BUENOS Aires is big. Fuck off big. With 13-million peeps living in the city – the second largest metropolitan area in South America – saying there’s a bit going on in town is the understatement of the year.
A lot’s been packed into the first few days in the “Paris of South America”.
I’ve talked nothing but Spanish for two hours a day in my private lessons at one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores. I booked my one-on-one lessons with local connoisseur of the city Gabriela Ferrante before I left and couldn’t be happier with the way my four hours worth of sessions have gone so far. Her methodology involves no translation – only Spanish is spoken during our two hour rendezvouses. Because of this the mind has to work out ways to get messages across and form sentences and the result offers a fascinating insight into the human brain. At the end of each session when we snap back into English I actually find it weird to talk in my native tongue for the first five seconds or so. Our conversation-based sessions have taken place in El Ateneo – one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, situated in a majestic 1920s-built theatre. I could think of worse places to learn. Bottom line, if you don’t have your Spanish locked down then you’re going to need lessons. Period. You’ll be doing yourself and the locals a disservice if you can’t talk the talk and I definitely recommend Gabriela if you don’t mind paying a little extra for the one-on-one sessions.
One of us was robbed on the train. My mate dave had his iPod swiped from his pocket by a shifty ten-year-old on the train. The fast-fingered scam involved a diversion – he was reaching towards the handrail behind Dave’s head – and using the rocking of the train to bump into him to make the steal. We also had a sketchy dude try to sell us fake tickets to a Boca Junior soccer game outside the stadium in the working-class suburb of La Boca, but we were wise to the scam. Lessons learnt: keep an eye, and a hand, on your shit.
We strolled through the dead in the eerie and grandiose Recoleta Cemetery. This famous cemetery is the final resting place of the families of greatest prestige and power of Buenos Aires (thanks Wikipedia). It contains these giant grandiose mausoleums adorned with stained-glass windows and acid-washed statues ravaged by time among a plethora of other creepy shit. Buckled feral cats roam the graves too adding to the eeriness. A few of the mausoleums are in a state of disrepair and we saw a few coffins exposed to the elements. Definitely worth a look-see and a wander for an hour, if not for the beautiful walk to get there, passing Parisian-style architecture and cafes.
We had a picnic in the tranquil Parque Tres de Febrero with a gaggle of geese. Throw together; a bottle of wine and a few longnecks (it’s actually illegal to drink in the park, but hey we’re rebels), some cheap bread with cheese and tomato, a huge lake, a bunch of geese and some good company, and you got yourself a good day there sir. Situated in the upmarket Palermo, it’s a rad place to picnic, walk away a hangover or just people watch. Just don’t go there at night, apparently it’s full of trannies (no joke).
We marveled at some real gnarly buildings. I don’t know enough about architecture to say anything intelligent so I won’t bother. But seems everywhere you walk around here you find you’re looking up at these huge elaborate buildings, obviously built during the country’s heyday (Argentina was once the fourth richest country in the world or something ridiculous like that). Some of the cooler ones I’ve had the pleasure to gaze upon have been Casa Rosada, the pink mansion where Evita/Madonna famously addressed the nation, and the Congreso de la Nacion.
I’m tired and going to bed but I’ll write more soon. Tomorrow we visit San Telmo for an antique fair and tango show and hopefully a soccer game. In other news a few days ago we manned up and bought tickets to the inaugural Lollapalooza Festival in Chile in April.