Note to reader: This post as many others will have many native words from uruguayan/argentinian culture, the ones marked with ‘*’ will be described at the end of each post. Enjoy!
Being from Montevideo it is very likely that at some point of your life you’ve been to Buenos Aires, or maybe knew someone that went there often and brought candy from the free shop. Maybe you went there with your family to buy things because it was cheaper, or maybe because usually you can find prettier things there (it’s a bigger city than Montevideo), things that “you can’t find here”… Maybe just for a holiday, to see a concert (i went to see Oasis and the Backstreet Boys haha), maybe for spring break… In Uruguay we refer to going to Buenos Aires as to “jump the puddle” it’s just an expression, but it talks about how easy, close and usual it is for us.
Buenos Aires and Montevideo are only a river away, the mighty Río de la Plata.
This river is quite peculiar, i’ll start with the most important thing: The ‘rioplatense’ (meaning person from the cities around this particular river) LOVES the Río de la Plata. I can only compare this relationship to the one Serrat has with the Mediterranean Sea. Natalia Oreiro, a famous uruguayan actress and ‘singer’ (notice the quotes) sang about the Río de la Plata when people criticized her for leaving Montevideo to pursuit a career in Buenos Aires’s showbiz. She felt opportunely ‘rioplatense’, i thought it was very clever, she wanted to be accepted in both countries… Funny how this song never did anything else for me other than point Natalia’s poor singing habilities until years later i went away… The moment i did not get to see the river every day this song took meaning to me. I just love how nostalgia works. LOVE IT.
The Río de la Plata is the widest river in the world, so to any montevidean seating in the rambla* drinking mate* or to the porteño* that goes to the Costanera to have dinner, this river is “the sea”. Even though it isn’t and we know it, but the thing is that we don’t see the other side. Besides, some days it appears to be brown, and other days it looks blue, just like the sea. This is caused by the tides, ocean tides that come and go: When the ocean tide comes, the river appears to be blue, and when it isn’t as strong, the muddy riverbed plays it’s part and turns the water into a milky chocolate brown.
Sometimes talking about this river of mine (in my memories, it belongs to me), i get so poetic that i feel like at any moment i might just start to sing Uruguay’s national anthem, i can’t escape it, i love the Río de la Plata as well, it brings me back to my country like nothing else does.
I remember being little and going to the beach, the ritual would be to “taste” the water, and see if it was sweet or salty. If it was salty, it meant it was ocean tide, and it was considered to be a great day to swim and frolic in the water. People in the neighborhood, when they saw you coming back home from the beach, would ask ‘how the water was?’. I figure this does not happen everywhere.
It takes a half an hour flight to get from Montevideo to Buenos Aires by plane, plus all the going around in airports and boarding gates, and boarding times, and security checks, and uuugh… Honestly, for this kind of trip the idea of and airports stresses me quite a lot, i wish a train was built between the two cities… Planes are much too expensive in South America, it’s not worth the expense for this kind of trip.
The most popular way to get to Buenos Aires for regular people like me is to take the ferry boat. There are two options: The rich people’s option, which is the two hours direct and fast ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. And then there’s my option, the cheap henhouse like ferry boat that departures from a far away port, it has a three hours bus ride to get to the port (included in the ticket price) and then, two hours of uncomfortable, busy, noisy, baby screaming, food on the floor ferry ride. Besides, this ferries are available only at night, because of the trip being so long, so even if you were able to fall asleep in the bus, you would have to wake up and…wait for it, go through customs. NICE.
People in this ferry boat travel like, i don’t know how to describe it… I only know people were saving seats with their shoes, walking bare feet all around, and then seating in groups on the floor with their large luggage cases and bags, having meals from plastic containers they brought from home and stuff like that. I mean, it’s only a few hourspeople!!! You act like you are taking a three day road trip or something!!!
It’s not at all like going on an airplane. The chances of spreading yourself just as if you were at home are limited (even though some people do, there’s always that gross one), in this ferry, everyone spreads themselves like at home, and to me, that’s just, anti social and it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe i’m just that uptight.
Anyway, it is still one of the cheapest ways to get from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, and vice versa.
There’s also the option of driving the entire way, but i never did it so i couldn’t tell you guys if it has a good cost-comfort rate. Maybe it’s a good idea for families or groups, and as a plus you have the car to move around once you get there.
In my last visit to my hometown Montevideo i had this delusional idea of travelling around South America… Like, go to Rio or maybe Machu Picchu or something like that. It is so goddamned expensive, and the distances so far away, it’s just not possible to just decide to take off for a couple of days…It turnes out i’m way to used to Europe, where everywhere is pretty close, and travelling pretty affordable as well. I didn’t want to spend a lot of days and A LOT of money to be away from my family and friends whom i went to see. Ridiculous. But it’s definetly something in my bucket list. I’d love to get to know South America, i feel i owe it to my home continent or something.
So yeah, i ended up going to Buenos Aires for a weekend, i had some unknown relatives there so, bonus! I had never gone to Buenos Aires as a grown up. Maybe in my teens and my early twenties, but i started considering myself a grownup long after that so those times don’t count!
To spend just weekend in Buenos Aires it’s not something i would recommend to someone who’s never been there. It is a huge city, with many interesting things to see, neighborhoods to visit, and activities to do. Personally, i made the best of my flash trip, i’m almost an expert. I met up with friends, got to know a new -to me- part of my family… I walked around in Recoleta, went to San Telmo, had lunch in la Costanera, and walked down 9 de Julio to the microcentro, one of the most rude places i’ve ever been to so far in my life. There’s a song in spanish called “La Ciudad de la Furia”, it means “The City of Rage”. They nailed it.
My stay in Buenos Aires was bittersweet, i wished i could stay longer, but at the same time i really wanted to go back to Montevideo. After all i had mama’s food waiting for me!!!
Have you been to Buenos Aires? I wanna hear all about it! Let me know in my comment section below or by DM me in any of my social media accounts! 🙂
*Mate: It is a typical drink from Uruguay, Argentina, and some other places like Paraguay (with variations) based on Yerba Mate, a bitter herb, and hot water. It has an exciting effect, like caffeine, and it is a very deeply rooted social tradition. It is not illegal, and it is not a drug (i’ve had this question asked a lot).
*Porteño: Person from Buenos Aires city.
*Rambla: In Uruguay, it is the road by the river, anyone who talks about the Rambla, is referring to Montevideo’s Rambla (see the picture above, the one with the Río de la Plata). In other countries, the word ‘rambla’ might have a different meaning, for instance in Spain a ‘rambla’ is a road where there use to be a torrent.