Buenos Aires - Football, Tango....and a proposal
Buenos Aires is a fantastic city and we had an amazing time here seeing the sights, eating at fantastic restaurants and drinking LOTS of good red wine. This is definitely a city where a little extra money gets you a whole lot more and after 5 months of backpacking we decided it was time to treat ourselves so we increased our daily budget, said goodbye to our waistlines and had a fortnight of being 30-something again!
Paddy had been responsible for booking the flights from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and by some amazing ´coincidence´ it transpired that the Buenos Aires marathon was taking place 3 days later and Paddy decided that whilst he was here it would be a shame not to run it. On a hot Sunday morning at 7.30am, Paddy set off on his 42km run around Buenos Aires whilst Debs cheered him on. Given the fact his training had comprised nothing more than the occasional 5 mile run and several kilos of ice-cream, he finished in a very respectable time of 3 hours 37 minutes and, it being Argentina, celebrated with a bottle of Malbec and a steak the size of a small child!
On Paddy´s ´must do´ list whilst in Argentina was to see a Boca Juniors game (Diego Maradona´s club) and one Sunday afternoon we headed to their stadium - La Bombonera - to watch them play Vélez Sarsfield. As we´d heard the games could get violent, we paid extra to go with a tour who promised to provide safe seats and an authentic experience. We arrived at the game and were told to go to the uncovered section of the stands, directly behind the goal. We glanced around the stadium, pleased with our position and looked to see where the Velez fans were seated. We soon found out - they were directly above us! Within 5 minutes of the game starting, we felt the first drops of spit on our heads. Fearful of what was to follow, we tried to move to the covered section but by now the stadium was almost at capacity and there was nowhere to go so we put our hoods up and prayed that the Boca´s would play badly!
Unfortunately for us though, they were on brilliant form and after 20 minutes they scored their first goal. The Velez fans´ response was to increase the spitting and hurl stones at us. By 2-0 these became rocks, at 3-0 the first chair narrowly missed us and by 4-0 the second smoke bomb exploded just metres away. We looked to the police for help but they´d retreated to the safety of their van after the first chair landed! Thankfully however, no more goals were scored and, although we left the stadium covered in spit and pretty shaken up, we were otherwise unscathed! Paddy assures Debs that the only way to restore her faith in ´the beautiful game´ is to go to the Maracanã stadium in Rio but apparently they throw bottles of urine and dead chickens at this one and Debs remains unconvinced! We have since discovered that there is actually a Boca fans graveyard although we´re not sure if this is for fans who have died of natural causes or as a result of injuries sustained during matches!
We couldn´t visit Buenos Aires without seeing Tango and we spent an evening at one of San Telmo´s many tango bars, drinking red wine and watching some fantastic dancers. However, although it was only a week since Paddy ran the marathon and despite him showing no previous signs of discomfort, he seemed to develop a sports injury which meant he was unable to dance himself!
The big news of BA however, is that we got engaged and, after 7 years of very few romantic gestures, Paddy pulled out all the stops when it came to the proposal! He arranged for us to move from the grotty hostel we were staying at on the equivalent of London´s Oxford Street to San Telmo, an area of cobbled streets and excellent restaurants. Here we stayed at an elegant boutique hotel with stunningly beautiful rooms, fantastic views and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel called Rocco. He´d also secretly booked us into a fantastic restaurant run by Francis Mallmann, Argentina's best-known chef where he popped the question over dinner. Whilst he didn´t make it down on one knee (that sporting injury again...) since he´d gone to so much effort Debs could hardly refuse!! Finally, on returning to the hotel, our room had been filled with 100 red and white roses and a bottle of champagne. Debs was seriously impressed although knows she´s used up her quota of romance for the next 20 years and might get a bunch of daffodils in about 8 years if she´s lucky!
We spent the rest of our time in Buenos Aires with a huge smile on our faces. At least Debs did. Paddy sports a look of stunned disbelief and has started screaming in his sleep! (No, really!!!) After more than 2 weeks though of very good living we knew we had to move on or we would never be able to return to backpacking! Also, the excellent dinners, fantastic wine and several kilos of dulce de leche had left their mark and we were starting to look decidedly tubby! So we wrenched ourselves away from the comfort of our hotel, said a reluctant goodbye to Rocco and headed to the bus station for a 17 hour journey to Puerto Iguazu, the base of the incredible Iguazu falls...
PS - Debs´ father has agreed to Paddy´s request for his daughters hand in marriage on one condition - that he gets his hair cut before the wedding.