Buenos Aires 28-31 May 2011

Published: June 2nd 2011
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We arrived in Buenos Aires at 12.30pm after 22 hours in the bus from Bariloche. It was a full Cama bus so sleeping conditions were good. Pam had a particularly good sleep because I woke up and the sun was up but my watch said 5.40am so I went back to sleep. Next I knew was when Tom was tapping me on the shoulder saying it was time I woke up. I looked at my watch and saw it was still 5.40am. My watch battery had gone flat and it was 10.30am when Tom woke me!!!!!

We caught a taxi to our Hotel Splendid which was 8 blocks away from the Plaza de Mayo and 1 block away from the widest street in BA, Av 9 De Julio. The avenue is one of the widest avenues in the world.

Buenos Aires, Argentina's largest city, is a fantastic world capital located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. Portenos, as the diverse people of Buenos Aires are known, possess an elaborate and rich cultural identity. BA has 2.7 million people but the BA region has about 12 Million people.

We truly loved BA as a city. It was easy to find our way around and there were some uniqueness we found in the city.

Buenos Aires is more known for its world-renowned culture than famous monuments. However, everywhere we went there were monuments. We observed the book readers in the outdoor cafés, the dancers in the tango bars, and the locals how they are keen and interested in government and football (soccer). The city has one of the greatest entertainment and nightlife scenes in the world – that’s what they claim. Theatres, tango shows, bars, and clubs all exhibit the great South American flair. Just as note on book stored: apparently over 2000 bookstores closed their doors in BA as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. That will give you a bit of an idea on how many stores there were in BA as there are still many bookshop still open.

The city of Buenos Aires is broken up into little barrios, or neighbourhoods, each one with its own personality. The beautiful and prestigious Recoleta (some people say this area is “a piece extracted from Paris”), trendy Palermo (known for its musicians, artists and intellectuals), commerce-minded El Centro, timeless San Telmo, picturesque Puerto Madero, and colourful La Boca all contribute to the Buenos Aires' culture and way of life. Buenos Aires' architecture contributes indelibly to life in Buenos Aires as well.
There are a number of City Tours one of which we took to get a good feel of the city and introduced us to the highlights of Buenos Aires.

Our guide Betzy took us for a walking tour to the Plaza de Mayo, past the Cathedral Metrpolitana and we went inside the Casa de Gobierno (President’s Palace – the Pink House) and the very impressive Banco de la Nacion Argentina and Museo de la Casa Rosada.

Inside the President’s Palace there was a big crowd of people so we took some photos and decided to move on. On the Plaza de Mayo there were demonstrators and we learned that this was a daily occurrence. We also found that demonstrators used Ave 9 De Julio top get their messages across. During our last night in BA we heard massive explosions but all was in order. The quite demonstrators stayed on the Avenue all night. BA is a very free and liberated city with people allowed to express their views.

Several of us then went onto walk through the incredibly unique San Telmo. This is where there were many antique markets as well as Tango Shows, restaurants and clubs. We came across one of the best antique markets – have a look at the photos. It is the most ancient neighbourhood in the city, and it still maintains its colonial air with its cobblestone streets and century-old buildings. It used to be the neighbourhood for Male chauvinists braggarts and bullies. Today, many artists and craft people have settled into the colonial buildings.

We found a little place on one of the corners and sat down for a late-evening local beer. Of course the TV was on, watching the soccer. Dusk was upon us and the streets were getting a little more active after the typical Argentinean shut-down from 2.00pm (sometimes 12.30pm) to 5.00pm (sometimes through to 7.00pm). As I said in my previous blogs, the night life doesn’t really get going until 10.00pm.

The 1st night in BA the group all went out to dinner back at San Telmo and had a steak dish – surprise, surprise. It was great.

Next day was the city tour. Tom and I, with Sandra from Switzerland who has been travelling with us since Quito, Equator, caught the city tour bus at about 9.30am. The bus went to all of the neighbourhoods I mentioned above. It’s a great looking city with old and the new complementing each other. There is a lot of building renewal going on, particularly the port (Puerto Madero) which had new sky scrapers (accommodation and corporate offices), the Madero Harbour and the Madero Casino which we visited on our last night in BA.

