Hola mis queridos,
For the next ten days I am traveling through Argentina and Chile, lucky me! After work on Thursday, I threw some clothes in my backpack and took the red eye first to Lima and then on to Buenos Aires, arriving at 6am with my eyes half open. Enrique, a friend of a friend who works for tourism company Mente Argentina graciously picked me up and drove me to Ariel’s house in Palermo. I quickly learned that in Argentina, early risers do not exist. Ariel was still sleeping and her boyfriend Jilad was awake only because he had not gone to bed yet. I made a mental note that I needed to put away my early to bed / early to rise mentality for the next few days in order to thrive in this city. After a filling breakfast and a little catching up, Ariel and Jilad went to work and I set off on the Sube (bus system) for MALBA, el museo de arte latinoamericana de buenos aires for their exhibit on the work of photographer Mario Testino. I’m always a bit nervous getting on the bus for the first time in a new city and usually ask around to make sure I’m not headed in the complete wrong direction. This only sometimes works though because I’ve come to realize that a lot of times locals do indeed point you in the wrong direction.
(Plaza de las Naciones Unidas)
This time, a local pointed me in a wrong direction that turned out for the better. I ended up in front of el museo de bellas artes (the Fine Art Museum) and the Recoleta Cemetery, which were the other two things on my Friday checklist. It was then that I remembered that I had friends in town, so I decided to pop into a cafe for a cup of tea and write them a bit of a cryptic note: “Am in Buenos Aires, will be in front of Cemetery at 2pm”. After that, I headed to my original destination, the MALBA and saw Mario Testino’s awe-inspiring work. He is a renowned celebrity photographer originally from Peru who does a lot of work for Vogue, Allure and Vanity Fair and whose muses include Kate Moss, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt. My favorite photo of his on display was taken in Cuzco, Peru and showed a model in traditional clothing juxtaposed with the indigenous people. Downstairs at the MALBA was a Latin American art permanent collection that included Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait. It was nice to go to a museum of that quality because Quito is definitely lacking in that genre.
At 2pm, I found myself outside the Recoleta Cemetary. Two minutes later I saw Stephen and in another two minutes we found Katia. Its amazing how in such a big city a simple message can be transmitted so clearly. Thank goodness for WhatsApp and free wifi! Stephen was a teacher-traveler who I met in Cuenca over Christmas and Katia stayed with me in Quito in January as she started her South America trip. By this time it had started to rain and we were all hungry so we met Katia’s friends John and Emma for a traditional Argentine lunch: meat. We had lots of good discussion about how our adventures had varied in South America so far and I shared my advice from Enrique earlier: “Buenos Aires is dangerous, no one ever leaves” which everyone in the group found to be very true.
(Walking into the cemetery. It was giant – a mini village!)
(One of Recoleta Cemetery’s many cats strolling past Evita’s grave – the most famous plot there)
The next day, we explored more of the same area, feasted on chorizo sandwhiches which luscious bread and grilled peppers from a street vendor, shopped for mate gourds and bombillas (straws) at the feria, indulged in the first of many alfajores and then settled on a grassy hill to drink beer and people watch. I loved seeing how many groups of friends came and went from the hill, arriving with full thermoses of hot water to fill their mate and leaving empty.
That night, in true Buenos Aires tradition, I partied all night at Argentina’s Time Warp Festival. Ariel and Jilad invited their generous group of friends and we all went down to the Pier where the European festival group had set up two giant stages, one with beautiful set design representing waves and the night sky. Somehow, I managed to act local and I danced until 5am!
After a few precious hours of sleep, I awoke somewhat refreshed on Sunday “morning” and eager to utilize my last full day in Buenos Aires. While everyone was still sleeping, I snuck out to the San Telmo Street Fair. It was filled with antiques, leather goods, mate accessories, and artsy trinkets and extended for blocks. I popped into the local hot spot Desnivel for a delicious, calorie-filled chicken empanada and then went to listen to the jamband playing on a side street. At dusk, I stopped into a cafe for an Americano boost and then strolled through the old Mercado de San Telmo which was filled with more Antique furniture and books, especially those of Argentine-famous comic book character, Mafalda.
(La Casa Rosada, made famous by Eva Peron, now with ever-ready riot fences surrounding it)
After exploring multiple neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, my gut sense kept telling me that this city reminded me of Boston, especially with comparable crisp, cool falls. As a final treat, A + J ordered extra spicy authentic Indian food for my final meal. Monday would be filled with travel as I left B.A. and headed for an overnight stop in Rosario.