In the words of my sister "stressssss". Seriously I don't know where to start with this blog because there is so much to talk about with Buenos Aires. I'll be calling it BA from here on in because its just easier. We stayed just over a month in BA, taking spanish lessons and absolutely fell in love with the place, it's hard not to love it. The easiest way to do this is my list of the Top 10 things to do in BA.
1. Befriend a local
2. Get a good steak into you
3. San Telmo market
4. Tango show
5. Visit La Boca and go to a game
6. El Tigre
7. Palermo - parks and viejo
8. Get Spanish lessons preferable from Dário "The Great"
9. Recolleta cemetery
10. Bomba Del Tiempo and good Nights out
You will need at least a week in BA to see all it has to offer but trust me you won't get bored. We loved the people of BA and the Argentines for that matter, there is something about their "don't give a f***, informal" attitude that just appealed to us. They are a very proud people and why shouldn't they be... The new pope is Argentine, they have the best footballer in the world, they're convinced they have the best food in the world and that they will win the World Cup and I'm pretty sure if you asked any one of them who god is, they would reply with either "Messi" or "well he is definitely Argentine". They even have their own version of the Spanish language which in my opinion is better. I'm yet to meet an Argentine that doesn't like mate or football so if you come across one will you let me know? They are so passionate about everything, I really think we could learn a lot from them. For instance, they don't just like and support football, most of them eat, sleep and breath the stuff and that applies to all things they love.
So back to my list;
1. Befriend a local - it's very easy to get stuck in the travellers trap and hang around with other native English speakers, usually the British. Which is all fine for a while but you're missing out on what the locals have to offer. Most of them are just dying to have a conversation with you especially if you show some interest in their culture. We were lucky enough to be introduced to Adrian Parodi. Adrian is a BA local (a porteno as they call them here). We arranged to meet for dinner and then a Tango show. Adrian insisted on paying for our dinner and then paid in for us to go to a Tango show - we were overwhelmed with his kindness. He didn't stop there, it had been Andrew's birthday the week before and he bought Andrew a birthday present and other presents for Andrews family... We had literally just met this guy and he was buying presents for us. There is such a thing as being too nice and this is your prime example. Every time for then on in when we met Adrian, he always had more to give us, we were even invited out to his family home where his lovely parents cooked up a feast for us and also sent us home with a bag full of food the next day including the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever tried (which was extremely welcomed by us). We learnt and saw so much of BA that we wouldn't have known otherwise. Honestly If you befriend a local, you'll get a lot more than you give.
2. Get a good steak into you - ok I'm by no means a big meat eater but when it came to steak in BA, I was a fanatic. I have never had better steak in my life and for so cheap as well. One of the best places we went was 'La Cabrera' in Palermo, it's definitely the most popular steakhouse and for good reason too. Andrew still has dreams about this steak. We got the lomo cut which is the equivalent of the fillet steak, the least fattiest. Sooooooo good, they cut it with a spoon for you to show you how tender it is, it literally melted in our mouths. They bring you all these tasty sides too. Couldn't recommend this place more and if you go on a Tuesday evening between 7 and 8, you get 40% off, you can't go wrong really. There were 3 of us for dinner and the total bill came to 300 pesos (€50) in total. That was with loads of food, a bottle of wine and water. Do it!!!! Obviously steak isn't all they eat in BA. The locals, similar to me, love anything sweet so I spent a lot of time in Panaderia's (local bakeries), they sell amazing sweet things like alfajores and medialunas and you better start liking Dulce De Leche because it's in EVERYTHING! Empanadas and churros were also favourites of mine. There is no denying the food is good but after a few weeks of the same thing you start to crave a little variety and unfortunately variety they don't do very well. All we wanted was a nice 3 in 1 which unfortunately wasn't going to happen for us. We luckily stumbled across the next best thing on Tripadvisor. A local place called Chipper (fittingly selling gourmet fish & chips) which was Irish owned - it was ticking all the right boxes. The food was amazing, they even had mushy peas and curry sauce, we couldn't get enough of this place and ended up going 3 times in 2 weeks. Don't forget Argentina is wine country and known for Malbec!! I love Malbec!! The Wine here is cheap and good so drink plenty of it. And if you think I've forgotten about ham & cheese I haven't, I just leave the best until last. Unfortunately ham & cheese is a South American thing, it's in everything. Next time I visit, I'm bringing over a chicken fillet roll with lettuce and coleslaw and showing them a what a real sandwich looks like. I just don't understand how they don't even get sick of feckin ham & cheese.
