Hello again everyone Fran here, yes I’m here again invading Julia’s wonderful blog but this time I have a good reason. I’m writing my birthday blog! I spent my 24th birthday in Buenos Aires and I’m here to tell you about how amazing it turned out to be. So a birthday is a big deal… One year older and what a year Ive had – how was I going to celebrate that? I have to admit I was some what dreading this birthday as I had never had one away from home, away from my family and away from my friends. I had mixed emotions about the approaching event and had expressed these feelings to the girls. Luckily for me I needn’t of worried because as of the day we arrived in BA the girls took over to commence my birthday week!!!! I was very excited to see what they had planned and couldn’t wait to explore this beautiful city.
Buenos Aries had always been high on my list of South American cities that I wanted to visit. There are many reason for this desire but two that are very close to my heart. My uncle Brian and Auntie Sylvia had lived in Buenos Aries and had always told such wonderful stories that painted such a vivid picture that I knew one day,I would have to explore it myself. It seemed so surreal that I would soon be there walking the same cobbled streets they had,exploring some of the things they recommended so highly. My second reason for going was the amazing steak and red wine that BA is hailed for having. Being brought up in my family especially as Brian and Sylvia had been to Argentina we always had great steak. I couldn’t wait to get to BA and try the worlds best steak and red wine. My older brother had also been and still likes to claim he had the best steak of his life here … Get me there and get me a steak! I had such anticipation about BA and now adding to that was the prospect of spending my birthday here too. I hope it lived up to expectations and I hoped it would be a birthday I would never forget.
We arrived in BA and I knew nothing of the plans the girls had in store … I was nervous (I kind of trusted them!!!!) but excited. We arrived at our hostel in the heart of San Telmo (a place I had heard endless stories about from family and fellow travellers) which is famously known for it’s cobbled streets and antiques markets. We were all smiling ear to ear as all around us quant shops housed antique clothing and accessories and restaurants promoted steak and wine deals.
Yep we could definitely get used to this. Our first hostel wasn’t much to rave about but the girls told me it was only for one night so not to get comfortable. If you want to stay in San telmo there are lots of places but I wouldn’t recommended our place too much (Tercero del Sur).
It’s the perfect location for late lunches and basking in the sun after a hard day shopping in the endless markets that surround the famous neighbourhood. That night we were on a mission to find our first good steak … Shouldn’t be too hard in BA. We soon came across the famous plaza dorreago where live tango shows are put on each night. You can sit outside eat your steak, drink your wine and soak in the famous tango atmosphere. We settled on a resturant on the plaza and quickly decided we wanted to try a steak. Me and Leanne both ordered steak and waited with anticipation for it to arrive, we sipped our red wine like the pros we had become after a wine tour in Mendoza. The steak arrived and it was exactly like I imagined, taking up half the plate, it’s juices oozing out with every slice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!!! We both finished every bite and were completely and utterly satisfied. BA was living up to its reputation and it was only night one! God only knows how much fatter I was going to be after all this good steak!!!!
All I knew about today was that I needed to wear comfortable shoes as we would be doing a fair bit of walking. I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was excited to see what the girls had planned, I made my self look pretty and was ready for the birthday surprises to commence.
It was a strange feeling being lead and not knowing where you are going but I quite enjoyed not having to look at the map. The first place the girls took me was to the famous National Congress building which is situated at the western end of Avenida de Mayo. It is a beautiful building that represents the elegance that typifies Buenos Aries architecture, it reminded us all of St Paul’s in London. The congress building still plays an important role in Argentinian politics as it is where the senators and governors vote on legislation. We all looked up in awe at this beautiful building which was perfectly framed by the incredible blue sky. Outside of the congress building is a spectacular fountain but unfortunately it now has a gated fence around the outside. We still managed to have a few good pictures from the outside!
