Monday 28th September: arrived in Buenos Aires.
The staff at the Clan were really friendly, however, it wasn't as large or as nice as the Millhouse and the entrance gate looked like a high security prison (photo provided!) but fine for a night's stay and close enough to the Millhouse to move back the following day. We finally caught up with my friend's brother and his mates, who were staying in the Millhouse and had been travelling the same route as us. I'd never met James (Liza's brother) before, but by the powers of facebook we got in touch and arranged to meet them that evening. Buenos Aires nightlife is pumping every night of the week, and hostels outline the best and busiest places to go to. We all decided to go to a local drums event called ´Bomba´, held every Monday night from 8pm until 10pm in an outdoor warehouse. There was a massive queue when we got there (obviously very popular with the locals) and we managed to push in not far from the front (otherwise we's never have got in there before 10pm and most of the locals were too drunk to notice!). It was packed inside as everyone watched the conductor and life band banging drums and other instruments to a very heavy beat, while a number of ´happy´ hippie followers danced about in the crowd - all very entertaining!
After spending the night on a very nice bus from Puerto Iguassu, we arrived midday at Buenos Aires - time for some fine red wine, juicy Argentinean steak and fantastic nightlife! We took a taxi to the Millhouse, a very popular hostel known for it's partying (we were a bit apprehensive as the hostel had a reputation for being a bit mental, with people setting their alarms for 1am to get up and go out. We needn't have worried though as we seemed to be the last ones in our dorms most nights!)The hostel was full for that night, but the manager guaranteed us one of the ´best´ rooms if we came back the following night, so we spent our first night at 'The Clan' hostel a few streets away.
We then headed back to the Millhouse for the Monday night DJ party to meet some more people and then went for dinner about 11pm - getting straight into the Buenos Aires way of life! Restaurants in BA open no earlier than 9pm, people only finish dinner gone midnight and hit the bars and clubs from 1am until 8am… if you can last that long?! A group of us went to a cheap, but excellent steak restaurant, and I was surprised to see it so busy for a Monday night with families and young children in at that time. I tasted my first Argentinean ´lomo´(tenderloin steak), which was absolutely delicious and washed down with lots of good red wine… all at a very reasonable price. Afterwards, we went back to the Millhouse and then when the DJ finished there about 2am, everyone fell into a small club located directly opposite the Millhouse - very convenient indeed! The music was good but ´cheese on toast´ and by 4am I couldn't handle any more Gun's and Roses, Queen (they LOVE Queen in Argentina!) or 80´s classics, so headed off to bed.
Tuesday 29th September: had a wander round the city.
It was a bright and warm day, so after our 'delicious' breakfast at the Clan (it was a large sack of sugarless sugar puffs which looked like horse feed), we checked into the Millhouse and went for a wander around the city. Buenos Aires is a very cool city, with beautiful law courts, a large theatre (currently being renovated so we couldn't go in) and lots of different suburbs with an impressive range of restaurants, bars and clubs. After spending the day shopping, I was still pretty shattered from the night before, so had a chilled evening in the hostel and took myself off to bed, leaving everyone drinking in the bar.
Wednesday 30th September: we went to see Evita!
We went with some friends to the Evita museum, as we had been told it was free on a Wednesday. Disappointingly, when we got there the two door men told us the museum was closed as they were changing exhibits. Obviously a lie, as after pleading with them a little (we had made a long trek to get there), they decided to let us in and there was a private tour taking place. The museum was all in Spanish, so we inconspicuously tagged onto the English speaking tour and learnt about the life of Evita - all the more interesting with translations!
Afterwards, we went to see Evita's grave at Recoleta cemetery in the upmarket area of Recoleta, one of Buenos Aires richest neighbourhoods. It's where the elite and affluent were once buried (there are no more burials in this cemetery now), such as doctors, politicians, military people, etc. It's a very bizarre and rather eerie place, with lots of stray cats prowelling around the rows upon rows of huge tombs. You can see through the doors and the shelved coffins inside many of the tombs, some of which have been very well maintained, with statues on top and polished marbled facades. Others have been left to deteriorate with crumbling stone and dusty, cobwebbed interiors. The whole place had a very spooky atmosphere to it (non-surprisingly!) and was definately, not a place you would go to after dark.
