Buenos Aires and La Plata

La Plata

We arrived in Buenos Aires after a flight that lasted 5 in-flight movies, plus sleep time, (Abu Dhabi-Qatar-San Paulo-Buenos Aires). The flight got in at night and the first thing that struck us was how friendly the immigration officer was. What we didn’t realise was he was buttering us up because he knew what was waiting the other side, i.e. nothing, that’s to say no bags, there was a baggage handlers strike on. Luckily David had organised a driver to pick us up and so Lorena and the boys went on ahead and I stayed behind to try and sort the luggage out. Four hours later I gave up, but not after marveling at the police’s lack of intervention when the disgruntled passengers started an impromptu demonstration and making friends with a dude who was worried because his weed was stashed in his missing suitcase…

Right away I knew this was my kind of country…

Mom and Danny didn't waste any time getting up the trees
Mom and Danny didn’t waste any time getting up the trees
The park in downtown La Plata
The park in downtown La Plata

Anyway La Plata is what it says it is, a pleasant student city, and we had plenty to do here on the days we were in town, there were parks, markets, museums and places to eat and drink. And after a couple of days we got the bags back and a little compensation cheque from the airline so all was sweet…

The natural history museum in La Plata is a cracker
The natural history museum in La Plata is a cracker

What did surprise me in La Plata was that there was no sign of the terrible flooding that had happened earlier that year and life had picked up again as normal.

David is a student and we visited his student mates in their sparsely furnished house (they had one chair), Tommy even had a night staying with them on his own and got up to all sorts of shenanigans.

Tommy and Chelo get arty
Tommy and Chelo get arty
Painting the garden mural
Painting the garden mural

We even had the obligatory back garden fire sing song and the whole thing took me back about twenty years, although I have to say it was nice to visit but I wouldn’t like to live there.

Feeding the flames
Feeding the flames
Students who struggle to feed themselves have cats
Students who struggle to feed themselves have cats
Warpaint
Warpaint

Once again messing around with mates (even new ones) proved to be more fun than visiting stuff that costs a lot of money, I guess we are hard wired to be curious about each other and without getting too mawkish I always seem to learn something when I hang out with somebody new.

Buenos Aires

After La Plata we went on a big drive-about (which you can read about elsewhere here), before finishing off our trip with two weeks in Buenos Aires.The city that’s more famous for its non-kid based fun than anything else, may not have seemed on paper the ideal destination for a family. But the friendliness of the Portenios and the variety of street life kept us all entertained.

We stayed at a friend’s place in Palermo Soho, near the Plaza Serrano, it was a two bedroom apartment with enough room for all seven of us. If you don’t know Palermo it’s a tourist hang out that’s not just for tourists, it’s in South America but feels European and is famed for its nightlife but is buzzing in the day.

The apartment in Buenos Aires was two minutes walk from the Plaza Serrano with all ts bars and cafes.

We did sample the nightlife, but it was a bit of a mainstream tourist type crowd for my taste. In the afternoon though we went every day we weren’t on a trip, just to hang out in the playground slap bang in the middle of the square. And if the kids are a bit older you can leave them to their own devices while you get a quick beer/coffee at one of the bars not ten metres from said playground.

There’s also a little market, which seemed to running most afternoons where you could pick up bargains like the Mexican wrestling masks pictured below and listen to a busker or two.

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We also had the mother-in-law on babysitting duties so we were able to sample some BA nightlife round about, including a FANTASTIC Puerta Cerrada restaurant that was great value for money, even if turning up at someones house is a bit odd, it didn’t take long to feel at home and in this case me and the missus had a table for two so we didn’t have make conversation with the bright and beautiful. If you’re not familiar with the puerta cerrada concept, then check out this link. It’s basically when you go to a chef’s house for dinner rather than a restaurant, and where you could end up on a communal table or as in our case a more restaurant like deal with separate tables.

We rounded that particular night off with a trip to a BA Gay Bar for a top drag show with lots of audience participation from the poisoned tongued diva hostess. Still after mercilessly ribbing me and Lorena (individually and as a couple), I was amazed after the show to see a small chap chatting to Lorena when I got back from the loo, who turned out to be the self same drag queen come to apologize!

Just up the road from Palermo you can find two other kid friendly spots, the El Jardin Japones  and the Buenos Aires Zoo. The gardens are what they say, ornamental Japanese gardens where you can sit in relative peace and quiet and have a coffee and let the kids (at least the older ones), explore a bit.The Zoo is a good one by South American standards and the kids can feed the Maras roaming free. It’s good value for money overall and you can spend the whole day.

We explored some other barrios, stating with the market of San Telmo , which as you can see from the link is one of the most famous bits of BA. It was on the busy side which is a bit stressful with younglings, but there was lots of cool stuff to look at street performers and something for everyone to buy with mom and dad’s money.

So as long as the kids are not toddlers it’s worth a day, to check out the free street entertainment and and buy the kind of stuff you would never find in a shopping mall. And as the sun goes down the crowds dispersed and we sat and chilled with a coffee and listened to a street drum collective.

The other can’t miss neighbourhood is La Boca . Again there are loads of blogs that will tell you everything you need to know, but suffice to say, despite the reputation for the place being a bit dodgy, during the day and on the main drag it was fantastic. There was tango on every corner, and loads of ways to spend you cash on must have souvenirs……

And of course don’t miss out on the opportunity to get your picture taken with La Mano de Dios and if you are a footy fan perhaps consider a tour of La Bombonera. Again if the kids are tiny take a buggy, but ours were old enough to enjoy the music and just about manage the walking.

Another big curiosity for me was the reception I would receive as a Brit and the answer is overwhelmingly positive. It probably helps that I’m a Spanish speaker, but even so, Argentines seem to see the whole Falklands issue as pure politics and take people as they find them. The acid test came on a trip to the Casa Rosada and the Plaza de Mayo  where Argentines go to voice their opinions about what they think is wrong with the country (which seems to be quite a lot). When found a group of Falklands veterans  in the square protesting for the right to a veteran’s pension  and it seemed like a good opportunity to explain to Tommy what the war was about so we went over for a chat. When the chaps were talking to found out I was British they were polite and friendly and in fact had positive things to say, so once again it just goes to show wars are for the politicians. And by the way the square is a good pigeon feeding spot….

Would I rush back to BA with kids? As I said there’s plenty keep them busy but the highlights of Argentina are definitely to be found outside the big cities if you’re with your family.