- Tigre Delta
- Expanish School
- Move from host to Milhouse
The first day of my second week in BA was spent visiting the Tigre Delta (i.e. Tiger Delta, although no tigers actually live there, but jaguars did and were mistake for tigers). It’s an hours train ride from the main station in BA, Retiro, and costs £1.10 to get to. As confusing as the BA transport system is (for about the 5th time, I took the wrong train at first and had to go back to Retiro to begin the journey again), at least it was cheap. Helpful when you make mistakes, as I frequently did!
I arrived in Tigre just before midday and head to the catamaran booth to book a boat tour out on the water. Tigre is famous for two things:
- The Delta. It’s is the second largest waterway in South America. I’ll give you one guess of the first! The waters are lined with houses, row boats and floating shops (see pics).
- Puerto de frutos. Quite literally translated to Port (market) of the Fruits, but is in fact a more general market of home goods, restaurants etc, spanning around 3 docks.
My boat trip was stunning. Although it was raining and the first time I’d not had bare legs since arriving in Argentina, the little cabin houses had such charm and were quite reminiscent of the summer houses and water-based lifestyle out in Finland. Upon my return to land, I roamed the marked and wanted to treat myself to a good hearty Sunday meal. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from but I selected an asado grill and devoured 1/4 of a chicken and chips as the sun finally came out.
After a last little walk of the port, I head back to the train station and on the train home to Retiro and then the bus to Almagro. During my journey back, Katherine had asked me to join her and some of her programme colleagues watching the Super Bowl in Palermo that evening. So once home, I took a short nap and ventured back out in to the city, meeting at La Fabricá de Taco (the Taco factory).
We had a perfect table in front of the big screen, a pitcher of margaritas to share and a buzzing venue to watch the game. Katherine supports the New England Patriots so it was all the more fun to watch. After Lady Gaga’s spectacular performance during the half time show, I decided to go back home. At this point the Pats were about 20 points down but had equalised by the time I got back and ended up with the win (what I would do to be blessed with the Gisele and Tom Brady genes!).
Monday morning was a slow one for us as a result of the night before. Sore heads and tired eyes were aplenty in school that morning. I had a new teacher for the second week too, called Anabela. Her methods were much more subdued but I found her to be an excellent teacher. She also recommended we go to La Bomba de Tiempo that evening; the drum/ percussion show that Katherine had been to the previous week, held at a place called Konex. I didn’t know anyone going so asked one of the girls in my class to introduce me to her friend that was, so that I could join.
I used my afternoon to recover from my long day on Sunday and then set out to meet Svea and a group of Expanish students (with far better language abilities than I). I had to queue for a ticket still as the others had previously purchased them but, this act of fate meant that I met Henry and Emily. They were both brits, who had many mutual friends at home and stood right in front of me in the queue. And they were fabulous company! I ended up spending the rest of the night with them, getting their numbers and making plans to meet up later that week and further in to my South American journey.
La Bomba was also fantastic. It had a day festival vibe and setting (in an old derelict warehouse and courtyard), with a potent smell of marijuana. However, was an awesome beat to dance to for 2 hours and generally enjoy myself. We ended up in a massive group of previous, current and non-Expanish students and I was so, so glad I had decided to go. I did have to leave before the afterparty because I still had my Spanish homework to do (completed slightly drunk that evening, as I soon realised when trying to read my answers Tuesday morning!).
Being tired was not particularly helpful Tuesday morning when we had some pretty hefty stuff to get our heads around in class. I felt mentally exhausted by lunchtime and concerned I wouldn’t make it through the afternoon, for which I had booked a street art tour.
After lunch at the Cafe Ritz (obviously the real deal), I met up with the tour group in Colegiales. The tour head northwest of BA to the Barrio of Coghlan. Our guide was extremely informative and clearly had a passion for art. Although I’m not usually one for art, I had heard there were many incredible murals in BA, by local and international artists, and was pleasantly taken aback by their aesthetic and how common they were on all the houses.
The designs ranged from what the house/building owner would like and paid for to what the artist specialises in, was inspired by, or just what they fancied doing that day. I have to say, there were a lot of “unhappy” designs and I think I’d want something “happy” if I were to commission an artist to paint a mural on my house. That said, I couldn’t recommend the tour enough as I got to see a part of the city I would never have gone to and experience some of the culture that I would have completely glanced over otherwise.
A consequence of my busy weekend and exhausting day was the sheer delirium that seemed to consume me that evening. This included getting off the bus about 8 blocks too early and getting lost on my way home; not understanding the most basic of Spanish spoken to me in the supermarket; forgetting the area I had been in just 1 hour previously; and it went on! As such, after dinner and completing my homework, I just head to bed to catch up on some sleep.
Wednesday was also spent resting (esp: miercoles, dormo y miro la televísion). In class I had learned that I was pretty terrible at listening to Spanish and so I spent some of my afternoon practicing this before just chilling out. BA can be exhausting, especially when you’re trying to speak Spanish and use your brain to put together sentences like you’re a kid again.
