Buenos Aires: Metropolis

Posted on June 23, 2011

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After arriving in Buenos Aires stupidly early and hence wasting away an hour at the bus terminal fortifying myself with coffee, I checked into Milhouse Avenue (which carried a reputation as being a party hostel) and immediately went on a walking tour of the La Boca neighbourhood of the city. The area has a reputation of being rough but in the daylight hours at least it appeared little more than a tourist bubble. Mainly interesting to tourists because of its brightly coloured houses, it was explained that these are no longer authentic. The trip also involved a tour to the stadium of Boca Juniors, the country´s premier football club. I was to witness a live game here a few days later, but the tour was certainly enlightening on the city´s obsession with one Diego Armando Maradona, and tourists could even pose for a picture with a lookalike outside.

The evening was spent experiencing BA´s famous nightlife, with drinks at the hostel and then arrival at Club 69 at the staggeringly late time of 2.30am, as Argentinians start late and party into the early hours. The grimey electro music was complimented by an array of break dancers and drag queens on stage, and it certainly goes down as one of my most bizarre nightclub experiences. As a result, I was up late the next day but compensated for it by pounding the streets of the city for a full five hours, taking in all the major sights in the Microcentre. It certainly had a much more European feel than other South American cities, more comparable to a Barcelona or Paris than a Lima or La Paz. My second dose of the party scene was to follow, meeting up with some amigos from Mendoza for a great homecooked steak meal and then a night at Crobar hostel in Palermo.

The next day I moved hostel to join my friends, having enjoyed Milhouse but happy to be heading somewhere a little more sedate. The new pad was as plush, but slightly more relaxed and boasted less of a gap-year party crowd. We caught the bus to the Recoleta neighbourhood to visit the famous cemetery and take a look at the grave of Eva Peron. A great black pudding sausage lunch was followed by a relaxed stroll around Palermo, one of the more upmarket BA neighbourhoods. After taking in a few days we did things the Argentine way by eating late (midnight) at a local steakhouse. The meat was as tender as I have known, and, with side after side after side, excellent value.

It was an early start the next morning to race back to the Boca stadium in a failed attempt to get tickets for that evening´s match, which was the last of the season and a swansong for Boca legend Martin Palermo. After eventually obtaining the tickets from a tour agency, I rushed to meet an Argentine friend I had met previously in Ecuador. A long bus journey took us to a local neighbourhood fair, with local food (choripan being the highlight), live music and streetdancing. Unfortunately I was unable to stay long as I had to rush back to town to make my rendezvous for the football.

This is where it all started to unravel. It emerged that the company had obtained us tickets in the away end rather than amongst the Boca fans. This was compounded by the fact that we had all invested in Boca shirts for the occasion, and the visiting team were Banfield, another Buenos Aires club (as most Argentinian football teams seem to be). We were warned of the danger to us in this section, and told to cover up our shirts and not speak English. In the end we narrowly avoided some nasty scenarios, and several amongst us had issues with angry locals. None of this should take away from the fact that it was amongst the best atmospheres I have ever witnessed at a football match, with the momentum of 50,000 bouncing Boca fans making the stadium literally shake under our feet. Boca are clearly a side living off past glories, with Palermo and Riquelme clearly shadows of the players they once were.

After spending the next morning to the company, without success, we had a quick coffee at the oldest coffee house in BA before bidding farewell to departing friends with an afternoon/evening of drinks and peer pong in a local bar where girls drank for free. It was with a thick head but having loved Buenos Aires more than I ever thought I would that I rose the next day, bright and early, to catch my expensive but flash ferry across the water to Uruguay.

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Posted in: Experience, Travel