It takes us about 2 days to finally get to South America due to bad weather, flight re-routing and airline collapses but Buenos Aires, you were worth it.
Buenos Aires is a very European city in how it looks and feels, those expecting to see a Latin American city will no doubt be surprised. Years of European migration from Spain, France, Germany and Italy have contributed significantly to the city’s culture, architecture and cuisine. It is a very cosmopolitan and well-heeled city with boundless art, culture and nightlife. In fact, on our first night, we find ourselves right in the middle of a festival called Night of the Museums where all museums are open until 3 am and entry is free. We explore the city by foot and the adjoining bohemian district of San Telmo where we are staying. The streets are full of people queuing for blocks to get into exhibitions and taking advantage of the free music and dance performances happening all around the square. We take note of the families with young children having dinner at 10 pm and are still enjoying festivities at midnight! We are lucky and catch some brilliant tango, flamenco and passé doble in action, Latin American dancing is incredibly passionate, powerful and sensual. We happily stay out till the wee hours of the morning and enjoy the festivities with the rest of the city.
I have to say that Buenos Aires is a fabulous city with some of the best food we’ve had. Truly. Argentinean steaks must be the best in the world, even for a casual meat eater who isn´t all too into steak it is exceptional. In fact, everything we eat everywhere we go has been really satisfying. The coffee – sublime. The pastries – magnificent. There is nowhere in this place that doesn´t leave a stamp of approval and we thoroughly enjoy every meal we have out. And Argentinean red wine is a lovely drop too at decent prices.
We are exhausted from our gruelling travel schedule and forego the usual sightseeing haunts the next day. We decided instead to take it easy and spend the day at San Telmo’s antique and vintage markets which pop up every Sunday. The markets literally go for about 3-4 kilometres at the very least, we spend an easy six hours there and don’t even realize it. The markets as you would expect are colourful, entertaining and brimming with everything you can possibly imagine. Many of the antique sellers are even dressed up in the period of costume which is a lot of fun. We go a wee bit crazy shopping here as you can imagine, leather goods are very popular and I buy a fire engine red leather jacket because how could you not really when it screams, pleads and begs you on bended knee?
My other favourite purchase is a series of photos we buy from a stall as the power and symbolism in the pictures evoke strong political and social sentiment and leave quite an impression. But I think what we will remember for a long time is the conversation we have with the stall holder, an elderly gentleman who takes the time to tell us the history behind each picture we stop at and inquire about. His son (the photographer of the pictures he is selling) is a journalist and has a good eye for capturing the mood of each still. He apologises constantly for his lack of English and is frustrated as he wants to tell us more. We ask him just before we leave which of the pictures is his favourite and he tells us that he has a soft spot for the pictures with the mothers. In 1976 for about a decade, Argentina entered into what is referred to as the Dirty War. In a brutal period where military fascism and dictatorship became the order of the day, an estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured and killed. The pictures he is referring to are the mothers in white scarves holding up posters of lost ones – sons, husbands, brothers etc. His brother and some friends were amongst the thousands who disappeared and were never heard of again. He apologises again but this time for not being able to speak without tearing up, the hairs on his arm stand up and he shivers at the awful memory. We are overwhelmed too at his emotion, Peter put a hand on the old man´s shoulder and we choke up a little so just stand with him for a moment till it passes. He shakes our hands warmly when we leave and we thank him for sharing a piece of his life with us.
As we sit and have lunch after that we give silent thanks for our lives. Especially for our respective families and all our close friends that add to the richness of our existence with your friendship and support. We toasted each of you that afternoon in the Cafe Santo Dorrego in Buenos Aires and thank you all for being such an important part of us. Salut!