Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Argentina - Buenos Aires

A hustling and bustling metropolis of 14 million people, BA like most cities it´s size is at first intimidating in it´s enormity and the menace seemingly inherent in the ramshackle buildings and swarming crowds. Stuck between Europe and South America, and between the first and third worlds, BA is at once threatening and welcoming, but in a short time you become more and more comfortable.

After long delays with our flight and a terrible first night in a hostel room we found slighly nicer but altogether more comfortable and most importantly private digs across the other side of the Avenida De Mayo in the prestigiously named `Gran Hotel Espana´. Think of a laid back ´Fawlty Towers´ with a Basil like owner for whom every request is both an enormous burden and no problem at all, an almost simple, diminutive offsider with an open face and a ready smile and a ´gordita´ (endearingly large!) cleaning lady with a fast tongue and even faster smile.
With a shower, double bed and not much else we were set to explore the ´Paris of the South´. You can be forgiven for thinking this name has been misappropriated by an overly zealous tour operator, with broken down buildings in crowded barrios more reminiscent of Sth Saigon than Paris. But take a stroll through the colonial center of the city of slightly crumbling marble buildings and monuments and head north to ritzy Recoletta (the one place in BA where white Gucci suits are Gucci....and stay white) with it´s cemetario of mausoleums to the great, the rich and the powerful, fine shopping and designer pooches and you will forgive the turn of phrase in a breath.

The stereotype of Sth American food as ´´beans and rice, beans and rice...´´ certainly doesn´t hold true for in Argentina. With agriculture firmly based around the dairy plains of the pampas, meat and cheese are the mainstays of the diet in Arg.
Breakfasts of ham, cheese and bread and croissant and the obiquitous ´cafe con leche´ (latte) and dinners of parrilla meats (grilled) along with a surprising amount of pasta and pizza, washed down with satisfactory lager and cheap wine and accompanied by loads of rolls and breads fill the ample bellies of BA´s profecionales!

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