Posted by: Kristen Hicks | March 13, 2010

Adventures in Buenos Aires, pt. 3

Day 9: The Sunday Market and Tigre

The Sunday Market

One of the many little annoyances that came with United ruining two days of our trip was that one of those two days was a Sunday–the day of the San Telmo market that everyone raves about. With the unpredictable weather of the last couple of days, we were concerned that the weather might join forces with United to ensure that we miss experiencing the Sunday market altogether. Although it was overcast and there were occasional smatterings of light rain, the weather never got bad enough to keep the market from happening or us away from it. Thus, we spent much of the morning wandering up and down the street, perusing the many diverse items being offered by the vendors and artisans.

We bought several mate gourds and other items to bring back for family members and a wine bottle that had been decorated to look like a cafe front with tango dancers outside for us. There were paintings, puppets, ornaments with the nativity scene built into gourds (we bought a couple of those for family), old books, instruments, jewelry and plenty of other items to choose from.

After ample time at the market, we moved to the train station to catch a train to Tigre, a smaller city a little bit outside of Buenos Aires recommended to us by one of the employees of the first hostel. After United Airlines screwed us out of two days of our vacation, we couldn’t sacrifice the time it would have taken to get to Iguazu Falls, as we had planned, so we planned a couple of day trips to see a little of Argentina outside the city instead. Just to reiterate for anyone that missed it, I would have seen this if not for United Airlines.

A lovely river runs through the downtown of Tigre and many cafes run alongside it. We walked alongside the river for a while and decided to spend most of the rest of the day sitting on the patio of one of the cafes with a view of the water with some wine and food. Sadly, the food at the spot we chose was unimpressive, but the afternoon was otherwise nice.

One notable feature of Tigre was the abnormal number of stray dogs. Stray dogs were no rarity in Argentina in general, but they were

one of our rare photos actually together

Tigre

everywhere you looked in Tigre. There were several that hung around near the cafe we were sitting at, hoping for us to drop some food.

They also had a mate museum that we didn’t make it to, but we did see more people drinking mate in Tigre than we had in Buenos Aires.

On the way home from Tigre, the train broke down twice. After waiting for a long time with a quiet, sweet girl we befriended and a very angry woman voicing any complaint we might have had in perfect Spanish (listening to her anger reminded me of United Airlines…again), we realized in spite of what we had been told that no working trains were going to be going in the direction we needed to take, so we pulled out the map and figured out the closest subway to walk to (luckily the train broke down in Buenos Aires, so we could get to a subway).

Day 9: Cafe Richmond

Worn out from the rest of the trip, we decide to spend this day in relaxed mode, split between the hostel and the Cafe Richmond, another spot that was a popular hangout for Borges. The Cafe is beautiful, has a high class feel and we really enjoyed all the food and drinks we ordered. We were able to get little tastes of really good cheese and ham (I’m told it was really good), as well as hot chocolate and beer and champagne. We spent several hours merely sitting and reading and sipping and munching. It was exactly what we had wanted the day to be.

Once again, on our way back from the hostel we got stuck in the rain. We decide to just spend the evening at the hostel again, so we pick up a bottle of wine and begin to meet many of the hostelmates at Sabatico. By the end of the trip, we’ve exchanged information with a Brazilian, Australian, Japanese, English, Spanish and a few new Americans.

Day 10: La Plata

We made our way through a very confusing bus station and somehow managed to buy ourselves a ticket for the bus to La Plata. The ride there is pleasant and not too long, but once we were aware that we were in La Plata, we weren’t sure where we should get off. We somewhat impulsively chose a spot where it seemed like many of our fellow travelers were disembarking and ended up wandering in a lovely residential area that felt strangely empty.

While we enjoy seeing the area, we were a little befuddled by how nearly abandoned everything feels. The businesses we walk by are empty and while we do see people walking on the street or playing in a yard here and there, mostly what we

The city square of La Plata

see are houses and empty streets. We determined if we were going to find anything open, we would need to get ahold of a map and make our way to the city center.

We found an open gas station on the street we got off the bus on and with more of a general idea of the direction we wanted to take, we began walking. We came across several parks and stopped a couple of times to sit and read or watch the people around us, like the group of older ladies who met at the park with their dogs of varied breeds, or the man flying a kite with his young daughter.

We eventually made it to what appeared to be the main square of the town, which includes a beautiful cathedral, a central park with the symbol of the protesting Madres, like at the Plaza de Mayo, and some important looking buildings we assume house the local government. We still found little open, it turns out the siesta in La Plata lasts from around 1pm to 5 or 6pm.

The cathedral of La Plata

Other than our general hunger (we assumed we would eat lunch in La Plata), our experience in La Plata has been very enjoyable. The aesthetic of the residences we walked amongst was very nice and kind of hip in a way that reminded us of Austin–even though it looked nothing like it.

After wandering through the cathedral and taking many pictures (John called it the most beautiful cathedral he’d seen, after my year in Italy, I can’t quite agree, but it was still quite nice), we managed to find a cafe that was open and serving food and we finally ate.

The waitress there pointed us in the general direction of the train station and we saw a bit more of the city as we walked towards it, including the University of La Plata, which seemed to just be welcoming the new freshmen for the year.

The train ride home gave us a glimpse of life in the area outside of Buenos Aires. The atmosphere and economic situation of the communities we passed on the ride varied greatly. There were shantytown areas, followed soon thereafter by nicer suburbanish homes, followed by a crowded city area and on and on.

Once we made it back to the hostel, we continued in what had become our evening activity of choice and met and spoke with many of the international travelers staying in the hostel.

Day 11: We prepare to leave

On our last day in Buenos Aires, we decide to spend another more relaxed day and leave the hostel walking with no real destination in mind. We wander generally in the area of San Telmo and happen upon a really nice plaza where all the cafes on the surrounding streets have set up tables outside, there are artisans and vendors selling their usual wares (mate gourds, paintings, photographs, jewelry, etc.) and we sit down to share a beer and enjoy the nice weather.

In the time we’ve been in Buenos Aires, we’ve been hoping to come across some tango dancing. Not having seen any yet a couple of days earlier, we asked the owner of the hostel if he could recommend anything and the best suggestion he had involved us spending 100 pesos a piece–turns out we don’t want to see tango dancing that much. This was the one thing Buenos Aires was known for that we hadn’t managed to experience on this trip (my not eating steak aside) and we had resigned ourselves to the idea of missing out on it. By a great stroke of good luck, on a trip full of the bad kind, while we spend our day in this plaza, two different couples set up and begin dancing tango. One of the couples particularly blows

These guys were fantastic

us away.

We had one of our better meals of the trip at an Italian restaurant near the plaza and on the whole have a very pleasant, relaxing and fulfilling last day in Buenos Aires.

Having learned the efficacy of generally treating any dealings with United Airlines with the constant paranoia that they’ll find some way to destroy our trip home, we got to the airport very early to stake out a spot at the gate and ensure our seats stay ours (seats that turn out to be itty bitty) and make it onto the plane.

Every leg of the trip home feels long, revealing our eagerness to get back to our own apartment, our dog, our couch etc. When we finally make it back; predictably, it feels good to be home.

On a side note, the New York Times printed another one of those articles that seems like it was written just for me about 3 weeks after we got back. Great article, awful timing.

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