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Steak in BA: AMAZING!

Buenos Noches, Buenos Aires

Our Patagonian adventures and all those mammoth bus rides took their toll on us on our return to Buenos Aires. In a city that seems literally never to sleep, being tired can be a problem. Thus, when we turned up at our booked hostel, which smelled markedly of feet, armpits and sleep, it was with a great deal of effort that we attempted to find somewhere new. Luckily, we found the Reina Madre near Av Santa Fe, and all was well.

So, after a little recuperation on Friday night (albeit with the aid of some Fernet, one of Argentina’s favourite tipples) we spent Saturday taking strolls around the area, checking out the markets at Recoleta and generally admiring both the purple blossom that is making the city shine at the moment and the large metal flower that dominates the park nearby. Just like the real thing, it opens and closes everyday.

Unfortunately, a busy city can cause accommodation problems, and we had to find somewhere new to sleep on Saturday night. Like some sort of prison for those convicted of crimes against footwear, the next sweaty hostel room in San Telmo had ten beds and no windows. Giant cockroaches were our shower-mates. I’d like to say we grinned and bore it, but there was no grinning involved at all. Thank goodness we could get back to Reina Madre on Sunday.

At low points such as these it’s great to have something interesting to take your mind off the total loss of personal space or dignity, so on Saturday night we were pleased to meet a friend of a friend, Amy, in Palermo. The venue, the Oasis Clubhouse, was tricky to find on account of it being one of Buenos Aires’ “secret bars”. This means no obvious signage from the outside and a swanky pool bar around the back. A far cry from the foot abuse in San Telmo.

OpenShow Buenos Aires was a small outdoor photography exhibition where, after or during their presentations, the artists talked and answered questions about their work. The pictures were interesting (we even saw a collection of photos from Oruro) and, with the help of Amy, it was great to hear the inspiration and technical background to the work. Rounding the night off with a curry, BA-style was also a bonus. We’d get our own back on the shoe criminals…

Being in San Telmo on Sunday also had its advantages. Avoiding further suffocation we got to the famous flea-market early, and whilst it was touristy and buying more stuff to carry is all but off our agenda, we enjoyed seeing the vendors dressed up in the square. Like a strange blend of Las Vegas and village fete, we were unsure as to whether their fancy dress was for the benefit of photographs for payment, or to make their stall more interesting in general. Naturally, the choripan (sausage sandwich) stall needed no such fancy marketing to get our business…

After hoofing it back across town to Reina Madre, the next day and a half past fairly uneventfully: the psychological benefits of staying in one place for a couple of days after all the hurtling around cannot be underestimated, albeit if your still always staying up into the wee small hours. Art galleries and shops filled our time. Sometimes in Buenos Aires you can’t tell one from the other. This left us with a final and delicious steak meal before it was adios America del Sur.

Buenos Aires and its residents may have some strange timekeeping habits, a slightly odd idea of diet and quite impenetrable rapid accents, but it is certainly a fantastic city. Lively, unsleeping (except maybe all afternoon), young and a little cocky, from what we saw it seems to be one of the most livable cities on the continent. Yes, we missed lots out, but maybe that’s a good reason to come back, but next time no dorms.

La Paz By Night

La Paz – Asda At Altitude

We like La Paz. It’s hard work walking anywhere for more than a couple of minutes, given that we’re at over 13,300 feet, but the hustle and bustle of the high life here is worth getting out of breath for.

La Paz By Day

Not that it started that well. Our first hostel (rated número uno on Trip Advisor, mind you) was pretty poor. The room was windowless, the walls were painted with garish and nausea-inducing murals and the shower seemed as if it could be used to efficiently finish off a Death Row inmate. Turning it on via rubber insulated taps invariably meant producing green sparks out of the top. We are coming to inspect such things in Bolivia, but when wearing flip-flops in the shower goes further than protecting just your feet, you know it’s probably time to move on.

Once settled in a much more comfy place a few doors down, we began to explore the city. There are a few main things that are apparent. First, as mentioned above, the altitude can sap you quickly, leaving you breathless and feeling generally bad. Luckily, there are plenty of places to drink coca tea, and it’s a good excuse for a good few little sit-downs! Second, the city is vast but easy to navigate. Want to get to the centre? Go downhill. Lost? Go downhill and work out which side of the valley you need to be on.

La Paz By Night

Perhaps the most striking thing about La Paz though, is the fact that there is barely a street you visit that is not crowded with market stalls. Tesco, Sainsburys and the like have not a chance here! Furthermore, each street is a virtual supermarket aisle, with numerous stalls selling the same category of goods. Need sports wear and trophies? Head to the top part of Calle Santa Cruz. Need a new zip for your trousers? Get your self to the bottom of Calle Graneros. Need some parts for your engine? You need Calle Ingavi. Need a dried llama foetus? Calle Jimanez is where to go.

Clean-up on aisle four!

It goes on, across a whole city of over a million people, on almost every street. It’s like a giant Asda at altitude. Goodness knows what people do when they’re not buying and selling things. But it’s great to be amongst. Who needs museums and art galleries anyway?