On our way into El Museo de los Ninos, my husband made an unfortunate joke about the name sounding a bit like “the museum of lost ninos”. Oh how funny this turned out to be….
We’d just entered the air-conditioned Abasto Shopping Centre after walking a long stretch of the Avenue Corrientes, the “street that never sleeps” and one of the main arteries running through Buenos Aires.
We’d come here for some sunshine and Latin romance. Our toddler, however, wanted to do nothing but run along the busy streets avoiding the dog poo and to eat the sweet caramel Argentine favourite “dulce de leche.”
Having been distracted by the searing heat, I didn’t pay much heed to my husband’s amusing joke, but instead wanted our son to run off some energy. Entering the museum, I was pleased to be told that adults paid less to enter than children. Argentinians are great with children as I discovered each time we boarded a bus only to have nearly everyone stand up and offer us their seats.
Years back, this vast shopping centre was a fruit and vegetable market. One of the area’s most famous sons, Carlos Gardel, the renowned tango singer, hailed from this part of the city and this is where you’ll find building work and renovation aplenty. As well as the Museo de los Ninos, the Abasto shopping centre contains not only all the big name shops, but also the sole kosher McDonalds in South America.
The museum itself is a colourful wonderland showing children just what it’s like to be an adult. Three storeys of interactive shops, banks, a construction site and lots of displays amid a warren of vibrant walkways and corridors; just the place for LO to burn off some energy.
After working on the small scale docks, we went upstairs and in the blink of an eye, our son suddenly disappeared in what was essentially a smaller version of the Argentine capital.
We began a hopeful search that within less than 30 seconds became full-on panic. A staff member tried to help and in faltering Spanish and wild gestures, I managed to tell her that I’d “forgotten” my son before the word for “lost” came to me.
I was screaming my son’s name now and tripping over small children and verb conjugations alike. My husband was much calmer and strategically looking in each different part of the “city” rather than yelling indiscriminately and crying.
Suddenly, children wearing similar clothes and haircuts appeared all over the place while my husband and I continued our surreal search within a tiny TV station, a bank, a supermarket and on a boat.
I then decided that he must have been kidnapped (I’d been reading about Charles Lindbergh’s son the night before and this had messed with my head slightly). I instructed my husband to keep looking while I ran to the entrance. Meanwhile, a school group had come into the building and were playing a game that meant that they all wove in and out of me so that I couldn’t get past while I swore they were doing it on purpose and wept with frustration.
We found LO, eventually, unconcerned, not far from where we’d last seen him. He was inside a giant model of a toilet to show children how the sewerage system works.
According to staff, this happens quite a lot. We set off for a celebratory meal in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires, stopping off only to buy some reins to keep him close by.