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First 2 Weeks in Buenos Aires, ARG

April 28, 2019

We arrived in the capital city before 9 am to check out the two possible secure parking lots for Tigger recommended by the owner of the AirBNB we were interested in.  She had told us which was the closer to her place (without, of course, actually saying where her place was as we had not officially made a reservation) and we checked out both.  The closer one seemed the best option (the price she arranged for us for four weeks was about $160 and the six week price was about $225) and then we had a nightmare trying to make the reservation for a number of reasons but finally by noon we had it done.   Since we now had the address, we walked over to the building  to wait for her to arrive (as she does not live in the building).

Marisol and her husband Andrés, were most welcoming and their teenage daughter, Denise, helped us with any translation needed.  They welcomed us with a fruit bowl, a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne and showed us around.  We are paying $575 US for four weeks, taxes and fees all in! We will likely extend it for two more weeks as Doug can stay here  while Fran flies “home” for two weeks.

The apartment is on Bolivar Street on the edge of San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood in the city and has it large markets on the weekends.  We are on the seventh floor, and, yes, there is an elevator – actually three tiny European style ones that fit a max of 3 people (forget it if you have luggage!).

It has one bedroom, a full bathroom with a tub, a full kitchen with a washing machine and plenty of storage which is needed as it’s not that big overall.  It has all the amenities including fast internet (fastest we’ve had in South America!), cable TV, AC, a washing machine (bonus!) and the regular kitchen stuff.

After making a few trips back and forth to Tigger, we decided we needed some air and a cold drink – since April is our “dry month” we opted for fountain pop instead of beer – three more days…..

We walked through the Sunday artisan/antique market a bit but it was pretty crowded and we know we have several more Sundays to enjoy it.  Andrés had told us about a pizza place nearby, so we stopped around 4 pm and ordered pizza that Doug would pick up at 7 and returned to the apartment to shower and “veg” before dinner.

Buenos Aires is the capital as well as the largest city of Argentina and is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Tango (more about that later). “Buenos Aires” can be translated as “fair winds” or “good airs”.  For many years, the name was attributed to a man named Sancho del Campo, who is said to have exclaimed: “How fair are the winds of this land!”, as he arrived. But an historian named Eduardo Madero, in 1882 after conducting extensive research in Spanish archives, ultimately concluded that the name was more closely linked with the devotion of the sailors to Our Lady of Buen Ayre .

The greater Buenos Aires region, which includes 48 neighbourhoods / barrios / communities, constitutes the 4th most populous metropolitan area in all of the Americas (surpassed by Sao Paolo, Mexico City and New York), with a population of around 15.6 million and was considered one of the best cities to live in Latin America in last year. It is the most visited city in South America, and the second-most visited city of Latin America (surpassed only by Mexico City).  It has been nicknamed the “Paris” of the Americas for its architecture.

“BA” is a multicultural city, being home to multiple ethnic and religious groups. Several languages are spoken in the city in addition to Spanish, contributing to its culture and the dialect spoken in the city and in some other parts of the country. This is because in the last 150 years the city and the country in general, has been a major recipient of millions of immigrants from all over the world, making it a melting pot where several ethnic groups live together and being considered one of the most diverse cities of all three of the Americas.

During this first week, we did some catch up stuff online, did a lot of laundry, ran errands, reached out to some overlanders we hope to meet at who are also in the city while we are, and did some sightseeing:

  • May Day – a holiday and the second day of protests in the streets (a very common occurrence in this city).

major clean up time on the 2nd
  • We walked in the area admiring the architecture to the “barrio” of Puerto Madera to see the “Bridge of Women” The Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava describes the design as a synthesis of the image of a couple dancing the tango.
  • Met with our “landlords” for coffee and arranged to stay longer in our apartment without using the “system” – better deal for both parties – we paid $349 USD cash for the additional 17 nights.
  • May 2nd, we took an Evita & Peron: Love & History Walking Tour with a guide. Claudio was an excellent guide and a font of information about this topic.  We walked nearly 5 km / 3 mi around the city starting at Luna Park where they met and finishing with a cab ride to the cemetery where Eva Peron was finally put to rest.

Eva Perón was one of four children fathered by Juan Duarte although he was never married their mother.  She was born on May 7, 1919, in the small and poverty stricken village of Los Toldos, Argentina.  After moving to Buenos Aires alone at age fourteen, she had some success as an actress. In 1945 she met Juan Peron at an event in the Luna Park venue – she moved in with him that night.  He became president of Argentina the following year after they were married. Eva Perón used her position as first lady to fight for women’s suffrage and improving the lives of the poor, and became a legendary figure to the trade unions and in Argentine politics. She died at the age of 33 in 1952 of cervical cancer during her husband’s second term as president.  Nearly 3,000,000 people attended her funeral. Peron was ousted by a coup in 1955 after which he fled the country.  He returned in 1970’s and won the presidency once again.  He died during his term in 1974.  (There is SO much more to this story so feel free to Google them and learn how their lives made an impact on this country.)

  • On the tour, we stopped at the Oblesik on the world’s largest boulevard (Avenida 9 de Julio) with SIXTEEN lanes! This monument was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city back in 1936.

  • Saturday night we met up with some overlanding friends at the oldest bar in town.

We’d met Jeff (an American) travelling with his fiance, Cassandra who is Ecuadorian.  Their journey ends in a few weeks when they ship to the US.  It was fun to catch up.

