“Chilling in BA”
(a page from my Travel Journal)
Have I said this before? Probably but I’ll say it again….I love Buenos Aires! I arrived here from Salta and chose a cosy B&B in the San Telmo neighbourhood. San Telmo is the bohemian quarter of BA, full of antique and design shops, cafés, restaurants and bars. The B&B I stayed at is close to Plaza Dorrego, the neighbourhood’s main square, and my days here were just filled with tango and flamenco music.
I took my time exploring the various burroughs of BA. I spent one afternoon walking around the centre (Centro) with the Plaza Mayo, Florida (a busy pedestrian shopping street) and the areas around the main avenue (Avenida 9 Julio; the one with 16 lanes). I also visited the cathedral one afternoon which doesn’t at all look like a cathedral from the outside. The tomb of San Martin, the nation’s liberator was really impressive. The buildings are truly grand and, yes, the pavements are in a bad state and the traffic is horrendous but the buzz in this city is addictive. With hindsight, it probably would’ve been a better idea to opt for a vacation rental instead of a B&B and hotels, as what was originally planned as a one week stay simply dragged on and on. I couldn’t get enough of this amazing city!
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
Another afternoon was spent strolling around Puerto Madero, BA’s old docklands that are now the most fashionable address in the city. That day, I ended up at the Plaza de Mayo and watched the solemn but impressive march of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (an association of the mothers whose children disappeared during Argentina’s military dictatorship in the 1970’s and 1980’s). They march around the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday afternoon.
The flamenco, samba and the tango
I would spend the mornings on the B&B’s roof terrace (it’s nice and shady and has a great view of San Telmo), then go for a long walk in the afternoon to one of the burroughs and then find a terrace somewhere for a long and lazy lunch and just watch the world go by! Wonderful. The B&B had a happy hour every evening and all the guests would get together for drinks. It’s a great way to meet the other guests and we would all go out for dinner to a nearby restaurant. One evening, a bunch of Americans suggested a little café around the corner called Café San Juan. We went there and it was packed with locals. I had the most divine rabbit pate and sirloin steak with mushrooms. The pate was especially exquisite! Another evening, we sat out on the Plaza Dorrego till 2am just enjoying the music. A small flamenco group performed all night; the passion for their music and dance was almost tangible.
My favourite day was definitely the Sunday in San Telmo. That’s the day when San Telmo really comes to life. The whole square and Defensa Street are packed with stalls selling antiques and other curiosa, and a huge variety of street performers. It is an amazing multi-sensory experience. The sights and sounds, and throngs of people are simply fascinating. Later that afternoon, a samba band with 40 drummers paraded down Defensa Street. There was a large crowd and many people danced or swayed along to the beats. Where else in the world would you have the samba, the tango and the flamenco all within the same square?!
After dinner that night, I went back to the square where I was treated to an unforgettable display of ‘the soul of BA’, the tango. The music was loud and the locals got together and danced the whole evening. The passion, the sensual movements and the nimble footwork were absolutely stunning. I was just blown away by this marvellous display.
It was love at first sight but I managed to tear myself away from Buenos Aires more than a month later but not before making a promise to myself that I would return one day.