Stacy in Antarctica

An adventure to the frozen continent

Nov 6th – Markets

I got up this morning to find my guesthouse buddy Karina on the phone with a look of despair on her face. Last night she had lost her wallet in the back of a taxi while traveling to Palermo to meet some new friends for dinner. Her distress was amplified by the fact that she was bound for Puerto Iguazu in the morning and her credit card company was giving her all kinds of headaches about her location in the coming days and where to send her new credit cards.

Our plan for the day was to visit the San Telmo markets to check out the local fare and watch some impromptu tango. Ana had informed us that a local tango star who had gotten too old for the business (over the age of 35 seems to signal the end of a dancer’s career) decided to start bringing a portable stereo and his dancing shoes to the market, where he performed in the evenings after 6pm to a crowd of appreciative shoppers. Ana had also told me about the Feria de Mataderos, which is also classed as a “must see” weekend market. This market is located in the outer suburbs of Buenos Aires and has some interesting displays of skill by the local Gaucho horsemen. My only problem what that it would take almost an hour to travel there and I find no pleasure in traveling on a tight schedule, especially when I have to find my way there and back again via public transport.

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Instead I decided to take it easy and go hang out in the café across the road for a few hours, drinking coffee (café con leche) and eating tasty Argentinian pastries. It also gave me a bit of time to go through the mass of photos I had accumulated over the past few days and begin putting together some details of my trip for this blog. After a few hours of taking in the local atmosphere my bladder got the better of me and I promptly lost my prime people-watching position on the sidewalk to another casual diner. I decided my next venture would be to the local supermarket to procure an assortment of foods that did not come covered in sugar or filled with dulce du leche. There I found some crackers, cheese, roast chicken and a delightful package full of mixed salad greens that made my mouth water for all things wholesome and nutritious. While I love a good sugary feed I find that after almost a week of nothing else my cravings wander to more fibrous entities. I bought these home and ate a late lunch while Karina finished her negotiations with her bank, agreeing to pick up a large cash advance from the local Western Union over what seemed to be an endless complication around the delivery of a replacement credit card. I made a mental note to never lose my wallet while overseas (coz all those people who do we’re planning on it right?).

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At around 5pm we decided to cruise down to San Telmo on a local bus (we knew which one to catch after Friday night). It appeared that we had chosen a fairly good time to arrive as the “colossal” crowds we had been promised had thinned out to a more manageable mass and we got to have a look at the street vendors’ wares with relative ease. I found myself a hand-carved mate cup that I simply had to have and admired some of the hand-made jewellery and leather goods on display. I would have loved to have brought more things but I had a large portion of my vacation left, including five more internal flights to catch, and didn’t want to over-burden myself with goods.

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We found the small square where the tango show was being held and pushed our way into the crowd to have a better look. The performance was quite enjoyable and may have even been educational if I could understand a word of Spanish. After about 30 minutes the dancers stopped for a break and passed their hat around for donations, which I appreciatively gave. Karina and I decided to wander through the markets some more as people were beginning to pack up. Throughout the streets we found some entertaining street performers, including one group of drummers who put on quite a performance while people danced around them to the beat. It was beginning to get dark and many of the vendors were packing their goods away so we walked back to the Plaza de Mayo to find our bus to take us back home.

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Karina had specifically refrained from purchasing anything at the market because she had just enough cash remaining to buy herself a bowl of helado from our local shop. We stood and agonized over our choices for quite some time before I decided on chocolate mousse, crème caramel and mascarpone flavours. She went with the chocolate mousse, hazelnut and coffee. We both sat outside in the cool evening air and enjoyed our helado, while envying the other’s choices. It made for a picture perfect ending to a pretty horrible day for Karina and I was happy to have enjoyed it with her.

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