Five hours in Buenos Aires with a raging hangover (featuring stray cats, a dead guy, and a missed flight)

The sort of mental figurines which haunt the balconies of La Boca, in Buenos Aires, which is in Argentina
The sort of creepy figurines which haunt the balconies of La Boca, in Buenos Aires, which is in Argentina

I only had two proper nights in my London hometown after getting back from Africa and before leaving for Antartica, so, in accordance with my well established code of conduct, I got mildly obliterated the first night and then annihilated on the second.

I blame Buzz for the first (“Shall we get one more glass? Fuck it, one more bottle then”) and my friend D for the second (“Let me remind you just how much you love whiskey”).

At the very end of the second night, I found myself in a really peculiar mood and I think I was talking about really weird stuff, except I can’t remember for the life of me what.

Buzz and I, being irresponsible
Buzz and I, being irresponsible

Whatever it was, it was just enough to make me feel paranoid when I woke up, like my brain had been kidnapped and handed back to me, but in really shoddy shape.

Me, to brain: “Brain, why were you being all weird last night?”

Brain, to me: “Hahahaha moohaha not telling.”

Me: “Stop being a cunt. At least tell me what I was saying. I feel like it was weird.”

Brain: “You were being so weird.”

Me: “What was I SAYING?”

Brain: “Mmmm, pasta. Let’s get some pasta.”

So I made some pasta, gathered my animals around my duvet fortress (dog, cat, cat), positioned myself in front of Netflix and then spent my last hours in London whimpering, clutching paws and periodically bullying my brain, to no avail. 

A door in Buenos Aires, where I eventually ended up
A door in Buenos Aires, where I eventually ended up

That evening I hauled myself to the airport to embark on a 16-hour flight to Argentina, sitting in the MIDDLE SEAT (the worst, the worst, the worst) while the goblins were all still rattling around in my sore head.

It was fine actually because I was flying Air France, who I now consider to be one of the very best.

They have charging stations in every seat and the food is really surprisingly good and the safety video is ridiculously trendy and French, and they aren’t stingy with the vin rouge, which is the only proper solution to a sore head full of goblins.

So I landed in Buenos Aires, and I didn’t previously know this but my travel company (Abercrombie & Kent – brilliant, brilliant people) had arranged a five-hour tour of the city for me, so as to kill time before my connecting flight later that day down to Ushuaia (the place you get on a ship to go to Antartica).

But when the nice lady from Abercrombie & Kent turned up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8am with a serious itinerary, I wanted to cry a bit.

It was 8am, I was predictably exhausted, the goblins were sedated but never far from the front of my head, and the last thing I wanted was a tour of anything, except for maybe some sort of dark chamber in which to sleep.

La Boca, where colours mean it
La Boca, where colours mean it

But Lily (short grey hair, hazel eyes, laughs a lot) took charge and dragged me around Buenos Aires, and I’m glad she did, in hindsight.

First we went to see the Pink House (office of the President of Argentina), then La Catedral Metropolitana… which is beautiful and also cluttered with hilariously garish statues of Jesus at every turn. My favourite Jesus was the Jesus riding a donkey.

We also went to Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Argentina (1858 – large, gorgeous, quaint, tourists everywhere) and then we zipped over to a neighbourhood called La Boca.

La Boca’s good bit only really consists of three blocks but those three blocks are magical in the most mental of ways.

Every wall of every building is painted in a different lurid colour.

La Boca again, with all the colours
La Boca again, with all the colours

Look up, and you’ll see random chubby statues of cartoon-like characters leering at you over balconies for no reason.

Look to your left and you’ll see real-life tango dancers with no facial expressions clad is shiny lycra, just prancing up and down the cobbled streets at 11am for no reason.

Look to the right and you’ll see withered old men with crinkled faces playing accordions (for good reason – what a brilliant instrument).

And then look to your feet and you’ll see smatterings of marmalade-splashed cats weaving their way around the brightly-coloured madness… dragging me towards them with their magnet eyes.

