My return to the “Paris of South America”

My first experience in South America in March 2010, was two days in Buenos Aires. It was a daunting experience thanks to my lack of spanish and the fact that most of the time I was wondering to myself why on earth I had left the comforts of home for this strange continent…with no plans and no idea of what the future held for me…

Nineteen months later, I returned to the “Paris of South America” and my few days there could not have been more different to the first. Despite still struggling with the Argentinean accent (which is very different to the Chilean accent), this time around, I could hold a conversation in spanish with little difficulty. That fact alone makes such a difference in terms of feeling comfortable in a place. Secondly, travelling with Rodrigo made the experience different in many ways. It was so nice to be able to walk around the city and compare thoughts and perspectives on things…a nice change considering that when travelling alone you have no one to share these with. Naturally there was alot of comparing Buenos Aires to Santiago and the Argentineans to Chileans, but I won’t elaborate on that now.

Since we had both been to Buenos Aires before, we could skip alot of the main tourist attractions, and just walk around the city enjoying watching the world go by. But the one place I missed on my first trip and had wanted to see was La Boca. I had heard so much about the brightly painted houses in this rather poor neighbourhood surrounding the stadium of one of the biggest national football teams called Boca Juniors. But, while the coloured houses were really nice to see, sadly the place was super touristy and crowded with restaurants and lunch time tango shows geared exclusively to foreigners. Thankfully we found a little side restaurant that was a little less touristy and the entertainment was a guy playing songs on his guitar from all over Latin America.

This mural in La Boca depicts the people that went missing or were killed during the dictatorship in Argentina in 1976. “Ni olvido, ni perdon” means “Not forgotten, not forgiven”.

The buildings in La Boca are all painted different colours which makes for quite a lively atmosphere. The reason for this, is that apparently since the neighbourhood is so close to the old port, the people used the left over paint from the boats to paint their houses.

The area is also filled with statues of famous people (like Diego Maradonna above) or just simply regular people depicting life in general (see below)

Argentina, like the rest of South America, is obviously football crazy and that is not just for the national team. The local league is HUGE and Boca Juniors (the team from La Boca) is one of the biggest and most successful teams in the country.

Me ouside the Boca Juniors stadium…everything for many blocks around the stadium is blue and gold.

Another luxury of travelling with someone is being able to walk around at night and feel just that little bit more secure. Whilst I don’t find Buenos Aires that dangerous, it is after all still a city and things can happen anywhere. So knowing that someone is with me and can keep a watch out while I snap away on my camera is great!

On our last night we went for a walk through the city past the main square and the government house (La Casa Rosada) and down to the very fancy port area called Muerto Madero. We were in for a surprise when we got to Plaza 25 de Mayo infront of the government house as it was the one year anniversary of the death of Nestor Kirchner (the ex-president of the country, whose wife has just won her second term in office by a landslide). It was amazing to see how fanatical people were about the ex-president – huge banners, balloons and blimps with his face, t-shirts saying “gracias Nestor” and a massive concert in the middle of the plaza. To me, this kind of reaction would only be justified for the likes of Ghandi or Mandela and according to Rodrigo, Kirchner wasn’t that spectacular a president. But it seems that in Argentina, like in Chile, any excuse for a celebration and party will do.

The festivities for the ex-president who died on 27 October 2020 infront of the Government house. La Casa Rosada (the pink house) looks beautiful during the day, but somehow, for me, the pink lights at night don’t quite fit with the idea of the seat of a country’s government…

 After the craziness around the plaza, we decided to head to Puerto Madero, which is the really fancy and renovated area of the port on the Rio La Plata. It was wonderful to walk along the almost deserted boardwalks and take in the lights of the city. The night was topped off with a lovely sushi dinner overlooking the yacht club. The perfect end to what is only the start of a month long adventure for us…next stop Southern Africa…

Rodrigo and I infront of the Bicentenery bridge, built for the 200 year anniversary of independence in 2010.

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