So my time with Tucan Travel and the rest of the tour is over. What an amazing adventure. Explored new terrain, learnt about new cultures and made new friends. Had an enjoyable ride down to Lima with Jono and spent just a few short days in Lime while waiting for my flight to Buenos Aires (‘BA’). Although the tour is over, the adventures continue. When I was last in Buenos Aires, I spent most of my time partying and getting to know the other people on the tour. I missed out on the various Arras and popular tourist traps that BA have to offer. Now I had the opportunity to spend the next 20 days exploring the city with a close friend of mine. What follows in this post are my experiences in various areas such as Recoleta, La Boca, the country side and more.
La Recoleta and the Cemetery
La Recoleta is the “rich” area of BA and features a wealth of witted for the standard tourist. Unfortunately there is no Subte (subway) there so you either jumping on a bus or in a taxi. There is a decent sized market situated out on the lawns in front of the cemetery which stock all your various artisnal arts and dust collectors. Personally, I prefer the Defensa street market (see below). There is a wide range of restaurants of various styles but do expect to pay more than other places.
The highlight, however, is the famous La Recoleta cemetery which houses some incredible mausoleums/crypts including some of famous folk. The cemetery itself is huge with hundreds of narrow passageways leading everywhere. For the most part, the mausoleums and crypts are very elaborately designed and constructed but it is unfortunate to see tombs which have been desecrated and damaged by vandals. Not even the dead can rest in peace. From humble rooms to marble monstrosities complete with angels and gargoyles. Make sure to stop by the tombs of Eva Perón and Raúl Alfonsín, some the famous residents. Well worth a couple hours spent walking around. Entrance is free and closing time is around 6pm.
La Boca is south of the city centre and deemed a dangerous area to be in at night (think the Bronx of New York) but during the day, it is tourist central. La Boca is famous for many of its features including the La Boca football stadium, ecentric buildings and tango. As you can see from the featured image above and the one to the right, the buildings are smothered in wild colours. There are statues leaning out of windows, artwork decorating the walls and street and various performers littered about, the most popular being Tango dancers. They don’t really dance though. They just stand there looking all pretty (the men in suites and the women in spicy tango dresses) waiting to pose with you for a photo (at a price of course). There is an array of restaurants offering everything from parrilla (barbeque) to pizza and such. One would think that the food would be tagged with tourist prices but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually very affordable. Each restaurant will try haggle you in with prices and specials which beat their competitor next to them. Almost feels like you are in an auction.
Just down the block is the famous La Boca stadium which is home base for the BA football club by the name of the Boca Juniors. Litterly translated, La Boca means “the mouth” and I am not exactly sure why they named it that. There are tours available of the stadium and they cost about 70 pesos. Apparently there is nothing more exciting than being in the stadium for a La Boca football game as the vibe and energy is so intense. It was listed on the “50 sporting things to do before you die” list as number 1.
Defensa Street Market
Defensa Street can be found just of Plaza de Mayo where the Presidents office is located. It is famous for its massive street market which runs all down the street for kilometers. You can find anything you want down there. From your typical touristy dust-collectors and trinkets, to artwork and jewelry, food and performers, you name it. The street is lined with restuarants and bars making it a popular place to eat and enjoy as well. One of my favourite restuartants, Desnivel, with (as far as I am concerned) the best “Bife e Chorizo” can be found there too. You have musicians, caricature artists, actors and dancers to keep you entertained during your stroll down the street. It operates all week but the weekends are obviously the busiest time with the most stalls set up. Expect to set aside about 2 – 3 hours for your visit there.
During my time in Buenos Aires, there were a few issues regarding the market. Apparently the government wished to move the markets out for some unknown reason. This resulted in protests on various streets with people holding up signs against this action. They were peaceful which was a good thing. I can’t understand why the government would want to do this as Defensa street and its markets are a famous tourist “trap” and a good source of income for the locals working there. As of writing this, I do not know what the status is of this action. One can only hope that the idea to move it is quickly squashed.
Monuments and Structures
Besides the interesting places to visit as mentioned above, there are a number of monuments and buildings which are well worth a look. The Obelisco de Buenos Aires which sits smack-dab in the middle of 9 Julio, the largest street in South America, is a pillar to the heavens. It is a monument built to the commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city but Wikipedia can tell you more about that if you are interested. You also have the Puente de la Mujer (“Womans Bridge”) which is a uniquely designed bridge dedicated to the various influential women during BAs history. There is also the “Pink House” which is the office of the President and can be found opposite the Plaza de Mayo. These are only three of many interesting monuments and buildings which were close to where I was based. There are a tonne more so go off exploring and find these treasures for yourself.
All good things eventually come to an end and the same resulted here. Had a fantastic time in Buenos Aires and I declare it my favourite city in South America (so far). There is so much culture and things to see. Each district is so diverse and interesting that it is very easy to get lost in their offerings. The public transport system works incredibly well with its subway and buses so don’t wast your money on taxis. And even after long nights out walking back from a club or bus stop at crazy hours of the morning, I never once felt unsafe. There is a very strong police presence (especially in the touristy parts) and the people are friendly and will help you out if you ask (assuming you know a little Spanish). That was one thing that surprised me about BA and Argentina in total. There is very little English spoken by the locals. The younger generation of today do get taught the language at school and university but do yourself a favour and learn at least the basics of Spanish because believe me, you will need it.
I am thoroughly going to miss the steak, the culture and the friends I have made here but trust me, this isnt the last of BA. I will be back!