Jan 5 – Thu. We spent the morning at the Eolo Lodge before taking off to the El Calafate airport. We finally are experiencing Patagonia in its summer element: warm with brilliant blue skies and billowy clouds blown across the broad horizon.
By noon we are on our way to Buenos Aires. After a three hour flight, we land at the city’s domestic airport located along the Rio De La Plata, brown river bordering on Uruguay. Our hotel, The Park Hyatt in Recoleta, is about 10 minutes drive. It is warm and sunny. This has been the closest thing to real summer weather that we have had on the entire trip. We settle into our room and then wander down to the outside gardens for a gin and tonic enjoying the late afternoon sun. Dinner is late in the city so we take a cab over to the Puerto Madero area to the Cabana Las Lilas for dinner. The area is very touristy with redeveloped docks facing the river in which the area is mixed use with shops and restaurants lining the first floor and housing above. Typical Argentina steak house with slabs of beef falling off of our plates and that is after we have consumed all we can eat. Here we have moved up to the 34 latitude so it is dark around 8 PM rather than 11. Many people are strolling along the riverfront late into the evening. Fortunately, we do not have an early start in the morning.
The city has 48 barrios (neighborhoods) and we explored a few today to form a
picture of the city’s culture. We start in Recoleta, the city’s richest area and
most representative of French architecture, which originated from those fleeing
the 1871 yellow fever epidemic from the swampy river areas. After viewing the
Basilica Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church, we turn our attention to the
Cementerio Recoleta in which presidents, generals, and famous family leaders are
entombed. The private chapel most known is Eva Peron’s but there are other more
ornate and elaborate. Along the Avenida del Libertador, we see the law faculty
building which is next to Eduardo Catalan’s Floralis Generica, a giant metallic
flower that opens during the day and closes at night. The MALBA modern art
gallery is along the way as we view the fashionable residential areas of
embassies and famous Argentineans in Palermo. After a stroll in the new rose
garden, we see the first of a series of large sports facilities situated in the
city: the horse racing track and a set of polo fields.
Before continuing on to La Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo, we stop for a quick look at the shopping district on Florida Street. When we arrive at the Pink House, the area is blocked off due to a protest march. The palace is the official seat of government although Christina lives in a more secure compound in Olivos. The Casa Rosada is famous for Eva Peron’s balcony appearances as well as the escape of President La Rue during the 2001/2002 economic crash and riots. The Plaza is named after the first council was sworn into office in 1810. The Cabildo building was the nerve center of the square from 1580 – 1821. In order to move out of the area, we take the subway a couple of stations and exist in the Monserrat area along the Avenue 9 de Julio. At the Tortoni Cafe, established in 1858 and a famous hangout for politicians, writers and artists in the Parisian cafe tradition, we stop for some refreshments before continuing our explorations. Here also the Cafe operates a nightly cabaret for tango exhibition.
We drive through the cobble streets of San Telmo and view the antique shops
scattered along the way. Seen in the area are crumbling mansions that once
housed the city’s elite families before the cholera and yellow fever epidemics
revenged the neighborhood in the 19th Century. The area adjacent to the mouth of
the river is La Boca. Although a poor area, it houses one of the famous soccer
stadiums accommodating 30,000 fans. The charm of the area is seen in the
brightly painted buildings that benefited from the excess nautical paints from
the nearby docks. The Boca is known for the origin of the tango music and dance;
however there are other areas of the city that have taken over showcasing it’s
We return to Recoleta by way of Puerto Madero and view the footbridge Puente de la Majar, the Women’s Bridge, completed in 2001 as a cantilever spar cable structure which also swings 90 degrees for water traffic. Many of the streets in this renovated area also carry names of famous Argentinean women. We return to San Telmo for an excellent dinner at La Brigada, a steakhouse with a bit of a rough edge but great steak.
Jan 7 – Sat. This is our day off with no scheduled activities or commitments for being somewhere. So we do what every normal couple aspires to do on the weekend and sleep in. But it is Buenos Aires so we can’t linger in our room all day. After breakfast we decide to do some exploring in Recoleta on foot. We return to the Recoleta Church square and observe all the vendors setting up their stalls for a day of retail activity. In this area we visit the Buenos Aires Design Center and the Recoleta Cultural Center, featuring work of art, architecture, and design students. One phenomena we failed to mention is the volume dog walkers who have 15 – 20 canines strapped to their arms all of which are walking in a well behaved manner. We have trouble with walking our 2 Siberian huskies without complete chaos. On the return to the hotel we stop in a leather and wood shop and purchase our first souvenir: a leather table runner and placemats.
Our afternoon is spent in Palermo Soho wandering the narrow streets and peeking into the tiny retail shops and design stores. We have lunch and people watch at one of the many sidewalk cafes.
We do some preparation for our trip tomorrow morning and relax the rest of the afternoon. In Recoleta we switch to Italian cuisine for an early,lighter dinner.
Off to Iguassu Falls
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