Instantly I became lovesprung by Buenos Aires’ architecture, nightlife and cuisine.
Then, a couple days in, I made a game-changing discovery.
The kind which separates the crushes from the wifeys…
You can drink its tap water.
That’s right. I’m not just whetting your appetite.
Easy access to Nature’s perennial fountain of youth is actually a thing.
Finally we could leave the panting to the dogs and stop waking up with mouth as dry as our grandma’s flip flop. Our shoestring budget didn’t even have to become scandalously shorter (the perks just kept on flowing).
Sorrowfully, after approaching our first night out in Argentina‘s capital with mucho gusto and menos grace, I think it was safe to say, we went realms beyond the part where gallons of water would have saved our wicked souls the following day…
Another day, another disaster
Let’s set the scene.
It’s a bright-eyed Buenos Aires‘ afternoon and it’s one that’s so hot you could fry an egg outside.
Currents of people are streaming down Avenida de Mayo, weaving around Plaza de Congreso‘s grand fountains and colossal statues.
Among this sea of faces are an effervescent pack of tourists who have been drawn together by a mutual desire. A desire to embrace this magnificent city right down to the very core. What could be more idyllic than a walking tour?!
Exhibit A- One zealous tour guide, fluently hissing Spanglish down an unhappy microphone. Wildly gesticulating to the city’s architecture with one hand and tugging at imaginary heart strings with another. He’s practically reduced all of his group to Neanderthals as they ‘Ooo’ and ‘Arr’.
Cue, Exhibit B – A cattle train of fifty camera-clenching, map-twerking women and men, all strictly dressed for a safari. A vision of naff socks, sandals, bum bags and buckle belts hoisted up to the diaphragm (Simon Cowell, be unnerved).
Exhibit C – The most disturbing sight of all. The things resembling slain mammoths reclining by the curb (oops).
For us it is the morning after the night before and we all feel like total and utter sh*t. Everyone else is bursting with fresh Monday mirth and motivation. I look like Freddie Krueger in cheap sunglasses and my body is struggling with basic processes, a.k.a how to breathe.
While our tour guide was banging on about the Iguazu Falls, I was contemplating another world wonder. Why in the name of Pope Francis were we here. An hour ago back at our hostel, it had seemed like a smashing idea. Trust me, it takes three smashed girls to know one.
Passing out with our shoes on
might have, kind of, did occur. In the morning we woozily figured,’these boots were made for walking’. Not if our brains were doing the talking.
Sadly didn’t get the cargo pant memo…just the invitation to our own funerals
Drunken dilemmas aside, there was some really interesting stuff to tune into.
We were surprised to learn about the tragic forced disappearances of 6,000 left-wing political dissidents which took place under Argentina‘s reign of terror, the ‘Dirty war’. The bereaved mothers of the disappeared can still be found staging a protest outside the Casa Rosado (one of the spots visited) every Thursday afternoon.
We visited the Italian architect Mario Palanti’s cool masterpiece Palacio Barolo. All 22 floors of the quirky, former office blocks are modelled on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Step into the realms of hell on the ground floor, purgatory on floors 1-14 and heaven spanning up to floors 15-22. Other impressive, neck-craning tall buildings included the Evita Mural and Buenos Aires‘ very own Oblelisk. Even though I was such a wreck, all the various styles of European architecture were undeniably cool.
The closest we’ll get to heaven
We’d heard the tour was around 3.5hrs but 5hrs later when ours was going strong, we had to slink off and leave our fervent guide behind. We needed to glue our lips to the end of a tap.
Milhouse Avenue was calling.
Milhouse Avenue: Thou shalt stay in this hostel
By the time we rolled into B.A, we’d been told we ‘HAD’ to stay in Milhouse so many times, we couldn’t help but eye roll.
If there was one thing Public Enemy preached, it was ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’.
One week later, we were spouting out the same commandment to a fresh set of rolling eyes.
Milhouse Avenue is a super hostel. Spacious and decked out with a huge communal area, good wifi, computers, great bar food and drink, a large rooftop terrace, daily excursions, loads of club nights, cooking facilities, laundry services, bla, bla, bla….You want it sugar, Milhouse has got it.
