I have been really itching for an adventure. I think I am overdue, but I have so much going on now it may have to wait until later this year. I hear South America calling my name again. But another part of me wants to venture west and go check out the Polynesian Islands. Either way, I need to explore somewhere and get in some beach time. Until then, I thought I'd take a step back in time and relive the beauty, culture and mystifying city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When was I booking my flight to South America in 2010, it was my goal to visit two to three different countries since I was already going to be in the area. A good friend of mine, Amber, had spent an extended period of time in Buenos Aires a few years prior. While she was there she completely fell in love with the city and found her true passion-pole dancing. So I decided to go to Buenos Aires and see what the city had to offer. I booked a flight directly from Austin, TX to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil then to Buenos Aires, Argentina and back to Austin. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but Buenos Aires was even more amazing then I imagined it to be. The culture, people, architecture, history and food were like no place I have ever been to.
I am kind of a fly by night type of gal when it comes to traveling. I love to travel, but hate airports. I try to spend as little time in them as possible. I consider myself to have become a little too much of a "casual" traveler. I don't stress about being at the airport in enough time and I also typically don't do much or any research on where I am traveling to. I think this gives me the chance to explore it for myself. However, sometimes my nonchalant attitude and lack of planning can backfire on me.
After the perfect tropical climate of Rio de Janeiro, Argentina was a harsh reminder that it was actually winter in South America. This of course, was not something that I had researched when buying the ticket. I guess I just assumed that Buenos Aires would be a tropical climate like Rio. In the end, I did luck out, because a week before my arrival in Buenos Aires, it was much colder (20-40 degrees), than it was when I arrived (50-60 degrees). So the few cold weather articles of clothing I packed, just in case, did in fact come in handy.
When I told my friend Jordan about my trip, he told me about a few Argentina friends he made while visiting Buzios Brazil. He introduced me to his friend Marcelo via Facebook and I couldn't be happier when he offered me a place to stay. I was thrilled to be staying in the home of native born Argentinians who knew Buenos Aires like the back of their hand. I could not have dreamed of having better hosts.
The first morning after my arrival, I awoke to a five-star treatment. Although both of my hosts had already ventured off to work, they had set out a "traditional" Argentinian breakfast and map of the city for me. I especially liked the alfajores. The night before they had filled my head with ideas of what to do with the four days I had in the city. I wanted to take a tour on a double decker bus. However, I was rather unsuccessful in this attempt. I couldn't find the right bus stop, and crossing the language barrier was rough. When I finally found the bus stop, it took me at least five minutes of bantering back and forth with the driver to realize that it was too late for me to jump on the tour and I'd have to attempt it another day.
So I decided to get on the subway and go to the center of the city and find the market I'd heard of. But of course I couldn't read the signs and ended up on the opposite side of town in a local neighborhood that not many tourists venture into. I was starving, so I decided to grab something to eat and wanted to sit down to re-group and figure out how to get where I wanted to go. I was shocked by how many American fast food companies had taken over the city. I think I saw more McDonald's restaurants in Buenos Aires than in Austin. Marcelo jokingly called them American Embassies.
I choose to eat at a small local restaurant and then jumped back on the subway in the right direction. When I emerged from the subway, I was in awe of the beautiful architecture. I couldn't stop looking up. The buildings were beautiful and the details were so intricate. It felt like I'd crossed the continent to Europe.
The market was huge! It stretched across at least ten-fifteen blocks long. You could buy anything from fresh fruit and veggies to robotic toys. Perhaps the most interesting part of this market was that it was in an outdoor mall that housed some of the world’s top designer high end boutiques. It was a really bizarre contrast between the poor people selling their goods to eat on the sidewalk and the extremely rich shopping boutiques. This was a direct example of the state of the economy and division of classes in Buenos Aires after the crash in 2001.
In the United States, poor homeless people push K-Mart shopping carts, in Buenos Aires I saw a man using a rickety old handmade cart pulled by a donkey used to haul the "treasures". I was told by my hosts that some people lost everything in the crash. Those that were already poor became deprived. However, the people in Buenos Aires have gotten creative in hustling for cash to survive. Some people ride the subway all day and push merchandise on you by plopping it down on your lap hoping you’ll buy it or the street performers would charge money for photos.
After wondering around the market, I decided to take some photos. Then I came across a protest. Although I couldn't understand the issue that they were protesting, I found the energy to be captivating. Perhaps this is because it wasn't that long ago, protesting was illegal. I can't imagine not being able to speak out against injustices, especially in a city that has endured some of the most horrifying injustices because of the government. Our freedom of speech in the United States is something that I think we all take for granted. The radical in me had to follow along and snap a few shots.
My first day in Buenos Aires was filled with failed attempts, but my relaxed Carioca attitude kept me flowing with it despite constant setbacks. Although it wasn't the most productive day, I did succeed in taking in the city and found my own adventures despite being lost and walking in circles for hours.
Photos from the 1st day in Buenos Aires: