Buenos Aires Day 2 – San Telmo

Sleep came easy last night but didn’t stay around long. Even with the window open I could not get the room cool enough. The three hour nap I took yesterday probably didn’t help. Regardless I woke a little after 7 mostly refreshed. I grabbed a quick breakfast in the lounge after dressing. The coffee isn’t great. My motivation to hit the road was clear.

I stripped my Red Oxx bag down, then refilled it with the essentials only. Well, the essentials accompanied by the MacBook Air. Once I started walking I thought I made a huge mistake. My left foot was cramping within 100 feet of the hotel. Not a good sign.

I walked through the pain, then put the big bag over the left shoulder. That counterintuitively made my foot feel better. The MBA ended up a good move early on. The SD card in the camera ran out of space after 5 pictures. Apparently I hadn’t emptied that one. I found a cafe, ordered a cafe americano, and started to import the pictures.

The funny thing is that these pictures are from almost exactly one year ago on Parris Island, South Carolina during the 4th of July fireworks.

Here in San Telmo they have a huge open air market on Sundays. I thought I might have left for it too early, but as I climbed the slope towards Av. Defensa I saw many stalls already set up and others in various states of construction.

I read that Buenos Aires has a lot of graffiti. It is true. Almost every building I passed once out of Puerto Madero had at least some paint on it. Quite a bit talks about the Great Britain v Argentina over the Faukland Islands (Malvinas to the locals). It is safe to say there are some strong opinions on the topic. I meant to grab a photo of it on my walks but forgot. Oh, well. I figure I’ll have plenty of opportunity.

The coffee in the shop is good so I grabbed another cup before venturing out.

The market fair runs for over a mile on Av. Defensa. Hundreds of little stalls line the street. By peak market time moving was measured in inches as the crowd filled the narrow gap. There was no formal structure to how things were laid out, at least to my untrained eye. Artists seemed to be in the same area, as were musical instrument salesmen, leather workers, and antiques. By no means were they concentrated. I was most impressed by the quality and variety of the leather goods. Belts, bags, shoes, hats, and on seemed to be well made and a bargain. Next time I’ll be prepared.

Music was everywhere. Several bands and solo acts played on the avenue and side streets. Several other booths played music from local bands. One CD I had to pick up has a cover of Joy Division on it. And the cover was really, really good. I wanted to get all of them, but my on-hand cash cache wouldn’t accommodate.

There was one stall that had an absurd fascination with the Batman movies. Several banners of both modern Jokers hung throughout. It was creepy and out of place.

I heard an assortment of languages on the strip – English (American, British, Australian), Spanish, French, Russian (maybe it was Ukrainian), Mandarin Chinese, and Portuguese.

There were several off-shoots of the main drag that offered more of the same. The special parts were the grills cooking sausages and beef and all kinds of interesting fare. I had a beef and chorizo sandwich for lunch, then a pork empenada later for a snack. Roving barristas with metal coffee urns strapped on, tacos and burritos dispensed from makeshift stands of stacked Iglo coolers, and others handing out what little delicacy they had all seemed to make a brisk business.

At one of my beer stops there was a beautiful woman sitting at the table next to me. I smiled at her. She smiled at me. It turned out that she knew a little English and wanted to try it out. We talked for a bit. Her English was only slightly better than my Spanish, but we made a go of it. I asked her to join me at my table. I ordered another round for both of us. She expressed surprised that I was buying her drink. She said that doesn’t normally happen in Buenos Aires. A little later a guy showed up, touched her shoulder, then went inside the bar. She said “boyfriend” and my face must have dropped a bit. She pouted a second, gave me a kiss, said thank you for the beer, and headed inside. It was the best date I’d had in months.

It took several passes up and down the avenue before I picked up everything I wanted for gifts. A few times I took breaks for more coffee or beer. My foot went from almost tear inducing to downright tolerable. Six hours on and I was ready to head back to the hotel for a rest.

As I walked back a man came running up to me. He pointed at my leg. I told him I don’t speak Spanish, so of course he spoke more Spanish to me. I told him thank you and continued on, but he was insistent. Turns out there was thick chocolate milk all over my back and down my trousers. It was on my bags. It was a mess.

I could see the Hilton from where I was. I tried to tell the man I would take care of it at the hotel but he was instant that I follow him down some side street. A woman came up and tried to get me to go with them. While they seemed very nice there was nothing about the situation I liked. I am almost certain that 10 minutes before I had no milk on me. I know that 30 minutes before there was none as I had removed my coat to put my sweater on.

I  suspect the man poured the milk on me on purpose, but never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by happenstance or stupidity. I did note how the locals slung their backpacks over their fronts while the tourists (not me) didn’t.

I kept pushing on for the hotel while the couple kept trying to have me go down an alleyway for water.

Interestingly, when I told the woman I am from Detroit she looked concerned. She said something very fast to the man. They both said goodbye and hopped the bus. They definitely knew each other when they left.

When I got back to my room I assessed the damage. I ended up sending the trousers, blazer, and shirt to the laundry. I think it’s a 50/50 shot that they’re ruined. We’ll see tomorrow. The rest of me has a distinctive grilled meat smell about me. I find it intoxicating, though it keeps making me hungry.

Meanwhile I took a quick nap, and now I am back in the lounge enjoying a beverage before dinner. I was planning on doing dinner back in San Telmo, but the day was cooler than yesterday and there is a brisk wind. I’ll stay close as I am without a coat. There’s a steak place over by the harbor recommended to me twice. I’m actually not that hungry at the moment, but I’m sure once the calorie burn fully registers I’ll be famished.

Over on the lounge couches a few fellow Americans are debating TGI Friday’s or Burger King for dinner. Sad.

For me, tomorrow brings new barrios and a wine tasting!