Week Nineteen: back and forth to BA

Alongside yet more foodie hotspots around Palermo, I also indulged in a few (admittedly, not all that many) cultural pursuits this week. The first of these was a trip to the MALBA: the Museum of Latin-American Art. The name led me to expect all sorts of indigenous, Andean colours and handicrafts; so, imagine my surprise when confronted by a series of VERY modern exhibits. For an idea of quite how modern I mean, allow me to elaborate: my favourite piece was a smashed up room, completely empty, but for a disco ball. I was sold; many wouldn’t be.

Even our nighttime activities took a turn for the cultural as we ventured to a milonga. La Catedral, far from its religious name, is a dimly lit, cavernous and slightly dilapidated old building, where locals flock to dance tango. Whilst it was a little underpopulated on the night we went, the vibe was still distinctly sultry and we were treated to some live music. After such a struggle with dancing salsa in Colombia, I relegated myself to purely spectating this time around. (Plus I’m not sure I’d be allowed to take to the floor in Converse!)

Getting back into the tourist swing of things, I decided my passport was in desperate need of some more stamps. Having been reunited by serendipity with some of my long-term, on-and-off travel pals, and despite a few reservations (mainly because my Uruguayan hostel family said ‘don’t go, it’s cold’), we hopped, skipped and ferried across the Rio de la Plata for a girl’s weekend away in Uruguay.

First stop, just an hour outside of BA, was Colonia del Sacramento. This won the battle of the quaint, tree-lined towns by having the most unsettlingly wonky cobbled streets I’ve ever navigated.

Back on the straight and narrow roads, I can highly recommend renting bikes and enjoying a scenic cycle. We journeyed aimlessly along the coastline, on some rather unhealthy sounding bikes. I can see how spectacular the ride would be in the blazing sunshine, but, even through the wintry clouds and cold breeze, the sunset over the totally placid water was a lovely backdrop to distract me from the exercise!

I had been warned that Uruguayos do things even later than in BA; my disbelief was allayed when I saw texts to prove the fact, asking what the plan for the evening was, sent at 3am! I’m not sure whether it was owing to this nocturnal national identity, or whether Colonia really is just the sleepiest town in the world, but the charmingly fire-warmed and fairy-lit restaurants weren’t exactly hopping. Nonetheless, dinner provided red meat, red wine and the chance to get our heads around yet another currency.

Having pretty much exhausted Colonia’s offerings in an afternoon, we were off to Montevideo. Pretty much a smaller, quieter version of Buenos Aires. Despite uncanny similarities, such as purposefully partnered buildings and matching monuments, I couldn’t help but see this country’s capital as the overlooked middle-child of the Rio de la Plata.

Due to the city’s relatively small sprawl, one can experience drastically different vibes and neighbourhoods without actually venturing too far. At times the completely empty streets, furnished with the odd burnt out car, gave a disconcerting ‘trapped in Prussia’ atmosphere. Down by the waterfront, crowds swarm to watch children play football (which explained the surrounding streets being empty, rather than putting it down to an atomic aftermath!) And finally, the old town plays host to some lovely squares and roadside tango sessions for the excitable elderly! Totally charmed by stumbling upon this moment of Latino authenticity, my bubble was burst shortly after, when we noticed the glamorous red flags flanking the avenue were all McDonald’s adverts. M for Montevideo.

Upon a recommendation from the aforementioned locals, we resided in the trendy Parque Rodo neighbourhood. Our proximity to bars, clubs and restaurants of all varieties was inconceivably close. These ranged from rowdy dance joints, to casual cervecerias and everything in between; namely, a bar serving pizzas at 2am and a burger joint that allowed me to combine my love of both chips and fernet! (Note to self: You don’t actually “love” fernet- don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good idea again!)

A disappointingly closed (and somewhat dodgy looking) funfair, several men in inexplicable pink tutus and a market selling all ones heart could desire, and we had pretty much seen all of Uruguay. We aimed to get back to BA and warm ourselves up at long last! That was until we arrived at the eerily empty ferry port…

Turns out, SeaCat (the cheap way to cross the border) force you to get a bus back to Colonia, before jumping on board to cross the river; thus they leave from the bus station, NOT the port. This was a fact we learnt a mere quarter of an hour before our boat/bus was due to depart. Luckily, the taxi driver we flagged down seemed sympathetic to our plight and more than happy to break all sorts of laws to get us across town in record time! Very nearly crashed, scraped and died several times, but the clock was ticking and the adrenaline surging! One last whip around the city and we really had seen it all- and with five minutes to spare!

In accordance with my new nickname as the ‘hostel parasite’, the girl who postpones check out every single day, we headed home to the same hostel. Beyond repeating my living arrangements, I also began to repeat activities. Another Monday night meant another trip to Bomba de Tiempo.

If anyone had suspicions regarding the ‘entirely improvised’ nature of the performance, I can confirm that it was an entirely different show this time around. Whilst the main premise of heavy percussion and jumping around remained, this week they welcomed some slap bass and hundreds of new exciting beats. Add in a different crowd, complete with slightly sinister morphsuit wearers and plentiful Latino flirtation, it felt like just being at a very cool bar, more so than everyone staring at the stage show. If I could go every week, I would.

Back in the daylight hours, I also explored San Telmo, the historic downtown neighbourhood, famous for its markets. Having moseyed through the indoor stalls selling fresh fruit and disorganised piles of ‘antiques’, I settled for purchasing nothing more than some delicious looking cheese and jamón. I’ve heard tell the markets are out of control on Sundays, so watch this space, I’ll be heading back for more!

Other than all of that, my comfort levels in BA are perpetually rising, thus I’m enjoying just living, without pushing myself into achieving too much. Unfortunately, some of that ‘real life’ has come with harsh realities, such as finding I’d been duped with several fake bank notes and trusting a very dodgy looking man to wash my clothes (when perhaps he should focus more on washing himself.) But other than that, I adore it here. Maybe I’ll move on before my next blog deadline… Maybe.


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