The Mothers of the Missing Children, Evita and more.....Plaza de Mayo and Recoleta

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South America » Argentina » Buenos Aires
March 22nd 2013
Published: March 25th 2013
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21st March ’13 continued….

So eventually after hearing several thundery rumbles we decide we better set off for the bus station before it pours down, as it is a bit of a hike. We risked life and limb and dashed across the main road, bought tickets for the next bus and sat and waited.

Once on the bus it did start to pour down but Spiderman was on the tele so that kept me entertained (only trouble is I will only get to see half of it… does it end?!) and we were given a sweet and a drink!

Driving through the outskirts of Posadas there didn’t seem much to recommend itself about the place and the bus station wasn’t much better. It was tanking down so there was no point in trying to get out so we resigned ourselves to the 3 hour wait!! We did attempt to find the left luggage office but had no success at all, the people in the Rio Uruguay office (whose bus we are taking tonight) we of no help at all, so we just found a bench at settled in.

The bus station seemed to be home to a large number of dodgy characters so we remained vigilant while trying to look totally at ease!

Finally there was only 30 minutes to go so we went down to where the bus would arrive with a choice of three possibilities. I was amazed when this really flash Rio Uruguay Starbus pulled in, it was all gleaming, clean and had individual screens by each seat! Wow, this was the 8pm bus and ours was the next one at 8.15pm so it was quite exciting……

Then this dirty old clapped out RU bus pulled in and guess what? was ours!!! Had to laugh. The flash one was the Starbus mark 2 and ours was the original!

We checked in with the driver and he gestured at the luggage hold so we went down and handed our bags over, next thing the baggage man is demanding (in a quiet, whispering menacing way) money. Well we thought he was with the bus so refused and wondered if this meant our bags would get tossed out. So feeling a little un nerved we got on board and our ‘hostess’ gave us each a sweet and we found our seats.

Right quick explanation, there are various classes of overnight buses but we took the highest standard as it has seats that fully reclined, so we hoped we would actually get some sleep. Despite not being mark 2 this bus was pretty comfy and ok we didn’t have individual adjustable screens but we did have slightly wonky fixed ones in the backs of the seat in front. Ok we couldn’t select our choice of films but we were shown one about an autistic muslim guy in America during 9/11 with Spanish subtitles!!

And ok we didn’t get the braised beef supper (that I had read about in someone else’s blog) but we did get the slightly over stewed shepherds’ pie and the meal was rounded off with a cup of bright yellow jelly. We could have had as many beers or cokes as we wanted but as this would have meant even more visits to the loo we didn’t go over the top.

Anyway the seats did recline and were nearly flat, once I had cleared the last persons rubbish out of seat mechanism I was sorted. Getting to and staying asleep were not so easy!

21-25th March ’13 Buenos Aires

By the time breakfast arrived I was knackered! But a soggy croissant and a cuppa helped slightly.

We pulled into Buenos Aires bus station an hour late (which suited us as it was less time to wait before we could check into our hotel) and joined the mass of humanity surging about the place while trying to find a sign for the tube station. Eventually we asked a policeman who turned us around to show us we were standing outside the tourist information office, durrrrrr.

Armed with directions we headed outside and found the tube (subte), bought tickets and then managed to ram ourselves into the already overpacked train! Eeee gods it was a nightmare, packed in like sardines, trying to find something to hang onto, people glaring at you, I did not enjoy this experience one bit! Then we had to get off and change trains and do it all again!!

Eventually we arrived at our stop and emerged from the depths. We are staying in the San Nicolas district and there is a large green park area and the buildings are a really mixture of the lovely, old and elaborate and the modern, functional.

Found the Ibis Hotel, checked in, our room has a view over the park, is very clean, with fluffy towels, a soft bed and a great shower! I feel properly clean for the first time in a couple of weeks. However laundry is mega expensive (£9 for one pair of trousers) so we do still slightly smell!!

Out for a wander and we managed to find Jo’s café down a back street so sat eating empanadas with all the local bus drivers before doing some sightseeing. Walking around the Saenz Pena area where the hotel is we were surprised to see such a lot of homeless people, their mattress are right outside office blocks as well as around the park area.

There are lots of monuments but they are all fenced off – this is common throughout BA. We had a look at the National Congress building and the amazing La Inmobiliaria building (now derelict). We walked for miles!! Through the streets down to the Obelisk, there is lots of construction going on and loads of obviously lovely tree lined walkways are cordoned off and onto the Plaza de Mayo.

Here there was a
Plaza de MayoPlaza de MayoPlaza de Mayo

He pops up everywhere here!
demonstration taking place by the Mothers of the Missing Children (we later discovered this takes place every Thursday afternoon). This was the first time I really knew about this situation and I was so shocked when I read up on this part of Argentinian history, it is utterly despicable and I would urge you to google it to learn more.

