We arrived back in Buenos Aires and went back to Elena’s place, we were going to stay for another five nights, there hadn’t been a place on this trip so far, that we’d stayed at for 10 days total, so it shows just how much we liked it here.
We’d already seen most of the tourist sights to be seen during the day, but we still spent every day walking 8-10 miles each day just exploring this huge city. The metropolitan area of BA has a population of around 15 million, it’s big. Even the central districts can take half an hour to get between by bus.
A strange phenomenon of BA, considering the lateness in which everything seems to happen here, is a couple of nights per week, they have after-office parties at the clubs in the city. On the Wednesday night, Elena asked us if we’d like to go along with her, it was amazing.
We arrived just before nine, the place had already been going for a couple of hours, with a huge spread of free food, which we just missed, and music and dancing like it was 2am in any club, or maybe 5am in Argentina.
Drinks were extortionate priced, but people here don’t really drink much, so it doesn’t seem to bother them, and the place was absolutely packed, with not a spare inch of dance floor not being used to the fullest.
We partied with the locals, who were fascinated that two people from the UK would be at their after-office, until about eleven, at which point we were hungry, and because that’s a perfectly acceptable time to go out for a meal in BA, we went to a restaurant, and Elena stayed at the bar with a friend.
We went and ate a steak and salad in a local restaurant, had a bottle of wine, and at one in the morning, we met back up with Elena and went to a bar until late (actually… very late, so late it was actually early).
The nightlife scene of BA is amazing, but one thing we were both surprised to see, is a massive culture of craft beer, pints of it. Every pub sells ‘cerveza artesanal’ by the pint, and they were great value in the happy hours, so we chased quite a few happy hours around the city.
The young and trendy all sit around in dark pubs drinking pints of beer, eating bar food and chatting all night long.
We had booked to go to the Opera at Teatro Colon, partly because the tickets were cheap if you were happy to stand at the very top of the theatre, and because it seemed like a mildly interesting thing to experience.
Even though the Opera is obviously performed in Italian, and the subtitles were solely in Spanish, we enjoyed the show and stood up, in the highest tier, and watched the entire show in fascination. The show was La Traviata, which coincidentally, was also the first Opera performance to ever take place at the original Buenos Aires Teatro Colon.
We loved our time here in BA once again, and we were so sad to leave for a second time, but so far we had been in South America for thirteen days and had been here for ten of them, so even though we knew we wanted to go explore further, it was still hard saying goodbye to Elena and to BA. The mood was lightened a little though, when for the second time in a week, she was chasing us down the street, when we left in a taxi, waving goodbye and blowing us kisses 🙂
Next stop was Rosario, Argentina’s third largest city, but a place almost no tourists go to, and that’s actually true, not just a guess. Elena told us she could once remember, a couple of years ago one of her other guests asking about Rosario, but she doesn’t know if they went and can’t remember a single foreigner who has been since. It is only four hours from BA, tourists (us) can be so predictable in where they go sometimes, their just like sheep.
Rosario has produced some of Argentina’s most famous names, Che Guavara was born here, which will have some cultural importance to us considering we will travel around Cuba soon. Today’s icon of Argentina, Leo Messi, was also born here and his family and boyhood club are here, so we really wanted to see the city, where one of our favourite people grew up. Unfortunately, in recent years, Rosario has made a name for itself in Argentina as being not particularly safe or nice, for Argentines and foreigners, this is quite obvious when you first arrive, with some dodgy looking districts on the bus ride in to town, and iron railings and locked doors covering shop and restaurant fronts, even in the central area.
In reality it didn’t feel particularly unsafe, but we were recommended not to walk down quiet streets at night, but all the streets were quiet at night, so we never strayed too far from our AirBnB at night, which was conveniently located right in the heart of a bar district, so we could still go out.
From the never-ending metropolis of Buenos Aires, with chatting and shopping on every street, Rosario is quite a contrast, still a decent sized city, but with quiet streets and remote locks on the doors of bars and shops meaning you can’t just walk in without them buzzing you in first.
That seriously confused us at the first bar we went to, where we could see many people drinking inside but we couldn’t get the door open to get in. I don’t think it is that unsafe here, but they obviously have this security for a reason.
The next day we went to see Newell’s Old Boys, the football club that Leo supports and where he spent his childhood. We couldn’t get inside the ground to see the pitch, but we walked all the way around the outside and came across a mini-stadium, inside the grounds, in a small building.
An all-in-one indoor football and basketball court was being used by two teams of youngsters playing five-a-side in Newell’s colours. I told the guy at the door we were foreigners and asked if we could come in, he let us pass with a huge smile, it was clearly novel for us to be here, and we sat and watched the football for a while. I loved being sat watching football in the mini stadium where Messi first started playing football, a great experience.
I was determined I was going to buy a Newell’s shirt for me to wear, but the club shop only had large sizes, we walked around the city for about two hours, asking in every shop but nobody had my size.
Eventually we found one, and got a bargain on it, last seasons shirt for about £20. After we bought this we didn’t even walk another 100 metres before coming across another shop with another different shirt from the season before, with one left, in my size, for about £10. Needless to say, I ended up buying both, so now we have two Newell’s shirts.
We found a great wine and food store one day and bought a cheese and meats board and a bottle of wine from them to have for dinner in our apartment. The board had clearly been made fresh with a huge selection of cold cuts, olives, and cheese on, for about £12. Argentina is far from cheap, so this was a bargain, and we had it with an excellent bottle of Argentine Cabernet Franc, a great meal.
We explored the city all over by foot, we saw the great monument down by the river and went to the top for a view of the city, and walked past the house where Che Guavara was born, which only had a tiny sign outside, Argentina don’t really seem to mention he was from here that much, strange.
On the Sunday, our last day before a night bus, we went down in to town for a coffee, but everything was closed, absolutely everything, we were confused. A few more minutes of walking, and we ended up by the riverside, which appeared to be where the people were, we walked up to the top of a set of stairs on the river side, to see what appeared to be every single person in Rosario all doing the same thing.
They all, and I’m guessing this is every week in nice weather, go down to the riverside on a Sunday afternoon, fill all the restaurants, bars and parks, and just sit around all day, eating, chatting and relaxing outside in the sun in the beautiful riverside parks. It was amazing.
There are hundreds of tables and dozens of public BBQs where families come and cook for themselves, a couple of kilometres of restaurants and bars, every one of them with a queue outside, playgrounds, markets, popcorn, snacks, drinks, children, dogs… The whole city was here, and it was great.
Even if England had the nice weather, which it clearly doesn’t, I’m not sure people would come outside every Sunday and socialize like this, they’d be too distracted by TVs and computers I think.
Rosario, in short, was fantastic, and we would return in a heartbeat. But we’d been here for three days and we needed to make a decision on where to go next, we’d talked about going north to Iguazu falls, that’s eighteen hours away by bus, there was Mendoza, out west towards Chile, twelve hours away, we even stood in the bus station and almost booked a bus back to BA again to go back and see Elena for a few more days.
In the end we booked the bus to Mendoza, and after a great meal by the river and a couple of beers outside in the sun, we got our things and got on our first overnight bus in South America, but I’ll tell you about that next time…