Buenos Aires: Home Away from Home
After travel fatigue hit at Iguazu Falls, we were looking forward to spending five days in Buenos Aires in our own (Airbnb) flat, complete with kitchen for home cooking, super-comfy bed and sofa, and flat-screen TV. Our plane out of Iguazu was delayed by three hours due to fog, but we eventually got there. Sleeping in until whenever, wearing PJs until noon, wandering the beautiful streets semi-randomly, and watching films in the evening was immensely enjoyable. And the icing on the cake? The discovery of facturas.
We hadn’t had a flat to ourselves since Quito, Ecuador, nearly three months (!) earlier. No wonder we were tired of traveling. As a consequence, we spent much of our time in Buenos Aires lazing around the flat. It was beyond nice to have a feeling of “home,” even if only temporarily.
We did manage to leave the flat for several hours most days, but we made a point of not assigning ourselves any must-dos. Luckily for us, our flat was centrally located, so we happened to run into some of BA’s fabulous buildings, plazas, and attractions on our little jaunts. It is a stunning city.
The closest attraction – literally a block away – was La Recoleta Cemetery, the burial ground of several past Argentinian presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and Eva Perón, aka Evita. It is believed by many to be among the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, and we can vouch for the absolutely stunning architecture of many of the tombs. Most people will never live let alone “rest in peace” in houses as large and elaborate as these mausoleums. Not only was the cemetery beautiful aesthetically, but some of the stories behind the inhabitants and the tributes thereto were beautifully moving. If you have a tissue handy, consider reading about the short life of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, and the inscription her father wrote to memorialize her. But there is life at La Recoleta too: it is home to dozens of feral cats who are looked after by a volunteer group of local women. Evidently, you could be thrown in jail if you were to abscond with one of the cats. So I resisted the urge.
We also wandered over to Plaza de Mayo, the most (in)famous of squares in the city. It is surrounded by several historically and politically important buildings and is the site of numerous public demonstrations. The day we visited, three very different groups had gathered: one to protest Putin’s recent visit and his agreement with President Kirchner for Russia to help Argentina build a third nuclear reactor; another to commemorate the Argentinians killed in the Falklands War (or Guerra de las Malvinas) with the United Kingdom; and a third to promote LGBT visibility. The first was the most vociferous, and we encountered them again later that day as they marched down the streets of central Buenos Aires, passing out miniature Ukranian flags and flyers detailing Putin’s wrongdoings (well, as much as could be summarized in a flyer).
Early during our stay in Buenos Aires we discovered that Argentina produces a fantastic category of pastry called facuturas. We had tried media lunas in Salta and Iguazu previously, but we didn’t realize that these lovely little sweet croissant thingies had even more decadent brothers and sisters. My favorite facturas had generous lashings of dulce de leche, a mouth-watering caramel. Mmmmmm. I made a point to eat one (or two….) every day. So what if my trousers were a little tighter?
On our final day – which happened to coincide with the 2014 World Cup Final between Argentina and Germany – we walked through Paseo del Rosedal, a lovely, romantic rose-filled garden in the midst of the city’s extensive botanic gardens. I can only imagine how abundant and colorful it must be in Spring.
As we strolled to and fro, cars driving past on the nearby highway were honking up a storm: excitement about the upcoming match was palpable. In the evening we watched the game from the comfort of our Buenos Aires home and could hear the excited shouts from neighboring flats when Argentina made a save and, in contrast, a strange quietude when Germany made a good play. When the final seconds passed with Germany winning, the neighborhood was absolutely silent. We thought the Argentinians were taking this loss rather well until we awoke the next morning to learn that as many as 60 had been arrested in Buenos Aires due to rioting.
As our taxi drove us the following morning to the airport for our flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in Argentina, we learned that the Argentinian world cup team was due to arrive later on. I asked our driver if there would be a welcome home party in town since the team came second over all. He said of course not, they lost! They take their football seriously here.
Glad to leave the World Cup behind, but a little regretful to be moving on from our super-comfy flat and this beautiful city, we boarded our plane to Ushuaia. What would the bottom of the world be like? And more importantly, would they have facturas??