Published: July 18th 2009July 13th 2009
July 12, our final day in Argentina, the sun was warm finally, and we decided to catch up on a bunch of things we'd missed on the first, chilly pass. First, the wonderful Sunday market just outside our door. The quiet square, which was scrubbed and polished early on Thursday morning, had been transformed! Booths filled the square and marched far down the streets in all directions, with antiques and crafts sellers hawking their wares: jewellery, copper objects, wampas for mate', clothing, music, antique china and glass, warm sweaters and scarves, you name it. We strolled around and picked up a gourd-style wampa, listened to the wonderful guitarists (and bought a CD!) and cringed at the elderly dancers in jaunty clothes from the 40s who attempted to put on a show for the tourists. The other night's handsome young couple were much more interesting to watch.
Continuing down Defensa, we returned to the Plaza de Mayo, where we realized many of the signs involved a months-long encampment by veterans of the Falklands War; protesting, I suppose their lack of treatment or compensation - our Spanish and knowledge weren't up to discerning what exactly. We admired the pink presidential palace where Evita (and Madonna as Evita) stood on the balcony to speak to admiring crowds -- now the offices of Christina Kirchner. We found the pockmarks in the economics ministry building left behind from gunfire during the coup that unseated Juan Peron in the 50s (marked with a plaque!) and admired the 200-year-old original city hall. Strolling down the leafy, urbane Avenida de Mayo -- surely the most fashionable street in Buenos Aires -- was more like a stroll in Paris. Gorgeous old apartment buildings perhaps 6 or 8 storeys tall, many of them worthy of a special marker (BA has many of these in three languages -- so helpful to tourists!) describing their design and architect. At the other end of the avenue was the imposing, domed Congreso building, modelled after the U.S. Congress building. We'd heard there were tours, but like so many other buildings in BA it was surrounded by hoarding, undergoing restoration work -- must be in advance of the city's bicentennial next year.
We began walking back under some huge tropical trees when ... plop! something green hit my hand. I stopped to look, saw a green blob of bird poo and then -- oh horrors! -- we realized we were both splattered in the goo: huge blobs, running in rivulets down our shoulders, our pant legs. What was this? Parrots? Had to be a condor, Jeff said. A couple rushed up with tissues and bottled water, and attempted to scrub us down right there on the street. They kept insisting; we were both embarrassed and a little worried about our backpack with its load of valuables, which the man was also scrubbing. Our little Spanish evaporated under the panic of the moment, but we finally managed to let them know we'd just go change our clothes or something. After sneaking into a hotel bathroom and spending half an hour with wipes and water, we got ourselves cleaned up sufficiently to go out in public again. We wondered: was that really bird poop? Had this been thrown at us, a ruse to rob us? I guess we'll just have to wonder forever, I told Jeff.
We went off to see the famous Teatro Colon -- also shrouded in hoarding -- and a huge synagogue, then headed for the Cafe Tortoni for tea. We were walking down 9 de Julio, the ridiculously wide boulevard that takes two very long lights to cross on foot. When ... lightning strikes again!
This time the goo was yellow! What ARE these birds eating?? Same routine, another couple, with tissues and water, encouraging us to shelter at a magazine stand from these horrid AVES. By now I'm giddy with the ridiculousness of it all, but Jeff is even more thoroughly disgusted! We ponder going back to the hotel, but riding on the subway covered in yellow rivulets of goo doesn't seem like the best idea either. So we go to the cafe and clean up there; have our tea (served with ham and cheese sandwiches and sweets) and head back to our hotel for the bus trip. On reflection, we figured, maybe strike two was God's way of telling us that we shouldn't be so mistrustful of these Portenos (BAers). The readiness of tissues and bottled water may just be a sign that this is one routine hazard of living in BA.