Friday, 17 July 2009

Toby Goes Bananas In BA

You feel you could be in an Italian or Spanish city when walking around Buenos Aires. While it's pretty in parts, I was expecting it to be a little more photogenic if I'm honest. I'd been told it was a bigger, better Barcelona...but in a week I saw nothing to rival that fine Catalonian city.

The Argentinians are a funny lot; they certainly think they're above the rest of South America (from what other South Americans have told me, and from personally-observed behaviour) and the porteños of the capital deem themselves la creme de la creme. But to walk around the place, you wonder why they have this superior attitude. It has a run-down feel to the place, both in its dirty buildings and its faded residents. Riding the tube trains almost gives you a sense of being in an Eastern European country like Hungary; bad strip-lighting, drearily-dressed passengers and the sombre mood of the downtrodden. I felt much happier above ground. Argentina has suffered economically in the last couple of decades, and maybe its slow recovery has something to do with its people's outlook. Or maybe I should have just visited in summer?

We met up with Toby, an ex-colleague of mine and Jocky's from a few years past. He moved out here 4-5 years ago, and has not looked back. He was certainly laidback when we met him, and the life seemed to be suiting him. Apparently he doesn't socialise a lot in the city, as he works from home, and he told me when his girlfriend is out with her friends he still has trouble following the conversations. I understand completely what he means, as I learned some Spanish before coming out, but comprehending someone's responses is far more difficult than asking the questions in the first instance.

Obviously, having three lads from home around was going to lead to a big night out. Toby's BA decorum soon started slipping (you can take the boy out of England, after all...) as we got stuck into the beers and the Mojitos, and he insisted on dragging us to the main pick-up joint frequented by porteños wanting a foreign man. I got wind of the kind of club it would be when Tobes asked a couple of girls directions and they giggled as they pointed it out. It wasn't a bad place, though. We got steadily drunker, and Toby was scanning the room for likely girls, insisting we weren't leaving the city without pulling a couple. Despite our protestations, he wandered over to the next table and insisted the girls joined us; they weren't really our cup of tea, or us theirs for that matter...and didn't speak a word of English. They soon left as conversation stalled. We lost Tobes on the way out...we headed for a taxi, and he headed upstairs. After waiting outside for a while, we decided he'd get himself home as he was a local now. I think he enjoyed a good old-fashioned boys night out, and any excuse to continue. He got home in one piece, though...I checked the next morning.

The one place you must visit in the city is Recoleta Cemetary, the resting place of the well-heeled and famous of Buenos Aires. Evita is buried here, but her tomb was a bit of a let-down compared to some of the others we saw. Can't have liked her that much...

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