City tour of Buenos Aires

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March 20th 2016
Published: April 10th 2016
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Earlier in the week we were asked to complete a form electing the time that we wanted to disembark this morning. Gina had told us that she would meet us at the port in BA, but no one in the group could recall a time being mentioned. We discussed the completion of the form amongst ourselves and decided that we would all nominate to disembark during the earliest time slot between 8.15am and 8.45am.

With nearly everyone leaving the ship in BA the Lido was chaotic as everyone tried to grab a quick breakfast before going ashore. We thought we were doing well as we returned to our stateroom at 7.55am to clean our teeth quickly and be ready for our groups disembarkation announcement expected at or soon after 8.15am. BUT they were running early and at 8.00am they announced that our group should proceed to the gangway. We decided that we weren't leaving the ship without cleaning our teeth so quickly whizzed the Brauns around our molars, stuffed our toilet bags into our day packs and made our way off the ship straight onto a shuttle bus to the terminal building.

We collected our bags from the arrivals hall and then made our way outside hoping that Gina's smiling face would be there to greet us. Our group congregated around the entrance to the terminal building and watched groups go off on busses organised by HAL to the airport, to city hotels or on excursions. A steady stream of passengers flowed out of the building and then departed the terminal building. It was of some consolation that there were guides waiting and waiting for their passengers to arrive. I guess it takes a while for more than a 1,000 people to disembark and be matched up with their onwards arrangements.

Eventually, a guide approached us and asked if we were the Bunnick Group. Yes, we said and she passed on a message from Gina saying that she was queuing for our tickets for our Opera House tour this afternoon and she would be joining us very soon. If only we had known that we should have elected to be among the last off the boat rather than among the first passengers to disembark. Ah well, waiting is waiting wherever you do it and we've had to do quite a lot of waiting around on this trip so we're getting pretty good at it.

Gina duly arrived in a bus with our local guide Patricia and driver Claudio and a huge smile on her face asking if we had missed her. Of course we had, we all replied. Our luggage was stowed under the bus and we commenced our Buenos Aires city tour. Our bus tour of the city covered more districts than we were able to cover yesterday on foot. From the port we headed north-west through the Retiro and Palermo districts. One of the most interesting things that we saw was the amazing flower sculpture that was constructed in an aircraft factory. It is a biologically accurate gigantic metal replica of a generic flower that opens during the day and closes at night ... although it wasn't open this morning leading Patricia to speculate that it might not be fully operational at the moment. We hoped that we would be able to walk back and take photos, perhaps later in the day?

For the next part of our tour we looped back to the south-west and entered the Recoleta district where we made a stop at the Cementerio de La Recoleta; the cemetery where Eva Perón is interred in a family mausoleum. Following this we headed through the historic centre of BA and then to the San Nicolas district to a number of sites that we had covered yesterday.

We left the bus for a quick look around the Plaza de Mayo which enabled our travelling companions to visit the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires and to see the Colonial Town Hall, the Casa Rosada and the May Pyramid. It was a little bit strange visiting the cathedral today ... right in middle of Sunday mass. Yesterday there were mainly tourists in the cathedral so it didn't feel quite so weird sightseeing in the cathedral. It seemed very inappropriate to be in there gawking today while the priest was delivering his sermon. Outside in the plaza, Patricia pointed out something that we didn't notice yesterday about the crypt of San Martín - it is not actually in the cathedral, it is built onto the side of the cathedral because, even though San Martín is a national hero, he wasn't a Catholic so he couldn't be interred inside the cathedral.

From the plaza we heard the sound of drumming and then saw three soldiers and a drummer marching along the street towards the cathedral. We had timed our stop perfectly to catch the changing of the guard at the tomb of San Martín. The guard is changed every two hours, 24 hours a day which serves to demonstrate that San Martín's hero status has not waned in the 165 years since his death.

The next part of our tour took us to the La Boca district which, according to HAL, is the roughest and meanest part of Big Bad Buenos Aires. Patricia assured us that, although she wouldn't recommend visiting at night time, on our own, we would be perfectly safe to visit this very old and traditional part of the city this morning. It was some time since we had left the comforts of our staterooms behind so Patricia and Gina took us to a restaurant where we could use the loo. We were also given an opportunity to withdraw Argentinian pesos from an ATM or exchange US dollars for pesos so that we had some local currency.

The street that we were in featured some small, traditional theatre restaurants where you could have a meal while watching tango dancers perform. We didn't have time to do lunch in one of the theatre restaurants and didn't need to anyway as we have a dinner and tango show scheduled for Monday night. However, since it was around lunch time, most of us took the opportunity to grab an empanada ... or two ... and a drink from a small restaurant that didn't have a dance floor.

