Corrugated City

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Neruda in Buenos Aires

Next stop on my trip was Buenos Aires. I actually didn't want to go to BA at all but some last minute business forced my hand. And i'm really glad it did. After living there for close to 3 years, i kind of got fed up with the place. I guess this happens anywhere but Argentina, particularly, can be a really frustrating place to live if you're actually working, doing business and really living there (as opposed to living there without getting too involved in the society-in that case it's great). I won't go into the reasons as to why Buenos Aires started to do my head in, but suffice to did.

Anyway, after almost a year of being away, i went back as a tourist. And I fell in love with the city all over again. All the little annoying things were still there but...i didn't care. I was reminded of all the reasons i wanted to move there in the first place. I could focus on the good things, the architecture, the museums, bars, restaurants and just the raw energy of the energy i haven't felt anywhere else in the world. Buenos Aires is AWESOME (sorry for shouting).

The first day back was a bit weird. The bus from Mendoza arrived two hours late due to a massive storm in the night. I'd taken a sleeping tablet and was groggier than a hungover Ricky Hatton the day after getting spanked by Floyd Mayweather. It was kind of dream like-i recognised my surroundings but it felt as though i couldn't quite place them. So i went to the cinema to see Superbad. Now this is a film for film-buffs. A beautiful melange of French New Wave and the best Korean Art-House, Superbad tells the story of two high school friends on the cusp of graduating and becoming adults. It's a wonderful tale of rites of passage and...right, ok, it's a filthy, smutty and downright horrible film that is also freaking funny. Go see it. I was Mclovin it.

I returned to my hotel on the corner of Avenida de Mayo and 9 de Julio just in time to see the inauguration of Krustina Fernandez de Kirchner as Presidenta de la Nacion. I was one of the few who hadn't been bussed in from the city's outskirts and given food and drink to support her. As such, there was hardly anyone there, the "crowds" never being more than one person deep pretty much the length of the Avenida de Mayo. The presidential car was preceded by dozens of the most unruly and poorly behaved parade horses i've ever seen. Some of them almost threw their riders. Most entertaining.

More entertaining still was the fact that Krustina hardly put her head out of the window. It was Papa K who did most of the celebrating. It was his victory after all, i guess.

Next day, feeling more rested and relaxed, I headed down to Puerto Madero and the Costanera Sur for a wander around. I really like Puerto Madero in theory-great location, a couple of really nice parks that are now bedding in, the Reserva Ecologica and the Costanera Sur, but it's still lacking. No one wants to live there so all the apartments that are being built and sold on-spec are empty. There's no supermarket and buses and taxis are few and far between. I think they probably made a mistake. It might have been better to develop the area first as an office location and then attract apartment buyers as the area developed a bit more. As it is, it's a bit of a wasteland. A very pretty wasteland, but a wasteland nonetheless.

Lots of construction still going on. Only idiots buy in Puerto Madero. It has the most expensive m2 real estate in South America (us$4000-5000/m2 at the moment) but there are no re-sales as so many new places keep popping up. If anything represents the Buenos Aires Real Estate Bubbletm the best, it's Puerto "Pyramid Scheme" Madero.

This is the modestly named: The Faena Hotel and Universe. One of the city's priciest hotels in a huge old converted warehouse.

The Costanera is one of the best parts of the area...and i just had to stuff a couple of choripans and churrascos from one of the many mobile parrillas down my neck. Cheap and most definitely cheerful. Good stuff.

The twin towers...look closely about half way up...

I love how they clean the windows in BA...

Walking back up towards town, i noticed a pretty rank smell coming from the water. There were 1000s of dead fish in the docks, rotting away. Lovely. There was also a green liquid on the surface-it looked like brake fluid. It didn't seem to bother the olfactorally challenged office workers eating their sandwiches close by though.

Later that afternoon, i finally met up with Robert of Line of Sight fame, probably my favourite blog about Buenos Aires. If you're looking for a lot of great info about the city and also some cool photos, look no further. It was cool meeting him in person at last and good to have a chat about some shared thoughts. After a quick coffee, we went to have a look around my old apartment and the building.

We headed up to the roof to see the pretty cool views of La Inmobiliaria and the Palacio Barolo, two of my favourite buildings in the city.

Here you can see the four domes from the lovely Pasaje Rivarola, the top of the art-deco masterpiece Kavanagh, the tip of the Obelisco, various other domes and stuff and the crazy house on top of the tower block.

Later that evening, i met up with another blogger. We'll call him Dan (because that's his name). Dan is a free-lance joulnarist with a 'Misters' in Joulnarism but he'll do anything for money. In the past, he's even slapped on a fake 'tache, and worn a poncho and a sombrero to work for less than minimum wage as a fruit picker. He's your go-to man for all you need to know about ice-cream and cheese in Buenos Aires. Although he doesn't know that the very best chocolate africano and the finest frutilla al agua are to be found in Wimpy, on Rivadavia between Parana and Montevideo. That's because i forgot to tell him.

