Buenos Aires, The Big City: Part 2

Apartment life is relaxing after our ten months on the road, and the big city continues to entertain us.  We find a friendly bar round the corner, although we are missing good British real ale, and several supermarkets within five minutes walk, so we eat in a lot: eating out every single night gets a bit boring after about six months, so we’re ripe for some home cooking.  The people living here are called ‘Portenos’ (because BA is a port city), and are friendly, busy people.  They love drinking coffee and chatting, and so do we, so we know we’re going to like it here.  We spend a lot of time walking around town, as the subway workers go on strike, asking for a 28% wage rise !  The strike finally ends ten days later when the union negotiators agree to a 23% rise but they’re still arguing about holiday and other benefits.  We don’t worry much when the newpaper distributors and the teachers go on strike as well, but this probably gives you an inkling into the financial situation here: galloping inflation is doing everyone in.  The weather turns rainy so we take advantage of our gym membership:  we both attend the Iyengar yoga class and Diane loves the Latin Aerobics, both of which help us learn a whole new set of Spanish vocabulary, mostly about parts of the body.  We eat a lot of fabulous Argentinian steak and drink a lot of fabulous Argentinian wine.  The Olympic Games close and everyone in our gym is impressed with the organisation and coverage – well done, London !
It rains as well, it has to be said, as it’s winter here.  After one particularly heavy downpour, our city map disinitegrates.  Paul is happy when we find a tourist information kiosk which is both open and has a map.  In the tourist poster is an arty flower structure in one of our local parks which automatically opens at sunrise and closes at sunset, though we’re never there when it’s doing anything, so we can’t confirm it.
IMG_1470.JPG (640x480 pixels)
One of the nearby shopping malls is Galerias Pacifica and is mentioned in all the guidebooks. It is full of upmarket shops and has beautiful ceiling paintings dating back to the ’50s renovated recently.  Buenos Aires is a pretty dressy city, and we’re as scruffy as ten months on the road will make you J  We know we really ought to buy some new clothes, but this place isn’t quite within our budget.
IMG_1467.JPG (480x640 pixels)
Dog owners in BA seem to have no problem with paying someone to walk their dogs.  It’s common to see a walker with twelve pooches or more all  walking quite politely together.  If you’re really experienced you can obviously walk a bicycle too.
IMG_1719.JPG (640x480 pixels)
Now, what happens when all these dogs are caught short in the parks you may wonder?  No problem, the park authorities provide special areas where the dogwalkers can get together to chat and the dogs can water the trees and run around, only noteworthy because at home we would expect a fenced in area to provide completely the opposite function.
IMG_1688.JPG (640x480 pixels)
We visit the local flea market on a Sunday afternoon.  The locals here drink yerba mate, apparently the dried chopped leaf of the common holly tree, contained in a gourd and sipped from a straw with a filter.  It’s common to see people carrying them around, sharing with family and friends.  Here’s one of many stalls selling the gourds – needless to say, we resist a purchase. Diane tasted mate a while ago and thinks it’s a smoky yucky liquid, nothing like good old British tea which we’re longing for.
IMG_1476.JPG (800x600 pixels)
You won’t be surprised to know that the Palacio del Congreso was modelled on the Capitol building in Washington DC, although the main garden area is fenced off and now the only visitors are pigeons and feral cats.
IMG_1495.JPG (640x480 pixels)
IMG_1496.JPG (640x480 pixels)
We pick a nice weather day to visit Tigre, a few miles north of Buenos Aires, and go on the train, which costs only 30 pence per person – bargain of the week although we remember that we had to defer the visit because of a train crash last week!  Anyway, Tigre town is surrounded by streams and rivers and we take a touristy boat trip which passes more rowing clubs than we have ever seen in one place.  They are everywhere, often in really grand old buildings like this one.
IMG_1616.JPG (640x480 pixels)
Here’s the beautiful Art Museum at the end of town, but the weather is so nice we stay outside in the warm sun.
IMG_1599.JPG (640x480 pixels)
Except of course when we find the Naval Museum.  Paul is in seventh heaven and stays a tad longer than expected !  They have some really fine torpedos, an exhibition about the Belgrano (yes, the one that went down in the Falklands conflict), and much else besides.
IMG_1605.JPG (640x480 pixels)
The Teatro Colon is in the centre of Buenos Aires, and was opened in the 1850s:  it has recently been renovated at vast cost over four years.  It’s a great building, although it fronts one of the main roads through the centre of BA, so it’s a bit noisy, and it’s hard to take a photograph without five taxis and a mad motorbiker in it.  But here’s one.
IMG_1538.JPG (640x480 pixels)
The tour around the Teatro Colon is pretty pricey, so we book tickets to see pianist Andras Schiff instead.  Although we don’t pay for a seat in one of the royal boxes (not wishing to pay a King’s ransom), we do have a fabuous view of the stage and the opulent surroundings.  He plays well, and does four encores, so we have a fine time.
IMG_1680.JPG (640x480 pixels)
Little did we know when we arrived that we’re here during the Buneos Aires Tango Festival and Mundial, a yearly celebration of tango, together with a dancing competition to find the world champions.  The central exhibition hall, where a lot of it happens, is only a few minutes walk from our apartment so we visit, listen to tango music, and watch both professionals and more ordinary people practising their dance steps.  After queueing for two hours on a cool morning we get free tickets for the finals of the competition at at the town’s biggest concert venue, Luna Park.  Tango is completely new to us, but we enjoy watching two different forms: Salon and Stage.  Salon Tango is interesting but it is the Stage event that interests us more and seems to consist of aerobatics, amazing dresses and a lot of pouting.  How the women can dance in four inch high heels continues to amaze us.  The mostly Argentinian crowd are really into it all, and get pretty excited when their local heroes are dancing.  The winners of the Stage tango competition are Uruguayan, as it happens, just over the Rio Plata, and our next port of call.
IMG_1765.JPG (640x480 pixels)
Our relaxing month soon comes to an end, and we book tickets for the boat ride to Montevideo, Uruguay.  For some reason, the ferry company have massive statues of Los Simpson (as they are known here, and before you ask, no, not Los Simpsons) in the main hall.
IMG_1700.JPG (640x480 pixels)
So, here we come Uruguay, country number 14 of the trip. Only a month till we return to the UK, unfortunately J

1 comment to Buenos Aires, The Big City: Part 2

  • Amanda Benson

    Whilst I don’t want you to have to think too prematurely about your return to the northern hemisphere, I was wondering which route you are taking back and whether we will have the opportunity to cross paths before you cross to the dark side of the Atlantic?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>