Wandering in America del Sur

Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

Urban Bliss

Flying back from Easter Island across the Pacific, we decided we might as well take best of advantage of being in the Santiago airport and just keep right on going and cross the continent to the Atlantic, to Argentina. With the weather being unsettled in Isla de Pascua expected a rough ride, but it was smooth as silk until we approached Santiago. Decided to test out our skills for the Amazing Race by doing a quick tear through immigration because we had forgotten to tell them that we were in transit to Argentina. Oops! But fortunately Lan being what it was, we were deplaned, disembarked, through immigration / customs and rechecked in with our bags in the international terminal and stamped out of Chile within 15 minutes! Pretty impressive! Too bad they don´t accept Canadians for the show!

Anyway, the trip over didn´t turn out to be nearly as enjoyable as the first leg of our journey. The mighty Andes decided to throw us for a loop, not to mention a thunder and lightning storm in full swing. The slabs of the famous Argentinian beef sitting on my plate were not looking nearly so appetizing as we got bounced around, up and down and then sideways! Was glad when the trip was over and we were on the terra firma again! Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires!

But after a partial night´s sleep after jetlag of 3 hours, we were up to partake in our free breakfast and city tour. Now this would have been great except for the torrential rain that decided to follow us. 120 mm in about 12 hours making the streets into ponds and where no umbrella would help due to the sideways nature of the downpour. So after our free tour, what were we to do, but indulge in one of Buenos Aires most famous past times - shopping!

Cheap and good with tons of variety, leather goods of all types, and cashmere sweaters were the call of the day. And when you get tired of trying on more leather jackets and finally call it a day by having one custom made with a 24 hour turn around for a mere $80 US, you can always head for a coffee to the Mall where you will not have to face the rain.

And miracle of miracles, in this city of many faces, you can sit in a non-smoking section on hip leather seats and drink real, honest to gawd, coffee from beans and soak up the cosmpolitan nature of the city.

Buenos Aires has to be one of the world´s greatest cities, and despite the economic crisis, compared to 3 years ago when I first walked its streets, it has rebounded to a point where if you had just dropped into its centre, you would swear you were in Europe. It is, hands down, one of the most trendy, international, vibrant, cultured and interesting cities in the world. And while Argentinians and particularly those from Buenos Aires are known for being snobby, I have to admit, they have a reason to be. They are living in a state of urban bliss in the District Federal de Buenos Aires.

Where else can you eat gourmet meals laced with hunks of top quality beef, polish off a bottle of local vinto tinto (red wine) and finish with an expresso for a mere $5-6?! Add to that, some of the world´s best shopping and a great nightlife from museums, to movies, to theatre to tango and you have it all! Wandering down the wide, wide boulevards that characterize the city or in the pedestrian malls flanked by a thousand others, you can´t help, but think about moving there - even if just for a year!

The next day, awoke to full on sunshine - apparently our penance was over so made the most of the day by challenging ourselves to the local bus and heading to La Boca - absolutely the most colourful area in all of Buenos Aires. Despite its humble beginning and now distinction as one of the poorer areas in the city, it has a charm as no other area in the city. The corrugated metal houses with their bright yellows, reds, greens and golds, tell of a past and a future in tourism. Artists ply their cobblestone streets and compete with the tourists for space. Artwork strewn out in the alley competing with the buildings for attention. Tango dancers complete the scene, their hats on the sidewalk to collect their day´s wages. Well placed tables and chairs to observe the comings and goings while sipping a cappucino putting the final touch on things.

After buying our own little pieces of the city, tucked our artwork under our arm, prepared to bus it again and head to the opposite end of the spectrum in the upper class district of Recoleta. But before getting there, not really knowing if we were on the right bus, got a quick city tour through various neighbourhoods for a mere 80 pesos. Amazing to see the differences from area to area - from the historic San Telmo Bario with its lively restaurants and tango bars, to the Centro with its grandiose streets and Obelisk monument shining in the fading twilight, to Bario Norte with its fading buildings, bespeaking of grandure in another time, to finally, Recoleta and its well ordered and manicured side streets.

And the jewel of Recoleta as our beacon, we walked to the entrance of the cemetery, the resting place of many influential people and now also the stomping grounds of tourists and the playground of cats of all shapes and sizes. Like New Orleans, the cemetary was grand, like a museum, statues and imposing monuments to past lives. And you could follow the workmen to the most famous grave of all, Evita Peron´s - small, and currently under construction, but still, from her humble beginning to the Argentinian aristocracy. The American dream gone south! Angels and porticos lined the narrow passageways under a bright blue sky.

But, alas, there was no time, we scampered back as quickly as possible to take a final picture of the Obelisk - the symbol of the city, built in the 1930s to commemorate the 400th Anniversay of the city´s establishment, was a dead ringer for the one in Washington, and making Kristine feel right at home (she´s from DC!). A great ending to a wonderful day.

The next morning before we headed off to the airport, smiled at the waiters with trays laden with coffee cups covered over with plastic, weaving their way through the crowded streets to deliver coffee and pastries to the office workers craving their morning jolt of Joe. Only in Buenos Aires ... It was a good image with which to leave the city, wearing my new leather jacket, feeling just a little more hip and Porteno and hoping that I would soon return.

Hanging out in La Boca

Hanging out in La Boca

With my artist

With my artist

The favourite airport travellers food! Can there actually be anything real in these donuts?!

The favourite airport travellers food! Can there actually be anything real in these donuts?!

Colourful mural in La Boca

Colourful mural in La Boca

Building in La Boca

Building in La Boca

The Recoleta Cemetery at sunset

The Recoleta Cemetery at sunset

Evita´s resting place

Evita´s resting place

The streets of La Boca

The streets of La Boca

© Allison Webb, 2005
You are here : Overview The Americas Argentina Urban Bliss
The trip
 
Description:
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Details:
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Ecuador
The Author
 
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.