The mothers wear white headscarves embroidered with the names of their missing children and people were carrying placards with pictures of some of the people who ‘disappeared’ during the Dirty War. There were various film crews around filming what was going on. The square is surrounded by some fabulous old buildings including the Metropolitan Cathedral, City Palace, Museums and the pink Government House with the balcony that Eva Peron addressed the crowds from.

It was a lovely little park area with fountains, pigeons and Pope Souvenirs everywhere. We then found ourselves at the Bicentennial Museum and as it was free went in. There were lots of young helpers some with UK flag badges on who spoke English and gave us an overview of this new museum. It covers 200 years of political history and is within an old fort. Everything was in Spanish but there was lots of old newsreel footage for each era. The film covering the Dirty War era and the Missing Children was very poignant especially as it included coverage of 1978 World Cup in Argentina – which was taking place at the same time as people were being taken, tortured and murdered and their young children and babies being ‘adopted’ by the very same who were responsible for this, yet outside of Argentina all we knew about was the footy!!!!

Bizarrely and we never did find out why there was a special cubicle in the middle of the room which housed an exhibition of a giant mural by a Mexican Artist, the young helper had insisted we MUST see this, so in we went. We put on the special shoe covers and went down into a small room, another UK helper gave us this explanation – ‘imagine you are in a bubble underwater’, we then looked up straight into a vagina! In fact they were everywhere as part of the mermaids that were ‘looking’ in at us, hmmmmm.

Carrying on walking in an attempt to find the riverfront we just succeeded in crossing loads of the massive multi-lane roads with pedestrian crossings that only work if they feel like it and each one feels like dicing with death.

Hot and harried we gave up and retraced our steps back to the Plaza de Mayo and the tube station. We found a nice local restaurant to eat at and the waitress (Sarah) was lovely and so welcoming, we managed a bit of a conversation as she spoke a little English and we used our little Spanish.

Everyone was out promenading in the evening, no one seems to eat dinner until about 9pm so we watched dogs being walked, adults strutting, kids playing and kids begging.

22nd March ’13 BA

Our room is boiling hot! The air con we were told last night wasn’t working and we were roasted. As the Ibis has this ‘we’ll fix your problem in 15 minutes or the night’s stay is on us’ policy I decided to push the issue. What a carry on, the manageress went up onto the roof to check on it and came back saying it hadn’t been switched on but now was and to wait 20 minutes, so we did and nothing changed, then they changed our room for one the sun didn’t shine into all day and the words discounta were used. In the end the manageress joined me outside for a fag to recover!

After all this hoo hah we decided to just go out and were told it would be another 30 mins before the air circulated round the building to cool things down anyway. So began another mammoth day of hiking the streets of Buenos Aires.

We began by taking 3 tube trains which also involved lots of walking and in reality maybe saved us 10 mins walking time! We arrived at the equivalent of Oxford Street with hordes of very well dressed people strutted about laden down with large posh bags and searched out the famous bookshop housed in an old theatre. When we found it, it was closed!!

Then followed yet more street pounding, dodging dog walkers, one of whom had about 10 dogs on leads and one bunch which Howard managed to get tangled up in crossing the road! Eventually arrived at the Recoleta cemetery. This is one of those amazing city of the dead cemeteries that Latin America does in style. We wandered around goggling at the elaborate, ornate tombs with the giant statuery and attempted to find Eva Peron’s tomb. We met a couple of English people who gave us directions and still no luck, eventually I spotted some tourists who looked like they knew where they were going and we tailed them and finally found it, tucked down a small side street. It was a fairly plain black marble tomb but the doors were decorated with flowers and there were lots of plaques to Eva and Evita.

Once out of the cemetery we went to walk through the park only to find the section we wanted to be in was closed off (beginning to sense a theme?) so we trudged on and passed through lots of very upmarket streets with grand old buildings converted into posh apartments and carried on and on until we eventually arrived at the Retiro (main station). Here we viewed the clock tower, crossed yet more huge roads and go to the park Plaza San Martin and the memorial to the soldiers killed in the Falklands War and managed to arrive just at the end of the lowering of the flag ceremony. Uphill we went through massive trees – some of which had to have branches held up by support coloumns and finally found the subte station. We did a good solid 5 hours walking and are now totally knackered!

Barely able to hobble out for dinner we only got as far as yesterday’s restaurant when Sarah the waitress spotted us, waved and came out and kissed us, so we just stopped there!

Argentina are playing in the world cup qualifier tonight in BA and all the men seem to have stayed in to watch the footy as the streets were filled with women and children tonight.

When we got back to the hotel one of the girls on the desk was shivering and saying how frio (cold) it was, to us it was warm and then it dawned on us, the locals in coats, it’s the end of their summer… wonder the air con wasn’t on, the rest of the hotels occupants would probably be up in arms! It still isn’t working in our room but at least this room is cooler.

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