We arrive into Buenos Aires around 10.30am, pretty much on time! In the bus station we hunt down the offices of Via Barochile, as we've had a couple of recommendations from friends for them. We pick up their timetable for buses and prices to Iguazu and then find local bus number 50, to get to our hostel, Estacion Hostel.
We arrive into Estacion Hostel at 11am and fill in the paperwork that gets shoved at us. We are then told that because we have arrived at 11.20am our room is still being cleaned and we are not meant to check in until 12pm. So could we please come back at 1pm? Not enthralled with the idea of wandering the streets until we've showered and eaten, we ask if there is a lounge we can wait in instead of leaving. 'Yes'. Um, well where is it? We find the lounge ourselves, no thanks to the less than helpful staff girl. We get into our empty dorm after 12pm and have to go and get sheets and towels from reception to make our beds. So if the cleaner only has to strip the beds and vacuum, what really takes so long to clean the rooms? We are not shown to our room, nor are we shown any of the facilities of the hostel, kitchen, where the shared bathrooms are, what the wifi password is, or what time breakfast is served. Nothing. ALL other Argentinian hostels put this one to shame. Our friendly welcomes and immediate showing the common and shared facilities in Salta, Cordoba and Mendoza, particularly in Cordoba, where we arrived early and were invited to use any of the facilities definitely showed up the unwelcoming and unhelpful reception we received at Hostel Estacion.
We arrange to meet Amy and Dave in San Telmo and head there, but not before we have again had to deal with the unhelpful wench on reception. We asked if there was a key to lock our dorm room whilst we are out. After some confusion, when she gives us a key for the small valuables lockers in our room, we are told, that the dorm doors do not have keys and cannot be locked. We stayed in dorms in Salta, Cordoba and Mendoza, and each time the dorm rooms had keys to lock the door if everyone in the dorm is out for the day. This place is quickly establishing itself as being unorganised, unwelcoming, and unsecure in our opinions.
In San Telmo we sit in the sun in the main plaza and catch up with Amy and Dave who have been up to Iguazu since we left them in Salta. We a late afternoon lunch together, and I have a milenesa the size of my plate and frites for 25 pesos.
After eating we stroll up to Plaza de Mayo together, where we come across a protest filling the central part of the square. We skirt around it, with the Pink Palace roped off behind a line of fencing and riot police with their shields at the ready. We head towards the Obelisk and admire the wines in a classy wine store. We head off to our respective hostels, with Ryan and I succumbing to our sweet tooth on our way back, picking up a huge piece of lemon meringue pie (for dinner, sorry mum!).
We have a sleep in the next day, a bit of a rarity for us, before a breakfast of breads and croissants. Cornflakes and juice are not included in the free breakfast, coming with a charge. Along the same line, tea and coffee is only free at breakfast and is unavailable for the rest of the day.
Being Sunday we decide to take in the markets of San Telmo, so make the 20 minute walk down to the plaza again. We spend hours exploring the many stalls in the small plaza and eating empanadas for lunch. There are so many odds and sods on sale here. Mid afternoon we perch on a brick wall and wait for a free tango show to start. It's amazing and has us both enthralled, their quick moving feet and bodies.
Once we've had our fill of tango we head up Defensa, which is full of tables piled with crafts and antiques for sale. It takes an age for us to take it all in, stopping to investigate more closely any crafts or antiques that catch our eye.
At the Disco supermarket near our hostel we grab some microwaveable risotto and frozen milanesa type of thing for dinner. Even with this microwaveable dinner we run into problems in the under supplied kitchen at Hostel Estacion. We eventually manage to get a container to cook our rice in, that (a) fits in the microwave and (b) won't make pretty sparks in the microwave. Our rice ends up delicious, the frozen milanesa not so. We wash our dinner down with our Malbec from Mendoza.
We still have our 4 bed dorm to ourselves on our second night. W
e have another sleep in, maybe a new habit is forming??
Later in the morning we walk up to the Gongress building and then through the streets to Florida, a pedestrian street in the middle of the city. We go into the HSBC bank there, not hopeful that Ryan's replacement card will have actually have turned up, and if it did, that it will still be there. After enquiring at the front desk they send us next door to a different part of HSBC, where we are sent to the third floor. At the third floor they send us to the first floor. At the first floor they tell they there is another HSBC branch on Florida and it is likely the card is there instead. So we walk the two blocks to the second HSBC branch, where we are told that to have the card sent to the bank, it cannot be addressed under your name, but must be addressed to someone at the bank. Huh? Why didn't the woman we spoke to, two months ago when we cancelled Ryan's stolen card and ordered a new one, why didn't she tell us this. How are we meant to know the names of people working in an HSBC branch that we choose to have our card sent to, because we have no fixed address while we are travelling? It seems it would be impossible to get a replacement card whist you are travelling then!
So we call London HSBC and ask that they send a second replacement card, this time addressed to one of the supervisors at the Buenos Aires branch on Florida. We give the bank the dates we'll be back in BA in October and hope they hold the card until then. Exasperated we walk back to the hostel for a couple of hours.
Later in the afternoon we walk back into the centre of town and get the tube up to Palmero to meet Amy and Dave for dinner. The four of us walk from Plaza Italiana to La Cabrera only to find that they are fully reserved for tonight. As we don't fancy waiting 1 - 2 hours for a table to vacate, so we try their sister restaurant in the next block, La Cabrera Norte.
We are able to get a table for 8.30pm, phew! To kill a couple of hours we try and find a bar to get a drink at, but can't find any. Instead we grab some beers from a dairy and head to a nearby plaza to drink them in. The plaza is lined by pubs and bars! Murphy's law.
We head to the restaurant around 8pm, unable to wait any longer! We eye up the different sizes of steak on the menu, 200gm, 400gm and a whopping 800gm. We're invited in to get seated and order some wine. Ryan and I decide to share an 800gm piece of Bife de Chorizo, and get some fries so we are not eating just meat! That was my decision, Ryan was perfectly happy to have a meal consisting of one giant hunk of meat.
There are breads to start, with roasted garlic cloves and other toppings. Our steaks come out and are massive! Amy and Dave have gone for the same as us. The steaks come with 6 small ramekins of sides/sauces - carrots and peas in a sauce, sundried tomatoes, new potatoes, and eggs in a creamy sauce, cherry tomatoes and tiny boiled eggs and another two unidentifiable sauces. This is in addition to four small dishes to share between the four of us; mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin, a pureed spinich and one other.
The dinner is delicious. We order deserts - crème brulee for us, tiramisu for Amy and Dave. The crème brulee is delicious! And massive for 32 pesos.With our deserts we are given complimentary glasses of champagne! Then when we get our bill we are given a tree made of lolly pops which we are able to help ourselves to! The service and food was top notch. Our 800gm of steak cost 75 pesos and our brulee cost 32 pesos. This leaves us looking forward to coming back to BA for 5 days at the end of our holiday!