Every traveller I´d met in South America has always raved about Buenos Aires. I´d decided to keep it for the end of my South America trip, and I wasn´t disappointed. The bus journey was pretty short (14 hrs) compared to some of the others I´ve done over the last few months, so I reached BA quite refreshed. I´d found the flyer of a hostel in Mendoza and showed up at the place. Since it´s low season, the hostel was almost empty and I had a whole dorm room to myself for the 5 days I was there. It was basically an old mansion converted into a hostel, and since it was located in San Telmo (the historic part) it had a nice homely feel to it, unlike most hostels.
As cities go, Buenos Aires was the other extreme of Rio. My first impression of BA was that I was back in Paris. The centre of the city feels just like a big European city, and it´s littered with cafes and bookshops. It was a bit gloomy and cold for the last few days out here, so browsing bookshops and sitting in cafes was a nice way to spend time. Outside the centre of the city, BA felt like Paris littered with graffitti. It was quite a shock initially, but after a few days the grunginess of the other neighbourhoods, the graffitti and the gloomy weather seemed to fit quite well.
Culturally, Brazil and Argentina seem to be so far apart. Argentinians are quite notorious in South America for being snooty, and while I didn´t find them snooty, it did feel much closer to Europe than South America. Buenos Aires is full of all kinds of bookshops (unlike most places I´ve been to in this continent), cafes which could have been taken out of Europe, and people who seem very conscious about dressing reasonably formally.
After a couple of days of walking around aimlessly, and just sightseeing, I ran out of steam. It helped that in the hostel I came across an interesting bunch of people. They weren´t the typical backpackers I´ve been meeting regularly. There were 4 of us, and all of us had some non-travelling reason to be in South America and it was interesting hanging out with them. A Turkish psychology professor in Sao Paolo, a Canadian musician who´d spent 2 months in Olinda learning percussion and an Australian film-maker looking for work in Buenos Aires. None of us was interested in any more sightseeing. The Aussie film-maker had spent a year in BA, so he knew a lot about things going on. According to him, Buenos Aires is one of the most avant garde places for film and theatre these days. Ended up going to some very interesting places - a small art gallery opening, a latin jazz concert and an alternative tango club set up in an abandoned garage. There was no real agenda and we were all keen on exploring the cultural side of Buenos Aires. 5 days felt like we´d just scratched the surface.
So finally, after more than 3 months I'm leaving South America. I'm flying straight to Paris, and should be there for 2-3 months. Am at the airport right now, waiting to catch the flight.