So .. here goes the blogging for our last few days in Buenos Aires … sigh. Please note that the majority of these pictures are the product of Ryan´s photography 🙂 (I believe in credit where credit is due). Please also note that the sign Ryan is holding up in one of the pictures is related to some very exciting news – he is now an UNCLE!! We celebrated with some champagne at our little spot near the River Plate stadium the morning after we found out!
Alright, so here we go:
ESTANCIA TOUR aka GAUCHO FIESTA (April 5th)
On the morning of April 5th, we ventured out for our Tangol tour. We were supposed to meet at some vague point near an 8 or 9 lane highway, in an area we had not yet explored! Luckily, we did find the meeting point .. and were successfully picked up! We left the city of Buenos Aires, and headed to the state of Buenos Aires and into the countryside. It was about a 50 minute ride and our guide explained a bit about a day in the life of a Gaucho aka Argentina´s version of a cowboy. We also got to taste Yerba Mate on the bus, without sugar. It was really strong this time around, and apparently you can get up to 10 cups of tea from one portion of the Mate (which fills up almost the whole cup!). It is common to have only 2 cups per household, one with sugar and one without. There is usually someone in charge of making the Mate and then it is passed around. You finish you cup and pass the cup onto the next person, after it has been refilled with hot water. Apparently children drink it too, with milk .. and it can be mixed with anything from cold water, to orange juice, to coffee! Talk about an ongoing caffeine buzz! We wondered whether there was Mate withdrawal in Argentina … lol. You never know.
Anyways, when we arrived to Don Silvanos Estancia (I think that was the name, and I remember it sounded more Italian than Spanish!) we were treated to red wine and fresh empanadas. These were literally the most phenomenal ones we had ever tasted .. they were more deep-fried than the others and perfectly spiced. We then got to horseback ride a bit, play some bocce, wander around the farm, etc. After about an hour or so, we were called in to a ¨barn¨equipped with Air Conditioning for lunch ;).
The meal was ridiculous! Honestly. We got a bottle of wine to share (and free beer/pop which we did not go for, oddly enough), salad and potatoes and bread with garlic butter. The wine was from the Mendoza region, which is apparently the best region for red wine in Argentina. Twas delicious. What a suprising thing to come from my mouth, eh? Then came the meat. Oh the meat. Let me tell you, if you are a vegetarian, Argentina may not be the place for you. First came the choripan sausage (kind of like spicy breakfast sausage), and blood sausage. This was followed up by the barbequed chicken. But wait. Then came the steak. And just when we thought we would burst .. along came more steak. Ryan and I could not even take the 2nd type.. which says a lot! It seems they save the best for last (similar to the Rodizio we went to in Brazil) and perhaps it is cost effective because you eat far less of the expensive cuts of meat – if any at all! Dulce de Leche ice cream and espresso were the final nails in the coffin of fullness. Nap time would have been appropriate at this time!
After the gluttony came the entertainment – authentic guitar, flute type instruments, singing .. and dancing. The entertainers showed us using the map, the regions from which the various songs and dances originated. The gaucho also showed us his talents with an instrument typically used for hunting .. it is essentially a rope that splits into two and attaches to two balls, made of either bone or stone, and wrapped in leather. Audience members were called up to volunteer for various things (i.e poncho throwing dance, drumming, dancing) and thank goodness Ryan had the wherewithall to ask me to dance before we could be embarrassed by someone else! We did a bit of two-stepping and tried our best. Twas lots of fun and our guide definitely enjoyed the enthusiasm!
One of the funniest parts of the entertainment was when the singer, who looked like Dom deLuise, sang songs to ¨represent¨ the various countries from which the tourists came. There were about 100 people from various tours present – from Australia, England, U.S, Aruba, France, Spain .. and of course, us two from Canada! Well the song he chose to sing – while staring at us to join him – was ¨This land is your land..¨and let me tell you .. we did NOT know the lyrics. It was pretty hilarious, given we could sing along to Australia and the U.S far more easily.
After the entertainment we headed out to watch some gaucho competitions. They raced their horses, they showed their ability to hook a ring with a stick (hanging from a horizontal pole) while galloping at incredible speeds.. It was all quite entertaining, really.
We were so full but had to have more pastries and Mate tea, then headed back to B.A and were dropped off at the Estadio River Plate to try and buy tickets again. No luck this time as it was closed! We instead went the next morning (Tuesday)and lucked out! Tickets for $30 CAD or so. We sure know our way around this ´hood now!
FUTBOL MATCH: NEWELL OLD BOYS vs. RIVER PLATE (Apil 7th)
We decided to subway to the game on Wednesday evening. We caught a cab to the stadium, though, after realizing we had been wandering for longer than we thought! The cab driver was efficient, if a little crazy, and there were a ton of people in red and white or black and white, still on the streets and making their way to the stadium. I have to say that, given the long weekend had just finished and this was not a competitive game, there were a lot of people! Roads closer to the stadium were totally closed off to traffic and there were police everywhere! Honestly, I think Ryan and I went through 3 or 4 different check points. Girls lined up separately and – though they seemed to think I looked innocent – most had their bags rifled through. I liked the police presence, though it made you wonder what happens at La Boca v. River Plate games or cup finals. Yikes. There were german shepherds lining the various gate entrances (and also at either end of the soccer field, along with riot police carrying shields). After some confusion and a bit of running around, we made our way up to our Platea seats to find the stadium half full and yet bursting at the seems with energy! We sat down with 30 seconds to kick off.
