Nina and I successfully met up in London and made our way to Heathrow. The first flight passed with ease, as we watched films and caught up on each other´s lives. I hadn´t managed to book a vegetarian meal, but on the off chance asked the steward if he could find me an alternative to the chicken wrap and crisps that Nina was tucking into. I didn´t hold out much hope, but he returned with a tray full of various delights : several cheeses; a scone with jam and clotted cream; a cup of nuts; and fresh fruit inlcuding strawberries - I definitely landed on my feet there - probably the best airline meal I have ever had. I didn´t have the same luck on the second flight, as our troop of golden girls (the stewardesses were all of an older generation and very glamourous) could only offer me a turkey dinner, which I picked the vegetables out of. I have secured a veggie meal for the return journey however.
Our flight in Washington was delayed by two hours, but I spent the time using all modes of modern technology to try and get in touch with my family. It was only on arriving that I realised my phone wouldn´t work on this side of the Atlantic and internet and telephone both failed me. I took a sleeping pill for the flight to Buenos Aires and slept for eight hours. Luck had it that we had the back seats of the plane and both Nina and I could stretch out with nobody occupying the seats next to us. Good to sleep, as making duck beaks out of Pringles can only entertain you for so long....
We arrived to a hot Buenos Aires and met up with our first Argentine contact, Matias, who was incredibly helpful and took us to our hostel in the centre of town. The next four days were passed exploring the city and meeting up with various contacts of Nina´s. Buenos Aires is like a cross between Lisbon and Paris. It has some great architecturally satisfying old buildings, as well as modern sky scrapers, but best of all, it has wonderfully wide avenues. In fact Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest avenue in South America. The city is pretty European in its feel and has many distinct areas with lots to see.
We spent an afternoon at the famous Recoleta cemetery - a huge city built for the dead. You obviously had to have a lot of cash and an important family name to be buried here. The monuments were varied, but all hugely extravagant. Scull and cross bone motifs adorned graves next to tombs guarded over by opulant angels. Small graves fitted beside huge edifices and peeking inside some of the windows, a can of polish sat next to the coffin inside one of them. Amongst presidents, doctors and others, lies the grave of Eva Peron, a moving sight, covered in flowers, but very understated in its style compared to those around it. It was interesting to then go on and visit her museum and find out more about a woman who become such an icon for this country and also the travels in which her corpse undertook to escape the miliatary coup before laying to rest in Recoleta. We also admired her clothes and Nina and I decided which of her dresses we´d like to borrow to go out that evening! The walk from the cemetery to the museum was possible to achieve almost solely via a series of parks - beautiful and a great feature of Buenos Aires.
On our last day in BA, Nina went to meet up with some friends and I undertook to walk to an area called La Boca, via San Telmo. I knew that the Feria de San Telmo was taking place that day, but didn´t realise how vast this huge market was. You could buy everything from a mate flask to a tango outfit for your Barbie doll. What also distracted me was San Telmo´s fascinating covered antique markets, where hundreds of chandeliers, gramophones and various curiosities were on display. I walked past a stall with a chez langue in a bath tub outside.
Walking towards La Boca, the city obviously became poorer and it was easy to see the everyday life of the Porteños. I passed the blue and yellow clad stadium, home to the Boca Juniors and the docks. Unfortunately the area made famous because dock workers splashed the excess paint from the docks onto their houses was full of tourists - a stark contrast to the poverty in the surrounding area. I had a look at the colourful houses and walked around a little, taking in some street tango, but I was not tempted to stay in the same way as in San Telmo.
It was lovely to spend the evenings with Argentines and we were treated wonderfully by all of Nina´s contacts. We mainly went out in Palermo, but spent our last evening at a typical Argentine parrilla in San Telmo with some fellow guests from our hostel. I did manage to find a veggie option, which I think is quite impressive at a parrilla. We have many offers of accommodation for our return to BA in April and have now begun our journey south.....