That day we met up with Ernesto, an Argentinean guy living in Buenos Aires who had met one of Ellie´s friends whilst she was travelling and they'd been going out ever since. He was a lawyer so we met him by the law courts and he gave us a brief tour of the area and inside one of the courts. The pavements were crammed with lawyers and briefcases the architecture of the buildings was very impressive indeed.
We then headed to a lovely restaurant in Recoleta for lunch (always handy having local's knowledge) that served some of the best bread rolls I've ever tasted (BA has the finest red wine, juiciest steaks and the most delicious freshly baked bread). We chatted to Ernesto about life in Buenos Aires and the places we should go to whilst we were there. Afterwards, he took us to a small, very chic and very posh French coffee shop for a submarine (warm milk with a submarine shaped chocolate you drop into it and stir), before Ernesto headed back to work after a rather long lunch break, and we caught the bus back to the hostel.
That evening, it was ´ladies night´ at the hostel (which basically meant girls got a couple of free shots of cheap and nasty vodka), so we had our freebies then headed out to the trendy district of Palermo with some friends after numerous people had told us Palermo was one of the best areas to go out in BA. Disappointingly, the bars were quiet, but we found a really good cocktail bar (aptly named Carnage) so decided to stay there. I propped myself up at the bar and merrily began to make my way through the cocktail list (note to self: never take a credit card to a cocktail bar!).
Wednesday 6th October: another quiet night in Palermo.
We decided to go to Palermo again, hoping the bars would be busier. A big group of us headed out, but it was very quiet again :(. So we headed into the busiest bar we could find and had a good night nonetheless, later heading to a club called Roomeys. The club was busy, but we decided to drink our ´free´ beer and leave shortly after - there was too much Peruvian salsa being played and hip gyrating Argentineans hogging the dancefloor.
Thursday 7th October: Last night in Buenos Aires.
We spent the day with some friends having a wander around San Telmo, home of BA´s tango culture and antique's fair. It was full of cobbled streets and ageing mansions that used to be home to the rich elite before the plague drove them all out in 1870. There was a famous antiques fair and tango shows on throughout the day in the Plaza Dorrego, so we sat there and watched the impressive tango for a while before heading back to the hostel in the late afternoon.
As it was our last night in Buenos Aires, we decided to go out for dinner for our last taste of Argentina (just an excuse for more red wine and juicy steak really!). We headed to a restaurant with an American guy from our dorm, but it was closed (only open for lunch), so instead we went to a restaurant called 'La Brigada' in St Telmo. It was recommended to us by Simon and although it was a bit touristy, it was still very popular with the locals and served exceptional steak. When we arrived about 9.30pm, there was already a long queue with people sitting on the bench outside. As we waited, we got chatting to two Mexican guys who were also staying at our hostel, so we all decided to sit together and about an hour later were seated upstairs. Interestingly, the restaurant was filled with football memorabillia and the owner looked a bit like Rudd Hullet with his dark tasche and perm-looking locks. However, it was definitely worth the wait and was one of the best (and most filling!) meals I have ever had!!
We had a lovely waiter called Coco looking after us all night, who served us an excellent salad to start (you have to request vegeatbles in Argentina, otherwise you just get bread with your streak) and a basket filled with warm, freshly baked bread. Then the steak arrived which was so tender the waiter cut it for us with a spoon - the best i'd ever tasted. We finished with the dessert of the house - a large crepe served with ice cream and dulce leche oozing out (a creamy, toffee sauce you get EVERYWHERE in Argentina - even for breakfast) - definately best way to spend our last night in Argentina. We headed back to the hostel, but were too full too party (we could even manage a drink) and fell into bed shortly after.