Another thing we had to get used to was the "Argentine" eating schedule, it's mental. Everything is the complete opposite to how we do it, they have cake for breakfast, a light lunch at 12pm, Mate or coffee and cake at 5pm and then dinner at 11pm at night. 11pm!!! What the hell is that about? Sure you'd barely have eaten your dinner before you'd have to go and brush your teeth for bed. I never said I like everything about Argentina.
3. San Telmo market happens every Sunday going on all day. Markets are like all markets around the world, full of crap that you end buying even though you don't need it. Andrew is a prime example here, he bought another Mate cup, adding to his total collection of 3 Mate cups... He doesn't even like Mate. Even if you don't buy anything, it's still a brilliant day as there is loads going on including live music, entertaining acts like tango and crowds of people. Amongst the crap, you are bound to find something you like. I obviously bought what I like most... food.
4. Tango Show - as I mentioned above, Adrian brought us to a Tango show. This was a local one in Palermo where they have a few hours of regulars just practicing which was entertaining in itself because myself, Andrew and Adrian had great fun picking out the really s*** dancers and then the better ones. After this the professionals come on and it's seriously impressive. You can't take your eyes off them and the tango music to match is just as good. The Argentines have a real passion for tango and you see people of all ages still dancing it. We saw one couple that had to be at least 80, rocking around the dance floor. You just wouldn't get that at home and I think that's why we were even more impressed. Also if you do go to one of these types of shows and you're female, keep your eyes to the ground. Making eye contact with any of the men parading the dance floor means you want to dance. I learned the hard way when I had to disappoint a 60 year old man with my typical "no hablo espanol" response. I still curse my mum to this day for not sending me to dance lessons when I was younger... I could have been that seriously good!
5. La Boca - people go to La Boca for two reasons, the first to visit the colourful neighbourhood and the second, football. I went for the first reason, Andrew went for the second. Everyone is football obsessed in Argentina, especially BA, where supporting a local team is as important as your religion, if not more. Now I'm not a big fan of football mainly for the reason that Andrew is a big fan. I've spent too many Sunday being subjected to a horrible day of watching sunday games on a couch but football in Argentina especially in La Boca was different! I wanted to like football here because they are so passionate about it. The games are expensive, starting at about 600 pesos per tour. You have to go with a tour because it's not safe to go alone. The fans here are called the 'ultras' which translates as you don't want to be sitting beside these supporters. They are insane, where riots during matches is the norm. The atmosphere at a La Boca game is incredible and is a definite must when you're here. There are some things you have to splurge on and this is one of them. La Boca neighbourhood itself is beautiful. I've never seen anywhere as colourful. There was loads going on while we were there which was almost overwhelming but still amazing.
6. El Tigre is a suburb an hour outside of BA and is a welcoming break from the madness of the city. It's a small town built along the river banks. It's really pretty. Most of the houses here are only accessible by boat. Everyday the local kids get a boat to and from school, somehow that would make going to school a lot more exciting for me. Myself, Andrew and our two friends Pete and Lukas took the train out here for 3.50 pesos and did a boat trip on the river for 50 pesos. If you're going, go on the weekend, the fun fair is open and there is a lot more people hanging about. Unfortunately we didn't and disappointingly missed the funfair, I was devastated!
