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Published: June 22nd 2014
Warehouses redeveloped into chic shops and offices.
With all the visits done yesterday, we had free time this morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. Martin helped with suggestions, revising my goal of the Fine Arts Museum in favour of a walk through the historic district called San Telmo
. It is on the same street as our hotel, except on the other side of the Plaza de Mayo. By walking several blocks east first, the redeveloped Madero Docks
were the route beside the river. After one easy block, I had to cross a terrifyingly wide street filled with noisy traffic. In best traveller’s practices, I sidled up to other pedestrians and crossed in their wake. This practice continued through a construction site and several more streets both wide and narrow. What a relief to arrive at the port! The red-brick (British) warehouses have been converted mostly into restaurants and some shops, at least on the main floor. All along the river is a wide walkway with bushes and trees and seats. A pleasant number of people were about. Buenos Aires has a Calatrava
in a style similar to the one I had glimpsed in Athens. This one is supposed to echo the tango dancers in its single, angled support. (Later I
read a sign that explained that the bridge pivots to let large boats pass, but I couldn’t see how.) I walked across the wood-slat deck and along to the next bridge.
This time when I crossed the busy streets the traffic seemed less intimidating. Very soon the street I was on became narrow – in the original district of Buenos Aires. Almost all the buildings were about three storeys with curved French balconies on the upper storeys. The doors were narrow, many with a front door in two vertical panels; residents typically opened just one panel and slipped in or out sideways. Lots of photos later, I came to Defensa Avenue where Martin had said there was a square with cafes. I wanted to have coffee and write travel notes, but the only place I saw was deserted – wasn’t much of a square either. Further, on the way back to the hotel, there was, according to Martin, a public market that shouldn’t be missed. I missed it. Couldn’t find it even using the map. I asked a small-grocery cashier, but he spoke no English.
What I did find was a church (Basilica Santo Domingo) with fine, ornate
panels of saints. They reminded me of ones in Panama in their ornate statues and carved decorations. The barrel-vaulted ceiling was elegant in pale green with just a touch of decoration. A few blocks on, there was another large church (Basilica San Francisco) with lots of banners about the life of St Francis
used as hoarding for the restoration. Inside the light was very dim, and the panels fewer and less ornate. Outside was a gigantic, dramatic arrangement of statues but no sign of their import.
Still without a coffee break, and approaching lunchtime, now close to Plaza de Mayo, I decided a better use of time was to continue walking straight back to the hotel, to check out, and to have lunch on the Reconquista pedestrian mall. This was through the same banking district as Sunday, except people rushed up and down now. And there were close to a dozen Brinks-type trucks parked or driving along the street. Impossible to understand.
Packing took much longer than expected, leaving me a scant hour for lunch. Turning left from our Hotel Lafayette
, I was a bit worried because all the tables at several outdoor cafes were fully occupied. After 1:00 is
Lunch at a sidewalk cafe
Called a chicken salad, this was mayonnaise rice with bits of chicken - good taste.
lunch hour. A takeout place looked interesting but had a lineup, and I certainly didn’t have enough Spanish to cope with rushing. Happily, there was one table in the sun, fine on a not-quite-hot day. My nervousness at wondering if there was a secret code for service finally disappeared with a harassed waiter who responded immediately, although wordlessly, to my single word, “menu”. Don’t know if that’s Spanish. Similarly he nodded and mumbled to my pointing at “chicken and tomato salad” and Quilmes beer.
Now I relaxed into watching the crowded parade of people: mainly office workers, a man delivering bottled water, a woman selling bubbles for kids, a man selling puppets, many young women chatting with verve, a few elderly men and women taking in the buzz. The brisk flow was a full as during Stampede on Stephen Avenue Mall, and this pace was happening on all the main pedestrian streets in BA! (They are converting the whole downtown core into pedestrian streets.) The constant clamour of voices was louder than anything I’ve heard, coming from every direction and from every conversation.
Time to return to the hotel for the bus to the domestic airport for a
First sight of the principal wine region
fairly routine flight to San Rafael
. The airport building for this small city is small, barely able to hold passengers in the arrivals room while waiting for their luggage, which was put on the tiniest luggage belt, maybe fifteen feet long! From the air and from the bus we could see this was an agricultural area. The city has 100,000 people but it looks smaller. The main road is lined with small shops and services. Because Argentina has a single time zone, the sun is out of sync with the time by about one hour.
Before going to the hotel, we had a raucous dinner in a local restaurant: grilled salmon with salad, and ice-cream or fruit salad for dessert. A fun end to the day.
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