The time is 6 a.m. as we board the double decker bus southbound from a wet and foggy Rosario gas station parking lot. A dog is barking at cars, chasing them for only 10 feet before turning around and waiting for the next. As we load onto the bus, many of us choose rows all to ourselves and make a nap attempt on the four hour ride through the flat Argentina neighborhoods and fields, commonly called “La Pampa.” My head is pressed up against the rain drenched window as I’m watching the teenagers walk each other through the city, obviously not having gone home yet from the day before. Soon, my head is resting against the seat back, now reclined and I fall asleep. Two hours pass and a gas station break gives me the opportunity to eat a ham and cheese sandwich with a yogurt for breakfast—the biggest breakfast I’ve eaten on this trip. Another two hours pass and we pull into the big apple of Argentina, Buenos Aires.
The first thing I notice about Buenos Aires is how wide the roadways are that line the stacked business complexes and apartments, seemingly built to their maximum hight. The Avenida 9 de Julio is claimed to be the widest avenue in the world, stretching 12 lanes and 140 meters (~460 ft). The roadways don’t feel as wide as they are due to their high occupancies of taxi cars, large buses and city commuters.
We then arrive a few blocks from our hotel, make our way there and are greeted shortly after by our professors who provide for us the “best empanadas in Buenos Aires,” which were cold but delicious—some were filled with tuna and others with salmon. Then, it was time to resume our roles as tourists: To spend unnecessary amounts of pesos on colorful knick-knacks and adequate dinners, which attached excessive gratuity fees.
At La Boca, we saw many bright red, yellow and green buildings, with life-sized statues of the Pope, laborers, and one of the most well-known comic figures, Mafalda. Lionel Messi jerseys and the persistent Argentines working under these tents don’t fail to lure in the common tourist. I decided to buy a mate gourd with yerba mate and a cartoonish Abbey Road Beatles poster with the Obelisco de Buenos Aires in the background. A ravioli plate cost more than I imagined but the large proportion size satisfied my empty stomach.
Cementerio de la Recoleta was next on our list, with notable interments including the esteemed military officer Manuel Dorrego, former president Bartolomé Mitre, and former first lady Eva Perón. These mausoleums are grand, some with stairways leading underground to their caskets. They must continually be paid for by familial ancestors to stay properly maintained. Throughout this tour, we were getting drenched and many of us decided to explore the Museum Nacional de Bellas Artes, where we saw paintings ranging from medieval times to modern times, photo exhibits and sculptures.
Dinner was served Saturday night at El Querandí, which provided an Argentine Tango concert with music pieces spanning over the past century. My three course meal included Milanesa with sweet potatoes and flan for desert. Drinks included beer and red or white wine. The show lasted an hour and a half with knife fights, piano ballads and singing. Once it ended I was exhausted and full from the meal, ready to head back to the hotel and crash. Others weren’t so ready for bed and went out to bars where they were faced with expensive cover charges. I, on the other hand, slept like a log.
The wakeup call sounded at 8 a.m. which failed to get my friend Nathan and me out of bed for the next hour. Finally, we got up and headed down the elevator where we ate medialunas (basically sweet, sugary croissants) with our coffee, and hit the road soon after. Our tour on Sunday included the Plaza de Mayo, much bigger than the one in Rosario, a walk in front of the Casa Rosada, and through the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral where Pope Francis used to be the archbishop.
Much like La Boca, we toured through another touristy area in San Telmo. When we arrived, I had only two pesos (~$0.13 USD). As one would imagine, I couldn’t do much with this minuscule amount. My mission, then, was to find an ATM. I checked two banks with kiosks within two blocks of one another that didn’t dispense pesos because on Sundays the workers empty them. One of the faculty offered to loan me 200 pesos but I felt bad and asked for 100 (less than $7 USD). I didn’t need it though because I found a Citibank, which did allow withdraws on Sundays. I was overjoyed. I ate a hamburguesa completa, including a beef patty with egg, tomato, lettuce and cheese, and was then charged too much for water. I proceeded to wander the market place through the off-and-on downpour that caused the vendors to quickly cover up their valuables on display, before heading back to the bus.
Finally, we thought it would just be right to cross La Puente de la Mujer, which is a rotating bridge that spans 170 meters (~558 ft) across Puerto Madero. It was a downpour so many of us ran or walked what felt like half a mile to the bridge, across the bridge itself, and then the same distance back to the bus. Soaking wet but without regret, we called it a weekend and made our way back the full four hours to Rosario on the double decker bus, where we watched an Argentine Romantic Comedy, Un Novio Para Mi Mujer (a boyfriend for my wife), which was a well-done film but had what was widely agreed upon as a very unexpected and disappointing ending.
The weekend trip to Buenos Aires was certainly a highlight of my Argentina trip thus far, even with the heavy rainfall. But what’s a little rain to someone who grew up in Alaska and moved to Oregon for better weather?
By the way: Happy Independence Day, U.S.! I am going to celebrate your independence from the British tonight with a stack of ribs.