Although it was merely 6:30am when we arrived by bus in Buenos Aires, the cushy bed in first class had given us a decent sleep. We were ready to go explore and see what all the hype is about surrounding Buenos Aires. That, and it was Dale’s 29th birthday and what better place in Argentina than the country’s capital to find him the best steak dinner possible.
Despite the plethora of self-labelled “cheap” taxis waiting to take our money at the bus station, we figured it was a better idea to take the Subtle (Metro) into the centre of the city to find a place to sleep for the next few days. We were successful in saving more than half by taking the train. Arriving on a weekend, we ran into jacked prices and slim pickin’s for double rooms. After walking around the streets of the microcentre for about an hour, we housed up in a cool double at Hostel Suiteswith close proximity to the Obelisk, Avienda de Mayo and San Telmo. Our only complaint about the place was the price; being an HI affiliated hostel, as non-members, we overpaid. But we were glad to have a bed together after a run of bunk and bus sleeps.
We spent our first day walking the pedestrian street of Florida, and people watching. It was obvious we were in a proper city by the change in fashion (notably high heel shoes) and the multitude of taxis and cell phones. The only thing that didn’t seem to fit with the level of development and the price tags was the negligence of dog owner’s for keeping their city clean. Well that, and the garbage bags piled on the side of the streets. But like any city, the garbage wasn’t left unattended, at the end of each day it was scoured and sorted by the local garbage picking crews.
Walking around it was easy to admire every second building, all of which seemed to be transplanted from any major city in Europe, like London, Barcelona, Prague or Paris. The mix of Colonial Art Deco, Neo-Gothic and French Bourbon was a feast for the eyes and the star of any photo. To contrast the historical building backdrops were, out-of-place, 2-3 story flashy neon signs, advertising things like Coca-cola, McDonald’s, or next week’s concert. A wander through the theatre district in BA and without looking closely, we could swear we were on Broadway, downtown Manhattan. It only seemed fitting that the main entertainment attraction for tourists wass a selection of Tango Shows, priced just like Broadway.
Dale’s birthday was the perfect reason to source out the best steak house in the city for him to enjoy an unforgettable birthday meal. For this, we crossed the city to Palermo for dinner atLa Cabrera. With over 10 different beef cuts, prepared a variety of ways, Dale ordered bife de chorizo con Roquefort, vuelta y vuelta (400g top sirloin with Roquefort sauce prepared rare). It literally dripped with flavour, living up to the fame surrounding it. Dale voted it “the most ingenious steak ever” and placed it a very tight second to Montreal-based Sunny’s for the title of “best steak of all time. ” I would have to agree, it was worth it. Yes, I’m a vegetarian but you know what they say… “when in Rome…” I had to taste a bite,.Even with 400g Dale was hesitant to share. Mmmmmm. That was enough to get my fix for the next few years. Not yet knowing the very complex bus system, nor having the exact change to hop on (required in BA), we left in a taxi, over-stuffed and a little tipsy with what remained of our bottle of Malbec (not that we needed it). We were struggling to stay awake all the way back to the hostel. If we hadn’t have been so food drunk, we may have realized and maybe even appreciated the fact that our cabbie took the scenic route back. When we did get back, our sleep was one of the best we’d had in weeks.
After a day meandering the intriguing Sunday market, Day 3 took us to different parts of the city with a combination of walking and metro. It was a sort of wild goose chase traipsing to the Canadian Embassy to pick up some money they owe us (we overpaid to have Dale’s exam shipped to Canada from Sao Paulo) and to the Australian Embassy to look into work visa requirements. A total bust at both spots left us hot and sticky for which the only remedy was a mid- afternoon litre of beer and some griping about the effectiveness of government workers. After that short respite we wandered back to the hostel and spent a quite night in.
By Day 4 we were ready to move on from Buenos Aires for the time-being. Not having a kitchen and paying to eat out every night, along with the high priced room reminded us too much of Rio and of why we prefer trees and birds to towers and buses. Having by-passed Uruguay and still in search of a cheap chilled out surf spot, we boarded the Colonia Express boat across the channel to Colonia Del Sacremento; our starting point for a week in Uruguay.