January 11, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is home to the tango and it's no wonder when you walk the streets of this romantic city. The Pack Track arrived in Buenos Aires on the 30th of December 2014. What an amazing year 2014 had been and what a fantastic place to say goodbye to the old and bring in the new year.
We booked in to Hostal Tercero Del Sur. It was perfect for us at $40 a night. We had a room with en-suite and air conditioning, it was very pet friendly (the staff really loved Weeti) and located on a street lined with restaurants and host to markets on weekends. There was always lots happening!
New Years Eve has always been an important event for us in Australia, getting together with as many of our friends as possible. We had one friend in Buenos Aires, Pablo, so we messaged him to see if we could tag along with his plans. Turns out, New Years in Argentina is a bit different to Australia but just as special. Pablo's extended family gathered in the home of his brother-in-law. What followed was a perfect evening commencing with a three course dinner, followed by champagne and street fireworks then dancing in the backyard. It was around 2am when we got back to our hostel but everything was closed New Years day so we didn't feel guilty hanging around the hostel relaxing the next day.
Buenos Aires is a very tourist-friendly city. There are lots of attractions and a good way to familiarise yourself with the city is to take one of the many free walking tours or hop on-and-off the double decker buses. We like to take any opportunity to get some exercise and move at our own pace (Weeti has to smell every pole and bush on the footpath) so most days we would have breakfast at the hostel (fresh croissants, bread rolls and coffee) then the three of us would head to a different area of town.
Its always worth chatting to a local to get their perspective on the local highlights. Pablo mentioned some must-sees based on the time we had in town and he was spot on. Not on that list but our very first stop was Starbucks so Janell could get the soy latte she had been craving since her last one in Mexico 10 months earlier! That done, we headed to our first site, the Obelisco. This 67.5m structure was built as a monument to the cities 4th centenary of the founding of Buenos Aires. Weeti found the grass far more interesting, indulging in an extended wriggling back scratch, much to Janell's opposition.
Next on the agenda was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and La Recoleta Cemetery which are located quite close to each other. Pablo gave us some history on the cemetery and told us Eva Peron (Evita) was buried there so we decided to watch the 1996 movie Evita the night before, having both seen it years ago so our memory was a bit fuzzy. The next day, when we stood in front of her grave, we felt a deep respect for the person she was and the difference she made in her short life. Eva Peron's life story is extraordinary and somehow watching the movie in the city where she became famous and made history intensified our experience, it was very moving.
Florida street by far had the most activity. Shopping and restaurants line the sides of the street while local traders cover the footpath advertising tours and selling money. Yep you guessed it, Argentina has a black market rate but nothing like Venezuela. The official rate is around $1 to 8 Pesos. The black market rate we found to be around $1 to 13.5 Pesos. Changing money is a hassle we'd rather not have to do but with that difference, its definitely worth your while looking around for a good rate; more spending money for Starbucks coffees!!
Some other highlights of our visit included the El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore, a 1920's theater turned in to a bookstore with a cafe. We visited this place twice, first to have a look around in the evening and second to sit on stage enjoying a coffee and croissant. It wasn't all culture highlights though with the start of the 2015 Dakar rally a few blocks from our hostel. It was purely coincidence for us but we joined in on the festivities and waved our Aussie flag as the team took their truck on stage.
Hiring a bicycle is another good option for getting around. We used La Bicicleta Naranja and hired for an afternoon with Pablo and his girlfriend Rebecka to explore the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur and Puerto Madero. The ecological reserve is a big park bordering the gulf with different tracks and areas with markets. It was a lot of fun and we finished the day with a picnic and wine on the roof of our hostel.
Our last night in Buenos Aires corresponded with Janells 29th Birthday. She wanted a night to remember so we booked a dinner-tango show. There are many to choose from at different prices and offering slightly different experiences but we chose Gala Tango which was only a five minute walk from our hostel. Doors opened at 8pm and the three course meal was served until 10 when the show started. We were seated with two lovely ladies from the US travelling to Ushuaia on a cruise ship. It was a small theatre and we were seated in front of the stage near the grand piano. The dancers entered from beside and behind us in glamorous costumes. The dancing was full of energy, the company was delightful, the food was delicious and the red wine kept coming throughout the show so Janell tango'd all the way back to the hostel. It was a fun night and great way to say goodbye to Buenos Aires.
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