Flashbacks in Buenos Aires


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, February 28, 2004 was originally posted on March 01, 2004.

DAY 133:  In February 2002, I spent a day in Buenos Aires during a stopover en route to Antarctica.  During that day, I wandered around the central part of the city, looking for a new camera to replace the one that had broken on me, seeing the main sights on the way.  Just over two years later I was back in BA visiting the familiar sights, and everything came back to me — including the familiar words of spoken Spanish I had been accustomed to hearing four weeks before.  After being in Portuguese-speaking Brazil for a month, I had to revert back to my broken Spanish speaking ways, although I still kept on saying “obrigado” instead of “gracias” (“thank you”) and had to correct myself all the time.

At the hostel’s complimentary breakfast I met Aude, from the northwestern countryside of France.  She told me about the tango lesson she attended the night before, but was off to a different one that night.  She invited me to tag along, and told me that we were to leave from the hostel at five in the afternoon.  This left me with most of the day to wander around and run errands, the first of which was to be a nerd and catch up on Blog duties.

By midday I was back out on the streets of Buenos Aires, the first time since that day-long layover in 2002.  I was staying in the same area, near the Plaza de la Republica and its iconic obelisk (picture above), and went wandering around to the points of interest on my Lonely Planet map.  It being a Sunday, the traffic and the crowds were minimal, the perfect scenario for a self-guided walking tour.  I walked to the familiar sights of the Palacio del Congreso and the Casa Rosada, the pink residence of the president where Eva Peron — and Madonna playing her in 1996’s Evita — stood on the balcony to speak to her people below.  Next to the palace was the Plaza de Mayo, still full of pigeons the way I remembered from my last visit.

BUENOS AIRES HAS BEEN CALLED “THE PARIS OF THE SOUTH” for its charm, energetic vibe and European architecture.  Walking amongst the classical buildings, I made my way to the Basilica de San Francisco where, just a block away, everyone was anxiously watching a car that had caught on fire, bellowing smoke for blocks.  I continued my leisurely Sunday stroll through the city and eventually found the Citibank office that I went to two years prior — I had a flashback in my mind of the time I unintentionally started a small riot in the vestibule.  Walking through outdoor pedestrian malls and fancy indoor shopping malls, I eventually made it to the beautiful park known as the Plaza San Martin, where kids played on a playground not far from couples smooching under trees.

FIVE O’CLOCK WAS APPROACHING, so I started my return back towards the hostel to meet up with Aude.  I walked along the ten-lane Avenida 9 de Julio, passed the towering obelisk again until I made it back to the St. Nicholas hostel with a little time to spare.  Aude the French girl never showed up for tango — in fact I never saw her again — leaving me to talk to Katarina, a pretty Czechoslovakian girl that every hetero guy in the hostel drooled over.  When she went off to take a nap, I befriended American girls Amy (Seattle) and Rachel (Syracuse, NY) over cups of coffee.

After making a run out for chocolate and Argentine empanadas, I killed time watching the familiar scene of backpackers scrambling around for buses and tickets on an episode of The Amazing Race shown in South America on Sony’s AXN channel.  Night had fallen and it was time for the nightly party up on the roof terrace, a good old-fashioned barbecue.

IF YOU ARE A VEGETARIAN, it might not be such a good idea to visit Argentina.  Argentina is big steak country, with arguably the best beef in the world.  In addition to beef, they cook a mean chicken and pork at any of the many parrillas, grilled meat restaurants.

When I heard the hostel was holding a barbecue, I flashed back to memories of American hamburger and hot dogs with the occasional hint of lighter fluid.  (As a kid, I loved soaking the briquettes in fluid for MAXIMUM FIRE POWER!)  Silly me, the hostel was run by Argentines, and so the roof had transformed into a parrilla, with a grill that sizzled up juicy steaks, cuts of pork, chicken and succulent sausages.  Potato salad and green salad were served as well, but most of the time that stuff was just pushed to the side.  We were in Steak Country, dammit!

Tasty cows aside, Argentina is also big wine country and at the table, the wine flowed like, well, wine.  Amelia the forty-something woman who managed the hostel made sure everyone’s plastic glass was full.  At a point, I reached my threshold for it and just wanted some water.

“[You are in Argentina, more wine!]” Amelia said.

“Oh… okay.”  She topped me off.  I had to sneak another cup on the table for some water. 

“[Hide the water, she’ll get mad,]” the grillmaster told me.

THE STARS SHONE ABOVE OUR HEADS as we dined the night away.  With David the Aussie (whom I met on the plane the night before) gone off on a bus to northern Argentina, I befriended guys other guys from Australia, the U.K. and a German guy named Sebastian from Stuttgart, who was absolutely happy to hear that I had family there.  I told one English guy about all the sights I had seen in the day, and he told me that was more than he saw in the past ten days; he had only seen generic club after club after bar after pub, and spent most of his time away from that just drinking on the roof terrace.  This was the opposite of Stefi, from Nuremberg, who loved Buenos Aires’ unique charm so much, she decided to stay in the city for her entire two-month vacation so that she could be totally immersed in her favorite city a second time around.

From the stars above to the stars of Hollywood, I joined the two American girls Amy and Rachel down in the TV room to watch the Oscars on TNT.  In the past, I’d seen the Academy Awards on TV in the States, always hearing that it was broadcast in other countries around the world, and had now confirmed it.  The three of us, along with another English guy, stayed up until two in the morning to see Lord of the Rings clean house — despite the fact that director Peter Jackson couldn’t have looked any sloppier in his tuxedo.