For our next stop we were off to the Teatro Colón for our guided tour of the Buenos Aires Opera House. The theatre was magnificent and is used for performances of opera, musical theatre and orchestral music. Our tour took us from the main entrance lobby, up to the balconies and then into one of the boxes. All very sumptuous. Our guide had told us that the whole orchestra pit can be raised to the same level as the stage when an orchestral performance is being staged.

Our guide took us to look down into the orchestra pit from the boxes at the side of the stage - boxes that were designed not for the patrons to see the opera, but to be seen at the opera by the rest of the audience in the cheap seats!! At this point a know it all American couple questioned the fact that the theatre is used for orchestral performances telling the guide that, in their opinion, there were far too many soft surfaces that would deaden rather than enhance music performed by an orchestra! The custodian accompanying our guide defended the quality of the venue for orchestral music claiming that someone (name we didn't recognise, a famous conductor maybe?) ranked the Teatro Colón in his top three venues for orchestral performances. Oh no, that couldn't possibly be right said the obnoxious Americans. OK, it might be your opinion, but KEEP IT TO YOURSELF - don't bag the venue to the people who are proudly showing you around a theatre that they are proud of!!!

We then went into the main auditorium and our guide asked if anyone in the group could sing and would like to test the acoustics. A member of the group sang a few bars in a very pleasant (tenor?) voice and the acoustics certainly were amazing! Even without being on stage projecting his voice out into the theatre his voice carried beautifully. The guide should have left it at that, but she asked if there was a female singer who would like to test the acoustics. Ha, ha, ha, obnoxious American woman followed up with a truly awful rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy. It was really embarrassing although I'm sure she thought she was wonderful. Bernie thinks that she expected us all to join in?? Maybe she thought the rest of the gringos were Americans too?? Perhaps we should have countered with a rousing rendition of Waltzing Mathilda!!

The Teatro Colón was the last stop on our city tour so we re-boarded the bus for a short drive to the America Towers Hotel where we will be spending the next two nights. Our bags were unloaded from the bus and we dragged them into the hotel. Once again Gina facilitated a smooth check-in with us not having to do anything other than wait for Gina to collect and hand out room keys. Before going up to our room we quickly agreed with Meredith a time to meet back in the lobby to venture out for a bit more sightseeing on foot.

The three of us had decided there were two things we wanted to see over in the Recoleta district just a bit north of our hotel. First we headed to the El Ateneo bookstore which is housed in an old theatre. It was magnificent! Apart from removing the seats from the stalls area they had retained most of the theatre's features. The boxes had been turned into reading nooks where people were sitting comfortably browsing through books. The stage had been turned into a cafe so we 'took the stage' and ordered cappuccinos and cakes. Bernie ordered a beer ... which never arrived. The serves of cake were HUGE, but delicious!

From the book shop we headed back to the Cementerio de La Recoleta. We didn't go back inside, but wandered through all the craft stalls that were set up in the park area outside. We crossed the Avenida Figueroa Alcorta to reach the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas where the sculpture, Floralis Genérica, sits in the centre of a 44 metre reflecting pool. The steel and aluminium sculpture, constructed by Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina, was gifted to the city of Buenos Aires in 2002 by the Argentinian architect Eduardo Catalano. The curved, reflective surfaces of the petals reminded us of 'The Bean' (Cloud Gate) sculpture in Chicago.

As we walked back to our hotel we were amazed by all of the Jacarandas planted as street trees in this part of the city. They had their leaves now, but must have been an impressive show of purple at the beginning of summer when their flowers came out. The spent flowers must create a carpet of purple in the streets as they fall to be replaced by leaves.

Gina recommended three restaurants for dinner tonight, all of them very close to the hotel. It has been getting dark quite early here in BA (and we had already been for a long walk this afternoon!) so we headed out with five of the others to one of recommended restaurants for dinner. We didn't speak much Spanish and our waiter didn't speak any English, but we were given English menus so, with some pointing and cross-referencing between the Spanish and English menus we managed to order dinner. The serves were very large. I ordered a tortilla (Spanish potato and onion omelette) and could only eat half of it. Bernie managed to polish off two blue cheese empanadas AND a plate sized schnitzel ... with chips!

Steps 15,050 (11.33km)

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10th April 2016
Pink Tree

Stunning pics
They are really fabulous, I love these images. Well done! I really can't wait to see photobooks when those projects are undertaken! But you will have a lot of trouble deciding which ones to feature I think. How painful it must have been to have those embarrassing people in your tour group! Everyone desperately holding in their thoughts about that arrogant and offensive behaviour. But not wanting to be aligned in any way to them!

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