Friday 8th October: left Buenos Aires, heading for Lima.
Reluctant to leave Buenos Aires, we packed our bags and went to meet Ernesto for a coffee. He took us to a famous and very posh coffee shop called Café Tortellini. It was huge and tucked away behind large wooden doors with curtained windows. The waiters wore bow ties and tail waistcoats and served a great cappuccino - I was still too full to manage breakfast. We then went back to the hostel to pick our bags up and headed to the bus station for our epic 3 day bus journey to Lima in Peru. We weren't particularly looking forward to it, but assumed it would at least be a comfortable bus like the one we'd arrived on… how wrong could be…!
There are lots of stories from the cemetery, one of which is about a girl who was mistakenly buried alive. Her family noticed the coffin had moved and when they opened it there were scratch marks on the inside, so the law changed to state that burials could only take place 48 hours after death. The cemetary is most famous for Evita's grave and we found crowds of people looking at it and taking photographs. It was quite a modest tomb in comparison to some of them there, which would have been difficult to find without all the people taking photographs of it and the bundles of fresh flowers from the constant stream of visitors.
That evening we booked to go to a Tango night, which included a free tango lesson and three course dinner with as much wine as you could drink - excellent! The tango show was amazing, the dancers were very professional and I couldn't take my eyes off the stage. After the show we were all rather drunk from the masses of complimentary wine, so we headed back to the hostel and partied some more - the Millhouse was definitely living up to its reputation as the party hostel of Buenos Aires.
Thursday 31st September: the best steak and hip hop in town!
It was our last night with our friends, so we decided to go to one of the best steak restaurants in BA in the trendy, chic neighbourhood of Palermo. The restaurant was called ´ La Cabrera ´ and as we arrived there were people waiting outside, it was clearly very very popular and all the tables were filled and spilling out onto the pavement. We had to wait nearly 2 hours to be seated, but enjoyed free champagne and home made sausages under the heat lamps as we waited.
The steak was DELICIOUS, served with a selection of freshly baked breads and condiments, aptly served on silver, cow-shaped plates - all shiny clean by the time we had finished. Despite being ridiculously full (I felt close to popping!), we then headed to a hip hop night at a club called 'Lost'. It started with the locals having very impressive ´dance-offs´, taking it in turns to do their thing while everyone crowded around the edge of the dancefloor watching. Then, there was a very talented break dancing show (need to upload video), before everyone transcended onto the dancefloor and the DJ played some excellent hip hop tunes - definitely one of the best clubs I've ever been to!
Friday 1st October: mum's birthday!
I called home for the first time to wish mum happy birthday (skype is amazing!) and checked out of the hostel as were going to stay with Ellie´s cousin, Simon, who works for the British Embassy in BA. We met him at the Embassy and he drove us to his house in Martinez, a very nice suburb of Buenos Aires, about 45 mins out of the centre. We were both absolutely shattered, but Ellie did well at making polite conversation while I tried desperately not to fall asleep in the back. We pulled up at the house, and his wife, Lucy, and 2 year old son, Oliver, were waiting to greet us. Simon gave us a tour of the house (it was like fort knocks, with triple locks on each door, iron bars over the windows and across the landing, high metal gates and a security camera) as well as a swimming pool and a maid's quarters as they had a Peruvian maid called Lisa, all provided courtesy of the British Embassy. We were told Weetabix were out of bounds (Simon has to get people to bring them over for him from the UK), but we were welcome to water and muesli for breakfast.
That evening, we have a lovely dinner of... steak!! And to start, we had our first taste of ´cerviche´- a traditional Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in chillis, onions and lime juice, which sounds gross but was actually really nice (although not recommended to eat it off the street stalls in Peru where the dish comes from). We then had a much needed early night, making the most of having a bedroom to ourselves with the luxuries of a very comfy bed with duvet AND an en-suite with hot shower!
Saturday 2nd October: Pacha.