The next place the girls took me had a special place in my heart. When I was younger mum and I constantly watched the film Evita, so the image of her singing to the masses from a balcony depicts my image of BA. The girls managed to find out that we could visit the famous balcony where Eva Perón preached to the masses. We arrived at Casa Rosada (pink house) and I automatically started to sing the famous line ‘don’t cry for me Argentina’. The house was beautiful and it was great to see the actual place where Eva Perón would have stood to talk to her people. This was a great stop for me and made me think of all those times I sang in the car with my mum and now I was here seeing it in real life.
On to the third treat of the day and we arrived at Café Tortoni one of the oldest café in BA. Tortoni’s was opened in 1898 and is still a favourite place to have coffee and cake, it was actually selected as one of the ten most beautiful cafés in the world.
We approached the café and there was a line out of the door (a good place always has a que). As we were lining up the door would occasionally swing open and we would catch a glimpse of the inside, marble floor, high ceiling and waiters dressed in tail coats!!!!! We couldn’t wait to go inside and sample their finery. We got to the front and we all felt somewhat under dressed in our shorts and trainers but there didn’t seem to be a dress code. We were taken to our table and as we walked we all stared around in utter amazement. It was beautiful inside and it felt like you were taken back to the 18th century. Portraits and paintings lined the wall, chandeliers hung from the ceiling and a beautiful vintage cash register stood behind the bar. We sat and had coffee and cake and marvelled at this wonderful place. No wonder it was still a big hit with tourists and locals alike!!!!
Up next the girls took me to see one of the most famous landmarks in BA, The Obelisco. The Obelisco, or Needle as it’s commonly known, extends out from the middle of the city centre and stands prominent as the cities unofficial centre point. The structure was made to celebrate Argentinas 400th year of independence and it is said that you can see the Obelisco from any point in the city! We stared up at the famous monument thinking only one thing … Perfect opportunity for a jumping picture. A photo shoot commenced where I showed my jumping picture skills (mainly down to Julia’s amazing camera skills really).
After the epic’ness of the Obelisco I was wondering what the girls had planned that could top this. Oh my I was wrong. We entered a beautiful court yard that housed a stunning white building … What is this place I wondered.
The girls informed me that this was one of the oldest libraries in BA and it was free to have a look around. Anyone who knows me will know that this is the perfect place for me, I am a sucker for the smell of old books. We didn’t know what to expect so we continued on cautiously. We ended up having a guided tour of the place (in Spanish) and it didn’t cost us a penny. When we entered the first room it was like a moment from Beauty and the Beast where Belle sees the library for the first time. Floor to ceiling books all of which were more than 50-100 years old. The sight of all these books was spectacular and it almost felt like you shouldn’t touch anything. As it turned out this library was actually a public library so people can come here and take these books out on loan. I now want to live in BA purely for this library. This was a perfect find from the girls and we all left with a smile on our faces oh and a stamp stating ‘Bibioteca National Militar’.
From here we headed to Recoleta cemetery to find the tomb Of Eva Perón, which may sound very morbid but is apparently a massive tourist attraction. Lonely planet said it was easy to find and to just follow the crowds, however this was easier said than done. After getting slightly creeped out (massively on Leanne’s part) we eventually found her. Her tomb was actually quite modest in comparison to some of the others but it was nice to see the final resting place of the most famous women in Argentinian history.
We actually learnt that when Evita died there was 14 days of mourning and her body was laid out for three years (yes 3 … Thankfully she was embalmed!!!!). However her body was stolen (that was a strange phrase to type) in 1955 by the military officers who took part in the coup that over threw Juan Perón, her husband and president of Argentina. People believe this was a systematic attempt to erase Peronism from Argentina and Evita was its most powerful symbol. Her body spent a large amount of time in the back of a van or in the Military offices but where ever it was flowers and candles would mysteriously appear. However in 1957 her body was buried in Milan Italy under a false name. In 1971 the military government announced the whereabouts of Evitas body and it was returned to her widow. In 1973 Juan Perón returned to Argentina and was elected president again and he over saw along with his wife the restoration of Evita’s corpse. Finally in 1976 nearly 20 years after she died she was laid to rest alongside her father and Juan in Recoleta cemetery. She can now be at peace.
