Before leaving Puerto Iguazú, Gog and I scrambled to find a place to stay in Buenos Aires. Grabbing the first decent place that offered live online booking, we got a room at a little boutique hotel chain called Urban Suites in Recoleta, which seems to be one of Buenos Aires’ nicest, most upscale neighborhoods.
On the flight to BA, an American–sounding Dad and his two sons sat in the row behind us. The kids were loud and obnoxious in the airport terminal, so I feared the worst. Sure enough, shortly after take-off, the kids lowered their tray tables and started pounding on them like orangutans. Gog was sitting in front of Dad, so he didn’t feel anything.
Dad was teaching them how to play poker, and they’d slam the table every time they were dealt a card. I exhibited unusual patience, but finally, I turned and explained that they were shaking my chair, politely asking them to stop. And they did stop. For five minutes. It took everything I had not to have a meltdown.
The land around BA is flat, with a dull gray haze reaching out to the horizon. We landed in the smaller airport near the city center, with BA’s downtown buildings zooming by as we touched down.
Our taxi driver to Recoleta was very friendly, though he spoke hardly any English. He was ashamed, telling us that the fact that his daughter is an English professor makes him want to kill himself. With Gog’s translation help, he told us a little about himself and BA and even warned us to look out for counterfeit money, which is apparently a pretty big problem.
We checked into our hotel and got settled in our snazzy room. There don’t seem to be a lot of guys our age traveling together, and I get the impression that hotel receptionists are assuming Gog and I are gay. A few times now, we’ve had to specify that we want two beds instead of one queen-size bed. And I think that other travelers also assume we’re gay. We’ve had to set the record straight a few times.
The hotel is great, especially the rooftop view across La Recoleta Cemetery and Buenos Aires. The ocean, visible in the distance, is disappointingly brown.
The only thing not so wonderful about the hotel is the exorbitant price for laundry. They have an itemized price sheet, with a pair of shorts costing US$5 to wash. And it goes up from there. We’re going to have to find a Laundromat.
Craving nightlife and English conversation after four days in quiet, non-touristy towns, Gog and I headed to BA’s in trendy Palermo neighborhood for dinner and drinks. We sat a place called Cronico Bar, which was ornately decorated, colorfully lit, and packed with people. We did some people watching. My initial impression is that girls in Argentina are not was well endowed as Brazilians but thinner, lighter-skinned, and more uniform-looking.
Gog and I walked around a bit, finding most of Palermo’s people in restaurants and on patios, sipping wine and having their own conversations. Mingling would involve breaking into a conversation and interrupting, which obviously doesn’t feel right.
We walked into Macondo Bar, filled with tables of people engrossed in their own little conversations. There was a real bar in there, but it seemed more like a service bar than anything. We got a couple of drinks and relaxed for a few minutes before a transvestite grabbed a microphone, bounced around a bit, and made a spectacle of him/herself to jazz up the crowd.
A little frustrated at the lack of a real bar scene and a chance to meet the locals, Gog and I headed back to Recoleta. Before turning in, I pulled Gog into Newport Pub, next to our hotel, for one last drink. Inside were lots of beautiful women. Heading to the bar to get a drink, Gog and I were getting a lot of attention. Had we found the Holy Grail of Buenos Aires?
Two of the girls came over and introduced themselves. Laura, a local with impressive boobs and decent English, took an immediate shine to me, while her less attractive friend started talking to Gog. We told the girls that we were a bit worn out from our day of traveling, and they asked us if we wanted some speed. Gog and I thanked them but declined. Gog and I offered to buy the girls a drink, and one of them wanted speed, so it was then that we figured out that Speed is a drink like Red Bull. We sat at a table and made smalltalk. Laura explained that she was from just outside of town and that she was in town for work.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. A young guy came in and set up shop at the urinal next to me. Straining like he was trying to shit out a watermelon, I thought the guy was going to have an aneurysm getting a few drops out. I completed my own urination without issue.
When I got back to the table, I heard Gog telling his friend that she was free to go talk to other guys if she wanted to. I disregarded the somewhat dickish comment and continued chatting with Laura. She expressed concern that Gog and her friend were not getting along but said that she was still interested in me. And that to have her for the night, it would only cost me 500 Argentine pesos (about US$130).
Everything made sense. When I told Laura that I had no idea that she was “working,” she explained that every girl in that bar was “working.” It was a hookeria. I felt like an idiot for not figuring it out sooner.
Gog and I were done. Heading out, the guy with the prostate problems took the stage in the back of the bar and started singing with his band. While I had at least passed the evening talking to an attractive woman, Gog was pissed that he had been stuck with a “lagoon creature.”
This morning, we had brunch at an outdoor cafe near our hotel called La Biela and ran some errands, dropping our stinky clothes at a Laundromat a few blocks from our hotel. We also toured the famous La Recoleta Cemetery, with rows and rows of giant tombs and the resting place for some of Argentina’s former leaders and elite. The most famous grave belongs to Eva Perón, popularly known as Evita. It took some reading and historical photos to replace Madonna’s image from my head with the real Evita.
Despite last night’s adventure, I get a pretty good vibe from BA. It seems stylish, friendly, and safe. And the weather has been perfect. Four days of hiking in the oppressive humidity of Salvador and Iguazu Falls has gotten the better of us, so I think we’re going to skip side trips to Córdoba and Mendoza and just chill out here for a few days. Gog and I are looking forward to some relaxation.