This trip started with a wish to celebrate Alan’s significant birthday in Buenos Aires, a city we’d never experienced but had been highly recommended as a top place to visit.
So, after 5 weeks travelling, we reached our destination, ready to party!
BA is an enormous, cosmopolitan city with a very ‘European’ atmosphere and, in fact, nearly everyone we met claimed to have an Italian grandfather! It’s comprised of 47 barrios, or neighbourhoods, each with very different characteristics.
Our five days were pretty well non-stop as we explored and experienced as much as we could.
We took a walking tour into La Boca, the original port and main point of entry for various groups of immigrants, including the Italians who arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. La Boca continues to be a poor area – we saw signs of current deprivation alongside the colourful shacks that were home to earlier generations, many of them still occupied.
Argentina’s three great celebrities are present here – Maradona, Eva Perón and the present Pope, Francis, who was born in the city and served as it’s archbishop before his elevation to Rome.
The fourth character here is General Belgrano, a nation hero.
La Boca is also the base of one of Argentina’s most popular football teams, Boca Juniors, so we joined the admiring crowds outside the stadium.
From the waterfront we admired the high rise blocks of the modern city on the opposite bank of the Rio de la Plata (River Plate), the exact translation is ‘river of silver’
To get around, we learned to use the cheap and efficient metro, but most of our exploration was done on foot.
On Sunday we visited the famous San Telmo Street market, originally a flea market, now expanded to include a wide range of artisan products, arts and crafts. Formerly a residential area of impressive colonial and nineteenth century mansions, the barrio of San Telmo is now a lively centre of shops, art galleries and bars. Described by one guide book as ‘seedy’, it seems to have become desirable and fashionable in recent years.
Our small ’boutique’ B and B was in the attractive residential area of Palermo although at first these adjectives didn’t seem to fit with our view of a car park, football ground and railway track, complete with graffiti. But it was great to enjoy a sundowner in the rooftop terrace and, much later, walk out to a different excellent restaurant or bar. In BA dinner is served seriously late, we learned not to even set out until 9.30pm!
We walked the grand boulevards admiring the impressive architecture, reminiscent of European capitals, then toured the recently restored marvel, Teatro Colon, said to be one of the world’s greatest opera houses. We were astonished when our rather dour guide broke into song to remind us of various classic productions! The streets were full of flowering jacaranda trees.
Following the footsteps of everyone who ever visited Buenos Aires we made our way to to La Recoleta cemetery where Eva Perón lies in her family mausoleum which seems to be a place of pilgrimage for locals as well as tourists.
Street art is imaginative here – we especially enjoyed the sculptures of the popular cartoon character, Mafalda and the Formula One champion, Juan Fangio.
Apart from Evita probably the two things Argentina is most famous for are beef and tango. For Alan’s birthday treat we signed up for a day out in the pampas experiencing gaucho life – the guachos were the notorious Argentinian outlaws, later cowboys, who spent their lives on horseback raiding, or tending, the huge herds of cattle. The day didn’t go quite as planned. By the time we reached the charming town of San Antonio de Areco, 100 kilometres out of the city, the thunder was rolling round and heavy rain started falling. It continued for the next 5 hours. Arriving at the estancia (farmstead) we waded through the mud, had a distant glimpse of horses and headed inside for refreshments. We were looked after very well as coffee merged into lunch with as much beef and other meats as anyone could eat. The power went off and we were treated to a short song and dance performance by candlelight from the modern day gauchos. Afternoon tea quickly followed and then it was time to leave. From the four wheel drive security of the estancia’s retired US army truck we looked on in horror as other visitors in cars slid around, were towed out of the mud and, in one case, slipped sideways into the ditch as we made our way down the farm track.
Back in BA, of course, it was a warm dry evening, so we headed out for birthday drinks at the lovely Rey de Copas bar in Palermo. Maybe not the day we’d planned but certainly a memorable one!
On our last evening we went to Cafe Tortoni, said to be the oldest in the city and certainly a grand and venerable establishment. One of the tables is still occupied by some of it’s most distinguished patrons – Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel and Alfonso Storni, we’ll leave you to find out who they were!
In the atmospheric basement theatre we watched a classic tango show.
Phew! Buenos Aires is indeed a stunning and vibrant city, a great place celebrate and end the trip.
We came home at the end of November and, almost immediately it seemed to be Christmas.
This post is longer than usual but it seems a good idea to get to the end of this trip before 2017.
Thank you for reading and commenting………and, if you’re still interested, it’s just four weeks until we set off again for Mexico and Nicaragua.
Until then Happy New Year to all our Readers!!