Breakfast – well the organising of it – starts early at Hostel Sol, and after some coffee and a bit of hassling were out the door and off to the correro to post a bag of stuff Daniel had forgotten (including all his travel agent documents and souvenirs). After learning several new post-related words, and seemingly having sent it on its way to New York where Daniel should hopefully get it, we started a walk through the streets to La Boca, primarily because we’d forgotten which bus went there.
La Boca is quite a unique area of Buenos Aires – once apparently a fortress, the area of mostly swamps was slowly converted to docklands, and the necessary labourers for such enterprise settled nearby. They used the scraps from the docks and the left-over ship paint to build and decorate their houses, and thus the area developed its distinct look and feel. It later attracted bohmenian artists and the like, and is home now to the La Bombonera football stadium. Unfortunately it’s also become VERY touristy, and you’re being approached everywhere you walk with curios and food offers.
After a walk around and some photos, we decided lunch was on the cards, so picked a restaurant where the guy outside had tried his best to show in-depth knowledge of New Zealand with “Kia Ora! Jonah Lomu! Rugby! Kamate Kamate!”. Figured it was as good as any, and still in a meaty mood, did what will come as no surprise to many and ordered a mixed grill.
Mistake numero uno was immediately apparent when bloody sausage arrived, but the rest looked interesting enough, if unidentifiable. The steak was as good as any, but then I tried some of the other food, and couldn’t work it out – started to feel a bit queasy. After asking the camarero what it was, and confirming that it was liver (fine), kidney (o…k…) and intestino, it hit me – a few fries more and I couldn’t eat anything – the sickest I’ve felt for a long while from food. Amal’s pollo y papas (chicken and potato) seemed ok, while Blair’s squid rings were overrated. I’ll come back to this, but on the plus side we had a couple of short tango performances during the meal, so that was something.
Next we figured we could work out the bus system to get to La Recoleta, and after some confusion, and helping out some Germans, we hopped on route 29 for Plaza de Mayo. Miraculously we ended up there quite easily, but spent the next 45 minutes trying to find the 22, 17, or any other one that would go in the right direction. We even managed to get on one but it was the opposite route, so finally bit the bullet and caught a cab.
Wikipedia describes taxi rides in Buenos Aires as exciting – “in a white-knuckled, the roller-coaster-seems-to-have-some-pieces-missing kind of way.”, and our driver was determined to do his bit in keeping up this reputation, as he tooted and lane changed and swerved between the other vehicles. However he got us there quickly, and we walked up to check out the Recoleta church next to the famous cemetery. The church itself is a fairly regular Spanish Catholic church inside – although whitewashed walls seems to be more of a South American thing – from what I’ve seen at least. Where this one differed was three floors of cloisters behind the pulpit, which have been converted into a museum of items from the 14th to 20th century (4 pesos). Impressed with the collection but not always being able to follow it in Spanish, we headed out to the cemetery itself.
Recoleta Cemetery is unusual. My brother Neil, having visited it in January described it as a highlight, and it’s certainly on all the lists of sights. But in my mind, a cemetery is not a tourist thing. As it turns out, the area itself is quite wealthy and many spend frightening sums of money on family crypts and tombs in the cemetery. These are all quite unique, grand stone or marble, with ornate doors and statues or busts on or around them. The irony of this all is that almost every visitor who enters heads directly to the far corner to see the tomb of Eva Peron (Evita) – who although the daughter of an aristocrat, is apparently felt by many to be too low class to belong in the cemetery.
After that the sun was beginning to set and we needed to try and check out one more area, so we walked ten or so blocks to the nearest subte and trained to Plaza Italia, in the Palermo district. Similar to San Telmo but a bit newer, there are many restaurants and shops to eat at. Still feeling very ill I went easy on the meal, while the others had (what else?) steak.
Finally heading back to the hostel by train, we were greeted by a similar scene from the night before. At this point, Blair started to find that perhaps his meal from lunch didn’t agree with him, and Amal wasn’t feeling too great either.
So in some ways a successful day, in that we ticked off almost all that we had aimed to see, but the combination of lots of late nights and a bit of food poisoning for the other two had put a bit of a dampener on things. Still, in the morning – to the airport, and Iguazú!s
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