On jueves (Thursday), my Spanish came together a little more. A me gusta hablano espanol en jueves porque nosotros practicamos frases largo con mas palabras interesante. Mas o memos (more or less), this roughly translates to “I liked learning Spanish on Thursday because we practiced longer sentences with more interesting words” – although I can only speak in the present tense currently so it is grammatically incorrect, obviously.
Katherine and I had lunch at a sandwich cafe near to school before we head back home for the afternoon. After some homework and yet more Spanish practice, I spent my afternoon working out as it had been about a week since my last run and I’m aiming to complete at least one work out each week, if I can.
That being said, I’ve really taken a fancy to a local sweet delicacy: alfajores. Something akin to a macaroon but with two shortbread domes filled with dulce de leche (an incredible alternative to Nutella for non-chocolate-eating me) and coated in coconut flakes. I highly recommend!
And before I knew it, along came Friday! It was my last day at school (where we had to present recorded interviews we’d done with some local people) and it was actually a very sad moment as I’d enjoyed the company of my class so much. We even wrote a few verses to a well known Spanish song ‘Me Gusta’ by the well know, not-so-Spanish artist ‘Manu Chao’.
I wondered around a bit of the city that afternoon before taking a nap in preparation for the night ahead in Palermo. I awoke to Liliana and her father chatting in the kitchen so had a little Spanish conversation with them and then went out to meet Katherine at ‘The Steve Bar’ in Palermosoho. They sold G&Ts by the litre which suited us perfectly, whilst we gossiped and chatted about all things girls gossip and chat about!
About 12.30am we decided to head on to the next place and wondered a few blocks to find ‘Esquina Libertad’. This time we shared a litre of beer, a plate of cheesy chips and a plate of mozzarella sticks. And yes, you have read that correctly, we paired cheese with cheese and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
This little bar had a fun roof terrace although it was very busy so we couldn’t get a table outside. Still, the atmosphere was great and we stayed there a few hours before ending our night. It does have to be said that I had become a little bit of a granny whilst being in Buenos Aires. But perhaps it’s just because I was quite ready to move on from the city and back to a beach or location where I didn’t have school at 9am every morning.
On Saturday, I packed up my room and my bag and then set off to the markets in Recoleta. It was nothing of the scale of San Telmo on my first day but still some cute stalls and a more picturesque setting.
We crossed a bridge which took us to the Law Faculty of BA University and next to it was the United Nations Park. This was easily my favourite of all of BA’s parks with a big, mobile sculpture and sunloungers for us to take a break on.
When I got back to Almagro I said my goodbyes to Liliana and hopped in a taxi to Milhouse Hipo Hostel. The girls in my room were so lovely and chatty so I spent a few hours getting to know them that evening but alas, granny came out to play again and I just watched some tv and went to bed that night. I’ve become so money conscious the last few days too, especially knowing I’ve got Brazil next, so I didn’t want to be tempted to drink too much and spend money that I didn’t have.
When the girls woke up the next morning I was very glad I didn’t head out. They’d all spent upwards of £40 (which is my daily budget!) and had stinking hangovers (which I didn’t want for my last day).
After breakfast, I joined forces with one of the girls in my room, Julia, and head out for a wonder to San Telmo and an early lunch. It was chucking down with rain so inside activities were advised. I’d planned to meet Katherine for yoga at 2pm so wondered the market a little and stumbled upon this gem of a mural in San Telmo:
Yoga was great and very much needed to stretch out my back, hips and muscles. It was English speaking but I needed my newly acquired Spanish language skills to find the place and ask for directions. Once I got back and said a fond farewell to Katherine, I took a shower and nap before the live music evening. However, the live music was actually an unsuccessful night, lasting all of two songs before the speaker system packed up!
Still, we’d met a few people and were in the mood to stay up so Stephanie – an Argentinian girl who lived in BA – suggested that she take Julia, myself and a few of the boys to a part of the city no tourist ever sees: the transvestite prostitute park! Sounds extreme, right?!
She drove us past BA’s largest favela and in to the giant park that I had previously walked through. Lining all the roads through the park were, as correctly advertised, transvestite prostitutes! And it was so busy. Taxi drivers definitely take a fancy to these “ladies”. They came in all shapes and sizes and came up to each car to sell their services. We drove round a few times to take in the experience and some were extremely convincing ladies. Finally, we hopped in a taxi back from Palermo and went to bed, but what an interesting evening it had been.
I was finally leaving BA the next morning so nothing too exciting happened. It was chucking it down with rain outside, so much so that you couldn’t see more than 50m. I got to the airport early and thank god I did because the queue to bag drop was miles and miles long. Easily a 2 hour queue (which was a little concerning as my flight was due to leave about 2.5 hours after I arrived). I’m not sure why they tell you to come only 90 minutes before a domestic flight because there’s no way you’d make it at this airport!
Anyway, there we go! BA complete. One day before Valentine’s Day too (and I couldn’t be more removed from a perfect romantic day). So, 105 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and my bag is full, my boots are yet to be worn, and the airport lines that I write this from are long! However, it’s been a good start to Latin America and off I go for the next stage of my journey. Encantada, Buenos Aires.