What’s new Buenos Aires?
I’m new, I wanna say I’m just a little stuck on you
You’ll be on me too
Fill me up with your heat, with your noise
With your dirt, overdo me
Let me dance to your beat, make it loud
Let it hurt, run it through me.
Don’t hold back, you are certain to impress
Tell the driver this is where I’m staying
–Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Evita”
Greetings from Argentina, land of warm people, hot dancing, steaks and sizzle. Even in winter, this place moves. I am finally seeing my husband Tom after ten weeks, and realizing how much I missed him. It’s odd to be traveling as part of a group (or a couple) again, though. The experience is different. You don’t learn as much about a place or get as clear an impression of it when you have another person to buffer it. Even having someone else to speak your own language to tends to dilute the cultural immersion. Considering how tired I have been lately though, I think that’s fine. It is a pleasure not to be alone, not to have to overcome all those challenges solo (such as finding out where anything is or how anything works), and to be with someone who accepts me the way I am. When you are not alone, there is a feeling that no matter how bad things get, well, you’re in it together, that somehow you are stronger, and you will be able to figure out whatever needs figuring. Alone it can be scary when you get tired, or sick, or down. Together, those feelings come up less often. It is hard to travel this long and remain excited, enthusiastic and able to take in new information at the high speed required.
After my 12-hour flight from Madrid, I collected my luggage, got myself into town and found Tom waiting for me in the lobby of our hotel. He’d been waiting for me for two hours. What a sweetheart. He chose a wonderful hotel, probably the most luxurious hotel I’ve stayed in during my time on the road thus far. I am glad to have it, too, because I find I am honestly exhausted. There are little things we take for granted at home, such as having endless hot water and being able to turn around in the shower. On the road, it is a real luxury. For instance, in Tunisia, the water stayed hot, but was inconsistently so, and if you were foolish enough to move, you would hit the water knobs and either scald or freeze, depending on which knob you knocked. You might have a bruise later to match your red skin. In a nicer hotel, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen. But as an unemployed solo traveler, places with reliable plumbing have fallen into the category of “too expensive” for the most part. My minimum standards were safe locations and no bugs, internet and possibly air conditioning. If you’ve been reading along, you know that I didn’t always even get those things! So, the Golden Tulip Hotel Savoy has been a real treat for the last couple of days. Among its past honored guests: Eva Peron and Albert Einstein.
Tom has not only helped with the accommodations, he has been learning Spanish and has found steakhouses! In short, it’s safe to say that Tom loves Buenos Aires. In the two days he’d been here before me, he’s managed to find a great coffee shop, learn which beer is good, and has charmed two of the ladies who work for the hotel.
The first day after some rest and relaxation, we made our way into town. We went to the Plaza de Mayo, a place where most popular protests take place, and where Eva Peron gave her famous speeches. I am told that protests against the government are commonplace and part of life for most people here. We saw evidence of it all over town in the form of political graffiti, a police crowd-control vehicle complete with water cannon, and a small group of protestors in the plaza. Across the plaza is the municipal church (Catedral Metropoliana), a large building that is a bit of a hodgepodge of styles, having been rebuilt several times since its origin in the 16th century. Apparently a lot of it spontaneously fell down in the mid-1700s. The interior is very well-preserved and pretty, too, with floral mosaics on the floor and beautiful arches. It has a feeling of smallness even though it is very large, I think due to the many pillars and arches, and separate chapels within the temple. The church houses the body of Capitan General Jose de San Martin, the national hero of Argentina. The entrance to his tomb is flanked by two of Argentina’s military honor guard. We finished off the night at a great steakhouse where Tom’s rib-eye arrived on the stroke of midnight. That was good because the 21st was Tom’s 42nd birthday. The next day, we were following his agenda (as we should on his birthday). We got him a new leather jacket and some gloves, and I bought an inexpensive coat to replace the one I left in Tunisia (theoretically, they are mailing it back to me). I’ll need a coat in the mountains of Peru – my little Italian trench coat is okay here in town if it’s sunny, but up there it’s really cold. After shopping, we ate empanadas until we couldn’t anymore and then we lay down for some siesta time. I didn’t feel like getting up again at nine, but at ten, we had a dance lesson scheduled in a milonga. That is a dance hall, usually a place of Tango. My Italian shoes were put to the test and passed with flying colors, I am pleased to say. It was crowded as heck but we gave it our best shot. We’re thinking we’ll go back and try again at least once before we leave.
Today we went out to the National Museum of Belles Artes, where we saw some fine Argentine paintings and sculpture, some pre-Columbian art (which was really cool but which we were not allowed to photograph), and fifteen interesting tablet-like picture panels depicting the story of Cortez and the Aztecs, complete with shell inlay. We wandered around town a bit, but it was cold and we were taking it easy. Tonight we will have supper at another steak house and maybe see a tango show. I think tomorrow we will see the Eva Peron museum and do a little shopping for souvenirs. All in all, I feel I can heartily recommend Buenos Aires. Everyone we have spoken to has been helpful, full of spirit and wanting to show the best of their city. There is a great pride here, and great kindness. I am looking forward to coming back to Argentina already.