I made plans to travel to Buenos Aires Argentina in the summer of 2005. The excitement of finally doing it, (not just researching on the internet), was just as much a part of the experience as the trip itself. Following months of anticipation we departed for two weeks on a Sunday in mid October. We flew from Denver to Mexico City on Mexicana Airlines, and after a day in Mexico City we took the overnight flight to Buenos Aires. I was impressed with Mexicana’s service. We were provided a full dinner and breakfast the next morning, and given booties for our feet, toothbrushes, real blankets, and eye shades for sleeping.
After an 11 hour flight with intermittent sleep we descended into the city as the sun was rising over the Atlantic. Ezezia Airport is located about 35 miles west of Buenos Aires and handles all international flights. A smaller airport in the city handles domestic flights and flights to nearby countries in South America. We landed, cleared customs, and walked into our new home for the next two weeks. Paul, who owns the hostel we made arrangements at, was nice enough to send a cab to pick us up. After some searching we located a gentleman holding a sign bearing my name, (another first experience). We cruised through the suburbs of Buenos Aires on a modern toll road, and 40 minutes later were in the heart of the city. I had no idea what to expect other than through photographs and reading about the city. As we exited the autopista (toll road), and headed north on Callao it was complete sensory overload seeing the hectic streets. It was symphony of people, taxis, cars, busses. I feel completely comfortable in big cities and have spent a lot of time in Chicago and Los Angeles, but never in a city and environment this dense before.
I had researched some hostels in the area through the internet, and about a month prior to our trip I booked a room at the Southern House Hostel in the Recoleta neighborhood. Their web site looked great and they were helpful over the phone, but about a week after I made the reservations they e-mailed me to say they were remodeling and would not be open. I went back to the internet to start hunting again, and found the El Sol Hostel in Barrio Norte, in the same area we wanted to be in. I chatted with the owner Paul a few times, and we had a new home for our stay.
At the El Sol hostel we met Paul, an Argentine originally from Los Angeles. Paul immediately made us feel welcome, helped us get our bearings in the city, and gave us some restaurant tips to start. My sense of being totally overwhelmed, (attributed partly to flying all night with limited sleep), soon eased. The hostel is on the third floor of an old building, and up two beautiful marble staircases with iron railings. We had a great room overlooking the corner of Montevideo and Marcelo T.
We had a private room with bathroom, and a great balcony which I spent hours on over the next two weeks just watching people rushing about. Paul made our entire trip a wonderfully positive experience, and I’d recommend his accomodations to anyone. We got settled in, showered, and had a late lunch at a nearby restaurant.
That evening I went our for a walk by myself. Counting on my keen navigation skills and knowledge from studying the map, I boarded the D line subway, and went two stops up to Pueyrredon. I wandered around, amazed at how many business and shops are on just one block alone. I live in a downtown neighborhood considered dense by American standards, but this was more than I’d ever seen.
Dusk was in full swing as I started to walk back to the hostel. My confidence tricked me, and I realized I had walked seven blocks in the wrong direction. I soon discovered every street corner has a large seven foot high sign with both street names and block number on the corner, so it is easy so see at a glance which way you’re walking. By the second day we were pros, and had our neighborhood and general layout of the northwest side of town down.