We farewell Laf and Barnaby, we farewell La Constancia and we farewell Cordoba; all three have been very good to us. The liberal splash of luxury of La Constancia has been a breath of fresh air into the open window of hostel land and Cordoba province has rounded the picture of Argentina as we know it. Our impressions have largely been reinforced in Cordoba, the slowly solidifying picture of a culture who’s heart beats well and truly in the rural areas. Mendoza, Salta and Cordoba cities all have a consistent theme thus far: all commendable cities but lacking a flagship gravitas that a city, a capital should have. They’re functional and overshadowed largely by their surrounding areas.
The elephant in the room here are Laf and Barns, and that’s not a reference to Barnaby. We’ve said our farewells after another meat-fest in fairly undramatic fashion only to leave an uncommon lingering fondness in this travelling year underpinned by distance. To say that it was good to see people from home would be a drastic understatement. The traveller headspace has taken root in us strongly granting faces from home a presence like an icy wind, a slap in the face. We’d gotten used to being on our own per se, now home has come rushing all the way to South America. Leaving Laf and Barns has taken a bit of us back home with them that it took a long time to drag to us, we’d definitely been getting in the spirit. This minor turmoil is thankfully abated temporarily by the meeting with our nephew Ben in Buenos Aires, missing home can wait for a few days more.
We’d heard that Buenos Aires (BA) breaks the Argentinian mould with ample dash and swagger, the morning in BA goes to script, the script is this. BA does immediately seem more alive, Palermo is buzzing, trendy and vibrant. Everything we want is closed and everything that is open has run out of what we want, it seem some moulds remain intact. Ben is running late for our 9:30am rendezvous, Ben is not answering messages, one suspects Ben had a night on the cans. We wait for a coffee shop to open, who would ever want coffee before 10am on a Saturday? Ben arrives about two hours late, all is forgiven. We have several coffees. We remember at 12:58 that our laundry closes for the whole weekend at 1pm, shit! I run like a scolded shoplifter for three blocks and make it at 1:01pm, I was not prepared for that. We have more coffee. The end.
The day ambles by on a wave of post overnight bus fatigue mixed with meeting Ben excitement, the veritable sleeping pill and red bull all at once. Either side of the upper and downer battle winning out at various stages. On the obligatory diet of market browsing, food hunting and travel stories we catch up on our respective adventures. After some awesome burgers the sleeping pill part of the equation starts to win out leaving us to crash like any good over the counter drug abuser, siesta time.
In the emotion tugging whirlwind of leaving Laf and Barns to the socially acceptable drug haze of meeting Ben the steady ship of travel has met some turbid seas. A sleep fixes everything. We’re very excited to be taking Ben out for dinner, fittingly to a recommended place from Laf and Barns, a sushi joint nearby; we can’t do anymore meat just yet. We’d heard that it’s a bit picky on the dress code so we’re all in Bens shirts, that is to say that we’re all looking like retro VHS era porn star imitations, the boy’s got style; well, a style. Over a sophisticated bottle of Patagonian pinot we drift away to some of the most delicious ceviche, nori and sashimi we’ve ever had. It’s not just us getting back in the travel spirit, it seems that BA is joining us for the ride.
But it does not stop there, oh no. Dinner comes and goes and it’s not for lack of dining experience that I speak no more of the food, what happens next is the real deal. We ask to go to the bar for a drink, common enough. We’re ushered by a very rigid little rabbit of a man to a fairly discreet door at the back of the restaurant. Just inside we’re in a small room lined with dusty wine bottles, great atmosphere for the speel. The restaurant is named Nickys New York Sushi; the story goes that it’s a replication of the famous ‘Nickys’ of the 1920’s, a restaurant famous for being a cover for a mob backroom speakeasy. That’s where we’re going. We were never offered this, it’s only on recommendation that we knew of it, we’re asked not to take photos and we’re led to a door, literally a large old fashioned bank vault door. This is getting more and more bizarre by the second.
The door flings open to the orange ambience of incandescent bulbs, dark timber, and bouncing swing music. The doorman in stiff waistcoat greets us ‘welcome to New York; 1920’. And in we plunge, this setup is out of this world, we’re flung into the roaring 20’s right into the heart of a throbbing mob cocktail bar. Through the vintage style shopfront facade we enter a scene that is half Great Gatsby and half The Godfather, we’re all beaming smiles and wide eyed wonder, agape and unable to speak for a moment. This is definitely time to pinch ourselves and bottle this moment, we’re here with Ben in this one-in-a-million scene. Our wavering traveller spirit from recent visits from home comes, like the 20’s, roaring back. The cocktails are divine, the atmosphere is charged as we set about rewriting the definition of what travelling experiences are all about.
We eventually jump back in the time machine to the present via a different discreet exit, the curtained door gently folds back into the place. We look back to see nothing but a curtain, the portal to our other world no longer evident, the nicest of touches on this grandest of experiences. Plunged back into the heaving streets of Palermo we’re in Argentinian time and heading out at about 1:30am. A couple of bars later we’re still seeing families out, a boy six or so walks through the bar at about 2:30am, nearly bedtime by Argentinian standards, I am not getting used to this yet at all.
With a clock face showing 3:30am we fall into bed thoroughly alive but exhausted. Our minds had been tugged back home momentarily, but only momentarily. We’d been thrown off track by the relative lack of spirit of Argentinian cities, buoyed only by the fiery country lifestyle. On the Back of Buenos Aires rolling out the lively spirit of what a city can be we find ourselves similarly launched back into the swing of things. Our notions of home are no longer left behind but now rolled into the traveller spirit, all one ideal and no longer separate; the world doesn’t seem so far away anymore. We travel now more so with home, not from it. In BA, the last of our capitals in South America we have regained temporary absence of traveller spirit, or is it that we’ve only now just properly found it?