Heather here. A hop, skip and a jump from Mendoza (we flew this time), and we’ve landed in Buenos Aires; back to the city exactly one month after we touched down here for the first time as we started our South America adventure, on a mere 24-hour layover. This time, however, we’ll stay a while.

We gave ourselves a week in BA, which seemed like a fair amount, but in a city that charms like this one does, time slips by quickly and never stops conflicting with the infinite things to do and see. We rented a loft apartment in Palermo, a decision we quickly thanked ourselves for and found it easy to slide into the rhythm of the life of a local – buying baguettes and fruit from the local grocers, doing laundry, cooking “at home.” We adore the neighborhood, warm “neighborly” feeling, close to good transportation, easily within walking distance to some of the best attractions. Everything we need is within an arm’s reach it seems. And at the end of the day we have our little piece of tranquility, and something we perhaps had been missing while living in hostels: privacy.

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Within a few hours of arriving, we met Pedro, the son of Ceci who hosted us in San Martin de los Andes. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer introduction to the city, and we soon became friends. And apart from just being a nice and fun person to hang out with, he more than went out of his way the entire week to show us around town, explain how the buses work, and even helped us get to our boat the day we left. Genuinely hospitable. Let’s also mention that he’s a sports journalist so I suspect Fred had a slight man-crush on the guy and was excited to have a buddy to talk sports-shop with. I’m certainly no good for that! Anyways, we definitely feel like we made a friend who we’ll keep in touch with and see again some day.

And in similar hospitable fashion, our second night we had a delicious Spanish paella dinner with some other family who live in BA, my aunt’s father Guillermo, and brother Francisco. Again, kind people who took time to meet us, welcome us to their city, and treat us so nicely. It’s amazing how knowing even one person in a foreign place can completely change the experience, and just think that we had three! We felt very spoiled and grateful to have had that here. It is a reminder of how we can show hospitality to visitors to our city back home, especially those first-timers or people from other countries. Pay it forward.

Well, Buenos Aires felt like home to us, and we truly enjoyed our week there. Some highlights for us were Palermo, the Recoleta Cemetery, La Boca’s Caminito, San Telmo, el Microcentro, and the museums/cathedral. We of course saw an “obligatory” tango show one night which was also quite beautiful.

The city is very walkable so we just hit the streets most days and wandered, awed by the romance of the architecture and energy.

We hit Palermo Soho, the adjacent neighborhood to our apartment (in Palermo Viejo), on a Saturday, and it was absolutely alive with shoppers. We came back a few days later on a weekday and it was almost a ghost-town in comparison. The shops are amazing, both for the merchandise itself and for the pure creativity in how they are designed and merchandised, on a level you don’t see often. I painfully withheld use of my credit card since the shops are also rather pricey; this trip isn’t really about shopping considering we quit our jobs to travel with nothing more than a backpack! The cafes and restaurants in this neighborhood are also pretty nice, good atmosphere and food.

The Recoleta Cemetery was also one of the first things we visited and it really set the tone for the week. Walking through the entry, we felt like we were transported to another place and time. The tombs and private mausoleums are both ancient and modern. Some in disrepair, some immaculate. But all beautiful, and hauntingly mesmerizing. It was especially interesting that, if you peer inside the mausoleums, you can see the crypts below (and some above) and the caskets holding the remains of beloved Argentinians of yore. The more important the family, the more grandiose the mausoleum, and the old aristocratic and political families had some pretty impressive structures, with marble, stained glass, sculptures, and the like. The most internationally famous tomb in the cemetery is Eva Duarte de Peron’s grave. People form a line down the passageway of other souls departed from this earth to pay homage and snap photos of her final resting place. The intriguing part of this cemetery is that this morbid sight is in one of the most posh and central neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, so surrounding the cemetery are modern buildings and expensive high-rise apartment complexes. Sadly, there is even a Hard Rock Cafe adjacent to it. A true juxtaposition.

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We dedicated our entire Sunday to visiting 2 of BA’s most historic neighborhoods “of the people,” La Boca and San Telmo. Well, we only explored the Caminito section of La Boca, but there is a wealth of color, literally and figuratively, to be found in this microcosm of the larger La Boca neighborhood. All the buildings are awash in bright paint, and even though it’s a tourist trap, we were fascinated by its beauty and campiness. Unfortunately, there was no Boca futbol match that day or we may have tried to go and witness the passion, to put it lightly.

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When we had our fill in Caminito, we took the popular 152 bus back toward San Telmo and entered a sea of people in the streets for the Sunday Feria de San Telmo (or de Antigüedades), an antiques and handicrafts market. We couldn’t believe the scale of this market, about 10,000 people meander the craft stalls every single week, granted many are tourists like us. Needless to say, a few “necessities” we’re purchased, including a mate (“mah-tay” – a container for drinking yerba mate tea from, which is basically a required item in the household in Argentina), and after another few hours we were rather tired and called it a day.

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One area we found ourselves in on a number of occasions, given its central proximity in the city, is the Microcentro, or downtown. The Casa Rosada, or Pink House, is here, which is in essence Argentina’s version of the U.S.’s White House, except I understand that the First Family doesn’t actually live here. Nevertheless, it’s stunning, and pink! At night they light it in shades of pink and purple. Too bad I didn’t see this place as a 5-year-old, those were my favorite colors back then, ha!

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We also hit the nearby cathedral and cabildo, wandered inside and were quite impressed, especially with the cathedral that houses the tomb of Argentina’s liberator from Spanish colonialism, San Martin. He is like the Argentine version of George Washington, to make parallels with U.S. history again, except that he also played a major role in liberating 2 other countries: Chile and Peru. Quite the guy! Their congress building was thoroughly impressive as well.

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Given we were in an important cultural city, we made a point to hit up some of the museums. We were happy to find that many are free, especially the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Art). They seemed to have a solid collection of Dutch and Belgian art, but also some Spanish, French and Argentine pieces as well. Pieces included works from Van Gogh, Monet, Puyerredon, and some fantastic, albeit creepy, sketches by Goya, including a famous one I really enjoyed seeing called ‘El sueño de la razón produce monstruos’ (‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’). We also visited the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), thanks to our friend Pedro who ventured out with us on one of BA’s most stormy nights when it even dumped hail the size of golf balls. Happy to report no hailstorm injuries in our party, no one needs to get hurt on the way to the gallery.

As we left Buenos Aires via boat, headed to Colonia, Uruguay, we felt a bit sad to leave. We obviously knew we had more wonderful things to look forward to, but there was just something about this city that grabbed us and wouldn’t let go. Pedro saw us off at the ferry terminal, and we crossed the Rio de la Plata with a full, but somehow heavy heart.

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