San Telmo is one of the most historical areas in Buenos Aires.  I decided on Sunday afternoon to go check out their famous antiques fair with two girls from the hostel.  One, from Buenos Aires, knew a lot about the area and since we were all famished we decided eating would be first on the agenda – after being in Buenos Aires only a short time, I have found my mouth waters almost every day for meat (especially since there is no concept of brunch or a big breakfast on weekends here) so it was appropriate that we go to a great parilla (or barbeque).  We ended up at reknowned Parilla AB, a really neat place that despite being quite simple in decor (but also very authentic and hip with old 1950´s signage).  There was a bit of a wait so the three of us decided to walk the streets and the antique market to stave off our hunger.

Street performer at the San Telmo Sunday antiques market

The whole scene was so lively – we stopped for some roasted cashews that these two adorable old men were selling and then to watch a live tango band in the streets, complete with accordion, piano, and bass players it was quite an ensemble.  We stopped for a while to enjoy the music and to take some photos.  There were also some really interesting street performers along the way….particularly noteworthy, a guy wearing a business suit with briefcase in tow who posed in these frozen positions (both face and body) and it´s sort of hard to explain but his suit was fashioned in a way that made him look like he was running through a wind tunnel, curled up at the edges and his hair standing on its ends.   All I could think was who would have thought of that??  And even more, who would have thought it would be entertaining, but somehow I found myself intrigued and snapping photos like crazy as he jumped on mail boxes and garbage cans in all seriousness.  This was the first area other than the cementary that I visited in Buenos Aires where I heard lots of English being spoken and the streets seemed to be teaming with tourists toting expensive cameras, but the atmosphere was so lively I barely noticed it.

Late night samba drummers in the streets of San Telmo

Lunch started with a local dish recommended to us, called provaleta – a block of cheese that is grilled and sprinkled with herbs.  AMAZING…and once again I found myself scarfing down grilled cheese like in Brazil.  Next was grilled lomo (known here as one of the best cuts of meat) and of course mandatory fries.  I swear, I don´t understand how people here aren´t fat when almost every meat meal comes with fries or pure (mashed potatoes), never any vegetables, salad, or hearty grains.  We had a great time at lunch, talking mostly in Spanish which was great practice for me, while the girls practiced their English.  It was quite a cold day so we walked more in the streets, stopping to peruse some vendor stalls and then decided a coffee was called for to escape the cold.  The girls went to one of the many adorable cafes that line one of the main squares of the market, just as some of the vendors were starting to close up (again because of the cold!)  I went around to snap some last minute photos…I was sad many of the kiosks were closing as they had all sorts of odds and ends, whether religious paraphenalia or gaucho leather saddles and belts and lassos.  There were so many knick knacks and rare items it was hard to take it all in at once.  I rejoined the girls and we sat in the warm cafe for the next two hours, chatting about the stereotypes, rewards, and challenges of dating Latin men.  Let´s just say that if we didn´t have plans for later that night the conversation might have gone on for hours.

As we left the cafe, we ran right into an improptu samba band in the street.  None of us had any idea what the party was for, but some sort of partying was going on for sure.  It was quite a beautiful setting for photos – the cobblestoned streets, the orange street lamps just starting to turn on, a mass of people pounding away on their drums with a group of wild and drunk revellers that followed.  It is these kind of unexpected moments in a new city that can make it so interesting.  As we continued walking towards a main street to catch a cab, we encountered yet another crazy samba group marching the streets.  This time, a man stood at the front of the group wildly waving an enormous flag red, orange, and black flag – I still have no idea what for, but nevertheless an exciting experience!

Afterwards, we had a big celebration at our hostel for ¨el dia del amigo,¨ something I had never heard of until I came here.  I think it´s only a South American thing, not just Argentine, but basically it´s a day to celebrate friendship.  So in our hostel everyone drew names out of a hat and had to anonymously buy that person a small gift.  Everyone from the hostel came, so it ended up being something like 30 of us and really fun.  Lots of bottles of alcohol ended up making the gift list, and within an hour (and I´m still wondering who decided this would be a good idea) everyone dumped the bottles into a big plastic bin (hmmm used for water to mop the hostel floors, I´m not sure) –  Jack Daniels, vodka, Malbec, Cachaca, it all went in together.   It tasted like poison and the party that ensued certainly justified its potency.