All in all, I have to say I enjoyed the crowd, the singing and the drums and the passionate screaming .. moer than I enjoyed the quality of the soccer. I am not sure if River Plate was having an off day, but I have certainly seen better ball skills, precision and team-play on T.V and even at times at the Whitecaps games (gasp!). I would be interested to see where they are in the standings .. and where Boca is situated also. In any case, I can´t make sweeping generalizations and I am sure Argentian soccer is up there with English and Brazilian levels of play! Tonight was just not up to their usual standards .. and the fans certainly made their feelings known. It is interesting, though, because even when River was not playing well the cheering was loud and passionate .. as opposed to derogatory. The derogatory words came when referees seemed to be favouring Newell .. I have never heard a certain word starting with a P (in Spanish) yelled so many times, with as much spit flying and as much arm waiving!
At the end of the game (River Plate lost) we could not leave the stadium for about 20minutes. I´m still not sure the rationale as to why police would line the stadium exits, because you would think hordes of angry and impatient fans might be better off trailing out rather than pounding down the steps at the same time. Although, Ryan made a good point – it may be because they are letting the opposition leave first, and want to be sure there is sufficient police presence in the parking lots and streets to avoid any issues after the game is finished.
The next day was our last day in Buenos Aires, and we made sure to have our 3 breakfast empanadas each and enjoy a beer at our favorite dinner spot Nostalgia. We went to Centro once more to look for water purification pills and I was advised they could be purchased in Peru (indeed, they have been purchased as of today!) We also bought a Mate cup and 2 metal filter straws. We also found a store that had mini futbol outfits and Ryan picked up something adorable for his new nephew =)
We had the good fortune of getting to the airport in time to have one last meal together and some red wine … my flight left at 7pm and Ryan´s at 9pm. I hate goodbyes … but it was a wonderful trip!
Some final thoughts:
(1) Ryan and I calculated that we spent, on average, $60 CAD per day ($30 each on the apartment per night, and about $30 for all food and drinks, plus whatever else we chose to do). That is pretty phenomenal considering we stayed in a 400 sq foot apartment with AC and 24 hour security, and never ever chinced on food or drinks (as you can probably see from the pictures)!
(2) The sidewalks here lack organization and can be quite frenetic, especially on Ave Sante Fe where there are street vendors and people handing out coupons etc. In that sense, B.A does not feel European or organized! It is an interesting mix because the architecture that crops up every few blocks will leave you feeling like you are in Italy or France, whereas the haphazard nature of driving and getting around on foot definitely gives a different impression
(3) Easter weekend was a fantastic time to come and start our time here. I was worried things would either be too busy, or everything would be closed. Instead, the streets were far easier to navigate as many people went to the coast for their vacations. We realize now that we were spoiled for those few days! Now we prefer not to dodge window shoppers (i.e walk blockers, as I like to call them) and take side streets when possible.
(4) People seem to think we could pass as locals .. given the amount of times we have been asked for directions!
(5) The countryside is beautiful, though our tour definitely did not take us too far out into the rural farmlands. In fact, the irony of seeing a gaucho show – complete with indigenous dances and songs – where a laptop was being used for itunes backup music, will stay forever engrained in my memory. This is the world we live in, i guess!
(6) The passion for futbol here, and in Brazil, is phenomenal. Honestly, I have never been in a stadium with so much energy for a relatively unimportant game on a Wednesday night. I have also never seen young men´s eyes burn with as much intensity, while screaming and fist-pumping! The 100 to 1 ratio of men to women was also an experience I am glad I experienced con mi novio (with my boyfriend).
All in all, this has been a fantastic trip and I think we both agreed there was not too much more we would have done. We had plans to perhaps venture to Colonia in Uruguay for the day, and also had hoped to visit one particular museum.. but over all I am not sure I would call those regrets. We never wasted a day indoors, and almost always left by 930am for a full day of wandering not to come back until 5 or 6pm. At the end of our stay, there was hardly a street name we did not recognize!
The people here have been helpful, although I know I would have found the lack of clear answers a lot more frustrating had I been alone. I went to 17 pharmacies in total looking for water purification pills and probably could have hiked the Inca Trail in the time it took to translate directions, only to be let down! It is an experience nonetheless, and when you are sharing it with someone else … You can easily talk your frustrations through, laugh them off, and move on to the next adventure.
To anyone thinking of going to Argentina, my advice is as follows:
EAT THE LOMO OR MINIBIFE AT NOSTALGIA CAFE IN PALERMO
GO TO A FUTBOL MATCH AND AN ESTANCIA TOUR
WALK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
VISIT THE PONDS NEAR ESTADIO RIVER PLATE
DRINK CHAMPAGNE AND WINE AND BEER
CHECK OUT THE PARKS
EAT A CHORIPAN SANDWICH
TAKE THE SUBWAY
TASTE MATTE TEA WITH AND WITHOUT SUGAR
DO A LITTLE TANGO IF THE MOMENT MOVES YOU
TRY YOUR SPANISH OUT .. OR AT LEAST LEARN HOW TO SAY THANK YOU, WHERE ARE THE BATHROOMS, AND CAN I HAVE A LITRE OF BEER!
Ciao for now .. and stay posted for my updates in Peru. I will be heading off on my 12 day trek as of April 10th. Volunteering did not work out time-wise, but I am glad the Inca Trail is open again for the purposes of the Intrepid tour!
Thanks again for following,