Tour Buenos Aires a Little More
We started Wednesday with a subway ride and walk to the Athena Bookstore, just off Callao in Recoleta district of Buenos Aires. This is an old, very ornate theater that has been converted into a marvelous, huge bookstore with a café where the stage used to be. The balconies are still there – it’s marvelous, just gorgeous.
Then it was a further walk of about 6 blocks to the Buenos Aires cemetery, Cementario de la Recoleta – but, we couldn’t tell from the map where the entrance was and so ended up going at least another half-mile around the wrong way and walking all the way around it before coming to the front door. There, a volunteer sold us a map and pointed us to a “guide in English” whose name was/is Patricia.
Patricia spent about an hour walking around with us and explained the history of the place and how the mausoleums work. We saw the Duarte mausoleum where Eva Peron (aka Evita) is buried – see picture. This is a very impressive place. Note that the part you can see that looks like a little house is actually just the top – and a small part of each whole.
The actual space extended down 2 floors and out into the middle of the walkway (underground, of course). You can look in a see little staircases going down. Each tomb can hold a variable number of coffins or caskets. Some can hold 12 or 15, and the larger ones up to 125. Some are brand new; most are very old and in disrepair. The Buenos Aires cemetery is now private and these tombs are private property you buy and sell like houses. As time goes on the bodies from the members of a family are cremated and stored in the crypt, to make space for new ones.
We had a small lunch at a Buenos Aires sidewalk café – called Aroma – beside the Buenos Aires cemetery. A ham tart and a chicken curry sandwich – nothing spectacular. Then we caught a taxi to take us to the Buenos Aires Jardin Botanical (Botanical Garden) except that the cab driver dropped us at the Japanese Garden – which is a long way away – and we ended up walking quite a while to actually find the Botanical Garden. To get there, we had to walk along the outside fence that bordered the zoo and his garden
We walked past a very long block of the Jardin Zoological de Buenos Aires – to get there. Iron fence with bamboo on the right; street with apartment buildings on the left – large numbers of balconies, many enclosed with security fences – even on higher floors.
Finally, we arrived at the Buenos Aires gardens. I think we are a bit spoiled by Quail Gardens in Encinitas and Longwood Gardens in PA – which are two of our favorites. But it was nice to stroll through greenery anyway. Not to mention about 1,000 cats. Cats snoozing on the paths, sprawled in the flower beds, perched on benches – at one point, we stood in one place and counted all we could see within about fifty feet of us – there were about 15. There must be a huge mouse population or something. These were no skinny, sickly-looking cats; they were normal, regular-looking cats – completely unperturbed by Buesnos Aires people walking by them – snoozing away.
Then we walked a bit longer, caught the Buenos Aires subway and were eventually home. We shared a chat and a glass of beer in the patio with Lidia, Ana, and a couple guests who were just leaving.
Around 8pm, we headed out to a Buesnos Aires restaurant called Turuleca for dinner. We HAD been thinking we were doing pretty well with our Spanish, but the universe decided that this would be a good opportunity to ensure we remained humble. So, of course, there was no English on the menu, we didn’t bring our dictionary and absolutely nothing looked familiar.
There was a cryptic dish named “salmon” which JB quickly translated to “salmon” and ordered, and I had chicken, or “pollo”, which of course you now know is pronounced “po-sho” in Buenos Aires. In addition, our waitress was very young and didn’t seem to grasp the ‘fun’ part of helping two strange foreigners make sense of her menu. She actually seemed slightly embarrassed by the whole thing.
But the restaurant was not too far from the hotel and I wore my hiking shoes – so that was good. JB pointed at a wine that came reasonably priced in a half-bottle, and when she brought us a bottle of rose wine, JB was able to stop her before she opened it so we could order something else. Afterwards, we shared a scoop of chocolate ice cream (una bocha de helado chocolate) for dessert. Very yummy.
The rest of the evening was packing because we had to be out early on Thursday morning. Now, here’s where the fear of having your baggage be overweight comes in. Within Argentina, the checked baggage max is 33-40 pounds, depending on what you read, not 50, so, naturally, we repacked and tried to put all our heavy stuff in the carry-ons.
So you’re putting the light stuff in your big bag and the heavy stuff in your carry-on, and trying it carry it so it looks small and light. You’re only allowed 12 pounds for your carry-on, but you’re going to bluff your way through. Got that?
We set our watch alarms (always dangerous because we sometimes can’t figure out how to shut them OFF) for 7am. Got up and finished packing. Went down for breakfast with all the luggage. Ate ham & cheese sandwiches, juice, coffee – said goodbye to the folks from Del Mar. Said adios to Ana and Lidia and Buenos Aires. The taxi arrived to take us to the airport.
The trip to the Buenos Aires airport took 40 minutes. The local airport (as opposed to the International Airport) is very new and very clean and modern. The international airport is not nearly as nice. Our flight to Iguazu was at 10:05am. We got our boarding passes and went upstairs to the gates. There was a medium line for security. I threw out the last of my water bottle as we approached the front of the line. But needlessly, as it turns out.
I got out our passports and boarding passes – they were in my hand, unopened – and the official guy waved us through. The woman in front of me put two full bottles of water through the metal detector – no shoes off, no ID check, no computers out, no baggage weight check. Nothing. We thought maybe they’d check ID’s as we got on the plane. Nope. Very easy flight. Only 1.5 hours. They served ham and cheese sandwiches plus a little cheesecake type of thing on the plane – plus water and diet coke.
The airport in Iguazu reminded us of landing in Mexico at Zihuatanejo – small, clean, surrounded by very green trees, blue skies, white cumulus clouds. Very beautiful. We had cancelled our rental car after determining that we really wouldn’t need it. We took a cab – for 80 pesos (~$22) from the airport to the hotel. We’re at the Hotel de Cataratas (the Argentina side, not the Brazil side) and a very nice gentleman at the front desk, Miguel, got us checked in and explained tour options to us. We’ve signed up for a tour tomorrow – they pick us up at the hotel at 8:10am – and we don’t get back until late afternoon. This includes a tour of upper and lower falls, a boat ride where “you’ll get wet to the bone – wear something casual” and a finishing up ride in a truck through the jungle to learn about the flora and fauna.
We went up to our room. JB hooked up his computer and started watching the news from home from last night (Charlie Gibson). Then we went down to the pool, hopped in to cool off – no one else was there except for two older women and a couple kids. Then back up to the room – which is where I am writing this. JB is napping.
Misc thoughts about Buenos Aires, Argentina: DOGS. There are a whole bunch of dogs in the city. Everywhere, at all times of day and night, there are dog walkers on the streets with multiple dogs on leashes. They must LOVE dogs. And interestingly, the sidewalks are surprisingly clear of dog poop. So that’s a good thing.
Subways in Buenos Aires: We found the subways very easy to use – and cheap – only 1.10 pesos (27 cents) to go anywhere. The subways were mostly pretty crowded – but completely workable. And we had a great time reading the ads plastered on the walls, on everything – trying to figure out what the words mean. It truly is getting easier to read Spanish – I think this immersion idea is a good idea.
Off to Iguazu Falls tomorrow! – Carol