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Buenos Aires December 5, 2009

Posted by Jen Pappas in BA.
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Where does one start with a place like Buenos Aires? Buenos Aires immediately conjures up images of tango, high fashion and European nonchalance without actually having to bother with any real Europeans. Sidewalk cafes and lush foliage line the busy streets. Museums, restaurants, galleries, designer shops and friendly people are all a dime a dozen. Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) are notorious for staying out late, dressing well and enjoying all a good steak has to offer. And though we failed to indulge in any of the country’s world-renowned beef, or deviate from our casual wardrobe, we took every opportunity we could to soak in the city’s vibrant buzz.

To hear Steve say, “This is my favorite big city” means a lot and was not without merit. In just over a week we went to the horse races three times, fed animals at the zoo, ran into an Aussie friend we met way back in Chile on the street (small world, even in South America), attended a major concert, toured one of the world’s most affluent cemeteries, watched a 3-D movie in Spanish and got in trouble with the American Embassy.

We stayed in the park-filled district of Palermo- a lovely microcosm of dog-walkers, boutique shops, rose gardens and hip bars. If charm and greenery is what you’re after than this is the place. We arrived right in the middle of the city’s first rainy season, so we spent a fair amount of time in Starbucks (only the second one we’ve seen since being in South America) and perusing clothing stores for some new digs. We also spent a fair amount of time dodging piles of dog poop on the sidewalk and trying to fit in as many sights as we could.

La Recoleta Cemetery was definitely a highlight. Located in the wealthiest district of B.A., the cemetery is home to some of the most influential and revered Argentines in history. War generals, presidents, scientists and Eva Perón (Madonna’s character in that Evita movie) all share lavish tomb space here. The cemetery is set up like an actual neighborhood, with mausoleums instead of homes lining each creepy street. While we were there, the sky continued to grow darker with clouds until cold, fat raindrops finally began to fall, sending tourists scurrying for the entrance.

Another highlight was the Buenos Aires Zoo. I know, I know, you’re probably wondering what the hell? Do they do anything else besides go to the zoo? But let me tell you, this zoo was so worth me writing about it. We went on Thanksgiving day, just to kill time before phoning each of our families to say hello. As soon as we walked in, we noticed what looked like the world’s biggest rodents swimming in the lagoon. They had tails like a rat and faces like a beaver. We soon discovered them to be friendly little creatures called nutria. The zoo sold bags, (or buckets) of food for feeding a list of designated animals, so we bought a bag and Steve fed his very first nutria. Those tiny little nuggets must have been good, because while we were there, we not only got a black bear to stand up on his hind legs for the promise of a treat but we also started an elephant fight and made friends with a paddock full of goats.

The Killers Concert was the following night and it rained the whole day. We worried for awhile that the show might actually be cancelled, but around 6 o’clock the sky finally cleared up so we left as scheduled to meet a friend of ours for drinks at a Viking pub near the venue.

We arrived only minutes before the first strains of music could be heard, and elbowed our way into the thick of things despite the mud. Argentine fans are not like American fans. Argentine concert-goers are not afraid to jump up and down for the entire set whether they know the songs or not. We gladly joined in, belting out every word of the 18-song set. Right behind the stage was an elevated metro track and each time a train would go by, we could see the conductor slow it down and all the people onboard craning their necks, trying to catch some of the action. We walked home elated: caked in mud, with our ears still buzzing and our throats hoarse from yelling/singing.

We returned to the track the next day to bet on a few ponies before boarding our 17-hour overnight bus to Puerto Iguazú.