A note about days, before I continue my Buenos Aires collecting blog. Plan your visit well! The main day for browsing and buying is Sunday. On Mondays, and often Saturdays, many of not all stores, malls and arcades are closed. You'll notice that my last blog entry was on Tuesday - plenty of time to plan my big Sunday!
I almost couldn't believe my eyes - the street had come alive! The previously empty pavements of Defensa were filled with all manner of street traders, and the road with crowds of people. Anything related to Argentina's best export - beef - was for sale from moccasins to bags to wallets, and a whole lot more carnival style items. In fact the event felt m0re like a carnival than a street market, complete with street musicians and entertainers. And it went on for miles...! Fighting through the happy crowds down the street, I saw the stores and arcades were packed and enjoying a healthy trade with souvenir hunters a plenty.
Before I knew it, it was lunchtime, so we stopped off in local restaurant Desnivel (855 Defensa) for great steaks in a traditional 'parilla' setting packed with locals. This was one of the very best steak restaurants we visited on our trip. Others were Defensa al Sur, (Defensa 1338) and La Cabrera (Cabrera 5099), in trendy Palermo - ideal after a day pounding the streets in search of on-trend Argentinian fashion. Apparently a 'competition' exists between top tier La Cabrera and La Brigada (off Defensa), where we enjoyed our final lunch before leaving for the airport. I can still taste the amazing steak in a very simple yet effective pepper sauce, and the perfectly matched bottle of Argentinian red wine recommended by the waiter. As well as the excellent food, marvel at the sports memorabilia on the walls of La Brigada.
It's all too easy to say 'wonderful, wonderful, wonderful' in this city, so I'm going to say something negative for a change - avoid Francis Mallman's over-rated Patagonia Sur in La Boca. Alleged to be the Gordon Ramsey of Argentina, I nearly ended up sounding like Gordon Ramsey on a bad day after tasting the over-complex, over-cooked courses we were served. Fine quality ingredients he may use, but in my opinion they were ruined as soon as the chef got hold of them. I've had much better, especially for the price (around £70 per head), which was by far the most expensive we (relunctantly) paid in South America. One final 'nail in the coffin' so to speak. Mallman's restaurant reminded us of movie portrayals of Castle Dracula - both in terms of its deathly quiet atmosphere, lack of life and other people, and dark, oppressive decor. Despite what the guidebooks tell you, I'd honestly avoid this one.
Anyhow, enough of that and back to Sunday and its antiques. With stomachs filled with juicy steaks, the banker and I were ready for the next leg - the walk down to Plaza Dorrega. This town square is the centre of the antiques and collectables trade on a Sunday, and is packed with stalls, many who travel into the city for the occasion each week. Browsing around, one thing I did learn is that the Argentinians produced vase amounts of flashed and cut glass. More commonly associated with Czechoslovakia (or Bohemia) in the 19thC, they produced red, burgundy, blue and green versions cut with traditional patterns into the 1970s and beyond. I now know that if it isn't labelled, it'd be very difficult to tell where a piece came from -- Argentinian and Czech/Bohemian pieces really are very similar in style, weight, pattern and colour (see photo above).
Alas, I didn't buy anything today. In fact, I missed out buying a rather nice piece of Argentinian studio glass due to my 'greedy eyes'. So desperate was I to make the right purchase that I missed out on something very good just in case something better was around the corner. It's a problem that I'm sure you've experienced before. Silly boy.
I nearly came home with one of BA's most popular 'antique' souvenirs - a coloured glass soda bottle that used to adorn the city's many bars during party times. Looking very jewel-like on the many stands that stocked them, they're candy for kidults. But these days it has to be a very special pieces to enter Hill Towers, so I declined the extra weight in my luggage. Still, with prices as low as £5, they make a great souvenir and I saw plenty being carried home by tourists smiling in the Springtime sun.