Saturday, November 21, 2009
(new) Filling up on Buenos Aires.
After all those all night bus rides and dorm rooms, I was really looking forward to sleeping in. Of course, this mission was thwarted by Adrian’s snoring, the music coming from the bar below last night, the absolutely pouring rain, and finally the not-so-comfy bed at the not-so-comfy hostel. Oh well. Despite all this, it still took us until noon to get up and out of the hostel, partially because there were no plates, mugs or cutlery in the hostel kitchen (kinda making it useless), meaning there was no way to get our much needed morning coffee. The friendly owner told us that there was a free breakfast at the café downstairs but of course it wasn't open this morning (making the café just as useless as the kitchen). Good thing this place was cheap and the owner was nice. However cheap and nice didn't make us breakfast. The owner lent us some of his mugs and we dug the camping cutlery out of our packs so we could eat some yogurt. Then like a couple of Mcguyvers, we used the plastic tubs as bowls to eat cereal. Jealous of our fine dining in the big city aren’t you? Hey, whatever works.
The rain appeared to have let up so we ventured out, walking south towards the modern art museum. About half way there it began pour (of course). We waited under an awning at one of San Telmo’s countless antique stores but when the rain didn’t stop we hugged the walls of buildings as we made our way down the street. When we arrived at the address we were greeted with the familiar sight of construction hoarding. The museum was closed for “amplificacion y modernisacion”. Sigh. At least it wasn’t raining as hard any more. So we continued walking through San Telmo. It looked vaguely familiar from our visit in 2001 but the overall impression this time around was hugely different. From back then I remembered nothing but broken uneven sidewalks, a lot more dog poop (believe it or not) and everything looking like it was on the verge of falling apart. I don’t know if it’s all the traveling we’ve done in grittier parts of the world or if BsAs has indeed scrubbed up real good, but now it actually looks like its nickname the Paris of the Americas. The sidewalks have been mostly repaired, the once deserted buildings now seem to be full of chichi cafes and stores and there was room between the piles of dog poop to step.
We found the national history museum in the middle of Parque Lezama just at it started to rain again. Before another downpour we ducked inside and were happy to discover the museum was free. It wasn’t much of a museum and checking in our bags took longer than walking around. You see, at about half of the museums we’ve visited thus far, you’re required to check your bags in – even if your bag happens to be a purse. Although I’m sure the attendants are fine honest upstanding citizens, I hate the idea of leaving behind our passports, my wallet, ipod, and camera, (ie everything in my bag). So it takes some time to stuff all that stuff in our pockets and the end result is us walking around the museums with grossly deformed bulges in our pants and us checking in two empty bags. It amuses the attendants even if we're not. Oh well at least we were out of the rain which stopped by the time we were done. We got our bags back emptied our pockets back into them and headed back past the bronze lions and back into the drizzle.
After stopping for lunch at a small café, Adrian decided we should check to see if we had a confirmation for our new hostel booking. Rather than pop into an internet café I suggested we just walk over there. Good thing too because there was no reservation for us. Gulp. But when the clerk checked the emails she realized that someone had forgotten to enter it into the computer. So she did her best to find us a room - actually she found us three rooms. One for each of the night we were booked in. But because of the error she was charging a nice low rate. While I was clearing that up, Adrian fixated on the poster for the soccer game the next day. Boca Jr. the most infamous team in South America was playing and the hostel arranged travel, food, drink and ticket packages. It was expensive but I had promised him for the last 8 months that we’d do it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough cash to pay for the tickets. So out we headed to the nearest bank machine 8 blocks away. Halfway back to the hostel, a police motorcade stopped traffic. I expected a visiting dignitary but it was a bus load of soccer players. The visiting team had just arrived in town. I took this as a good sign about tomorrow’s game and felt less cranky about the cash we were about to fork over. After booking our tickets, we took are tired feet back to the hostel, deciding that we'd done enough sightseeing for the day.
When it came time for dinner Adrian informed me that he wanted steak – an easy choice and rather derigeur in BsAs. Except with hundreds of cafes, restaurants and parrillas just outside the hostel doors, choosing one was overwhelming. So I let the internet make up our minds then headed out to local institution, El Desnivel for some steak. The place opened at 7:30 but even showing up at 8:15 we were the first ones there. (It’s a good thing we’re leaving soon because I don’t think we’ll ever get into this eating at 10pm thing.) All the reviews talked about the cheap prices, but the owners of El Desnivel had obviously read them too and decided him didn't want to be the lowest priced option out there. Our loss once again. Although when I tell you huge steaks were under $10 you’ll lose all sympathy for me. Looking for a deal we settled on the 2 person special: Bife de chirozo rellando a papas espanoles. Now that seemed to read “t-bone steak stuffed in Spanish potatoes” which didn't make much sense. I chalked this up to my bad Spanish and assumed it was steak with some sort of stuffed potato dish. So we ordered it. 20 minutes later a giant pile of stuff was placed in front of us. I can only describe it as Argentinean poutine. 40 ounces of steak shoved in a pile of home fries and smothered in a layer of ham and cheese and covered with a sauce/stew of tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, and eggplant. I guess my Spanish was okay after all. As messy as it looked, it was pretty darn tasty and more than two people could possibly eat. The picture up above is only half of the original pile to give you some idea of our ordeal. We did the best we could before having to ask for a bucket or refuse a wafer thin mint ;) . Our day wasn’t culturally filling but we were most definitely absolutely positively full.