(Day 80 – 84)
09.02.2010 - 14.02.2010 35 °C
Buenos Aires is the first city so far where I have thought "I could come back here!". As an unspoken general rule, Martin and I agree that there is so much to see in the world that we would prefer not to do repeat trips, but there are a select few very special places that are spared from that rule, and Buenos Aires is one of them.
We were lucky to be able to stay in the San Telmo area which is on of the older parts of town. The buildings are old but well preserved, and many of the streets are lined with small cafes & vintage stores - especially Defensa street. I had to exercise quite a lot of self-control not to buy everything I saw: I would have needed a whole container and my backpack is already quite full!
Tango is very much the dominating trait here. In the streets here they don’t busk by singing or acting, they dance the Tango. One of our nights here we indulged in a Tango Show at a place called "El Viejo Almacen", and it was worth every peso! The musicians were incredible. The band traditionally consists of 1 piano, 2 violins, 1 doublebass and 2 "bandoneons" (like a sort of accordeon - I had to look this up!). Then came the 3 couples of Tango dancers and it is hard to explain how absolutely incredible they were. Although you know they are professional dancers, the intensity and passion they display in each of their movements and in each of their looks, make it hard to believe that they could do it for any other reason than the love of this dance. Very memorable evening. This caused us to hum to "La Cumparsita" for the next few days (This is probably the most famous Tango song and even if you know absolutely nothing about Tango, you will still have heard this song before - go to youtube to hear it: here!)
Amongst the various areas we visited, the one that stood out apart from San Telmo, was La Boca's "Caminito". It is a proper touristic spot but we still though it was absolutely charming. It is a small area with attractive colourful buildings, pedestrian streets where some tango artists may perform. The neighbourhood originates from Italian settlers times. Indeed, there were tourists and souvenir shops every where you looked. It was also sunny, colourful and loud with tango music and the atmosphere made it fantastic - tourist trap or not! The rest of that day was spent walking around San Telmo’s Sunday market where they shut Defensa street and make it pedestrian.
We spent one of our days outside of Buenos Aires, in a region called San Antonio de Areco on a farm which they call "Estancia". The point was to learn more about the Argentine cowboy, the "Gaucho", and eat meat like it was going out of fashion. Well, mission accomplished! We spent most our day at the lunch table as they brought dish after dish of meat, whilst we watched a show of typical argentine songs and dances from every region. The singer then sang songs from all nationalities and song us Shosholoza: He knew more of the words than us!! (I have had to explain where Mauritius is so many times - with drawings and everything - that if I’m tired or in big crowds, I just go with South African, this was one of those instances!)
Otherwise we explored the rest of town, saw all the nice places: Amongst others we saw Café Tortoni on the lovely Avenida de Mayo (which reminded us a bit of Paris), the Obelisco, Calle Florida which is a pedestrian shopping street, Avenida 9 de Julio and Plaza de Mayo.
At this Plaza de Mayo, a group of women now known as “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” have been marching for over 30 yea rs EVERY Thursday at 15h30. Their adult children “disappeared” during the military dictatorship in the years 1976 to 1983, and they have since marched to demand information about their whereabouts. We were able to see them do this and it was very moving as even now some were teary eyed. Very sad but certainly puts things in perspective when facing our own insignificant troubles!
We left Buenos Aires via another overnight bus (where we were served champagne, beef and mash as our meal, not too shabby no??) to make our way to Puerto Iguazu, with a feeling of “not enough”..