Ticking things off the bucket list is one of life’s most satisfying achievements and in January 2017 I did, by travelling to a Spanish speaking country, other than Spain where I lived for twenty three years.
There were several on my list but I had a flash – Buenos Aires. It was in fact the possibly of going to work in the city that lead me, in a round about way to going to work in Spain.
The trip began with good omens when both my flights landed early. Arriving in the height of a Southern Hemisphere summer, my Scottish winter suffering self, soaked up the warmth as soon as I stepped from the terminal building, ego caressed by the tour company rep, who took me to my hotel transfer, asked me where did I learn to speak fluent Spanish.
I had a long chat with the taxi driver and I was delighted on arrival at my hotel to discover my room was ready, I could take up residence four hours before schedule, so thanks to Nick Thomson of Destinations Travel, Edinburgh for getting that set up. My room was not the best; looking into an inside courtyard but that meant it was quiet and dark which meant cooler and quieter than overlooking a noisy street.
Argentina is only three hours behind GMT and after unpacking I had the afternoon as well as evening on my hands. I decided on easy exploration and use the hop on hop off bus. I located the start point not far from my hotel, I was tired, and directions are different here. Coming from an old city bearings are landmarks, streets are short often descriptive. Here people speak of cuadras or blocks. Most of them seemed the same to me. Streets are very long going well into the 1000’s
I have mixed feelings about hop on hop services. They do get you around but it’s not that easy just to hop on and off, if you miss a stop then round you go again. I had no plans to get off anywhere, I didn’t feel jet lagged but I was tired, the night flight had been fifteen hours.
Buenos Aires, often known as the Paris of Latin America reminded me very much of Madrid, for me the city has a big plus, it is located on the sea. It was hot, muggy, and over 30ºC and I was happy. It is always difficult to take in the sights on day one and travel weary but I was able to identify the places I would visit the next day using the same service. I don’t do a lot of research before my trips, I like to discover rather than plan, but one thing that did impress was Buenos Aires is currently the city in the world with the most bookshops. Lovely as sadly, they are a dying breed over here. I had passed quite a few en route.
I discovered route A morphed into route B and I decided to be brave and switched onto route C made it back onto route A to find it was on its last trip of the day and not returning to the start point near my hotel. Now feeling really tired I had to walk down Avenida 9 July which used to be the widest street in the world until the Brazilians built a wider one in their federal capital of Brasilia. The guide on the bus told me my hotel was just a few blocks down the avenida. A few blocks took me about 20 mins stopping on more than one occasion to ask, always same answer a few blocks more. My feet were throbbing in the heat but I finally located May Avenue and saw the entrance to my hotel. I was hungry so opted to visit the small bistro on the corner opposite my hotel for food.
Steak, chips, and salad for under a tenner; the beef was stunning, the mouthfeel different to what I am used to, it was an easy chew not melt in your mouth, steak does need a bit of bite, and coating your mouth with velvety flavour.
Feet rested it was across the street and two doors down to arrive back at my hotel, the air conditioning was on and I sunk into the dim room, dusty and delighted.
The next day I woke, breakfasted in the hotel which was basic but sufficient and headed off to an even nearer bus stop to catch the hop off hop on. Refreshed, confident that my Spanish was well up to the task. Places were beginning to look familiar and I alighted at my first stop Costanera Sur an ecological nature bird reserve; fascinating to observe this as part of the city. There was a long walk way where you could look into the park, the water covered in green plant life. Dotted along the route were statues of Argentina’s sporting greats, I only recognised Gabriella Sabatini the tennis player, only sport I would claim to be a fan of.
I would have loved to have stayed longer, but the demands of getting your money’s worth from the hop on hop all were calling. It was hot so found a spot in the shade till the bus returned; I had had a pleasant wander. My next hop off was at the interchange between route B and C at the MABLA Art gallery. I had a great feeling from the building when I popped in to use the ladies. I then waited till the cross over point for route C to visit the next place that had caught my eye.
Looking like a fairy tale castle was the Bs As Anglers clubhouse set on the magnificent River Plate. It was refreshing to be beside the sea. Not enough time to pop in for a coffee as the C route is only every half an hour and I wanted to be dropped off in Palermo Soho Bs As upmarket district.
In Palermo Soho, I had time here for a quick refreshment, wandered round found a lovely little square with a beautiful handbag shop that was closed and wouldn’t open till 5 pm. I couldn’t risk it and hoped to make it back at my own pace. It was time to get back onto route B so I could return to being route A. I had only managed to visit three places though had identified several more places to add to my list. This is what frustrated me about hop on op off you never manage to do as much as you think you can. However, I had acquired a sense of the city, and I was loving its vibes, and feel. The weekend was to be spent on one of my passions, discovering, cooking, and sampling local food.