We went out for dinner at La Celeste, a Uruguayan restaurant specialising in the greatest sandwich know to man: the Chivito Canadiense: A heart-stopping sandwich of fillet steak, cheese, ham, olives, bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato. With chips. Best washed down with a cold beer. I hadn't been to this place for a long time-last outing was rather ruined when i saw our waiter come out of the toilet (the stalls) and not wash his hands. And then turn up at our table with an absurdly large bogie hanging from his nose. Fortunately, this time there was nothing like that to ruin the meal and the place was back to its best. Recommended. We then headed over to Palermo Soho (the bar being called Soho Vain-quite a cool place on the corner of Armenia and Costa Rica) for a couple more beers before Dan made his excuses, clearly bored of my fascinating and semi-drunken tales of why I am the greatest human being ever.

So next day was the day i've been dreading for 30 years. It was my 30th birthday. Now, i'm not one to go overboard but MAN I WAS FREAKING OUT. And quite rightly so, as it turns out. Being 30 sucks. Anyone who tells you that's it's just a number and it doesn't matter is a liar. I've been told you're only as old as the girl you feel. But Lorena is 9 months older than me so that just doesn't help.

I took the bus over to MALBA, the best museum in Buenos Aires in my opinion. It's a must-see for anyone in town. I then wandered over to Recoleta Cemetery for an hour or so. Neruda joined me. He was desperate to see Evita's tomb but it was surrounded by a huge group of Germans for ages and i'd already seen it god knows how many times. So Neruda had to make do with seeing Sarmiento's and Bernardo de Irigoyen's graves.

In the evening i met up with some friends at El Trapiche, the best steak house in the city. Really. We used to go at least 4 times a month. Our old waiter recognised me as well and asked how things were going and what we were up to now which was cool. Then a couple of beers at the pub and home to sleep.

Other things i did in the remaining few days:

-Shop like a madman in Palermo Soho. I bought some damn fine shoes in 28 Sport, a couple of shirts in Il Reve and Felix and some Christmas present soap in Hermanos Sabater.

-I had an awesome idea of something we can do in Valparaiso to really put the place on the map. I'm not going to tell you what it is though.

-I finally made it to the Xul Solar museum. I love Solar's work. A clearly demented genius. Great stuff.

-Went 10 pin bowling and won with a pretty crappy score of 130.

-Ate at Osaka, one of the best restaurants i've had the pleasure to eat at in BA. A fusion of Japanese and Peru. One of the few BA restaurants that lives up to the hype. And i've just seen they have a version in Santiago. Woo-hoo!

-Saw Heartbreak Kid (Farelly Brothers still not back to their best but quite entertaining), Gone, Baby, Gone (really good but not as good as i expected) and also Lonely Hearts (Ok, nothing special).

And that's about your lot. If you're still reading this obscenely long post then i congratulate you. You've won a prize: A photo of some chalk graffiti on the pavement the day after Krusty's inauguration:

Even if your party wins,
You'll still be under the thumb.



Anonymous said...

Will have to put MALBA on my list of things to see and do in BA when I am there in a few weeks time. I hear that the Teatro Colon is closed for repairs - what a bummer!

...I'll take your word on La Celeste after the bogie and grubby hands recount!

Have a great Christmas break and enjoy the NYE fireworks in Valpo!


Matt said...

MALBA is fantastic-the permanent exhibition is great (lots of Antonio Berni, another loco Argentine artist) and sometimes the temps are good as well, although i didn't like the temp that was there (can't remember who it was but i remember not being a fan at all). La Celeste...go ask Dan what he thought as a 3rd person review...Lore and I used to love it 'til the bogie and hand washing incidents. Prices are double what they used to be but the food and service is back to its best.

El Trapiche has the most awesome bife de lomo-don't order any other kind of meat, it's always a disappointment compared to the lomo. Get it 'jugoso' for extra blood.

The Colon is closed 'til...god knows when..purportedly May of next year (?). Maybe. It's a pretty incredible place from both inside and out. BA is truly a great city...that;s what i thought when i first went there...and now i'm a tourist again, it's what i think now. I'm so glad i got the chance to live there as well-despite the bollocks of the place, it's still a cool place to call home for a couple of years.

Patricio, when are you coming to Valpo? Let me know and i really hope i'll be around to re-show you your home town..!

Anonymous said...

This will be my first trip anywhere EVER that I will be unable to visit a 'must see' site because its closed for annoying! It either reflects how lucky I have been up to now or (more to the point) how little I have travelled in my life!

The bloodier the better is my motto. Will keep El Trapiche and their lomo on my list of eateries - I am travelling with my brother and sister-in-law. The cunada happens to be a born and bred Portena from that side of the Andes (as opposed to the right side ;) )...anyhoo while I prefer sussing a place out for myself when I travel it will be great to be taken round by someone who knows BA (or has family who do - her cousin is a local travel agent who apparently knows all the ins an outs - you'd like to think) - Anyhoo, its likely that they know of and have gorged themselves silly at El Trapiche - I will suggest.

I'm in Chile as of 3 Jan - a few days in Santiasco (as you call it) and then a week or so in Valpo before heading south for a week or so...I'm in Chile until the end of Feb so, yeah, a catch up, guided tour and a coffee or beer(my shout)would be grand.



Dan said...

Mmm... I almost recognize myself in this entry.

I'm glad you had a great trip. It's all downhill from here.