Hola a todos!
Another day, another blog entry – I think that I may finally bring things back up-to-date at the conclusion of today’s musings.
This weekend was wonderful, which ended up being something of a fortunate surprise. I awoke Saturday, mid-morning, and headed down to the local Internet café to check my e-mails. This was important because after two weeks in BA, I still did not have a fully-functional mobile phone. There are some poor souls out there who claim, rather emphatically, that to be without their mobile would be akin to being without a limb, breath etc. I fall a little short of such attestations but, I do agree that it can certainly spice up one’s social life, no – rather, it completely kills all said spice. So, I reverted to the trusty method of Facebook to inform my friends here in the city that I was, in effect, unavailable this weekend past. Lucky for me, my friend Emily saw my post and called me a little after lunch: my mobile was without credit but, my SIM card was working at least. I just so happened to be at the end of a clothes-washing cycle, so we were able to arrange to meet in one of BA’s major plazas (town squares) a little later. At 3pm we met, successfully and without recourse to mobiles (Mum, you would be so proud). Cue a mammoth wander through the heavily westernized streets of Puerto Madero, BA’s tourist-orientated harbour-front (as opposed to the “realistic” equivalent that is La Boca, of previous blog-post fame). Puerto Madero is great; it reminds me of the newly-rejuvenated canal-sides in Birmingham and Nottingham, except that the old warehouse-type buildings in Puerto Madero now mostly house banking institutions rather than plush restaurants, although they are here as well. One slightly less plush café came in very useful when, with little warning, the heavens opened (as they are wont to do in this city) and small, water-filled explosions began to fall all around. Emily and I were soon soaked but, the café we stumbled upon – well, into – just happened to serve the most wonderful fruit smoothies (made extra-wonderful by my body’s desperate craving from ANY vitamins). It was from the dry comfort of ‘“I” Café’ that we planned our foray into the nearby ecological reserve.
The ecological reserve is an amazing place. It remains the sole location in BA where I have found peace from the typical city noises of car-horns, sirens et al. The bird-song was splendid – you would have been in your element Dad. As it was, I was restricted to a layman’s adoration of sounds that were at once both beautiful and wholly alien to my ear. The reserve was sign-posted well and the walk was very enjoyable. At one point, we found ourselves skirting the bank of the mighty River Plate, on its way out into the Atlantic. I have been told, on numerous occasions, that the water on the Argentine side of this river is absolutely filthy and that physical contact with it is to be avoided at all costs. It was little surprise, therefore, to find some rather brave Argentines taking the plunge – these people are crazy. The water was BLACK. Ah well. The land-based scenery at least was idyllic and there is something very tranquil about water-side locations (although in this instance avoidance of looking at said water actually added to the beauty of the scene). We arrived at the river-side in the late afternoon, as the sun was on the wane, and so the shadows cast were mesmerizing. In fact, this aptly sums up my feeling towards the entire reserve; captivating and mesmerizing.
After emerging from the reserve in considerably less time than the officious-looking map had anticipated, we headed back into BA proper to seek out ‘El Tortoni Café’ – the premier intellectual hotspot from BA’s strong literary history. It was here that Borges and co. would come to sit, drink, eat and discuss themes and common interests with each other. Many literary cities have just such a location; I have been fortunate enough to visit ‘The Eagle and Child’ in Oxford, home to The Inklings, a group which included Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among their number. I also visited ‘Café Greco’ in Rome, at the foot of the Spanish Steps, a regular haunt of England’s very own Romantic poets when resident in the awe-inspiring city; Byron was almost a part of the furniture. The ‘Tortoni’ fits right into this eclectic mix, as a location oozing historic, classical charm, particularly in its architecture (just for you, Tez). Stout Tuscan columns, completed by ornate Corinthian capitals, dominated the space and yet, at the same time, remained discreet enough to allow vistas progressing beyond their firm frames and on into the far vestiges of the café. The service was supreme (by BA standards at least) and the “scon” was – just about – passable! I suppose that they at least had the decency to name it slightly differently.
After a brilliantly rejuvenating (this is today’s favourite word by the by) stint in the café, we progressed on to commence our search for that most distinctive theme of porteño culture; the parrilla (a grill-house). It is here that Argentine chefs work their magic with one of Argentina’s best-known and best-loved products, namely meat. I am convinced upon entry, en route to our table, I saw THREE such chefs hoisting what looked like half a cow onto their barbeque grill. Excellent, bring on the protein-fest. The evening was superb: sumptuous food – this was some of the best grilled beef that I have ever tasted; three cuts of meat (rump-steak, ribs and tenderloin, I think) and of which melted in my mouth; a lovely, robust Malbec to complement the meat; brilliant, tasty little condiments – including a rather fiery salsa – to accompany the main meal; an appreciatively attentive waiter, full of sound culinary recommendations and wonderful company in the form of Emily, who wowed me with some fine literary talk (I really must re-read Jane Eyre). I wandered home, past midnight, at the end of an exhausting, yet highly satisfying, day. At last I felt myself to be truly connecting with BA. First the exquisite experience of the Tango and, now, a view into BA’s fabled past and present.
Sunday’s delights, alas, must wait until next time: I must now head off to class once more and to the incomparable joys of Luciana’s luminous company for the next three hours. Only the promise of a futbol match later today and St. Patrick’s Day revelries this evening give me strength at this point. Ciao!
Saludos mis amigos!