Sunday, April 17, 2011

Don´t cry for me Argentina

Going from Mendoza to Buenos Aires was like going from taking a leisurely stroll to sprinting a marathon. The city is green; tree lined streets, garden squares and open parks dominate the intense and bustling hive of late-night steak dinners and all night clubs.

I arrived early on a Sunday morning, not a soul stirred at the urbane hostel as I was warmly greeted by one of the numerous handsome male Argentine staff. Sun suffused the rooftop terrace, guests slept late in recovery from their all night partying and I contemplated which of the many activities and sights on offer I would tackle first.

A day of antique markets, impromptu street Tango and empanadas ensued and as the evening progressed it became apparent that the night was in fact only beginning. Around midnight my BA nightlife experience kicked off as we arrived at a nearby electro club, I was stone cold sober and everyone else was just stoned...well high actually. For the first hour I watched the throngs of inebriated revellers rock out the same dance move for every track and wondered WTF was I doing there, for the first time in a long time (possibly ever) I felt OLD!

There was only one thing to do - vodka shots. After several I began to embrace the atmostphere and my new American friend Laura and I found our own entertainment in roaming the dance floor perimeter in pursuit of our ¨mission¨ for the evening.

My post Antarctic boat belly had not quite subsided, mainly due to Malbec and ice-cream no doubt so I decided to pull an "Eat Pray Love" and just buy bigger pants. In my pre-nomadic era I was enthralled by frock and shoe shopping, circa now I am excited by trekking packs, headlamps and foil blankets. I set off to Florida Street, BA´s answer to downtown shopping; a few hours and a lot of Pesos later my new pantelones (as well as my other half dozen purchases) and I headed back to the hostel to prepare for Monday night out on the town.

Little known to me, Monday night in BA is "La Bomba de Tiempo", a night of rhythm drumming and an extempore jam session that is teeming with locals and tourists enjoying their litre capacity plastic cups of beer, the music and the various cookies and cakes available to buy out front before you go inside. By BA nightlife standards La Bomba finished early and as we filed out front in search of the cookie and cake vendors it appeared they had already been found - by the police! Hearded, they all sat despondent as their clientele dispersed and we disappeared around a corner towards the faint sound of more drumming. Within minutes a musical procession had started and we followed dancing in the street, after a few blocks a bus party was announced and everyone crammed onto the bus, cavorted and reverberated into the unknown, no idea where we were going and having too much fun to care!

After a couple of days and nights that felt like I was running at warp speed I welcomed an intermission to the hoopla of BA nightlife and managed a quiet evening followed by a visit to the Recoleta Cemetary, an eerie mix of both lavish and derelict mausoleums and a place that was interestingly beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Despite my predominantly vegetarian status, not experiencing an Argentine steak seemed wrong, if not just downright rude, so accompanied by a couple of friends from my Antarctic trip we punched in at a BA institution so popular there is two of them on the same street - La Cabrera. Having dinner before 9pm in Argentina is considered outrageous and you are likely to be deemed somewhat of a loser; we in fact felt like the winners as we tucked into our half price A-grade steaks, roble Malbec and plethora of side dishes. Take a tip from the tourists and eat early at La Cabrera, its half price! A few quiet drinks followed our steak feasts, as did the end of the BA sunshine as rain and thunderstorms hit the city.

In some ways all too soon and in others a welcome end to another city jaunt, my last night in BA had arrived. Clayton, Clevs and I had a bottle of Chivas that I had lugged from Ushuaia, via Mendoza that was begging to be drank. At this point I note: I don´t drink whiskey and I don´t particularly like whiskey. Neither of these two facts relevant though as I downed copious amounts of whiskey and lemonade and feasted on sausage (yes I usually don´t eat meat!), priming myself for the entertainment of the evening - Tango!

Following a dash of Tango at Cafe Tortoni we moved on in search of more fun, after hauling through a deserted Florida Street and meandering around Palermo the night climaxed on a balcony overlooking Avenida de Mayo close to sunrise.

Needless to say the next day, or in fact just a few hours later when I had to check out, I was one hungover chica, in desperate need of coffee, empanadas or anything that would extinguish the pit of seedyness I was enduring from too much fun on my last night in BA.

As I concluded the Argentine leg of my adventure and departed BA on a ferry bound for Uruguay there was a little spark in my heart left poignantly wistful.....

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