A long weekend in BA

The last weekend in November brought with it a “dia feriado” or public holiday on the Monday, making it a long weekend.  Nobody really knew what the day was for, but apparently Cristina (Kirchner, la Presidenta) has given a lot of new public holidays in the last year, and the locals are not complaining.  It’s a day off after all and, as it turns out, was National Sovereignty Day.

I started my weekend with a trip to a nearby Market, or Feria Itinerante, that pops up each Saturday in Plaza Almagro not too far from where I’m living.  It was a small market, with only a couple of fruit and vege stalls, a poultry stand, a cheese stall, a health food stand, and a few other small vendors.  It was popular with the locals, and they formed an orderly line along the fence, patiently waiting their turn to be served by the fruit and vege man.  Very different to the “dollar bag, dollar bag” mayhem at the South Melbourne market!  I recognised a couple of stalls from another Feria Itinerante I had visited a couple of weeks before on a Sunday in a different location.  The produce was fresh, well presented and, by our standards, cheap!  I also found some nice, simple and natural muesli at the Health Food stand and stocked up.

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20121215-143622.jpgI love a good market, so after dropping my goodies off at home, I set off to explore another market, the BA Open Air market.  Focusing on organic and health food, it is held (apparently) one Saturday a month in the Bosques de Palermo, part of the large, public green space that is a popular spot for Porteños to get out into the fresh air every weekend.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and I caught the “colectivo” to the zoo then walked down to the Open Air market from there.  There were people everywhere, and a lot of colourful food stalls, most of which were serving deliciously healthy ready-to-eat food, which was great because I was hungry after my walk.  It was hot (what’s new) and I was also thirsty, so I grabbed a “limonada con jengibre” (traditional lemonade with ginger) and did a circuit to check out the available options.  There was such a variety of food, and all with a healthy twist – soy empanadas, vegetable tortas, different types of bruschetta, vegetable quesadillas, wholegrain muffins and cookies, vegie burgers, bruleed cheese on a stick.  OK, I’m not so sure about the health benefits of this last one – slabs of cheese that they “bruleed” with a little blowtorch like you would, well, a creme brulee – but I guess at least they didn’t deep fry it!  There were tables set up down the middle of the market, and I chose an irresistible looking chickpea burger on wholemeal bread served with a range of accompaniments including a light spiced carrot puree, peas, and sprouts, and found myself a little corner of table in the shade.  Delicious, and I felt like I was eating something that was really good for me, and topping up the vegie quota after so much protein in this city.

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There were also a lot of stalls sampling and selling their products to take home – the usual range of olive oils, preserves, and cheeses, organic wines and beers, and a variety of other goodies.  My favourite was a stall with premixed spice grinders and a yummy chilli sauce by a woman called Narda Lepes, who I’ve since found out is an established chef and one of the organisers of the Feria Masticar.  With her face on the label of her products, she reminded me of “our Marion” back home.

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After my time in the open air market, I took a little walk through the beautiful Rosedal, the Rose Garden.  It’s beautiful green and manicured, and has a little canal and lake in it with some very ornate bridges.  On the day I was there, it seemed a popular spot, particularly for boy and girl scouts, and for young couples wanting to express there affection by the waterside.  Public Displays of Affection are a common pastime in BA and nobody is going to let a group of scouts get in their way.

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Outside the Rose Garden there are many walking and bike tracks, and there were people everywhere, exercising in some form – running, riding, using the fitness circuit, roller blading, etc.  I ended up walking most of the way home, quite a way, which deserved a well-earned afternoon siesta on the couch.

After my nap, I freshened up and headed out to check out what has been lauded as BA’s one true, authentic Mexican restaurant, La Fabrica de Tacos.  As predicted, there was a line out the door but, being one person often has its advantages and I was seated straight away in the bar area.  As much as I’d been picturing a nice margarita to go with my tacos, the Happy Hour special of the day was a Kiwi Daquiri and I was converted. The restaurant had a “trompo”, much like what is used for souvlakis, cooking meat for the Tacos al Pastor, and a couple of different hot sauces available on the table.  The service was slow, even slower than the crowd may have warranted, but the tacos were tasty and the drink refreshing.

20121215-143801.jpgAfter dinner, I went to a nearby bar, Sheldon, where the Happy Hour (which run for about 6 hours here, if they ever finish at all!) Cocktail was a “Caipicuya” – a deliciously refreshing passionfruit caipirinha.  I managed to secure a little couch seat in the corner of their leafy courtyard, and past the time enjoying my drink and the beautiful evening.

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The next day, I was up and out to take a trip to Mataderos and then had plans in the evening (can you call it “evening” when you know you won’t go out until close to midnight?) with some local girls, Gi and Andy, that I’d been put in touch with by a mutual friend.  That definitely required a “pre-match” siesta.

Sure enough, the girls swung by and picked me up in a taxi at about 1.30am, and we went straight to a nightclub in Palermo, Rosebar.  The girls had a name that they dropped at the door which, if you got there “early” (before 2am), gets you in free and gives vouchers for free food and a free drink.  The club was large, and there were a few people there already, but it wasn’t close to full yet.  There was some outside seating and we sat outside, enjoyed the fresh night air and caught up over our drinks since it was the first time we’d met.  Once the crowd started to build, we went back inside to dance for a while.  When we came back outside again, it had been raining and the night had cooled off and, with the sun starting to light up the horizon, we decided to call it a night.  With a lot of people having the same idea, it was a little hard to get a cab at first, but I was soon home and ready for bed … at 7am!

At 11am, I dragged myself awake to go and have lunch with some American friends I had met here, Tony and Scott, who were leaving that day.  I met them at a nice, health focused cafe in Palermo, BBlue, for a salad filled sandwich and a nutritious juice.  It’s close to my new yoga class, so has since become a regular juice or lunch stop.  They had just come back from Mendoza and had a couple of cartons of wine specially packed to take back to California.  They also had a couple of stray bottles that they didn’t want to have to carry back with them so, lucky me, I was the recipient of two lovely bottles of Argentine red. Thanks guys!

After saying goodbye to them, I spent some of the afternoon wandering around Plaza Palermo Viejo.  Although it was Monday, being a day off, it was just like a Sunday, with market stalls set up around the plaza, families out in full force enjoying the day, and musicians and buskers entertaining the crowds.  A nice way to end an enjoyable long weekend.  Thanks Cristina!

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