Plaster crumbling from colorful old buildings, rusty iron balconies, black and white tile all cracked and broken, tropical plants so big they might be monsters. These are some of the things you see when you look into the a hidden courtyard in Buenos Aires. These things transport you to another world, a time of the past, and give you a glimpse at what Argentina might really be like: quiet, nostalgic, and somewhat falling apart.
After our time in Patagonia, we headed up to Buenos Aires to enjoy the last few days of our vacation. On our first day there, we quickly discovered that the streets of Buenos Aires are quite different from these whispering courtyards. Instead the streets are bustling and modern, with black and yellow taxis zipping by and people, young and old, walking swiftly to unknown destinations. Perhaps they’re on their way to a corner cafe to have a coffee or to an afternoon meeting in the hectic micro-center.
Or maybe they’re just on an afternoon stroll through one of Buenos Aires’ beautiful neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character.
My favorite neighborhoods were San Telmo and Recoleta. San Telmo is located just south of the city center and has a sort of alternative flair, with lots of run down restaurants and antique shops. Peek into any storefront and you might see hundreds of crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. The neighborhood is also the home of a huge the San Telmo market, which occupies an entire city block and is a great place to buy antiques of all kinds, as well as leather goods, fresh veggies, and delicious sandwiches.
Recoleta, on the other hand is quite different from San Telmo. It’s a beautiful residential neighborhood famous for it’s Parisian-style architecture and many green spaces. We loved strolling through the heart of Recoleta, a series of central plazas full of people selling artisan crafts, street musicians, jugglers, and many residents and tourists relaxing on the grass for a picnic or a bit of yerba mate.
The trees in these plazas are especially amazing. Right when we stepped out of the cab we saw a beautiful group of rubber trees. We went over to take a look at it only to discover that it was one monstrous tree. I later learned that this famous tree, nicknamed Gran Gomero, has branches that span over 150 feet. Huge!
We also enjoyed strolling through the Recoleta cemetery, which is big enough to get lost in, and were amazed at the size of the mausoleums, each one bigger than the next. Many were falling apart from years of neglect.
It seems that every block of Buenos Aires has five cafes. We also appreciated that. We spent hours sipping coffees, trying new apperitivos, and people watching, as we tried to decipher what Buenos Aires is really about. We only spent three nights there, not enough to figure it out, but we were definitely enchanted, both by the busy streets and the mysterious courtyards within them.
Perhaps one day we’ll return to discover a little bit more about what Buenos Aires really is.