Flamboyant, vivacious Buenos Aires has an airy European feel laced with Latin intensity. Grand old buildings as well as soaring sky scrapers line its busy streets and decorative pavement cafes mix bohemia with sophistication as Portenos (BA citizens) sit in the sunshine drinking coffee, eating media lunas(croissants) and reading La Nacion in a way which seems at once leisurely and intense.
The Trundler stayed on the Avenida Brazil , in the upbeat, laid-back San Telmo district. She rented an 8th floor loft apartment which was filled with dazzling light as the sun rose each morning at 6am. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
Inexpensive and comfortable, the simply furnished apartment had large windows and three balconies with spectacular views across the neighbouring rooftop gardens and the Parque Lezema – a palm- strewn enclave perfect for an early morning spot of Tai Chi in the shade of a large statue of Spaniard Pedro de Mendoza who first settled Buenos Aires in 1536. At £30 a night(booking.com) the flat made an excellent base for exploring San Telmo and was a half hour’s walk from the city centre.
San Telmo was The Trundler’s favourite part of Buenos Aires. This colourful, lively neighbourhood is historically famous as a scene of street fighting between the Spanish and the British in 1806. In the late 19th century a yellow fever epidemic drove its wealthy inhabitants north into Recoleta, leaving the older buildings to be divided into tenement buildings known as Conventillos. Initially these attracted artists in search of affordable rents but are now the home of some of San Telmo’s many delightful shops and cafes.
Within a mere hour of her arrival The Trundler was thrilled to see a moving Tango performance on the Plaza Dorrego, the city’s second oldest square. This legendary plaza is edged by gracious colonial buildings and on Sundays is the heart of the famous feria, the city’s best street market.
For café enthusiasts, such as The Trundler, this is irresistible territory, as each historic bar or cool coffee shop seems more tempting than the last. The Trundler was drawn to El Federal, two blocks south of Dorrego, which offered a range of breakfast menus featuring toast, orange juice and coffee for around £3.
From San Telmo it’s easy to walk to the Plaza de Mayo, which is the city’s main square, home of the dusty pink City Hall building and scene of many a political protest.
On her first night in B.A. The Trundler was caught up in a rousing demonstration against the dismissal of a key Argentinian journalist, by the new government. It was a moving occasion and stirring introduction to the passion of the people of this spectacular city.
Football is another driving force and a short walk south from San Telmo takes you to La Boca, the original home of La Boca Juniors, one of the nation’s most revered teams. The Trundler must admit she had never heard of Lionel Messi until the moment when she was able to stand next to his life size concrete figure, but she embraced the opportunity gladly. Then, together with the hordes of other tourists, she admired the brightly painted corrugated iron houses for which the neighbourhood has also become famous.
Across the other side of town, another of Buenos Aire’s most beloved heroes has her tomb in the vast La Recoleta cemetery. Eva Peron was only 33 when she died, but her inspiring campaigns and humbling achievements during her short life will never be forgotten. Visiting her resting place is an important pilgrimage for respectful Portenos as well as hordes of footsore tourists, who flop on benches amidst the imposing statuary.
As in many beautiful cities, just walking the streets of Buenos Aires, stopping occasionally for a Café Cortado or perhaps a spinach empanada from a confiteria is the best way to get to grips with this sparkling capital. Pretty women in their summer glory overshadow the striking men in business suits as they walk on their wedge-heeled sandals with the kind of sure-footed elegance that The Trundler, in her well worn Birkenstocks, can only marvel at. Such stylish and impressive people, such a wonderful, vibrant centre of human life and activity, such a great place to start her trip.
Fly to Buenos Aires direct from London Heathrow with British Airways. The flight takes around 13 and a half hours and The Trundler paid £740 for a ticket which included an internal flight from Santiago in Chile to Rio de Janeiro, before the return journey to Britain. (www.BA.com)