November 30th, 2011 – by: Jollyjetsetter
National Congress Building, Buenos Aires
.....At least not in the 'regrettable travel plans' realm! Well, I had made it to Argentina after what I consider to be years of somehow or other putting the trip off, or wondering if such a long-haul transatlantic flight really would be worth the trek. In this case though, since this leg of the journey came in succession from a trip to Uruguay, the Buquebus catamaran ferry boat was the mode of transport of choice for the arrival into the port area of Buenos Aires, with a relatively simple process of reaching the Circus (hotel and) hostel in the Tango district of San Telmo. Well, as it turned out, the location for lodgings of choice was yet another strategic winner, and getting around is made easy enough by the city's metro network and the fact that, despite being the world's 8th largest city, a fair amount of it can be covered on foot, with enough energy and determination.
Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires
The first port of call, and a must on the tourist trail, was the highly colourful district of La Boca, more specifically the enclave surrounding the street named 'El Caminito', a tourist trap perhaps, but also a place where souvenir shopping and entertainment options are never in short supply. Rubbing shoulders with a tango-ing couple and a very realistic Maradona lookalike made it feel like this area was very much 'Argentina on a plate', but I could only but smile at the energy that had gone into creating such a buzzing area. Heading northwards from La Boca, a trek down the world's widest street to the area surrounding the city's iconic obelisk monument is where you will find a cluster of the city's major buildings of note down all the sidestreets leading off from there. Further north still, the affluent suburb of Palermo with its swanky shopping malls, and pristine street settings, it seemed highly strategic that this was also the location of two of the city's most prominent areas of greenery and parkland, namely the botanical gardens, and the well-kept Japanese gardens, which both felt like an oasis of calm in a bustling city.
Typical street scene in San Antonio De Areco
The city's prime shopping spot, for my money, had to be the shopping mall named 'Abasto', which is something of a masterpiece both inside and out, replete with a spectacular food court. Despite all of the Argentinian capital's charms, day trips and excursions are still attractive options, and the first of these, a trip to the gaucho capital of 'San Antonio De Areco' was a too-good-to-miss option which entailed a 2 or so hour long coach ride, followed by a wander around a town with a wholly different atmosphere, with some superb dining options for a town of such a relatively compact size. Onwards and upwards it just had to be, and the following day's excursion to the Parana delta town of El Tigre came coupled with a 2-hour long boat ride along the delta, with a priceless opportunity to view the residences which line the delta, clearly the retreats of Argentina's elite earners who afford themselves such luxuries as private houses replete with immaculate gardens and their own private speedboats for getting around on.
Naval club building in Tigre, the Parana Delta
On the return journey, a stop-off at the well-heeled suburb of San Isidro
was a smart move, since the cathedral at the suburb's heart, as well as the craft market at the time of the visit, and good dining options too made it feel as though this was a day out in the premier league of out-of-city excursions. All in all, Argentina scored as many points as Maradona did goals, in his prime, and the question as to whether you would contest the 'valid nature' of any of these goals is probably best answered by how strict a referee you are as a traveller. In my case, overlooking a few rough edges, one or two overly-sturdy, bordering on arrogant natives, and the fact that you should only really visit if a 13-hour non-stop flight is tolerable, the so-called 'hand of god' might well have also had his hand in putting together a south American nation with some undoubtedly godlike touches.