It’s about time I publish this post about our time in Buenos Aires! I’m getting quite delayed in tidying & posting my notes (we left on the 4th of Feb, and it’s now the 23rd…), mainly because of how much we’re fitting into our Brazilian days! As much as I want to be present and expore everything possible, I also want to write about what its been like for future us; after all, we become the stories we tell ourselves — adventure awaits!
Buenos Aires is clearly a city of the arts. Everywhere we turned we saw creativity; incredible graffiti, superb jazz, punk & rock performances, three of the world’s top 50 bars, inventive (and free) museums, even the sombre but stunning cemetery La Recoleta (and so much more!) Each of these places was overflowing with people expressing themselves, and doing it with skill and style. Even as we put our backpacks down in our hostel room, we heard the Argentinian rock trio formed from the hostel staff throwing an evening gig for us guests.
We managed to squeeze a lot into just 6 days; as ever for us, it somewhat revolved around truly excellent food and drink. The Choripán (Chorizo in pán, ie. bread) from San Telmo’s ‘antiques’ market was delicious, the literally world-class cocktails at Florería Atlántico were bordering on ruinously addictive, but it was our (now traditional) new-country-new-cookery-class at The Argentine Experience that really stood out for me.
The cookery class we picked was slightly more “for fun” than “for learning” this time around, which suited us extremely well. Sitting opposite us were two utterly lovely people who’d travelled all the way from Northern Ireland, and seemed as nervous as we did, wandering into an imposing room full of Spanish-speakers and impeccably dressed sous-chefs. They really needn’t have been…
We introduced ourselves over a glass of divine Argentinan wine, having immediately been put to enjoyable task making our own empanadas, and preparing for the “extravagant empanada making competition” (for which, we were excitedly told, there were prizes). They asked us how we met, and how our trip had been so far. We grinned our way through our engagement story (we’re both still adoring describing our mountain-top engagement!) and, as their grins grew beyond vicariousness, we asked with suspicion: how had they met? Never have I seen people forget about such delicious steak and light up at being invited to tell a story!
It turns out they met on a mountain. The biggest mountain! He was (and still is) a marathon runner, and had been invited to attempt the world’s first Everest marathon; she was the trip doctor, joining to make sure the brain-addling that I believe must be needed to attempt to run 26 miles even partially up the world’s tallest peak didn’t consume them all whole. They met on the bus taking them up to the starting point the day before, him escaping the hectic interior of the bus for some sun-time on the roof, her pointing out how little ozone there was to protect a very white Irishman from the sun and offering to apply sunscreen!
Though I've shamefully forgotten their names, I'll not soon forget how they've since both survived cancer, and MacMillan Cancer Support continues to benefit from their medical skill and marathon fundraising; she has even received an MBE for her work there. If our marriage ends up being even half as adventurous and close as the one these two have clearly lived and breathed (for more than a quarter century!) I’ll be an extremely happy man.
Our time spent not eating and drinking was filled with wonderful walks around the city, evenings of live music, and tours of the city’s history. The "eco[logical] park" and its surrounds gave us so much to enjoy; it is a once-upon-a-zoo, responsibly divesting itself of animals not from the region, and focusing instead on ecological education — a very worthy goal if you ask me. Just next door is the beautiful botanical garden (now 125 years old!), the planetarium (where I got to practice my Spanish using my astrophysics), and a prelude of what’s to come for us: the Jardín Japonés, a lovely homage to Japan's (horti)culture right in the centre of the city (we even got to practice our Japanese, すごい!)
Making friends is always such fun while travelling, especially as making one often means more. As we were heading out one evening Yvette made a lovely feline friend in Jaguar the cat (whose name is also a bilingual pun, good for hostels, as it’s pronounced in Spanish “How are [you]”). While she was petting Jaguar, Yvette also got to know Ravi, a once-upon-a naval engineer, now working in Vancouver(!) operating the district heating systems of downtown instead of the frigates that set out from Hong-Kong. We loved our evening with him at a beautiful theatre bar in the old town, San Telmo, and later at De los Cojones (a bar whose name translates weirdly well into English as “the dog’s bollocks” — though I sincerely hope the English never looked to dogs for what Spanish-speakers seem to revere in bulls!)
I’m rambling again, but I’ve saved the best till last. A true pleasure for me, especially given how much we’ve tried and failed to find safe passage into Venezuela, I got to meet another branch of Yvette’s family. Cheryl, Yvette’s cousin, lives in Buenos Aires and made my visit so special both by putting up with my poor Spanish speaking, and by making me feel like part of the family as we put the world to rights over (yet another) delicious glass of Argentinan wine, and as she showed us the outstanding Kirchner cultural centre. This (free!) museum/art gallery/expo-centre, enormous and beautiful, is a clear signpost of how deeply Buenos Aires cares about giving its people a creative voice. Despite its labyrinthine size, we managed to find a way to the roof — granting us all a view of the city we’d never seen, and even a look right across the river mouth to Uruguay.
To Cheryl, Ravi, Jaguar, and all the folks who make Buenos Aires such a wonderful city, thank you!