After the cemetery we headed for lunch which was a typical Argentinan affair. Empanadas followed by steak and a bottle of wine!!!! It’s fair to say we could all very easily fit into the Argentina lifestyle. After a hard day touring we made it back to our smelly hostel, I knew we were moving but I had no idea where to. Back packs on I followed the leaders. When we eventually turned up to the place we were staying I couldn’t quite believe it. The word ‘suites’ was written on the outside! My first thought was the girls can’t afford this surely and then my thoughts turned to my parents. I thought my parents might be here …. This is the only way I could imagine the girls affording this. My emotions got the better of me and the girls explained that my parents had contributed to us staying here, in Joules’ words ‘we are good but not that good’ !!!! The apartment was pure luxury and we all couldn’t wait to relax on the sofa and take a good shower. Julia and Leanne even took advantage of there being a bath. A dinner of olives cheese, meat and wine followed and it was a perfect way to end ‘The perfect day in BA’.
The plan for today was to explore the beautiful San Telmo. It is famous for it’s cobbled streets and antique markets so we were excited to explore what it had to offer. I personally love a good route around an antique market I love anything vintage. We found the famous San Telmo market which was an inside market which housed small shops filled from floor to ceiling with junk. However what is one mans junk in another mans treasure!!!! We strolled around all the little shops and found lots of pretty things catching our eyes!
One shop that caught our eyes was a leather shop, BA was famous for leather and this shop was vintage at its best. All the leather was extremely worn and it made me wonder the stories behind the goods. I was looking to buy something in particular and this shop gave me some great ideas. Another shop that we ventured into was a camera shop. There was every camera you could ever imagine in this one shop. Old cameras that you would have to wind up to fancy new ones with big lenses. Julia was in her element and marvelled at all the cameras in front of her!!!!
Next it was my turn to marvel. In front of me was a shop filled with type writers. On this trip I have decided that I want to become a children’s book writer and I want to write on a type writer. This may sound far fetched but I love the old school print that you can only get from a type writers keys. I loved looking at all the different brands and models. I left my mark on one of them that had a test sheet of paper in it,I will always be remembered in San Telmo now!
After all the shopping and browsing we headed for lunch at a cafe I had spotted a few days earlier. La Poesia looked like a standard cafe from the outside but when you looked inside it was a specialised meat cafe. Over the counter hung all different types of meat, sausage, ham, salami, you name it they had it. It was a carnivores dream. We all selected our sandwiches and slowly slipped into meat induced comas! It was a great place to eat and the meat was fantastic. Here the girls informed me that tonight we would be going to a Tango lesson and show and it was their gift to me for my birthday. Tummies full and content we headed off to make ourselves GLAM.
Considering we all had back packs and only owned one nice top we all scrubbed up pretty well … Apart from the feet as we were still donning our famous flip flops … It was that or trainers.
We were excited/nervous for our lesson as we weren’t sure what to expect. When we entered the room we were snapped by the paps and were able to buy the picture at the end.
As we stood for our picture a girl lunged in front of us … We all hoped we didn’t have to do that i for one was going to struggle with that move in a maxi skirt.
Our instructors name was Hugo Mingo and he was a typical tango dancer. Slicked back hair, tight bum, and hips that could make you break the law!!!!! Everyone else had partners so we took it in turns to dance with him. Women on one side men on the other we were first taught a 4 step sequence, then a 7 step and finally a 9 step. We were all doing quite well and were relatively pleased with ourselves. Then came the hard part putting it all together. I was up first as I was the bday girl. Hugo looked at me with his intense eyes and I couldn’t stop smiling this was so surreal, I managed to make my way through the routine without any big mistakes (much thanks to Hugos leading skills). The girls were up next and both did very well too, we were all now Tango queens!!!!! The lesson was great and we can still remember the moves now.