We spent the day in the trendy suburb of Palermo, with it's funky boutiques and a market every Saturday where lots of young fashion designers sell their designs. We needed to be back at Simon´s for 7pm, so we could all go out for dinner before Oliver had to go to bed. Unfortunately, we missed the train stop for Martinez and ended up two stops further on and having to get a taxi, arriving back a little late home - whoops!
We went to an American diner place which was nice, but expensive (I thought we were being treated to dinner, but luckily I had enough money on me to pay). As this was our only Saturday night in Buenos Aires, we arranged to go to Pacha, apparently ´the´ place to go on a Saturday night. So after dinner, we got ready and caught the train back to the Millhouse to meet some friends, making the most of our only weekend in BA. As nothing gets started until gone 1am (the minibus for Pacha was only picking us up at 1.30am), we told Simon and Lucy to expect us back very late and left with several sets of keys for the door, internal gates and three bedroom locks for when we got in (this was going to me interesting after a few vodka and redbulls?!).
The club was rammed, luckily we had VIP tickets to get in so didn't need to queue and it was great to hear some good house music from back home (no 80's cheesy tunes tonight!). We got considerably drunk on the potent measures of vodka and speed (their version of red bull), and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves but decided to head back about 5am as we didn't really want to be getting in as Oliver was getting up :(
Sunday 3rd October: the gaucho museum… with a 2 year old and a terrible hangover.
We were up and out at 9am prompt, as Simon and Lucy were taking us to an old gaucho town for the day. Ellie, Oliver and I were squeezed in the back of the car, Ellie was close to being sick and I was trying my best not to fall asleep (again!) whilst a 2 year old pointed, giggled and babbled at us wanting to be entertained. Eventually, we arrived at the old gaucho town, had a tour of a silver museum (with a group of Americans finding it far more interesting than ourselves), then the heavens opened so we went for a lovely lunch at a small traditional restaurant (Ellie and I passed on the red wine!). In the afternoon, we went to another gaucho museum (I was wandering around the exhibits with a ridiculous hangover trying to look like a) I'm reading it, and b) i'm finding it somewhat interesting… and worth the 5 pesos we had to pay to get in), before eventually heading home about 4pm.
Ellie skyped her dad when we got back (Simon informed him we'd eaten the fridge empty - we had had one meal and no breakfasts there AND paid for the 2 meals they'd taken us out for) and came in like two elephants that morning apparently!?... We decided to head back to the hostel the next day, and when we told Simon he seemed surprised. Although it had been lovely to have our own room for a few nights, we couldn't afford to keep eating out at expensive restaurants (on a tight traveller´s budget) and were a bit far out of the centre living in Martinez (taxi and train fares soon add up!).
Monday 4th October: back to the Millhouse.
We thanked Simon and Lucy for their 'hospitality' and headed back to the Millhouse hostel promptly Monday morning. We were given a dorm room all to ourselves (the manager was happy to see us back... and we were glad to be back too!) and met some friends as there was a DJ on at the hostel (the legendary Millhouse Monday night disco!). We had a few drinks (2 for 1 on the cocktails 10.30pm - 11.30pm!), listened to the DJ play EXACTLY the same tunes as the previous Monday and headed out for a late night snack (disappointingly McDonalds was closed). When we got back, we were just getting in bed (Ellie was getting undressed) when the guy from reception knocked on our dorm door and a strange Brazilian guy was put in our room. Amusingly, it was the same guy we'd noticed at reception when we got back in and I'd joked I bet he gets put in our room... and he was - we knew it was too good to be true having a whole dorm to ourselves!
Tuesday 5th October: my first submarine.
We woke up with the weird Brazilian guy in our room, whilst I took a shower he kneeled next to Ellie´s bed and started to stroke her head telling her she should get up - WRONG!! Then when I got out of the shower and pinned my hair up, he told me I should wear it down as he preferred it like that - I got really mad and have to leave the room. He then followed us downstairs and asked if he could spend the day with us - er, NO WEIRDO!! We literally run out of the hostel and decided we were going to ask if we could move to another room without the strange Brazilian man.