7. Palermo - we are slightly biased when it comes to Palermo (another neighbourhood in BA) because we lived here while in BA. For us, it is the nicest neighbourhood. They have beautiful parks which our packed with people on the weekends. It especially good for people watching, there is always so much going on. We saw tons of professional and amateur rollerbladers and skateboarders doing circuits of the park, again we loved picking out the really 's*** ones' who kept falling. You can also rent the stuff and try it out yourself. Another thing you can't miss are the paesaperros (professional dog walkers), some of them are strolling along with up to 15 large dogs, also highly entertaining. They love their dogs here so most of the dogs were kitted out in full outfits with shoes!! Other areas in Palermo are the Hollywood, Soho and Viejo area which are the trendy and hippie places of BA. Full of really nice restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques.
8. Spanish Lessons - ok so enough is enough, I don't know what it is but us Irish people have a very bad attitude towards foreign languages. I still don't know if it's because we think English is all we need or if it's the way languages are thought in school. I'm putting my hand up here as the prime example. I'm blaming school! Why weren't languages not held as important as maths and science subjects. So far in life, I could have done with a couple of Spanish phrases more so then a trigonometry equation. I honestly regret that I don't have a language and I think many people do when you start travelling because you start to meet all these multi lingual Europeans like the Swiss who on average can speak 4 languages fluently. Our friend Lukas spoke 6, he must of thought we were slightly 'retarded' only being able to speak English. I actually felt ashamed when we were asked what other languages we spoke. I started lying and said we spoke fluent Irish, now if you know me, you'll know I can speak as much Irish as I can Russian and only learned it for 14 years. Anyway rant over, it was time to do something about this, we got help and assistance from Super Dário "The Great". Another local porteno and dog fanatic. He actually suggested that this blog post be done in Spanish but Dário, let's be realistic here. From the time we opened the door to Dário, we loved him! He made our Spanish lessons very entertaining and gave us essential phrases and tools to use for the rest of our trips. One of the lessons involved myself and Andrew having to write a paragraph of something we did in BA in the past tense. Andrew spoke about going out for dinner with our friend 'Pete'. Dário cracked up laughing at this, he explained to us the 'pete' means oral sex specifically a blow job in Spanish. The sentence to Dario literally translated as "we went for dinner with our friend blow job". Oh how we all laughed... You see these are the sorts of things you need to know in other languages, we certainly won't be making that mistake again. We did 4 weeks of lessons with Dário where not only did we learn Spanish but we learned a lot about BA and Argentina. We actually looked forward to our Spanish lessons everyday with him. We told him we would be back in 2 years time with fluent Spanish... Miracles can happen! Anyway lessons are a must, you will need the basics to get by in South America and ask for Dário if you decide to do them in BA.
9. Recoleta is another lovely neighbourhood in BA. The biggest attraction is obviously the cemetery (free to visit) - its fascinating just to walk around it, you can get easily get lost in this maze of grave stones. Look out for Evita's gravestone and some of the Irish elite buried here like father !!!!! . Obviously myself and Andrew made up and insensitive but entertaining game where we had to find the ugliest, the prettiest and the most expensive grave stones. We came to the conclusion that if you had the ugliest your family didn't care as much about you. I think we forgot people were actually buried here. Lets just say we got very into the game.
10. Nights out in BA were the best nights so far on our travels. Obviously you can expect huge super clubs and trendy bars from such a big city but it still has more to offer. Two of the best nights we had were at a music festival in Puerto Madero and the other at the infamous Bomba Del Tiempo which happens every Monday night. If you're in BA, you have to go to one of these shows, they are amazing (60 pesos a ticket). Most people we talk to who were in BA stay at Millhouse hostel which is the ultimate party hostel, don't go there if your looking to sleep. It's renowned for people 'going a bit mental' in. It's easy to spend money quickly on nights out but you're pretty much guaranteed a great night. We had many good nights and spend for too much money. Most places were open until 6am meaning you might as well right off the next day for us but we had plenty of time to waste BA so we didn't mind too much. Drink as much as you can before going out, you'll save a fortune and one of the only good things about being a girl here means you get free in to most clubs.
That's it from BA, back to buses and dorms unfortunately. Next stop Puerto Madryn, Patagonia.
I'll keep you posted!!!