Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Patagonia - Buenos Aires 2

Buenos Aires is known for its unique neighbourhoods and the most colourful of all (in more ways than one) is La Boca. Tour books had warned tourists about violence and robberies in La Boca so we were a little leery about visiting on our own. Our tour drove us through the neighbourhood then dropped us in the touristy centre, where we were allowed to wander around unescorted but warned that we should stay in the "triangle" - "make a right and then a right and another right to get you back to the meeting point". We would be "safe" if we don't wander out of those lines. For once, I followed instructions. But I find it ironic that we were willing to play tourist in an area that obviously was not what it appeared to be - but we pretended it was and played along with the "fake" setup - like Disneyland but not...

We walked the afternoon away in the cobbled streets of San Telmo and wandered fortuitously into a historic literary café, La Poésia, where we had a nice dessert break.  A staircase led up to a loft with a photo gallery of literary figures who had met in the café located in a turn of the 19th century building. It was a long but interesting walk back to our Recoleta hotel through the pedestrian thoroughfare Florida Street - a back to reality walk, with the street full of hawkers and solicitations. We were offered "cambio" by street money-exchangers non-stop throughout the walk down the crosstown street.

The highlight of our Buenos Aires visit was a wonderful evening at the historic Los Laureles (established 1893) tango bar, attending a "milonga" where locals danced the tango.  What a fun way to end the trip!

Colourful tenements in La Boca - only the tenants would know if life is really that colourful...

Tango and singing on the street to entice customers


Street mural in San Telmo by famous Argentinian cartoonist Juan Carlos Colombres (Landrú)

La Poesia, an historic literary café in San Telmo that we just happened to wander into

Cobbled streets of San Telmo

Pedestrian thoroughfare in Centro
Flordia Street famous for shopping and "cambio"

Historic milonga bar, Los Laureles, established in 1893

Instructor at tango lesson

Tango demo

Live music for locals dancing the tango at the milonga

Good night and goodbye, Buenos Aires!

This wraps up my posts on Patagonia. It was one of the most spectacular trips we have been on. Looking forward to the next one - Munich, Salzburg and the Alps. Stay tuned!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Patagonia - Buenos Aires 1

We started and ended our Patagonian trip in Buenos Aires.  It was a return to the big city after more than a week in the wild Patagonian landscape - quite a mental adjustment. And while I enjoyed cities and their cultures very much, it didn't offer the same awe-inspiring spectacles of nature that took our breaths away time and again. 

I looked at the buildings in Buenos Aires - from the colourful La Boca to the majestic classical structures of Centro or the old town ambiance of San Telmo to the chic elegance of Recoleta - they are all remarkable manifestations of the human spirit and awe-inspiring in their own way.  But it was hard to compete with the splendours of nature that we just witnessed.  I almost felt the cities were a compromise. I finally understood a dear friend who is no longer with us.  She was a devout lover of mountains and nature and went from one wilderness trip to another, and I had found it difficult to understand at the time why she could not rev up a similar enthusiasm for cities, these glorious centres of culture.  Now I understand and I empathize, a bit late.

Buenos Aires certainly had its charms and I had hoped to have captured some of that in the photos below and in the next post.  We had explored Recoleta on our own on our first day of arrival and upon our return from Patagonia. The tour also took us to the famous cemetery in Recoleta where the rich and famous were buried. We had a quick visit of the Plaza de Mayo in Centro before we went on to the colourful La Boca district. 

We had a very enjoyable lunch "with the locals" by the waterfront and I was pleasantly surprised that we were actually sitting right in front of a nature sanctuary. What a treat to have this so close to the centre of the city. 

Buenos Aires from the plane - I am amazed at the vast green recreational areas just outside of town

One of the first things that hit our eyes near the Museum of FIne Art
We took advantage of the free entry on Sunday - nice collection.  I was struck by the iconic painting of social protest below "Sin pan y sin trabajo" (Without bread or Work) in a special exhibit of works by Argentinian painter Ernesto de la Cárcova. Having seen the slums in Buenos Aires, in stark contrast to the wealthy part of the city, I can better understand the sentiments behind the painting.

The colourful Sunday street market in Recoleta
An unusual clock set over the belfry of a historic church
"El Gran Gomero" a giant rubber tree in Recoleta is over 200 years old
The roots!
Colourful chairs on a sidewalk patio

Historic cafe La Biela, popular meeting place for politicians, writers, artists, actors and media celebrities - and you can just have a coffee and ice cream here
A Rufuos hornero (national bird of Argentina) right in the middle of the city

Floralis Generica by architect Eduardo Catalano in the United Nations Plaza
The famous Recoleta cemetery where the rich and famous were buried (also a standard tourist stop)
Mix of wide and narrow streets inside the cemetery

Tomb of Eva Peron

The National Theatre

Intricate iron work at the Opera House - there were long lineups for the tours

This tower is the only part remaining of the Mirador Massue, an art nouveau building from 1903 by French architect Alfred Massue, replaced by postmodern glass
Casa Rosada - the presidential mansion right downtown in Plaza de Mayo, El Centro

The cathedral at the other end of Plaza de Mayo

Lunch with the locals - street food by the waterfront

Wildlife right across the lagoon

An unusual wattled jacanda foraging in the lagoon
Bar-winged cinclodes near the bridge
A stroke of luck to come across this stunning swing bridge by architect Santiago Calatrava in Puerto Madero - Puente de la Mujer (Woman's bridge); for people in Toronto, Calatrava is also the architect of the Galleria atrium in Brookfield Place, downtown Toronto.

 Next post: Buenos Aires 2 - La Boca and San Telmo