The bathroom fiasco on the way back from Tigre did not turn out to be an isolated incident. I went to bed with a stomachache that night and woke up the next day with a worse one. Was it the food? Maybe. But I had mainly eaten well cooked meat, cheese and bread. Was it the water? That was more likely, but I had been drinking the stuff for over a week without consequence. I decided to lay low and remained in bed most of the day while Lisa worked.
When Lisa came home, we weighed our dinner options and then chose one out of the Lonely Planet guidebook, a place called Parilla el 22. When we got there, the place looked drab and empty, but it was early, so this was not necessarily a bad thing. We almost left because of its appearance, but remembered that the guidebook had described it as "unpretentious".
The service didn't turn out to be all that great, but the meat certainly was. You know you're going to eat well in a country where no one bats an eye when two women order nothing but a couple pounds of steak (a combination of rump steak, sirloin strip, and tenderloin), plus french fries, and then eat it all. Having more than met our protein quota for the day, we got sleepy, so we asked for the bill. The total was $136 ARS (about $16 USD) including drinks. We walked home in a moderate rainfall that suddenly converted to a violent downpour the moment we stepped inside the house. We kept getting lucky.
The following day I ventured out on my own to try and see what I could see in the few days I had left in Buenos Aires. I tried hard not to see that day as a failure, but it certainly felt like one. I got off to a late start, still not feeling great, and decided to go to the bank first so that I could do some shopping. I wandered the wrong way down one street until it dead-ended. When I turned back, I found a bank that I had apparently passed without noticing several minutes before. By the time I had cash in hand, I was running a bit late, so I grabbed a taxi to head across town. It felt expensive, but I was thinking in pesos. It was only $53 ARS, or $6.30 USD, for a 30-minute ride so I really can't complain. The worst part about it was that the driver wouldn't shut the hell up the entire way. He was a giant braggart and I was pretty done with it by the time I got out of his cab.
My destination was Plaza Dorrego in the San Telmo neighborhood, which is known for its picturesqueness and its plethora of antiques shops. I thought it might be a good place to pick up some interesting souvenirs. When the taxi dropped me there, I found it deserted. Nearly every store was closed, along with the two nearby attractions I had planned on seeing. I really should have paid attention to the business hours listed in the guidebook.
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Belén and its church museum were closed for the day, along with its neighboring attraction, the Museo Penitenciario Argentino, a museum dedicated to the Argentine prison system. I'm sure both would have been interesting.
Oh well. I wandered around the square for a bit, taking in the pretty San Telmo architecture and eyeing the tempting antiques that I couldn't afford.
I headed a couple of blocks north on calle Defensa and walked through the large indoor Mercado San Telmo, but more than half of its vendors were nowhere to be seen.
I walked another five minutes north, arriving at El Zanjón, the site of one of the oldest settlements in the city. It houses the remains of one of Buenos Aires's first major constructions, and you can take a guided underground tour through the ruins of old walls, tunnels, and cisterns. I was met with a large, severe looking locked gate at El Zanjón's entrance on Defensa, but there was also a sign instructing visitors to ring a bell for entry. Hopeful, I rang the bell and was greeted over the intercom system by a woman's voice. I told her in Spanish that I was there to take a tour. She asked if I wanted it in English or Spanish so I told her I would attend whichever started first. She told me that neither would start for another two hours. I thanked her and walked away with a big sigh.
I wasn't quite ready to give up yet. I was determined to accomplish something that day. Anything! I remembered that Lisa's friend, Megan, had recommended a restaurant nearby and said that it was next to the "film school". Somehow I found it, despite knowing neither the name of the restaurant nor the school. The little café appeared to be well-organized and clean, so I headed in. The walls were covered with pictures of movie stills and my favorite one was from Beetlejuice. Unfortunately, they were playing modern swing music, which I hate, and it was way too loud. I could feel myself succumbing to grumpiness. Maybe I just needed food and a nap.
So they served me this: some kind of dry-ass chicken with gravy bullshit. It was terrible.
I caught a cab to go home and the driver, thankfully, remained silent and smoked a cigarette most of the way until I asked him where he, as an Argentine, would buy a maté gourd. He gave me a few tips and then resumed his smoke-veiled silence. The highlight of the ride was when we passed by this beautiful billboard on Avenida de Mayo. I had seen it several times before and it was one of my favorite things to look at in the city.
Photo by Francesco Marchetti, used with permission.
I found Lisa at home and we chatted about translation for a while. I was feeling really tired and slightly ill, so I took a nap and dreamed about zombies. I got up and let Lisa out of the apartment complex's locked corridor so that she could go teach her class, and then walked down to the Kentucky Pizza on the corner for some empanadas. They were not good, and not at all what my body or my soul needed.
I returned home and killed time on the internet for a while, and then one of my other temporary roommates, Indi, came home. She and I went shopping for food and a friend of hers, Carlos, came over to cook it for us. Then Lisa came home and the three of us sat around chatting while Carlos slaved away in the kitchen. Dinner was a spicy pork stir fry, served at an Argentine hour, but well worth the wait. We all went to bed with happy, full stomachs.