Jesus on a donkey, in all seriousness
Jesus on a donkey, in all seriousness

Poor Lily.

There she is, raving about the architecture and the culture, and I’m nodding and being very polite and English about it all, and then BOOM, I see my First Stray Cat.

So immediately I’m down on my knees, engrossed in a conversation with the feline, asking it information-seeking questions about its life, and how it came to live here.

“Maybe you would you prefer a tour of the city’s stray animal population?” Lily mused.

“Yes please,” I said, in all earnest.

Lily didn’t take me on a tour of the city’s stray animal population, but she did take me to my new Official Favourite Place in Buenos Aires, which is La Recoleta Cemetery.

La Recoleta Cemetery, an incredible maze of old and elaborate tombs
La Recoleta Cemetery, an incredible maze of old and elaborate tombs
Kind of beautiful, no?
Kind of beautiful, no?
Just rows and rows and rows of this
Just rows and rows and rows of this
... and this
… and this
... and this
… and this

Cemetery, you say?

Yes. I love cemeteries.

And this particular cemetery is one of the most visually arresting in the world. It’s beautiful and huge and creepy. Basically, it’s like a museum of short of stories.

You can’t help thinking, as you roam these vast old tombs, these ludicrously expensive houses-for-dead-people, which boast soaring walls and elaborate plaques and stone-cast weeping angels and explosions of dead flowers… all this for a skeleton?

My favourite tomb was the smallest tomb there, and it belongs to a man who used to work at the cemetery as a caretaker. All he wanted, some 100 years ago, was to one day be buried there himself.

So he saved up his whole life to buy this tiny narrow plot, wedged between two aristocrats, and just before he died, he commissioned a statue of himself. Then he died. 

The statue is just of him in his tiny tomb, this unmarried man who never had family but loved this cemetery so much, clutching a big ring of keys in one hand and a broom in the other.

The caretaker, who owns the smallest tomb
The caretaker, who owns the smallest tomb – I took this through a tiny gap in the broken glass, which is why it is of shit quality, but you get the idea
This is sad. Its the tomb of a (very rich) mother who died in childbirth
This is sad. Its the tomb of a (very rich) mother who died in childbirth
These are statues of a husband and wife who hated one another, so when they died their children faced their statue heads in opposite directions. For reals
These are statues of a husband and wife who hated one another, so when they died their children faced their statue heads in opposite directions. For reals
A woman after my own heart (someone who was entombed with her dog)
A woman after my own heart (someone who was entombed with her dog) – and also who appears to have been imagined by Tim Burton

Later that same day, I managed to miss my flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. It’s the first time I’ve ever missed a flight I was actually physically on.

You see, I left my laptop at the gate just before getting on the plane, because I’m a fucking idiot. And then just as I was strapping myself into seat 29A, I realised.

So I asked the air stewardess what to do and she told me to get off the plane and run back to the gate, which I did, and then THEY told me at the gate that my laptop was at the airport police station, and that I had to go and claim it myself, and then they kicked my suitcase out of the cargo bit and took off without me.

Obviously I had a brief mental breakdown and called Buzz to hyperventilate but then I just thanked my lucky stars that no-one had nicked my laptop (so should have done, so could have done) and so I booked a hotel for the night and wangled my way onto the next flight to Ushuaia, which is tomorrow morning.

I might not technically be in the right part of Argentina tonight, but I do have my laptop, I have enjoyed an afternoon in the company of dead people, and I will still make it to Antartica tomorrow.

So for someone with a hangover from hell and a head full of goblins, I must take this opportunity to congratulate myself for even managing to get this far at all. 

... and to all a goodnight x
… and to all a goodnight x

One thought on “Five hours in Buenos Aires with a raging hangover (featuring stray cats, a dead guy, and a missed flight)

  1. Would that not be “Buzz and me”, not “Buzz and I”? Hangovers are tiresome, of course, but no excuse for poor grammar, my darling daughter. By the way, does Antarctica count as a country in your reckoning? It is a continent, obviously, which is bigger and better than a country. But will it count towards your 30?

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