In which we visit the village of the dead, check out some art and eat the best steak in the world
12.03.2013 - 15.03.2013 19 °C
It's here. The moment we've been dreading. Yep, that's right. The last few days of our trip. I feel like I need to do some kind of summary post, if only to detail Marcus' spectacular hair growth in full glory, but this post covers our last few days in the wonderful city of Buenos Aires.
On Tuesday we decided to spend the day in a cemetery. As you do. When I first mentioned the idea of visiting Recoleta cemetery, Marcus was less than keen. But it turned out to be brilliant. Where all the rich and famous are buried (including Evita), the cemetery in upmarket Recoleta district is like a mini village for the dead. We wandered around streets of mausoleums holding whole families of rich Portenos.
The mausoleums range from old and crumbling to super modern, at least 200 years of seriously photogenic history.
Some of the mausoleums are really grand, topped with huge statues, whilst others are plain and simple. One of the things we were most surprised by was that in the majority you could see into them and see the coffins stacked up (like the one in the photo above... which even had the doors left open), sometimes on multiple floors. Some contained grand altars and stained glass windows inside, or sculptures of the deceased.
Of course we also visited Evita's grave, in her family mausoleum. There's a pretty awful story about her body, which was embalmed when she died but subsequently stolen by the military, mutilated and buried under a false name in Italy. Her body was only returned years later (after a few years weirdly kept in her husband's dining room while he was exiled to Spain) and laid to rest with her family.
Evita is still such a huge figure in Argentina, especially in BA, and her grave is constantly adorned with flowers and notes.
That afternoon we had a walk around Recoleta and saw the famous flower sculpture nearby. The petals open in the morning and close up every evening at dusk. I'd seen photos and didn't think it looked all that exciting but it was actually lovely up close.
In the mood for more art, we then spent a couple of hours in the Museo de las Bellas Artes. Its a great gallery but we were slightly disappointed that it held almost exclusively European art (Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Degas...) Interesting but it felt like something we could easily see in London.
The next day we upped our museum hits with visits to the Evita museum and the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). The Evita museum was worth it just to see all her beautiful clothes, but also gave us an insight into her life and politics.
It was also shocking at times, particularly the film of her last speech and a video narrated by her sister of her mutilated body when it was finally returned to Argentina. Not something we expected to see that day.
Then it was on to the MALBA to satisfy our desire for Latin American art with their great permanent collection.
But probably the best part of our day began when we stopped for a late lunch in a little cafe in Palermo. While we were eating, the TV started to show that a new pope had been chosen. After about half an hour of waiting, they announced Cardinal Bergoglio as the new Pope. Instantly people around us gasped and started celebrating. The new pope is Argentine, and from Buenos Aires! Much clapping, celebrating and crying ensued as we waited to see the first Latin American pope appear. People were coming in off the street to watch the TV with huge smiles on their faces.
As it happened, the closest subway stop to our hostel was next to the cathedral, so we decided to pop by and see what was happening on our way home. The cathedral was already surrounded by TV vans, and reporters filing from the steps.
Inside the cathedral a service was already taking place, with people arriving all the time, some draped in Argentine flags.
When the minister mentioned the new pope, the whole place erupted. The congregation jumped to their feet, arms in the air, cheering, clapping and chanting 'Viva el Papa!' It was a scene more reminiscent of a football game than a church service, but we couldn't help but be caught up in the excitement. Whatever your religion, a great moment to be in BA.
And that brings us to... sob... our last full day away. After making a start on our packing (and enjoying throwing out some of the skanky clothes we've been carrying around for the last four and a half months) we wandered the streets of San Telmo one last time. We stopped for lunch at our new favourite bar, El Federal, and spent a lovely couple of hours over a bottle of wine writing a list (because I do love a good list) of our top threes from the trip (more on that in another post).
That night we had booked ourselves a treat - a meal at La Brigada - apparently the best steak in Buenos Aires. We'd actually been recommended this place by a friend before we left, but it was also the recommendation of a number of locals we met. We had to try it out. La Brigada is quite an unassuming, if big, restaurant in San Telmo. It is covered in football memorabilia (another selling point - dinner under a Messi shirt) but still manages to be quite traditional rather than tacky. And they really did serve the best steak... ever. Vegetarians look away now...
Seems only fitting that our final Argentine photo should be a big hunk of meat.
So that was it. Hasta luego Buenos Aires, hola Londres. The next morning we took a taxi to the airport for our thirteen hour flight back to the UK. But the travelling doesn't stop there. We're off on a whistlestop tour of England - taking in such highlights as Leicester, Hull and Oxford on our way home. Because we can't face putting these backpacks down just yet...