The starting point for a three month adventure…
Where to begin I am not sure but I’ve been here only few days and I know one thing, getting by without Spanish is possible, getting by with some Spanish would be a lot easier!
Today alone I thought I ordered enchiladas. I did not, I orders a salad of some sort. If you know me you will know that I don’t believe in salads so this was a low point in my life (slight exaggeration).
But in seriousness… Apart from the salad, in my experience most places I’ve travelled if you had the standard 5-10 words (hello, thanks, etc.) you would get by easily. Here it is that bit more difficult, many of the locals have little or no English, and although they are still very friendly, it can be hard to communicate at times.
In some countries, not having a grasp of the local language can be considered an insult but in Argentina I’ve been greeted with nothing but friendly and helpful faces. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a Porteno (someone from Buenos Aires) who took time out of their busy day to go for a coffee, before they went to work, and have a chat about life, my lack of Spanish (it’s improving I swear!), and what to do while I’m in BA. If everyone was even half as friendly as that for the rest of the trip then it’s going to be a great trip!
The city itself seems to have a few different sides from what I’ve experienced so far. Across the river to the east is the new, built up and modern area with a large green area, very pleasing on the eye. West of the river is the area I am staying. And it is charming in parts, while other areas are run down with graffiti everywhere. And further to this, spurtted throughout the city are places with all sorts of charm that you will fumble upon unintentionally as often as you will intentionally.
For the first few days I was alone and as luck would have it I arrived on a double national holiday for the 200 year celebration of independence (everything was closed) and then it was Sunday (everything was closed) and then it was Monday (most public buildings and parks were closed) so I explored most of the city in a random fashion based on what ever took my fancy. From the richer area of Palermo to the popular area of Recelota, which housed the famous Recelota Cemetery and the final resting place of Eva Paron (Evita).
The area I was staying, San Telmo, is the oldest part of the city and had some Sunday Markets that would be worth a visit for anyone in BA. A whole street longer than the eye could see was closed off for the markets with everything from fruit to paintings on sale.
My ‘travel friend’, Sinead, arrived on the Tuesday and we did a couple of walking tours to learn a bit about the history of the city etc. after that we visited the Boca area of BA which is famous for the Boca Juniors football club. It was a unique area to say the least and there was even a match on while we were in in BA which got me really excited as I’ve heard how passionate the South America fans can be, but we couldn’t get tickets (Boca lost the match in the end which it made it a bit more bearable!). We also took a trip to Tigre to the north of Buenos Aires to explore the delta. It was interesting but not something you would really be disappointed if you missed either.. Although, we seen a casino out there that looked huge from the outside, too big, it looked like a massive warehouse, so we checked it out. It was full of slot machines, 3 floors worth and a few card game tables, the place was pretty busy too for a random day in the middle of the week!
A lot has been made of potential pick pocketing in South America, with BA being a hot spot, but I hadn’t encountered any trouble or felt like I was near any danger but then Sinead arrived… As we started our day trip adventure to Tigre, at the train station, panic set in, she couldn’t find her phone, and we had just been at a little kiosk so we ran back to see if she left the phone there, no joy and it dawned on us at this point that a little kid weaved in between us at the kiosk while we were there originally. She had been pick pocketed. Or so we thought. As we turned back to get the train, I noticed a little silver edge shining out of the pocket of her leggings… Her phone was in a pocket she didn’t even realize she had!!! So no normality had been restored, the pickpocketing myth busted again, for now at least. Sinead ‘pockets’ Conneely had kept her phone and gained herself a nickname for the rest of the holiday!
Usually when I go on holiday I get a keepsake of some sort, but this trip is a bit different and I can’t be lugging items around from 6/7 different countries for months so I had an idea to get a tattoo instead. I wasn’t really sure if I’d go ahead with it so hadn’t told many people but I did my research coming up to BA and found a place called American Tattoo in the Bond Street area. I met the guy who owned the place (he has tattooed David Beckham, Maradona and Slash from Guns&Roses to name a few) to run my ideas by him. In the end I changed the size, type and location of the tattoo I originally wanted but the concept remained the same and I was excited to finally get it done. I got the tattoo done the morning before leaving BA and was more than happy with the end product.
The highlight of the week has definitely been the tango lesson our hostel organised in an authentic restored warehouse type place where even locals go to learn. It was exactly the type of place you want to see and experience you want to have on a trip like this. Here’s to hoping there are many more like it.
Beunos Aires is the type of city that stikes me as a place I could easily live. It just has that vibe and part me of thinks that a week here is almost a waste of time, it’s somewhere that should be lived in and not just visited to get the full experience.
Either way, our time here has come to an end and we head north to Iquazu Falls (one of the seven natural wonders of the world). To get there we are taking an 18 hour bus and I know how awful that sounds but it’s a sleeper bus, we are being well fed and the seats are soooo comfy, thankfully, so hopefully it will all go by nice and fast!
I’ve heard that the falls are amazing so for now… the anticipation builds!
Bus from airport to hostel in Buenos Aires – 480 peso
To use subway in Argentina you need to purchase a ‘sube’ card, available in most shops but not in the subway itself. Although if u want to top it up, the subway is the place to do it. Each journey costs 4.50 pesos
Public buses also operate on same card, no cash, but the price varies depending on the distance you travel. So it would be advisable to know the name of the place u are going to tell the driver when you get on or risk getting charged the maximum (which is still only about 6.50 pesos, I think).
Public trains (non-subway) work on the same principle as the public buses but automatic machines as you leave the platform deduct the price from your card based on distance.
Bus to Iguazu from BA (very comfortable, nearly fully reclining, hot meals provided, overnight, 18hours) – Approx 1500 pesos one way. Sounds a lot but saves you a nights accommodation and we got dinner and breakfast included.