We woke up too late and missed the free breakfast in the hostel, it seems like everytime they do have free breakfast we either wake up too early or too late! We had all day to see the city centre of Buenos Aires, and our hostel couldn’t be more centrally located as we’re about 200m away from the obelisk, a symbol of BA. It’s not as solemn as the one in Washington, but this one wins for being on the widest road ever.
We wandered into the pedestrian zones of Florida Avenue, where it felt more New York City with the architecture, the stores and the mix of figures. Standing about every 10m or so is a guy asking if we’d like to go to their restaurant, and if not would we like to exchange some money. Shady. For lunch, we had some DELICIOUS Argentinean ribs, or asado, grilled to perfection and a tasty bottle of grapefruit soda.
Plaza Mayo is where most of the government buildings are located, and where a lot of history takes place. The president’s office, or Casa Rosada (quite literally, pink house) is overlooking the plaza, along with several statues. Not as impressive as other government buildings we’ve seen around the world, but this one wins because it is open to the public, free admissions AND has a free guided tour!! And the president REALLY works here! How’d we know, well because we went to her office! Cool.
Casa Rosada feels more like an art gallery than government building, with spectacular paintings, hallways dedicated to arts and some modern art pieces in display in most places. Even in the reception area for diplomats and others who would meet the president, they are received in a room with an old Argentinean flag from 1910, and this massive modern art mural. Cool. We stood atop the balcony where presidents make public speeches, and to the office, and when we left we also took the same exit that the president uses (which by the way, is beautifully adorned with the busts of previous presidents, similar to a hall in the Louvre?). Neato!
Around the plaza there was also a cathedral, which in addition to its spectacular architecture, is home to the ashes of the revolutionary hero who liberated Argentina back in the 1800s. Outside though, we were trying to guess what the building was, and we both thought Supreme Court! Nope, it was a church….. the Roman columns and Latin writing totally threw us off.
We then made our way towards the Sunday market at a Dorrego Square, but not before we stopped by a nice little cafe at a shady corner of Graffiti St and Trash Blvd. The streets of BA are rather dirty, with trash everywhere, graffiti on all vertical surfaces and for the strangest reasons, patches of dug up streets that looks like the workers forgot it was there. The shop though served some really delicious coffee, and the whole store just had this NYC feel to it, even down to the green colour used in the exterior canopy. Great stuff, and we moved on with some caffeine and onto the market.
The market was one of the more interesting ones we’ve seen so far, with vendors lined up along both sides of the street offering a variety of different things. We walked and walked and walked, and eventually got to the end of the stalls which we figured was about about 2-3kms long! Every stall had different wares, people were laughing, drinking 1L bottles of beer, sipping mate from a cup+straw, and the whole atmosphere was very very lively. Street performers played some wonderful music, BBQ shops opened up in old parking lots where you can sit on plastic lawn chairs, drink beers, eat some freshly grilled meats and listen to their in-house performers sing Spanish songs as their music seeped across the concrete walls which divided them and the rest of the market. People seemed… happy!
Tempted numerous times to buy something as there were some talented vendors selling some real pretty stuff. We thought about having to carry it for 4months, and reluctantly walked away. The street is also lined with interesting stores behind the stalls, and several antique markets as well.
We strolled through the market until it closed at around 6pm, and stopped by Galerie Pacifico, which is supposed to be a mall but it had this concave dome with frescoes overlooking the shoppers. Pimp. Didn’t buy anything, as most goods in BA seems to be extremely expensive compared to North America. Seems like everywhere we go, most things are cheapest in the USA.
For dinner, we took the subway to another hot pot restaurant. Yes, there are more than one! This one was shadier than the one last night, with moldy and peeling walls, and a female owner that reminded us of some unsavoury figures in her slippers and one-piece nightgown…. sorta like the home-owners in Stephen Chow movies? The food was bad, and extremely overpriced! We had this bottle of green tea, costed 25P or $5USD!!!! Crazy.
BA Subway: We rode the subway 3 times, and only had to pay once! The first time, we walked up to the ticket booth but someone opened the gates for us and waved us over, we tried to pay him but he said “Gratis. It is free!”. Second time, we once again tried to buy a ticket, but nobody was at the ticket booth! So we had to jump the gates, while everyone just paid their fares like normal, self-respecting citizens. The third time back, we finally found an open ticket counter and a police guarding the gates…hehe, 1 for 3 is still a good deal!