After the lesson we settled in for a three course meal in which we all chose the same, salad to start, steak for main and pie for desert!!!! We were also treated to unlimited wine so took full advantage of that too. We settled in to watch the show and couldn’t wait to see the professionals dance the Tango. Oh my they were fabulous, so quick and elegant and made everything look so effortless. Their feet moved at such a pace your eyes couldn’t keep up. It was truely mesmerising. We were also treated to a emotional rendition of ‘don’t cry for me Argentina’ which brought the whole room to a standing applause. We all had such an amazing night and it really is a must do in BA. We were all a little merry from the unlimited wine so the bus journey home consisted of a lot of singing and laughing! Bring on tomorrow and my 24th bday.
Today I awoke with mixed feelings. I was excited about it being my birthday but I was sad because I wasn’t with my family. However I have to give credit to the girls they really did make me feel like I was at home. I came down to a big banner and cards and presents on the table! I opened a card from my parents first that Joules had hidden since LA and it was filled with lots of loving words. Next I opened a card from the girls … Home made … Perfect!!!! The big surprise was my present from Jolues, she had collected messages from all the people we had met on this trip and put them in a book for me. It was the best present I could of asked for, it allowed me to look back at all the friends I had made and all the amazing memories we had had together I was really over whelmed with the love. The surprises weren’t finished there, there was also a video for me to watch. When the video started playing and Beyoncé started to sing I was treated to bday messages from a few of my favourite people at home. My oldest friend, my best friends, my mummy and my Ollie. It was so nice to hear their voices and their messages of love and happy birthdays. All credit to the girls they made home come to me and I couldn’t of wished for a better birthday morning. After this we headed to breakfast and took advantage of the buffet, later we would be leaving the luxury of our apartment to move to a hostel. My one request was that we had a party for my birthday and we got recommended a place called Milhouse. We packed up and made our way there. We couldn’t check in so decided to go out for birthday lunch. I had decided I wanted to get something to remember my 23 rd year and initially I wanted a tattoo. I couldn’t decide of what so I settled for a ear piercing instead, Leanne wanted one so we decided today would be the best day for it. We got told about a good shop and managed to find it, I was up first… Third hole to remember the best 23rd year. All was done in a matter of seconds and Leanne was up next, she was a tad nervous as I had told her getting her tragus pierced hurt loads (speaking from experience ) however she was fine and we both got stickers for being brave (we wish!!!).
The piercings done we had lunch in the sunshine ( a first ever for me usually it rains) and then made our way back to the hostel to get ready. Two bottles of wine a bottle of champers and a birthday cake with sparklers later we were ready. We headed to the sister hostel for the party. When we arrived it was a little quite so we headed straight to the bar, within a matter of minutes there were streams of people coming in and filling the dance floor. Throughout the night I had tasks to complete as Leanne had comprised some ‘birthday banter’ cards. These included do a hand stand, do a shot on the hour every hour, down my drink if I said ‘ it’s my birthday’ try and convince someone I was an Aussie and many more. All these added to the fun as we danced the night away.
All in all my birthday in BA was pretty epic and one that I will never ever forget. Big shout out to Leanne and Joules for making so much effort and really making me forget about home. Turning 24 in BA – TICK.
After my birthday we stayed in BA for another week exploring all the other districts the city had to offer. Here is a quick round up of our final week in BA.
