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A Love Affair... In Buenos Aires.

ARGENTINA | Friday, 23 March 2012 | Views [419]

Buenos Aires
I have been told that you cant claim to 'really' have been in Buenos Aires until you have stepped (with much gusto of course!) into one of the prolific dog poohs scattered everywhere through out the city...
This is no difficult feat in BA...  Some cities have cats... Some cities have cows... (or so I have been told!)  BA has dogs... They roam the streets freely.  Big dogs... And with big dogs come big poohs... Everywhere...
I managed to make an elegant, and clean, escape.  Does this mean I cant claim to have properly experienced BA?
Hopefully not!
This is (another!) city that I have fallen in love with...  This time, though, for new reasons...
A country famous for steak.  For leather.  Great wines. Iguasu Falls. Sensual dancing - the tango and merengue. Flirting.  
I hate to say this, but the expensive steakhouses left me wanting for more (Elton - thanks for making me the best steak to date on this trip... Lawrence, thanks for getting such a great cut of meat!  It is true... sometimes nothing beats home-made! Even when it is in a hostel with less-than-desired equipment!  I'll miss you boys!)
But it is Buenos Aires that made me identify what is important to me... To allow me to be me.  To hear what I needed to hear.  To face what I have needed to face.  To say what I need to say.  To be free.  How?! I hear you say!  It's difficult to explain.  They are a unique people.  They appear to love life.  They love people.  They know what is important to them, and make sure they live according to these.  They don't rush.  (The tube only starts after 8am!).  They don't appear to be stressed.  They often say they dont speak english, yet are able to have 'a' conversation (of some sort!) with me!  They dine late and slowly, they talk, they laugh, they share a bottle of wine.  They dance.  They aren't ashamed of sharing their emotions.  Men included.  They live in the moment.  It certainly makes for a colourful city!  And gosh - it is so refreshing!
If you ever find yourself in BA, make sure to visit Palermo on a Saturday.  A beautiful little suburb that reminds me of a much larger, much cleaner, prettier, and leafier Fitzroy in Melbourne.  Here people are scattered along cobblestone pavements having a late, linger-longer lunch with a friends and good wine, being serenaded by local, live bands...  The market stalls are also quirky and adds to the holiday atmosphere...
On Sunday, San Telmo is another beautiful cobblestone suburb that comes alive with locals as well as tourists... Beautiful stalls selling locally made goods - and refreshingly - barely any food!  (Not sure about other countries but in Aus, markets tend to sell predominantly foods!).  Old flutes handcarved out of rock releasing the most beautiful, tranquil tunes, hand made clothes, leather jackets and fur coats (I was so tempted, an exquisite, white, sensously soft mink (?) fur coar costing only £120!!!!!!), pottery, jewellery, photography and art.  BA is a city for art lovers.  There are art and photo galleries scattered throughout, with stalls and markets allowing smaller artists to showcase their talent.
After San Telmo, catch the bus (public transport here is a steal at £0.35 per trip!) to La Boca.  After strict warnings to watch myself and not to go anywhere near the back streets, I did not at any stage feel insecure or concerned... Having said that, I did stick predominantly to the main streets.  This area is famous firstly for the Boca Juniors - the football stadium, and subsequently for the bright colourful, beautiful little houses, cobblestone streets, as well as the pubs, cafes and restaurants spillling out on to the streets, with locals dressed up as tango dancers, always ready to pose for a photo or willing to teach you a tango step or two (if you are brave enough - you will have about a hundred pairs of tourist eyes watching your every move!).
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 11 am, the La Recoletta Cemetery hosts free English tours through the very famous Argentinian cemetery.   Initially built around an old convent, this cemetary is sprawled over more than 14 acres, with more than 4691 vaults, all above ground, of which 94 are classified as national historical monuments (Make sure to walk past vault #26 - Evita Perron - it is very non-descript.  Unbeknownst to me, I walked past it several times on my hunt trying to locate it!).  
This was an absolute must-do on my to-do list for BA.  It was with some surprise that I entered what I was expecting to be a beautiful, peaceful and leafy cemetery.  Alas - was I wrong!  This cemetery turned out to be exactly the opposite.  My first reaction was that it is a 'marble jungle'.  Similar to a small city, though instead of being a concrete jungle, all the vaults are made of marble or some elaborate rock or metal.  And not really peaceful.  It is quite confronting.  Actually quite the reverse.  I would hate to consider the amount of money spent on the majority of these vaults.  For politicians.  For men in the military.  For university professors.  Surely Argentina could have distributed this money - spent on the 'reincarnation of the dead', for better purposes?!  Surely there were millions of homeless, millions of hungry, millions suffering, who could've have desperately used this money for the mere necessities in life they couldnt even afford?!
Bronze statues representing the individual who had died.  Huge 'buildings' for a mere coffin (expensive coffins too - no doubt!), constant fresh flowers outside.  To consider we will all turn to dust, to fertilise the soils and set the path for our future generations, do some people more than others really need this elaborate final showcase of their achievements?  Does death not make us all equals?  Isn't the quiet achievement much more honourable than that done purely for recogntion?  Ok, purely a personal view, but hey, guess we are all entitled to our views...
The area around La Recoletta is beautiful.  Very much what I would call 'snobville' smiliar to Toorak in Melbourne.  Wide, quiet and leafy roads, expensive hotels, boutique stores, expensive jewellery stores.  Despite considering myself quite (ok, very!) non-extravagant (preferring $2-shop necklaces, earrings and rings - this is how 'I Roll'), I could have admired, and 'window-shopped' these stores for much longer than I normally would care to admit to.  They were beautiful.  The window displays an art work in their own right, not even to mention the diamonds, the watches, the cuff links, the leather boots and fur-coated saddles!  Surreal!
Do make sure to enjoy the parks around the cemetary.  The old cork trees - sinewy, spindly, twisted and gnarly.   They look as though they could tell a thousand tales, as well as feature in any Lord of the Rings, thriller or horror movie!
Another to do is the parks south of Palermo, on the way to the domestic airport (sorry - i never got the name of these!).  People are out rollerblading, cycling, running and tango-ing around lakes, monuments and statues...
I got slightly lost on my run, only to be helped by a country-argentinian who took up running a year earlier after having been relocated from his family 500km away for work.  What a delight.  A slow amble around the lakes with an older gent giving me the history of the park, telling me his story of how he only started running to keep himself busy as a result of being away from his wife and 2 children whom he missed despite driving to see every weekend.   Despite the language barrier (and my being apparrently too fast!), we managed to have a wonderful little jog - enjoying the beautiful balmy weather, the clouds rolling in, the geese hissing at us as we ran past...  (oh, and yes, my fitness levels are GONE!!!!  backpacking is NOT good for aerobic fitness!  for any fitness in fact!).
So... Buenos Aires... A city that I will ALWAYS remember... For many, many reasons... For the amazing culture.  The generous people.  The friends I made.  And last but definitely not least, the old acquaintances I was fortunate enough to catch up with whom I now consider special.  Thank you.  Buenos Aires!  Do it!  You wont regret it!

Tags: love... passion... life...

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