Even their free breakfast is insane. A spoiling variety of bread, fruit, cereal, yoghurt and cakes galore (that banana bread thou ❤). They even do free tokens for scrambled eggs on Wednesday and Friday, in case you’re ‘missing home’, and my god, they’re eggcelent.
Things got off to a great start at Avenue when Gabriela at check-in, turned out to be the living and breathing definition of a MEGA-babe. She gave us a zillion recommendations of things to do around the city each day, arduously pinpointing them onto our map.
Milhouse would turn out to be quite a funny one. The staff were mostly pure joy like Gabriela but the others were complete and utter arseholes. I sincerely hope the tall, curly haired, sour-puss faced male receptionist who seethed venom, has found a new place to go and be livid about life, because quite frankly, you were killing our vibe.
Snakes aside, we couldn’t have had a better week in this madhouse. If you’re looking for chilled hostel and a few early nights – all the best signing your own death warrant. If you’re prepared to forgo your sleep and sanity for however long your booking may be, book in!
Just to clear up any confusion, there are TWO Milhouses in Buenos Aires. Milhouse Avenue is the bigger, better and well, more fun version. Obviously we’re not biased (splutter, splutter, cough). Milhouse Hippo is only a 5 minute walk away but just didn’t have the same lively, upbeat atmosphere as Avenue during the day. Each night, each hostel alternates who holds pre-drinks so this is always a cool way to meet people from both hostels either way. Both were full of lots of twenty somethings who had good chat and were good time people.
…until the first toot of ‘El Taxi‘
Oi, you, are you gonna tang doe?
If you’re going to blow your budget on any of Milhouse‘s activities, make it their Tuesday Tango night.
In retrospect, £65 for a three-course dinner with unlimited wine, a tango lesson, followed by a smouldering tango show, really wasn’t so bad. At the time, we thought if we were to rise to such levels of extravagance, we might as well polish it off with monocles and top hats.
Given we’d only heard rave reviews (and more to the point, everyone seemed to be coughing up the cash like an oligarch), us serfs sucked it up and splashed.
Zero disappointments here.
The most nerve-wrecking thing about the free tango lessons both Milhouse‘s offered was they meant seductively gyrating with a (stone-cold sober) stranger and showcasing your one-on-one performance to more (stone-cold sober/starting to perspire with dread) strangers. That seemed all a bit much for 7PM to us.
Thankfully these lessons were supposed to be far more PG and we’d of watered down any bashfulness with wine beforehand, so that was so viiiiiine.
Naturally, for our group, drinks were not first.
First thing in the evening we got a ride over to the tango school, theatre and restaurant (all rolled into one) and were ushered into the studio. Our instructor pranced into the studio, an array of jazz hands and primadonna sass, ‘Lovers, I’m hereeeeeee!’ I gulped. My throat became a desert. My insides needed an oasis of wine. I could not face winding my limbs around Joe Bloggs thank you.
Hannah, Emma and I decided to play a game of rock, paper and scissors to decide who would pair up and who would be with a boy (because we’re mature like that). Luck did not favour Emma. As result, Emma did not favour Hannah and I. Turned out our childish wager was all in vain anyway, as our instructor forced us to pair up with a male (shock!) Then announced we would have multiple male partners to mix it up (of course at this point us fair ladies fainted)!
The whole situation was so awkward the only way to breeze past it was to joke around with your partners, ‘lol, here comes the leg’. One of my partners was so nervous he was chatting away at the speed of light while his feet clumsily came crashing down like thunder on me. Amen for trainers.
Seems like they save the best till last, as my final partner was total hoot. He made it crystal clear, some people are just there to get pissed but some people are there purely for the tango.
At the start of each sequence, he would gently take my hand…give me a honeyed smile…his features sweetly softening…puff his chest out like an emperor penguin…take a gentle, deep breath…before barking out to high heaven – ‘ONE, TWO, THREE! ONE, TWO, THREE!’ Every time we got to the end of the sequence he’d go for the double high 5 and proclaim ‘WE ROCK!’ The whole thing was so bizarre it was adorable. This entertainment was definitely best served sober.