The day was cool and overcast for the open-top bus for the city tour. After about an hour we were absolutely frozen, despite coats so went down to the 1st level to take our photos. We made a mental note to go back to the Hipodramo Argentina de Palmero (horse track where we saw a race meeting the next day) and the Polo Club which is huge in BA. We also saw where the Boca Juniors play soccer.

After the hop-on-hop-off bus trip, we had lunch at Starbucks and then walked down Florence Street where all the retail shops were. On the weekend the street was also full of markets where they arrange all their goods for sale, on the ground.

The next day I went back to La Boca district and saw the Boca stadium closer as there was a game being player. With the chants by the crowd watching the footy, and the beating of drums and music, the stadium was almost rocking. The number of police around the streets and on every intersection was extensive. I have never seen so many police in one area. This included police with shields, motorbikes and horses as well as many police vans. The Bocas lost!

One session we spent in the city centre on Sunday, we came across one of the streets that was closed and there was a celebration being put on for the Bicentennial for Paraguay. There was dancing, food stalls, and many messages re the rights and improvements of relationships between Paraguay (which is land-locked and under-developed) and Argentina.

Every Sunday there are lengthy streets closed in the San Telmo district for street markets. It is the biggest street markets we have ever seen. We walked along them and took some good photos.

The 2nd full day in BA we walked around the sights some more coming across a massive multi-level shopping centre (which we didn’t take any photos of). We went to the Hipodroma Argentina de Palermo and watched some horse racing. The buildings of the club and other facilities were magnificent. We went to San Martin Square and saw some international and local dignitaries laying wreaths at the foot of the monument.

While we were walking through the neighbourhoods of Recoleta and Palmero we noticed a lot of dogs being dog-sat. One person would have a dozen dogs that they would be walking. Obviously people who are working and live in apartments have their dogs minded during the day. It is a real industry by the looks of what we saw. We also came across a couple of leash-free dog areas that were fenced off.

That night, even though it was the last night with Intrepid, 5 of us decided to go to a Tango and dinner show. Not everyone could afford US $100 (400 pesos) but to be in the home of The Tango, one MUST go to a professional show. We arranged for a bus to pick us all up and arrived at the Sabor a Tango. Wow what a special night. On arrival we had our photos taken with 2 professional tango dancers. We were then seated for dinner. Starting with pumpkin soup, (we had a choice of 4 dishes from entre, mains and desert) followed by a magnificent steak dish and finally chocolate-coated ice-cream. We also had a choice of wine, beer etc. The Tango Show was amazing and a highlight of our trip (yes another one!!!!). The show started at 10.00pm and went through until 11.30. Other than numerous Tango dances there were wonderful Argentinean singers who included Evita in their repertoire, Gaucho Drummers/Dancers with their additional boles that they twirled to enhance the rhythm. The music was made up of piano, squeeze-box, a double-base and a couple of violins. Fantastic! The whole show was very professional. We could only take photos at the end of the show so hopefully it will give you an idea of the appearance of the room and the performers’ costumes.

I recon I might take up tango classes when I get home!! We went back to our hotel very satisfied, even though we missed being with the whole group for our final dinner.

The last night we went to the casino which is on a 4-level boat and is decked out in red, black and white and stacks of mirrors on the ceilings and walls. We of course couldn’t take photos inside. All but a ½ of one floor was taken up with slot machines. We watched people win and lose at craps, poker, and roulette and saw a game we had never seen played before so not sure what it was.

The next morning we left at 8.00am to go to the domestic airport to fly to Puerto Iguaçu. Fortunately, we caught up with everyone at breakfast to say our final goodbyes as they were leaving at the same time. Special goodbyes were to Stephanie and Sandra who we had been travelling with for 68 days. We will certainly have to keep in touch with them. We also caught up with Isabella again who had left our group at Santiago and was travelling by herself to Rio. Thanks Isabella for all the hints about Rio.

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