  • Sunday we awoke to a cloudy sky and it rained most of the morning complete the thunder and lightning. Our afternoon plans got postponed a day and instead we walked to the El Atena bookstore. National Geograpic named it world’s most beautiful book store once the rain stopped.  It opened in 1919 as a theatre and was converted to a bookstore in 2000.

Fun fact: Buenos Aires is among the cities with the highest number of bookstores per person in the world (with more than 700 brick and mortar establishments).

  • On the way back to our apartment, we stopped at one of the best ice cream parlors in the world – Cadare – for gelato. We each got three yummy flavours in a cup and we did not disagree with the designation!

During our second week,

  • Monday morning we bought 48 hour tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus today to check out different barrios of the city. Today we visited La Boca, the most southern burb of BA.  Here you can find a cool little section called La Caminito with coloured buildings, lots of small shops and restaurants – very touristy but a nice hour visit.

  • La Boca is home to the famous La Boca Juniors futbol team and we drove past the stadium. You see much fan loyalty in the town with many yellow and blue painted homes etc.

  • Then it was back on the bus to drive through Puerto Madero – the most recent neighbourhood with high rises and fancy hotels/restaurants

  • And then through some of San Telmo enroute to Plaza San Martin

  • We hopped back on to the bus and took it through Palmero and back to Recoleta to check out more of the area around the cemetery we’d visited last week.
  • Late in the afternoon we met up with overlanding Canadians, Cathy & Derek, whom we’d originally met outside the Marble Caves in Chile and again in Ushuaia. They have been here a few weeks already and ship home in about a week.  We met up at a park where there is a huge mechanical flower that opens and close each day.  We brought drinks and they brought some cheese and crackers and we chatted for a good 90 minutes over sundown but the flower never closed!  Surprise, surprise, we learned afterwards that it hasn’t been working for a few days.

Floralis Genérica is a sculpture made of steel and aluminum.  It represents a large flower which looks at the sky, extending to its six petals. It weighs eighteen tons and is 23 meters high.

 It was a gift to the city by the Argentine architect, Eduardo Catalano who once said that the flower “is a synthesis of all the flowers and, at the same time, a hope reborn every day at opening.” It was created in 2002. The sculpture was designed to move, closing its petals in the evening and opening them in the morning.

The sculpture is located in the center of a park of four acres of wooded boundaries, surrounded by paths that get closer and provide different perspectives of the monument, and placed above a reflecting pool, which apart from fulfilling its aesthetic function, protects it. 

  • Tuesday we continued on the Hop on Hop Off bus visiting the north coast of the city passing Rio Plata (Argentina “claims” it’s the widest river in the world but it’s more of an estuary not a river at its widest point of 220 km / 140 mi),

  • Another huge Argentine futbol club’s stadium, Club Athletico River Plate,

  • Areas of the city that were once huge horse communities and where harness racing still takes place and, in season, polo is played. Argentina is a world class player in this sport.
  • We stopped in a huge park (really about six parks all near each other) to wander through a Holocaust Memorial

  • a former long rail bridge that has been re purposed to house many restaurants all in a row

  • before heading back towards the city stopping at the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theatre) to get tickets to see the city’s philharmonic orchestra in one of the best opera houses in the world.

  • We stopped for lunch at a BA favourite pizza restaurant called “Kentucky” but we weren’t all that impressed. We then took our leftovers back on the bus and returned to our apartment.  It was cooler today, cloudy in the morning but cleared up mid day.  (Note: today was the anniversary of Evita’s birthday  and we saw a parade on on Avenida Mayo and later in the day there was much music and fireworks.)
  • Thursday the 9th was our 38th wedding anniversary so we treated ourselves to a dinner show at a tango theatre and invited Cathy & Derek to join us. The “tour” included a pick up (for us only as their AirBNB was out of the pickup range), dinner with wine/beer, the tango show and the return trip to our apartment.  The pickup part did not proceed as planned and after messaging and calling, Pablo picked us up late and Cathy & Derek were waiting for us at the venue.  We expressed our disappointment in his service explaining our friends were waiting and it was our anniversary that was getting off to a bad start.  He did step up, apologized a few times saying it was all his mistake (at one point he claimed he thought our reservation was for the following night!) and did give us a $10 off discount each, taxi money for our friends to return to their place, a bottle of wine to take home, a better viewing table (although at the back, it was higher up and we could see over everyone’s head) and a glass of champagne each with dinner. The theatre was beautiful, dinner was a three course meal which was quite good and the wine glasses/beer bottles were filled a few times.  The show was a mixture of a small six person orchestra, two singers and about 8 dancers.  It was all in Spanish but it was well done and we enjoyed it very much.  (we only had our phone cameras so not great photos 🙁 )

Tango is a dance that has influences from African, Native American and European culture. Dances from the cultural ceremonies of former slave peoples helped shape the modern day tango. The dance originated in lower-class districts of both Buenos Aires and Montevideo (with the former claiming most of the fame).

  • After a rainy Thursday, again with thunder and lightning, we had a drier day and didn’t do a great deal.  We were having some internet issues at the apartment that started yesterday morning and by this afternoon, we had figured a way around trying to access the proper network by using the WPS button on the router.  The Internet company kept telling our landlady that they were resetting the system which didn’t seem to be working as we never saw the network in the list but we did see this new one that we could manually connect each device to.  All was good once again.
  • Saturday the sun came out again but you can sure feel fall in the air.  The temperatures are reaching around 20 C / 68 F and the nights are cooler but so far still double digits C.