At the end of the lesson we even got legit certificates. Watch out Strictly – we’re coming for you!
The 3-course dinner which followed was pretty fancy and fab. Red wine and steaks are two things the Argentinian’s do criminally well. It was great chance to continue joking around with our group and get to know some faces we’d seen around the hostel all the better.
The actual show itself was spellbinding. Three pairs of dancers showcased the history of tango in a stunning fashion. All allusions were shattered, they were Strictly and we were s***.
After a brill evening we spilled back to Milhouse Avenue, just enough to catch the end of the pre-drinks and head on to a club. As I tried to move to my own rhythm my hips still couldn’t shift the drill of a Sargent in my ear…ONE, TWO, THREE! ONE, TWO, THREE!
Things To Do: Lemme Break It Down For You
Buenos Aires is home to so many treasures. In a fortnight we leisurely fitted so much in, without ever feeling rushed. If you’re more pressed for time, don’t sweat it. Just pick and choose.
We got to visit all the key central B.A attractions on our city centre walking tour so this is great for ticking places off. Here are some other places for your consideration.
MALBA: The Latin Art Museum of Buenos Aires
The sleek and sophisticated MALBA showcases the finest contemporary and modern art from Latin America. From Botero, to Kahlo and Berni, all the continent’s biggest names can be found in the gallery’s permanent collection. Only taking up a fairly humble section of their second floor, this was still the most impressive and beautifully curated exhibit I got to see in S.A. MALBA mixes up its other exhibitions to keep things modern and fresh. This gorgeous gallery space is definitely worth a visit, just take note it’s closed on Tuesdays.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid
This has got to be the coolest book shop I’ll probably EVER see. The Guardian crowned El Ateneo the second most beautiful bookshop in the world, so when I say that, I mean it! Whether you’re a bookworm or would rather use your cobwebbed collection as a makeshift stool, you can still appreciate how incredible this book store, housed in an 100-year old theatre, truly is. For once I was swanning around a book shop without the actual books on my mind. The amphitheatre, rounded balconies, red curtained stage and ornate decorations were beautiful enough to bow down to.
La Boca: Crayola without the colours
If you’re bound for B.A, I’m sure it’s already on your list but La Boca is the neighbourhood famed for all the colourful houses along Caminito street and for being home to La Bombonera football stadium. If a game is on while you’re there, don’t miss it for the world!
La Boca gained its unusual name (‘The mouth’) for being situated at the mouth of river. The actual neighbourhood of La Boca is downbeat and pretty sketchy, although we were warned of this. Even around tourist honey traps like Caminito, we still picked up on this vibe. All I’d say is be vigilant and stick to the tourist paths. You can easily catch a local bus right to the foot of Caminito and catch one from the opposite side to take you back to the city centre.
Caminito is famed for being a tango hot-spot, after lots of immigrants brought the tradition to the area in the 1870’s. The street still pays homage to this with some open-air tango performances and in fact gets its name from a style of Tango dance.
Besides its colourful houses, the streets of Caminito are filled with tourist shops, some restaurants and cafes. I was really underwhelmed if I’m honest. The place had no atmosphere.
The colours on the majority of the houses had seeped and rather than adding to a certain kind of dilapidated charm, I just thought it looked like the entire neighbourhood had seen better days. If it wasn’t for the throngs of tourists, tumbleweed could literally be blowing around the place and you wouldn’t blink. That having been said, each man to their own, so still pay this a visit to decide for yourself. Either way, you can definitely get some cool pictures from this trip.
San Telmo Antiques Fair
Every Sunday San Telmo Antiques Fair takes place in the city centre. Besides antiques, you can expect cool jewellery, authentic accessories, food pop-ups and live music. For all you carnivores, it would also be a sin to pass one of their BBQ stalls without stopping by to feast on some finger lickin’ good Argentinian meat. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
Now I’m leaving it there for this week as there’s only so much fun I can cram into one post but that’s not all folks. You’ll be able to read all about the other half of our B.A. adventures next time around, coming very soon….
Love The Llamas X
To be continued in Week 5 (more Buenos Aires & Mendoza)…….