubs, post 3am and got home when the sun came up (which actually was only 2 hours after we left to go out.) The music in the clubs was not brilliant but the atmosphere was and despite fighting sheer exhaustion i enjoyed my time at the party hostel. However, i would not, not if you paid me, do it again.(They had bed bugs which also contributed to the extremity of that statement, take note Trip Advisor). After leaving Millhouse we got down to the nitty gritty of exploring the city, trying to find Argentinians as opposed to that ´lad who knew your mate who you might have gone to school with who is also travelling. Coincidence!´kind of conversation. Buenos Aires is a a hugely European style city. Its diverse, cultural and exciting but not wholly different to the cities ive been to before. Saying that, i cannot fault its many charms. My particular highlights are as follows:

Cafe Tortoni - Art Deco cafe thats been there since 1883. The waiters wear bow ties, all the originial decor is still there and they have tango shows in the evening. Shame i went in my shorts, t shirt and muddy back pack. A true traveller am i.

San Telmo market - A huge market spanning 20 blocks full of arts, crafts, Argentinian tea gourds and vintage. Vintage gems you cannot but dream of. Imagine a load of 80 something Argentinian ladies getting together and selling their old wardrobes because they were now into Crocs and yoga. Fur coats, jewellry, bags, so many loafers i almost wept and oh my, the furniture. If i lived there my house would be awesome. A gramophone in every room etc. etc. I might even come back just for the market. My backpack was full before i came so i am coming home wearing the same scrubby clothes i left in. Sob.

Palermo - Dead trendy. That kind of trendy where the cool kids hang and there is fairy lights in the trees and they even have an Indian restaurant or two because cultural diversity is so in (even though not one person who worked there could claim to have Indian ancestry, and if they did, they would be lying.)We also went to a Tango lesson in Palermo, i now know the first basic 14 steps of tango. Learning however was not with a tall dark Argentian man with a penchant for smooth talking, but with a small very sweaty old man who kept telling me to close my eyes. I did, he was still sweaty and a little too old, so im not really sure what he was getting at. The parks in Palermo are amazing too. Parks in general are a big thing here. Read below.

The parks and ´taking mate´(pronounced matter) - We met some friends from Buenos Aires in our first hostel in Rio and were lucky enough to meet up with them a few times while we were here. On various bus journeys and travels down to the country, we had seen people with these little gourdy looking things filled with green leaves. Now for a long time i thought a lot of people here just had a serious drug problem and the government choose to ignore it. THEN, i realised it was tea. I had found my compradres, fellow enjoyers of natures tastiest gift. They drink their mate together, never a cup alone. The gourd is filled with yerba mate and topped with hot water. Someone drinks until the water is gone, its topped up and from the same cup and straw the next person takes their fill. You only say ´Gracias´when you dont want anymore. Im now an expert (I hope youre proud Marisol!) and have my own gourd, so when i come home expect seriously pretentious cups of tea while i talk about the world and stuff. You can drink Mate in the parks and the parks here help make it a wonderful experience. We spent a lazy saturday sauntering through (another) market, listening to jazz and watching various artsy people do artsy things in a Buenos Airian way. And we ate. Argentians like to eat, a lot, frequently. Respect.

La Cabrera - One of the best meat joints in Buenos Aires and it has a happy hour?! Im in. Since all the locals eat at an IBS inducing 11pm, 7-8 is when the gringos come. Their shameful lack of cool is rewarded with 50% off EVERYTHING. I shared a Kobe beef steak and a Rib eye steak, all medium rare, totalling around 600g meat each topped off with an Argentian red wine. For this priveledge i paid around 12 English pounds. Life was good. The steak was incredible. Better than everyone says. I tried to go back three times and failed every time. It´s like the big guy upstairs was telling me to savour that steak because it was, truly perfect.

Meat - But, i couldnt do without more so i started cooking my own! Its so cheap for such good meat that ive eaten a lot. I wont count or anything, but alot.

Nightlife - Once we left the Party hostel and settled into a nicer place where there was a lot of Argentinians and foreign studying students, we got to know the normal nightlife and it was really nice. The bar scene is big and i actually managed to find a bar/club that played Led Zeppelin and The Strokes instead of house music and then Adele. Adele is just as big here as everywhere else, in case you were wondering.

THe spirit of revolution that lives on - I feel as though i could write a whole article on the spirit of people in Buenos Aires. They simply will not settle. I remember in 6th form, we were left shamefaced after our teacher made us watch If, the film based on Rudyard Kiplings poem. He told us how our generation were so apathetic compared with the youth of the 60´s and 70ç´s who believed they could protest and stand their ground to make their voice heard. My generation and im sure those to follow think that posting a moody facebook status will do that job for them. (I discount the recent student fee protests as i think 70% of those kids were a sham...controversial). Here though, on the main Avenue running up to Casa Rosada, the political builing (Evita Balcony), there are protests, demonstrations etc. almost every day. None were violent or destructive but all were well attended. THe government does listen as changes are being made as we speak regarding some of the more regular protestors. If you´re at all interested check out (google) the ´Madres de Plaza de Mayo,´a group of old women who every thursday at 3pm march around the square demanding to know the whereabouts of their missing children (from the 70´s).


Its now 12.30 am my time, so 3.30 am your time. Im a little tired as i did a big old hike today ( thats a tale for another blog). That doesnt even touch the service of Buenos Aires, but i suppose i have to save some stories for when i come home. Im writing this from Bariloche, the lake district of Argentina then im off to Mendoza ie. Wine Country. Exciting tit bits to follow on both. Miss you all and also, Sunday dinners. Amy.x

P.s, photos not working again, but i am taking them!



Great blog .... Am looking forward to sitting and chatting and dunking digestives in our 'matter' , just like we used to.

  Fiona Collin Mar 24, 2012 3:43 AM

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