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A few delicious bites from the buffet of travel

I’m writing to you from our hotel in Buenos Aires, which overlooks the mausoleum-lined avenues of the cemetery where the mummified body of Evita Peron lies buried deep underground for safekeeping (her remains have been stolen more than once). The sky is its usual brilliant blue, the roller-bladers and dog walkers are heading to the park, and the Sunday craft market teems with chachkas made of leather, lace or beads and sold for a pittance. (Although I wouldn’t dream of buying any of this stuff, I’m impressed to see that none of it comes from China.) Street chefs are firing up their grills, and at certain corners you can practically taste the pungent local sausage (the animals are grass-fed here, and what a delicious difference that makes). I’d be out walking the broad leafy avenues, but I’ve walked too much already in my eagerness to take in a new place, to record the distinctive sights and aromas in my memory.

This trip is like a breakfast buffet–I want to taste everything because it looks so tempting, because there aren’t any papayas or gamey Argentine cold cuts in my own kitchen, and because at home I can’t start my day with scrambled eggs unless I’m going to scramble them myself. So of course I overdo it. Then, after gorging on sensation and the enchantment of the unfamiliar, I have to face reality: I’ll never taste it all.

Today we were supposed to be exploring Iguacu Falls, which reputedly make Niagara look like a mere trickle, a pretender to the status of natural wonder. But the airline pilots went on strike, so we spent another day here in Buenos Aires, exploring the city in the best way–on foot. We dutifully craned our necks at the monuments and palaces our guidebook had starred, but Frommer’s didn’t even mention Santiago Calatrava’s uniquely beautiful pedestrian bridge. An authoritative minimalist swoosh in the shape of a couple dancing tango (so I’m told, although I missed the resemblance), it rotates so that ships can pass through.

The trouble with guidebooks is that they tell you what someone else remembers, or thinks the average tourist will remember. You’re the only one who knows what you will remember. These last few days, our most stirring experience was a ramble through the Ecological Preserve, a huge and improbably serene expanse of reclaimed dockland just minutes from the city’s throbbing core. What a vista! Plume-like grasses taller than ourselves, a breathtaking array of trees crowned with berries, against a backdrop of glittering towers. A flock of parrots, green as the leaves, alighted in one of the trees. So what if we missed Iguacu Falls?

Posted by Rona

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