With production of the trilogy complete, perhaps it was time for Mr. Jackson to leave New Zealand and come to Argentina.  Seeing that belly of his bursting out of his suit, I thought maybe he would love a vacation away from Middle Earth with a visit to Steak Country.

Next entry: It Takes Two to Tango, But Hundreds to Start A Revolution

Previous entry: Bye, Bye Brazil

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Comments for “Flashbacks in Buenos Aires”

  • FIRST!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  12:10 PM

  • This post reminds me of your book!  Ahhh…Birds In Tuxedos!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  12:34 PM

  • ugh. now i am in the mood for some grilled steak!!!

    *stomach grumbles*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  12:49 PM

  • If someone showed me the “clasical buildings” pictures and told me that it wasn’t taken in Paris, I wouldn’t have believed them.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  12:55 PM

  • i reminds me of Birds In Tuxedos too! it seems like it was just yesterday that you were leaving the ACTV office ... looks like this time around, the trip is running smoother…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  04:49 PM

  • Hi,son,
    The cook-out made us hungry for barbecue steak,pork etc. so I am making porkchop in the turbo cooker. 2 more months before we can barbecue out on the deck.

    Note to Lara:  it was nice meeting you in cyberspace. thanks for taking care of erik.  Good luck & God bless for the rest of your travels. 

    take care,son… we love you…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  06:12 PM

  • aw, man. i could go for some bbq right now. at least the weather is getting nicer. maybe we can start bbqing in mid march. =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  06:21 PM

  • ALICE:  You and Al should do a lunch trip up to Virgil’s… get the Virgil’s Pig Out… YUMMMM….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  06:41 PM

  • ELAINE:  Hey, in BA, if you buy 20 packs of Phillip Morris cigarettes, you get 2 free tickets to De La Guarda in BA (where they originated)...

    Maybe you should take up smoking… wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  08:05 PM

  • Hmmm…just when I thought I was doing good for lent…you mention all that I am giving up…Steak beautiful succulent STEAK!  ***recites rosary*** ” juicy steaks, cuts of pork, chicken and succulent sausages”  ***recites rosary***

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  08:07 PM

  • hah….i’ve been grilling thru the dead of winter! No rain or snow can stop me from grilling somethang goooooood.

    erik: when u get a chance, take a pic of a sizziling , thick argentina steak….we need more glamour shots!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  09:29 PM

  • Haha LP… You just reminded me of a commercial for a Canadian fast food chain called Havey’s.

    They’re new slogan is “Long live the grill” and on the commercial they show a boy in full winter gear heading out into his backyard. The boy is being blown about but a huge blizzard. He eventually reaches his father who is standing motionless over the BBQ. “How much longer dad?” The boy yells over the howling wind. Instead of replying the frozen solid father who is holding a pair of BBQ tongs keels over into the snow. Then the narrator says in a deep baritone voice, “For the man who would do anything for meat fresh from the Grill. We give you the BIG HARV. (a half pound bugger)”

    I just thought I share that with everyone… I don’t know why.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  10:22 PM

  • i was going to ask you about DE LA GUARDA!!!! that’s funny….20 packs of cigarettes = 2 free tickets!? that beats rush tickets! I LOVE DE LA GUARDA!!! i bet the show is better over there. are you gonna go see it? you should!!! everyone should…. http://delaguarda.com/  if you’re lucky, you get to fly:) i was lucky once… !

    (i’m jealous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  11:38 PM

  • your mom is sooo sweet!  i wish mine wasn’t nuts.

    and…did i miss something in the posts?  what happened to sharon?

    Posted by hanalei  on  03/02  at  02:30 AM

  • HANALEI:  Sharon left for Egypt on Day 128: Fun With Foam.  I’ve been put on her mass email list, and so far, on her second day, she had already been robbed.

    Ah, the drama of travel.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  07:31 AM

  • LOVEPENNY:  I’ve eaten nothing but steaks, steak sandwiches and empanadas so far over here…  but I suppose I can have one more fat, juicy succulent one for your photo!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  07:32 AM

  • Lots of meat…your poo must be off the hook!  I wouldn’t mind another poo pic….HAHAHAHHA….but i’m sure we all could live without it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  09:17 AM

  • ELAINE:  De la Guarda here isn’t in a permanent venue like in NYC… they play at Luna Park, a sports arena, in between sporting events…  They’re back for an exclusive engagement soon, which is why there are Phillip Morris billboards everywhere.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  10:00 AM

  • a poo pic would be pretty sweet

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  10:10 AM

  • *Buenos Aires 2*
    “Electric POO-GA-LOO”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  10:32 AM

  • I stayed up watching the Oscars also. You think one of the hobbits could’ve told PJ to button his top collar button. Or perhaps they could have taken him shopping for a shirt that ACTUALLY FIT?! He’s looked like a bozo at all the award shows. BTW, Liv sounds better when she’s speaking Elvish. Last week at the SAG awards, Pip wore a kilt. Now that takes nerve!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  11:11 PM

  • really…de la guarda isn’t permanent?? it’s from there! is luna park big?? can’t imagine it being held in such a large venue. 

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  10:43 PM

  • hola erik, just got back “home” from my SA trip…this is pretty funny, keep writting, thanks for all this info, wish u all the best everywhere u go! good luck newyorker!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  04:35 PM

  • KATARINA:  Hey there!  Welcome aboard!  Hope my images of sunny Cape Town are keeping you warm in chilly BAHston.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/11  at  08:48 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
It Takes Two to Tango, But Hundreds to Start A Revolution

Previous entry:
Bye, Bye Brazil


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