I can’t believe this is my last Buenos Aires post. I do plan on continuing with this blog; I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experiences and don’t want to stop. So, this isn’t goodbye, however I will miss writing about this beautiful city, country, and continent (not that it will be my last time here).
It’s been a little over a week since I got back from Chile – a very strange, melancholy week. I’ve pretty much spent this time eating my feelings with the excuse that it’s the last time I’ll be able to eat at these amazing places. Izzi and I started out by trying something new and visiting Don Julio. Don Julio is considered the best steak house in Buenos Aires, which is saying a lot. It’s an absolute MUST when visiting, and since neither of us had been yet and our time was running out (sob), it seemed like a good idea. It turned out to be a very good idea. Many people talk about Don Julio as a quite expensive restaurant but, while I wouldn’t go there every week, I didn’t think it was expensive at all for the experience we had. First of all, they treated us like royalty, which is an enormous plus for my shameless ego. The wait staff was funny and sociable while still letting us enjoy our meal in peace. When it came time to pick which cut of meat we wanted and it became clear to them that neither of us had the slightest idea what we were talking about, they actually brought us back to see all the different cuts raw and explain the difference to us. Izzi and I both ended up getting flank steaks which was an amazing decision, though I’m sure all the cuts would have been amazing. I’ve noticed that in Buenos Aires they really tend to overcook their meat, which is surprising to me since the meat is such high quality. Usually when I’m in a restaurant I have to emphasize three times to the waitress/waiter that I want it rare…bloody…still mooing please. Here, when I asked for rare it came rare – a juicy, tender rare that made me think I was eating an animal I had never eaten before. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. At the end of the meal we were able to write on the label of our wine bottle and add it to the hundreds lining the walls of Don Julio – a little mark left by us at a Buenos Aires institution.
Izzi left Buenos Aires before me, just a couple days ago, and while her last day was very sad, it was also exceptionally lovely. We started by meeting up with Louis and Pierre, who had recently gotten back to Buenos Aires, for lunch and spent a long time chatting with them and hearing about the rest of their adventures in Bolivia before it was time to say goodbye. Although goodbyes are always rough, I was glad we got one last chance to see each other. Travel friendships are always so intense and wonderful, and the fact that you have to say goodbye so suddenly has always been rough for me. So, one extra meal all together seemed like such a gift. After we ate, though, the boys had to leave so we said goodbye for real and headed to Galería Patio del Liceo to make ourselves feel better. We had discovered this place through an Underart Tour, which brings you around the city to see underground art galleries and artist collectives. This had been our absolute favourite from the tour. Tucked away off Calle Santa Fe, this creative centre is filled with galleries and studios from all different types of designers and artists.
I gifted myself a napkin holder shaped like a sailboat (the napkins are the sail!) and we spent a lot of time gushing over all the beautiful prints, photos, and paintings in each shop.
Afterwards we decided to walk back to Palermo. It was a bit far but it was a beautiful day. As we were walking the sun was shining perfectly through the leaves and I remembered my first week here. I had been walking by myself, not having made any friends yet, and I had been smiling widely from ear to ear because I couldn’t believe how beautiful the trees were in this city. It had been a while since I had really noticed them, so Izzi and I walked in silence for a bit, just taking in the magic that they were brining to the streets. As we were walking, a bright blue bookstore caught our eye and we just had to go in.
The place had such a warm glow radiating out of it. As it turns out, that didn’t just have to do with the flawless lighting and interior design, but also the staff. The man who greeted us seemed absolutely delighted that we had entered his store. He asked us all about ourselves, and told us all about his store. He was truly passionate about the books that he had in stock. When I told him I study anthropology he was excited to show me his ethnography collection. He even gave Izzi a free book because it was her last day in the city. I am truly going to miss how open and cariñoso people here are. Librosref was amazing, but I’m not going to say that the way he treated us was rare. I find that people here really care about the other human beings they happen upon. When we left the shop it was time for Izzi and me to say goodbye. I knew it was going to be sad, but as she walked away I was truly heart broken. We had gotten to know each other so well so quickly, and I felt I had really found a friend that understood me. We had discovered so much that we had in common, it seemed unfair that we didn’t have more time to discover more.
