There are some cities that sneak up on you.
When we’re travelling, it’s easy to get lost in the routine and details of logistics – got to be here by eleven, forty-five minutes then the 305 bus to the museum, don’t forget to grab a photo of that monument…this rush to see and experience everything you’ve been told to see and experience leaves you feeling a little like a game hunter bagging trophies on sight.
You own but you don’t understand.
Coming into Buenos Aires, we feel a little like the trophy hunter. We never realised how important Buenos Aires is, how large, how culturally diverse, and how many facets there must be to this ‘trophy’.
So on the way to Buenos Aires from Paraguay, we conduct a quick review of the quite hectic itinerary that had been meticulously mapped out, and free up some space to let Buenos Aires show itself to us.
- be guided by locals around lesser-seen streets for photographic trophies
- visit the site of Argentina’s inspiring and bloody modern history
- indulge in the cuisines that Argentina is famous for – wine and steak
- head off into the good night air of Buenos Aires for late-night celebrations
Trophy Hunting in Buenos Aires
There are over 3 million people living in Buenos Aires, and over 15 million people living in the greater province that contains this city. With that many people, and this much history, there are sure to be interesting stories to find.
So whilst we are still going to be trekking around the city of Buenos Aires bagging photographic trophies, we’ll be doing it in a much more local fashion, and paying closer attention to the rhythms of this city.
We’ve organised a custom photography tour of Buenos Aires with Foto Ruta. They hold weekly tours that involve puzzles and clues, aimed at making you look at the world a little differently and inspiring your photographic ‘eye’.
As Tim wrote for the BBC;
For example, I joined Foto Ruta for one of their excursions on Halloween weekend, so all the clues had to do with Halloween. By following a clue called “haunted and holy”, I recognized the decaying and eerie characteristics of some of the older buildings in Monserrat (the chosen neighbourhood for this Foto Ruta event) and concentrated on capturing their “haunted” essence.
(Make sure to check out the great articles on Gringo In Buenoes Aires, his very detailed travel blog on Buenos Aires).
Today we’ve organised a custom tour because we’re in Buenos Aires midweek, and we’ve asked Foto Ruta to show us around the upmarket streets of Palermo.
The barrio (neighbourhood) of Palermo is worth a visit in it’s own right, featuring tree-lined streets, fashionable neighbourhoods, and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) containing hundreds of art works from twentieth-century Latin American artists.
Today, however, we’re interested in it for its stories.
Our clues have us scurrying about the streets, brows furrowed, and engaging the locals of Buenos Aires (called porteños for “people of the port”) in our quest. It’s a fun way to meet the people who live in the city, however briefly, and enjoy trying to bridge some of our respective cultural barriers.
Exploring the City
Although Argentina has a rich cultural history of immigration from European strongholds like Spain and Italy, and the respective architectural and cultural qualities to reflect these origins, its modern history is understood by the rest of the world to be linked to two main people, and to one of them in particular…
Madonna, as she is known worldwide…just kidding.
We all know Evita, even if the political history is a little more hazy than the lyrics to the song from the Evita musical.
We head down to the Plaza de Mayo, the main square in Buenos Aires.
It is in front of the pink house in this square, the Casa Rosado, that the working classes rallied in their hundreds of thousands to demand the release of Juan Perón in 1945. It is from this balcony that Evita rallied the people to the support of her and her husband, and it is from this balcony that the Juan made his last acrimonious public appearances.
The history (and frequently, the blood) of the people of Argentina is soaked into the stones of this square. Chillingly;
the plaza, since 1977, is where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who were subject to forced disappearance by the Argentine military.
But why is it pink?
An Argentinian president ordered it painted so as to symbolise the unification of warring political opponents – whose colours were red and white. Local legend states that the first coat of paint was made by mixing whitewash with blood from a bull.
The Argentinian Experience. Steak.
We’ve had many friends visit Argentina, and there’s one thing they won’t stop talking about.
With recommendations from people who been there, and eaten their way across the countryside, this is one item that has to be on our agenda for the day.
The other is Malbec.
Along with Australa, New Zealand, and Chile, Argentinian wine has fought its way into the ranks of new world winemakers who are setting palates aflame in Europe. They’ve even been making Malbec icecream in London.
We head to dinner at The Argentine Experience. Don’t be put off by its initial appearance as a mass-produced tourist attraction featuring bad wine and tough steak. This experience grew out of the passion of four people who wanted to show and tell Argentinian culture, and began doing so in a tiny flat, before outgrowing that venue thanks to its popularity.
We’re in for a guided tour of Argentine cuisine and culture, including making our own empanadas, devouring steaks that have been specially prepared over 24 hours, and sampling some Malbec, then sampling some more Malbec, then sampling some more…did we mention the Malbec is unlimited?
The steak itself is ridiculous. Grass-fed beef is the right choice in general but the taste and texture of this steak, and the care put into its preparation, ranks it as absolutely one of the gastronomic experiences you have to try in life.
Main courses down, and with the table getting more raucous (the Malbec is unlimited, remember) our guides take the time to answer our questions about life in Buenos Aires and Argentina’s past and future, as they show us how to prepare Maté, and fill the last few gaps in our bellies with Dulche de Leche.
Dinner at 9:30, then the party starts at 12!
In Buenos Aires, they eat late. 9:30PM late. So prepare yourself with some snacks in the afternoon if you’re used to an earlier dinnertime – and a cheeky kip wouldn’t go astray either, because things don’t really get moving until around midnight.
Our hosts from The Argentine Experience point us in the direction of some local nightclubs, and wave us off smiling into the “good air” of Buenos Aires.
It’s going to be a good night.