Ever since I saw Madonna as Eva Peron in Evita in 1996, I knew I wanted to go to Buenos Aires. I had all these visions and expectations of a little Paris in Argentina! We arrived in Buenos Aires by plane since the long distance bus union was on strike and stranded us in the Bariloche bus terminal. After begging for a full refund and receiving only 70 percent, we decided to bite the bullet and spend the extra money for a flight. The bus company had no idea when the buses would resume full schedule and were very unwilling to help us. We won’t be booking with Via Bariloche again as everyone else we met who used different bus firms received a full refund for their fare.
We arrived exhausted around midnight (even though that is when most people in Buenos Aires head out to dinner) and caught a taxi to Petit Hotel el Vitraux in San Telmo. We only had 100 pesos and the taxi driver promised he would get us to our hotel. The other drivers were charging 120 pesos. We were lucky to find him. As we drove through the city it looked like we had arrived in Times Square. There were flashing billboards around a square and other famous buildings could be seen. In the background was a big portrait of Eva covering the entire side of an office building! The taxi pulled up to the address we had given him for the hotel and there was nothing! No sign, no lights, it just looked like a residential brownstone in the middle of the the ghetto! There is graffiti all over Buenos Aires, not just this neighborhood. The driver got out of the car and knocked on the door – we were indeed at the hotel. This was interesting because 3 minutes prior there was no way I was getting out of the car! The man letting us in looked harmless and once we passed through the front door I realized the place was going to be just fine! Our bedroom was a bit noisy being right on the road, but the ceilings were probably 16 feet high – way cool and they had terrycloth robes! We met the owner the following day at breakfast and she was absolutely adorable. She talked so fast and was so excited about everything that it was hard to keep up with her, but she was a true asset while we were in Buenos Aires. She loaned us money until we could get our “Blue Dollar” money from the exchange which didn’t open until Monday and we needed major pesos to head to the big futbol game on Sunday!
Saturday was going to be our only day to explore the city so we set out on foot to check out the neighborhoods. We walked to the Teatro Colon to see if there were any free shows we could see while in town. We were lucky to get tickets for a free violin quartet concert on Sunday morning before the game. We then headed to Florida Avenue to see all the tourists shops and cambio exchanges. With the “Blue Dollar” rate being almost double the official rate in Argentina, everyone is on the street begging to do an exchange for US dollars or Euros. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any more dollars. We used a website called Xoom to transfer money to Argentina at a premium, but still worth it. Next, we headed to the docks which have been completely renovated with nice shops, restaurants and residential flats. Wayne said it reminded him of Docklands in London. I thought it was a beautiful place to have lunch – the weather was perfect and the view was fabulous! After the docks, it was on to San Telmo the hippy section of town with an emphasis on antique and artesanal shopping. The streets in San Telmo have plenty of character with their cobblestones and renovated store fronts. I can see why people like this neighborhood. I still hadn’t found my “Little Paris” – I’m thinking we were in the wrong areas. We had a few more evenings to venture out so maybe I’ll see it later in the week.
Sunday was the BIG event – Boca Juniors versus River Plate in the twice-yearly Superclasico! This is one of the biggest rivalries in the world of sports, and some of the great English derbies have nothing on this. This was serious stuff in Buenos Aires and getting hold of the tickets was thanks to Jed at LandingPadBA.
The police were well prepared for this event, with what looked like entire battalions dressed in full riot gear. Our tickets were River Plate, the away team, which meant we had to be in the stadium around 2 hours before the start for security reasons and to ensure that we could get in at all. We probably passed through 10 security stops of which 5 had full pat-downs. We were told that they won’t check your shoes so if you want to take a lighter or drugs into the stadium that would be the place to store them. Seems like the police would be on to that by now because there were 100’s of lighters and plenty of weed (legal in Argentina) just in our section. The game atmosphere did not disappoint – it was nuts – everything we expected it to be! The fans in our section were throwing bottles, probably filled with urine over the fence onto the Home fans below. They sang their team songs constantly and bounced so much that I thought the stand could collapse under our feet. It felt like a constant earthquake and I said a few prayers that it would hold! Play was stopped when the Home fans decided to start off a pyrotechnics show during the game (see why the lighters are banned). This display allowed a few fans to try to climb the retaining walls to get on the field. The police rushed the field with their dogs and the whole stadium was filled with smoke. It was crazy! After 5-10 minutes, play resumed again, although we did hear the next day that it very close to being abandoned. After the game ended with a tie (1-1), the away fans were to exit the stadium first. We were given 30 minutes to get out of Boca before releasing the home fans. Our guides rushed us to our vans which were waiting about a 10 minute walk from the stadium. As we pulled away the van was pelted with rocks – a scary moment! We made it back to our hotel exhausted from the day, but with a great memory!
The game was super expensive for our budget, but I’m so glad we were able to experience this. No need to do it again though! We survived!
Update from Wayne: the above article was written by Andrea, a hooligan if ever I saw one, who was fist pumping with the River Plate fans, climbing on fences to watch the game, singing and totally showing her true colors!
Carlos Gardel Tango Show
There are hundreds of shows in Buenos Aires so how do you find the best one! We asked around and had the same recommendation from two different trusted sources so we once again forked over big bucks ($90 pp) for dinner and a show at Carlos Gardel. The venue was spectacular and looked like an old converted theatre. We were not excepting the mass produced food to be good, but we were pleasantly surprised. The venue held about 300-500 people and it was nice that there were probably only 150 there that night and we had front row seating! The show and dancing were excellent – 7 couples dancing together and they each did their own unique performance – it was like being at “Dancing with the Stars”!
After a week in Buenos Aires we were ready to leave the city. I don’t think Wayne and I are city dwellers. We prefer the great outdoors to the graffiti lined buildings, trash in the streets, and parks turned into homeless shelters. I never found my “Little Paris” – I’m hoping I was just never in the right area to keep the dream alive!
May 3rd – May 10th 2013