I’ve also spent this week scouring the city for souvenirs and gifts to bring back with me. The best place to do that, of course, is Mercado San Telmo. Since I’m running a little low on friends still in the city I went alone. I was actually quite glad I did because it meant I could spend as much time as I wanted just wandering the streets doing what I do best – people watching. I watched old men drinking coffee in comfortable silence, I watched young Argentinian couples be very publicly in love, I watched amazing tango street shows, and of course, lots of dogs and babies. The little snapshot memories I tucked away for myself that day are worth a whole lot more than the nicknacks I picked up, though those are fun too.
However, the best souvenir I’ll be taking home with me from Buenos Aires is my new tattoo. I decided to get it done at Iris Tattoo because many of the artists there specialize in watercolour tattoos, which is the style I wanted. I made the appointment before leaving for my trip with Izzi and had decided on getting a crescent moon. While in Chile and Bolivia I fell in love with the idea even more as I watched the moon rise into the most beautiful night skies I’ve ever seen, linger into the sunrise, and smile at me from that upside-down type of angle it has down here. So, when I got back to Buenos Aires I was so in love that I knew I had made a very good decision as to what I wanted. It turned out perfectly, exactly as I had pictured it in my head, and I am thrilled that I will always have this reminder of the amazing things I have seen here.
Of course, I couldn’t leave Buenos Aires without giving myself one last art day. Unbelievably, I had yet to visit the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) and I just had to before I left. I am so glad I did. They have amazing pieces by Diego Rivera, Frida, and even Nora Borges, Jorge Louis’ little sister. It was also so much fun to see many of the pieces we had discussed in my Contemporary Argentinian Art class.
I was astounded when I saw a Berni piece in person. He’s an artist famous for the way he painted eyes, and they were just so much more powerful in person on that enormous canvas. Although he’s not quite as well known, I was excited to see an Alejandro Puentes, mostly because he’s inspired some of the ideas I have down in my sketchpad. It was really exciting to be able to recognize so many pieces and artist from memory and to really understand the value of what I was looking at and how much these physical objects in front of me had influenced Argentinian history.
My favourite, though, was an artist I had never heard of, since she is not Argentinian. Theresa Burga is a contemporary Peruvian artist who has two pieces in the MALBA I absolutely adored. The first one was called “Estructuras de Aire”(Structures of Aire). This was exactly the type of piece that I’m most into. I walked into a pitch black room… and I mean PITCH black. I couldn’t see a thing and spent the entire time walking around with my hands out in front of me so I wouldn’t run into any walls. At one point my eyes started playing tricks on me and I thought I would be walking towards a wall when in fact I wasn’t even close. The things I saw in the total dark could have been the piece itself, but there was another dimension. Out of nowhere bursts of air would shoot out of the ground or the walls or the ceiling at me. This was amazing because since I was so deprived of visual stimuli I felt the coolness of the air much more than I otherwise would have and it felt absolutely beautiful. I could have stayed in there forever except some genius came in with their cell phone flashlight on so I decided to leave.
Her second piece was called “obra que desaparece cuando el espectador trata de acercarse” (piece that disappears as the spectator tries to get closer) which is exactly what it sounds like.
I had to wait for the people who were in the room to leave before I was allowed to go in. When I did, I was confronted by a brilliant piece made of neon lights. I loved being in there by myself with the lights; it was quite surreal. As I walked towards it, censors in the walls made each ring of colour disappear one at a time until by the time I reached the line in front of the piece, there was no piece left. I had a lot of fun walking backwards watching the piece light up then forwards again watching it disappear. Honestly, though, just standing there looking at the glowing colours was beautiful as well.
And now, well, now it’s my last day. My bags are all packed and I’m sitting in a very empty room typing out my goodbye message. It’s actually quite a sad image. Tonight, though, I get the perfect Argentinian goodbye. River is playing so the friends still around are coming over to watch the fútbol game, and then we’re making a big Asado. I couldn’t ask for a better last Argentinian supper.
What will I miss the most about being here? I’ll miss the way the sunlight shines off of the church in Plaza Maya very early in the morning. I’ll miss being in a place where everyone is always willing to talk, to share their story and to hear yours. I’ll miss the lively Palermo bars and watching the sun come up as I walk home from them. I’ll miss this house, especially the cat. This time has gone by so fast. At least I know that I’ve filled it with amazing adventures, seen things I never imagined could be so wonderful, and met people who have changed the way I see the world, definitely for the better.
Ciao Buenos Aires, querido.