We headed to Palermo to visit to Evita museum so we could learn more about this famous Argentinian heroin. The museum started from her early childhood and told us about her reason to moving to BA. She was an aspiring actress before she met her husband Juan Perón and stared in many films. It depicted her acting career and then her rise to political power within Argentina. Her rise to Argentinean saint hood had a lot to do with her campaign for the ‘shirtless ones’ (working class). She developed programmes that helped the poor, the elderly, the children and the sick. This made her extremely popular with the masses and she was even elected publicly to become Vice President. However she had to decline this honour due to her ill health. This is depicted in the famous film Evita with the famous song ‘don’t cry for me Argentina’. Eva Maria Perón died at the age of 33 from cancer and was morned for 14 days and was given a presidential funeral. Still to this day she is hailed as the Saint of Argentina and her face is seen everywhere around BA. We came away from the museum with even more admiration for this amazing lady.
We went for lunch in Palermo the hippest part of BA and boy could we tell. The streets were lined with boutique shops and restaurants and everyone we walked passed was very up market. We settled on a little cobbled street lined with cafés and fairy lights. We found a lemonade bar and had a jug of lemonade with mint, perfect in the scorching sun. We ate beautiful fresh salads and chatted about the museum. We also discovered we could walk to the famous leather district. A road lined with leather shops at discount prices!!!! We were ready! We found the famous Murillo street and all we could see was leather. We couldn’t leave BA without buying some of its famous leather, we had eaten enough steak. We walked in and out of the shops falling in love with everything we saw, unfortunately we had to think logically and we couldn’t fit everything in our tiny back packs. Joules fell in love and I mean love with an amazing leather jacket, it was so soft and so beautiful we had to tear her away from it. She wouldn’t of been able to eat for the next month otherwise. None of us had bought anything until we went into one beautiful shop … Leanne bought something and so did I, it was one of those yes I’m buying it no hesitation moments. We all went back feeling very content … Apart from joules who longed for the jacket!!!!!
Des Nivel Steak house
Ok so lonely planets recommends this steak house and describes it as ‘hugely popular with locals and tourists alike due to its huge steak and even better atmosphere’ and we couldn’t agree more. Just a stones throw away from our hostel we must of walked past this place 1000 times but never looked in. However we are so glad we took the advice of LP as this was possibly the best steak we have ever had to date. We ordered two dishes off the menu and wasn’t quite sure what to expect because everything being bought out look extremely huge. We couldn’t believe the size of ours when it arrived … We had half a cow to eat … With a side of fries and house salad!!!!! When we all tucked in we knew this was a mission we were willing to complete. The meat was tender and rare and perfectly cooked … Egh I can’t even describe.. you will just have to go!!!! We all sat back jeans undone holding our tummies feeling so full but so content!!!!
Recoleta and San Telmo market
If you are in BA for a weekend you HAVE to check out these two markets. We seem to stumble onto markets all the time but these two we hunted out specifically. Even though our bags were heavy and we didn’t have much room we still wanted to take a look. Recoleta was on Saturday and when we arrived it was in full swing. Located behind the cemetery the stalls line three streets selling jewellery to leather to hand made clothes. We loved walking through all the stalls and admiring all the handmade things, sometimes something would catch our eye and we would buy it but most of the time we just enjoyed ‘window shopping’. This market was one of the better ones we had been to in BA but the best was yet to come.
If you are in BA on a Sunday you can not miss San Telmo market. Joules and I have been to Asia and we thought we had seen some markets but this one takes the biscuit. It shuts down the main road in San Telmo and stretches between around 10 to blocks with over 500 stalls … My god it was a beautiful sight.
This was a better market as it had everything you could possibly imagine, handi crafts, bags, belts, wallets, jewellery, vintage clothes, vintage everything actually it was fantastic. We walked up once surveying things we might want to buy and then we walked back and bought the things we had admired. We unfortunately had to rush this a bit as we had a bus to catch but we could of happily strolled through this market all day. This seemed to be everyone’s Sunday day out as the streets were heaving with people all enjoying the markets offerings. This was the best way to end our Buenos Aires adventure.
How do I end this blog post … I don’t know if I can explain how incredible this city has been to us. We had so much expectation and I feel like it has exceeded it all. We planned to stay a week and we ended up staying two … BA We salute you!