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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 313-314 – Argentina – Buenos Aires – Part 3

Freaking sunshine! Having forgotten what it looked like we were amazed to see a glowing yellow orb in a brilliant blue sky as we wolfed down breakfast on the terrace and planned how to spend our day. Our partners in crime the previous evening had been Nic (from Switzerland), Oona (from Belgium) and Michele (from Sydney, Australia) – who introduced us to a new alternative phrase for ‘Bottoms Up’: ‘Up your bum – no babies!’ It’s sure to catch on in high society over the next few years. We set out for San Telmo’s famous Sunday market together.

This was without a doubt the most interesting, diverse, and vibrant market I’ve ever visited. Overwhelming the still evident tat that dominates most markets were arts and crafts of all shapes and sizes – cool stuff, like fully custom made trainers, leather-bound books of all shapes and sizes (I am unfathomably addicted to purchasing these despite rarely, if ever, writing in them) and unique art pieces. Add to this spectacular street food, cool cafes, street tango, street magic and my dear azure sky and the fact that it goes on for miles and miles and you have a great way to spend a day. It held our attention for several hours before all but Nic had to depart elsewhere leaving the three of us to take a wander to the Puerto Madero waterfront and unsuccessfully attempt to acquire a beer.

We trotted on back and passed the Obelisk on our way – a stunning monument and an icon of Buenos Aires smack bang in the middle of the intersection of avenida’s Corrientes y 9 de Julio, the former being home to the theatre district with which we’d get acquainted later in the week and the latter being the widest avenue in the world (14 lanes at one point and flanked at either side by parallel 2-lane streets).

That evening we met Alex, a new arrival from Melbourne but who was currently working as an engineer in London. The four of us went in search of Steak and were advised by the ever helpful Hostel staff of a place called Plaza Astoria a few streets away. It was a big place with a huge number of staff, each dedicated to only a handful of tables which meant the service was tip top. We were served an aperitif (this was a first for me unless you count Ouzo in Greece which I always thought of as more of a ‘get-them-drunk-and-they-won’t-complain-eritif’) and given confused looks when we ordered some side plates to go with our mains which came without. When our main course arrived the quizzical looks made sense.

Never had I been served a steak that size before, never mind a fillet steak. This had been ripped from Uber Cow. Side plates were instantly comical table decoration – this was all that mattered. I love you Argentina.

Washed down with fine red this was gastronomic bliss – the steak was, incidentally, cooked to perfection. Fi had half of hers bagged for takeout. I beat the beast. We tipped well – not least because the absent minded waitress kindly forgot to charge us for one of the bottles of wine. We rolled home and dropped in front of the telly meeting all manner of new arrivals before eventually dragging ourselves to bed.

The weather was back to grey for the next day but our group had swelled in size with new arrivals Kim (The Netherlands), Ursula (Sweden), Maria (Sweden) & Andrew (Mighty Scotland) and we were set on a visit to the International Tango Festival. It wasn’t too hard to find and we arrived in time to see some of the early rounds.

I was shocked at how stoic, uninspiring and unimpressive these competitors were. Rather than a passionate & imaginative whirlwind it looked more like Norman was spinning his old LP’s on the gramophone down the old folks home with tentative dancers in full fear of breaking a hip at any hint of exertion. I wasn’t expecting some sort of awful attention grabbing Saturday night ‘entertainment’ television event but given that these people had apparently travelled from all over the world I can only assume that the first rounds were to prove they were physically alive and not just cardboard cut-outs. Even if this were the case the judges still had their work cut out for them.

This didn’t stop us rattling off hundreds of photos which were thus quite easy to compose given the static display. By the time I’d returned to where I’d left the group they were long gone having been similarly unimpressed. Fi & I set out for La Recoleta Cemetery. This is a veritable necropolis; a huge collection of vast crypts, tombs and graves of a whole host of families and notable Argentine people including Eva Peron and a number of Argentinean presidents.

It’s also full of cats. Angry cats. Scary cats. Cat’s whose very look seems to suggest you’re not welcome. In typically inconsiderate photographer style we ignored our feline hosts and wandered around gawking at the majesty of these homes for the dead, snapping all sorts of interesting monuments under the finally suitable grey sky.

Our return to the hostel was met with the collective decision to stay in, eat pizza, watch movies and drink far too much beer – the latter being an activity I always excel at.