After turning Ry’s brain to mush through a carefully calculated package plan of sun, drinks, sand, and a diet consisting solely of meat/cheese/starch, and no hurries, no worries here in Rio, we boarded a plane to Buenos Aires.
Fun fact – the government has a fixed exchange rate for dollars to pesos, BUT the people want the dollars and don’t trust their government (this is the short version of maybe facts, told to me by a part-time Argentinian over several glasses of wine) so you can exchange your dollars on the street for a waaaay better exchange rate, which allows you to feel like even more of a baller when you’re dropping the equivalent of 25USD for the greatest wine and steak dinner of your life. Just look – no – listen for a short, unassuming man whispering “cambiocambiocambio” outside major malls, follow him to a totally not sketchy place that will most likely be designed to look like a tour guide office, hand over your money. Later, stage yourself in one of those rap music video scenes where you roll around in bed with all the paper bills, pouring champagne on yourself (no one ever tells you how hard that is to get out of linen).
We picked up this little nugget, Rachel (I knoW!) at the airport. She and I had never met, but based on the same name thing, and the fact we had the same earrings in and our glasses are very similar, we decided to become instant soulmates. We were smart enough to be texting and facebook friends beforehand, and had coordinated some props to surprise Ry on her birthday, which led to a photoshoot probably more appropriate for a five year old. But whatever.
We had secured a beautiful AirBnB studio in Recoleta, right over a wine shop ($4USD malbec. This is a blessing and a curse.) and went out to Don Julio for Ry’s ThirtyYoung birthday dinner, and this place is an establishment in BA. The food, the wine, the service, the ambience was flawless. MUST visit.
We spent the next few days wandering the city. The Plaza de Mayo, the Pink House, the tiny one-way alleys, the cobblestone streets that bite your ankles and make you fall even in sturdy (but super cute) Tevas as you urban hike your way through what appears to be a mostly unplanned colonial city in many parts. We walked countless miles, and sometimes the city even felt abandoned during the day….you’d hear a random baby scream and a dog bark…but see no people around. It was bizarre. We were aware that Sundays were resting days, but Mondays also appeared to be Sundays, and lots of things still weren’t open on Tuesdays. Selective hours all other days of the week. Hmm.
There were blocks and blocks of beautiful and colorful buildings. People were very helpful, like the one time a woman stopped us on the street, pulling on Ry with her iphone out and fancy watch on, and basically told us we had crossed over into 8mile, and to turn around and skedaddle back the way we came, because we didn’t belong there. A common theme on this trip was people saying we were in danger – that woman, cabbies not wanting to drop us off in certain locations, people wondering where we were going. We lost the most perfect map ever in a little cafe, so we didn’t really know where we were going. That concern was valid.
But the three of us live in Rio or New York or Toronto (formerly NY and LA), so….we feel pretty city-savvy. Of course, I say this, but Ry almost got hit by a bus because she saw a lot of balloons, and at one point, the three of us were so busy casting and plotting a movie series about a dogwalker, told from the point of view of the dogs, that we walked two miles in the wrong direction. (“okay and there would be the one dog that was like, the ‘new’ dog, and didn’t know how things worked, and the old dog had to help him out with his attitude. And then there has to be a love triangle.”)
The theme of Argentina was the beautifully misspoken line by Rachel – “We got steak to eat and drink to wine,” and indeed, many of the instagram posts were hashtagged #wineonwineonwine or #steaksonsteaks. We had pretty great weather, or appropriate weather, like when there was rain and rolling thunder as we crept through the famous Recoleta cemetery, where Evita is buried in a very unassuming tomb, among the historical and famous and elite of Argentina.
We spent one night out at a genuine speakeasy, with a rockabilly bartender who served us the most interesting of drinks, and then with some middle-aged Italian men a woman named Cecilia unloaded on us for no good reason. They basically told us our travel ideas were bad and disagreed with everything said and gave off a tangible air of superiority, eventually giving up and pretending to go outside for a smoke (we saw them sneak back inside like 9 year olds instead of 40 somethings. Wimps).
Other than that, our happiest times might have been just in our apartment, playing card games or “Heads Up” on our phones, drinking wine, debating life.
We had one semi-injury where I attempted to carry four bottles of wine up four flights of stairs in the dark with my sunglasses on. I caught my sandal on the last step, falling forward on all bottles, but managing to smash only one, slice open one finger and bang up one knee (unfortunately the same one that had found the pavement on New Years Eve). Seeing dark liquid pool beneath you and not being able to determine exactly from whence it came is a little startling, but my friends were excellent nurses and evidence destroyers, and we made it through the evening.
At one point we looked up from giggling and there was a cat in our apartment. And we kept getting the “gringo discount” where they throw on a random table charge to your bill. That’s right – they charge you 90 pesos for sitting down in their restaurant. Ry got the steak sweats and the steak hiccups and at one point wanted to legally marry the steak she was eating.
I enjoyed Buenos Aires, and it would be a good stopover for another trip, but I can’t honestly say I fell in love with it or feel a great need to return. This is good to know since for no particular reason, I had harbored a desire to live there since age 22 and actually contemplated moving there after Rio.
I loved the balconies, the genuinely kind people we met, the food and the wine. And I would go back, if only for those things.
But more things to fall in love with lay in store for me in the next few places I would visit! Keep reading in the next few weeks as I keep telling the story. :)