We arrived to freezing Buenos Aires and eventually managed to find the subway system after a couple of false starts and confusion over all of the other different types of trains.
We found our little hostel, outside the tourist zone, and left our bags there before going in search of coffee. The friendly guy working at the Hostel recommended a cute little place nearby which had lovely coffee and great pastries. We were still feeling pretty tired from the night bus (you never really get used to them) but decided because it was such a nice sunny day that we would visit the Recoleta Barrio, the glitzy part of BA with a world famous Cemetery which holds Eva Peron’s tomb.
It has a weird set up and it is hard to tell where Recoleta starts and finishes. Apparently it is the area around the cemetery which has some nice parks but not much else that we could see. An amusing sight was the large number of professional dog walkers walking up to 20 dogs at a time.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is also in Recoleta but unfortunately it wasn’t open yet when we got there.
The Cemetery was very beautiful and reminded me of Pere Lachaise in Paris, a mini City of the Dead with elaborate and expensive tombs that looked like little houses (some the size of actual houses); the last ostentatious act of the ridiculously moneyed.
It was interesting to wander around the little morbid houses, each with a different look and style than the next but all very, very expensive.
It took us a while to find Evita’s tomb because it is actually quite modest and is a family tomb; she was buried with her parents rather than her husband.
We went searching for something to eat after that which took us into the Barrio Norte, the bustling commercial centre of the city.
We found a nice Italian Restaurant that was actually quite reasonably priced and had a great lunch, sitting by the window for some prime people watching.
After walking around for hours we were pretty exhausted, so after a quick recharge sitting in the sun at the Plaza Lib. General San Martin, we got the subway back to the Hostel for a nice quiet night.
We awoke to another sunshiny day. Day two was dedicated to exploring the sprawling barrio of Palermo which is itself split into different sections: Palermo Viejo, Palermo Chico, Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. We stumbled across the most amazing Café, it was beautiful and had fantastic Cappuccinos.
Palermo Soho is the funky, arty area with trendy restaurants and bars and really cool fashion boutiques and shoe shops. Times like these are when it would be good to be on a vacation rather than backpacking! There was a little hippy market in a small plaza; the whole area just made you feel like lingering.
We had lunch in Palermo’s main square at a Hari Krishna Restaurant, so nice to have healthy food! There was lots of Al Fresco dining despite the nippy winter weather.
We walked to the Japanese Garden and had a stroll through its manicured grounds. I find Japanese Gardens very soothing despite the scary giant koi, I think it is because everything is so structured and simple.
After missing the Art Museum the day before, we decided to make a detour there on the way back to the hostel. It is free and has a fantastic collection: Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Tolouse-Lautrec and lots of beautiful landscapes from the 16th – 19th Centuries – my kind of art. I love the landscapes the most; picturing what it would be like to live in Europe at that time.
Our good luck with the weather changed the next day. It was cold and drizzly – horrible. We made it to the bus station to book our night bus to Puerto Iguazu the next night and had our first Parrilla – Argentine BBQ, which was great. Trav got a sizzling platter of different types of meats along with the gizzards (he didn’t partake in those). I stuck to the chicken and it had a great smoky flavour.
We walked to a few of BA’s key sites: Teatro Colon, Obelisk, Avenue de Mayo, but we weren’t feeling it in the rain so gave up and caught a train back to the Hostel. We ended up getting hideously drunk on giant beers in the Hostel lounge with a nice Canadian couple in their 60’s, a very pretty 20 year boy from Brugges, a Kiwi guy and some French travellers. Fun night but I had the worst hangover the next day – this is why I barely drink anymore!
Somehow in our fragile states, we managed to drag ourselves out of bed and to the Plaza de Mayo to see the pink palace, and then to the famous Sunday San Telmo Market.
A street leading to San Telmo from Plaza de Mayo is blocked off on Sundays and is lined with amazing stalls – lots of antiques and everything else you can imagine. A special kid of torture for a girl who is low on money and space.
The atmosphere was convivial with lots of very talented street performers, food stalls and even a lovely old couple performing the tango on the main square. We had a really nice Pan Relleno for lunch which is like a big pasty but made of bread instead of pastry and filled with a variety of toppings and baked – cheap and good!
I loved the market despite my raging hangover and actually this turned out to be my favourite day in Buenos Aires. I finally felt like I was getting a glimpse into its soul.
We also visited La Boca, a grim working class neighbourhood further south from the shabby chic of San Telmo.
There is a section of La Boca by the harbour where all of the buildings have been painted bright colours and where there is a lot of street art, restaurants and souvenir shops.
It is such a lovely place and the brilliant colours brightened up the dull winter day.
It was a nice note to leave Buenos Aires on.
It will never be one of my favourite cities but it definitely had its highlights and I would encourage anyone visiting to go to the market despite how touristy it is, just keep an eye on your bag as it is pickpocket HQ.
We decided to treat ourselves for our night bus to Iguazu and pay for the Cama seat rather than the Semi Cama we usually get. This means a wider, more cushy seat, blanket and pillow and food service. It is a 17 hour bus trip so we thought it would be a wise move and it certainly was. Very comfortable way to travel although I still couldn’t sleep well.
We arrived into Puerto Iguazu just after lunch and checked into the HI Hostel. The tiredness had hit us by then so we had a bit of a look around town – not much to it really but there was a great noodle restaurant where we went to lunch.
We woke up early to have a full day at the Argentinean side of the Falls. I was gutted how grey and depressing the weather was but apparently it is like that most days at this time of year.
Iguazu Falls isn’t just one waterfall, but a series of 275 individual falls that cover an area of over three kilometres. The National Park encompassing the Falls, spans the border between Argentina and Brazil.
When we entered the park the first thing I saw was a pack of coatis climbing the trees and sniffing around the bins. I had thought they were only in Mexico and Central America so was surprised to see them. We also saw what I think were little brown guinea pigs, beautiful butterflies and birds, capybaras, caimans and monkeys so it was a great wildlife watching day.
We did pretty much all of the trails in the Park except the Island in front of the falls because it was closed due to the high water level.
When we first viewed the falls we were floored. They really are spectacular and the sheer volume of water is mind boggling! It is the wet season at the moment so the power and volume of water gushing over the falls is at its most powerful.
We got to see them from tonnes of different angles and got pretty close to one of them (and very wet!).
One of the coolest set of falls is the Devils Throat, a horseshoe shaped waterfall with the water tumbling over with so much force that it creates a heavy mist. It feels a bit like a storm has suddenly brewed up once you get close to them.
We had a really great day and probably walked about 15km in total. They are an expensive attraction but definitely worth visiting, after all they are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
We were going to visit the Brazilian side the next day but because of how expensive it is and that it is apparently not as impressive as the Argentinean side, we decided to give it a miss.
We need to conserve our money for Canada and it was nice to have a day to chill out and start organising stuff for the next part of our trip. We left for Foz do Iguazu on the Brazilian side of the Falls the next day and started our long journey to Rio for our last week in South America.
Argentina was so fantastic and surprising that I have vowed to come back and see more in a couple of years time. Who knew Argentina had so many different landscapes? Also we found the people to be some of the most welcoming in Latin America.
I am already looking forward to my return.