Travel Journal

Buenos Aires – the good air

(Saturday 2 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 227-31 3/22-26/11
Looking at the map, it seemed pretty easy to get to the hotel. Head south of the bus terminal to a metro station a few blocks away and get the subway to a station near the hotel. The street signs are a little confusing here and I ended up taking the wrong street which had no turn offs and ended up walking half way to the hotel so I just walked the rest of the way there.
Buenos Aires is a busy city with about 14 million people but obvious not all in the city center. There are parks everywhere and tall, modern buildings along with older buildings built in the European style. They sure love their dogs here and not in the Vietnamese way. I’m not sure if people adopted dogs because there are so many parks or they made so many parks because there are so many dogs. Chicken and the egg stuff but probably the former. You do have to keep your head down when walking through the parks because of the dogs and quickly look around to take in the views of the park.
There is a funny situation in Argentina. It seems the government doesn’t print enough small denomination bills so you are constantly asked if you have anything smaller when you pay for anything. It’s not as bad here in the capitol as in the smaller cities but you get accustom to breaking higher notes and hoarding the smaller bills.
I checked into the Marabella Hotel which is in a good location downtown, medium price and with Wi-Fi and breakfast although the meal is disappointingly very Argentinean, coffee, watered down juice and three rolls. It was a beautiful day with blue skies but I stayed in and caught up on computer stuff and made plans for the next day.
The next morning I walked out into the rain and cursed my procrastination. I stopped at Teatro Colon to see if they had any performances during my stay but the season hadn’t started. I was happy to see that the four year renovation was finished though and bought a ticket for a tour in English the following day. They had tours that day but I was soaked and didn’t want to drip water all over the theatre. I next went to the Galerias Pacifico which is an upscale shopping mall where I looked around a bit but naturally everything was overpriced so I didn’t buy anything. It’s worth popping in to see the ceiling fresco in the center of the mall and window shop.
The weather wasn’t going to cooperate today so I returned back to the hotel determined to see the sights the next day rain or shine. My luck changed the following day as again it was a very blue sky and sunny. I had a 9:15 tour of the Teatro Colon which allows only pictures in the main lobby and the view out of the presidential box. There’s a heck of a lot of marble in this joint. The guide showed a section of the marble and wall that was left as is during the restoration and the difference was quite stark. I had wondered why they would close the theatre down for four years but from what I saw, the marble was in bad shape and the carpets and furniture all were replaced. The theatre can hold three thousand and obviously is quite large. While quite beautiful, I think there are better ones in Europe and the Teatro Amazonas in Brazil also has it beat. It was interesting to note that the President of Argentina, while having a dedicated box, has never been to the theatre. She apparently has no interest in the performances or is worried she will be labeled an elitist if she attended.
I headed north to Recoleta and stopped into say hello to Eva Peron. It’s quite an impressive cemetery with many interesting monuments, crypts and statues. As expected, there was a crowd around Evita, but after taking a photo or two the line quickly moved and allowed me to take some pictures. It’s quite an interesting story on how her body ended up here. After being buried in Milan, her remains were moved to Madrid. The person responsible for the Peron’s overthrow, General Aramburu refused to allow her body to be returned to Argentina. Upon his death – er, assassination in 1970, his corpse was stolen by pro-Peron members and only after the government granted her return was the General’s corpse returned. The plots are all owned by established well known families so you cannot by a spot here. Evita is an exception which rather annoys the upper-class families that have space here.
After a brief walk through the craft market in the park outside the cemetery, I headed north to Palermo which was many parks. I went to the Japanese Gardens which was quite a contrast to the busy streets and tall skyscraper outside. Afterwards, I caught the subway back to the hotel. I was considering going out that afternoon but there was a rather loud political demonstration which closed several of the major streets around the hotel. The hotel even locked the door just to be safe so I decided to stay in and work on my story.
The next morning the aftermath of the demonstration was apparent. Flyers had been pasted on everything every three feet or so and what had not been covered with flyers had slogans spray painted on to them – windows, marbled buildings, monuments, streets, everything you could think of. There were people scrubbing and repainting their buildings as if this was a normal thing. While it may not have made the photos I took as beautiful as I would have liked, it certainly made them more interesting. I wanted to get some English books here as I had read that Chile, my next country has a 19% tax on books (outrageous) and so I went over to the Walrus bookstore which had English used books for sale. While their collection was impressive and the books in very good condition, the prices were too high. I ended up buying one paperback book for over six dollars just so I would have something for the bus ride. Hopefully there will be book exchanges somewhere on my trip so I can get some more literature.
I caught the metro to a stop near the bus station that I should have found my first day here and got tickets for a bus out to San Carlos de Bariloche the following day. I don’t know why I was headed there except I heard it was beautiful land in the Lake District and we’d be traveling through Patagonia which I’ve also heard good things about. Checking my Amazing Race videos there where two seasons that passed through this town so there ought to be something good there.
I walked back to the hotel looking for a shoe repair store as my newly acquired hiking boots from South Africa has the lining in one shoe loose and every quarter mile of walking pushes the insole up the back to where it’s hitting my ankles and is rather annoying. No luck finding a repair shop or a store that sold glue but something interesting happened as I was walking through a park. I passed a man going the other way and as I walked under a tree I saw some tiny seeds fly past my shoulder from behind. I looked over and the man I passed was coming to me saying “Senor, you have a mess on your back”. Looking at my shoulder I saw several brown spots which I immediately thought bird poop. The man tried to lead me under another tree where he said there was water and things began to click in my head. The seeds were going past me like someone threw them and there are ugly stains on my clothes that someone wants to help remove. A Mexico guidebook had warned me of a con where someone squirts mustards on your clothes and while someone else helps you clean it off they steal from you. I waved off the man with “No gracias” and then met accomplice two, a woman coming the other way with tissue out and trying to help me. I said no several times but she kept brushing my clothes with the tissue before I finally looked her in the eyes and said “I know what you’re trying to do so stop it”. Without a word she walked quickly one way and the man the other way. Alone, I looked at the spots and it looked liked chewing tobacco juice and will probably stain so I got quite angry and starting yelling all the cuss words I had learned in Spanish and the two moved even quicker away. I wished I had taken their pictures and given it to the police but I didn’t think of it at the time. This make about seven attempted thefts on this trip with a couple of them successful.
Since it was my last night in town, I thought I would take in a tango show at a restaurant next door to my hotel that the guidebook recommended. When it came near show time, the restaurant looked busy with well dressed customers and terribly expensive. It would have been nice to see the tango performed but I’m sure I would have become bored five minutes later. Instead, I went to a nice restaurant down the street and got a hunk of befstek lomo which is the best cut of meat you can get. It wasn’t the best steak I ever had (Ruth Chris in Los Angeles) but it was darn good for a place not specializing in grilled steak.
My bus was at one the next day so I took my time checking out of the hotel before boarding the subway to the bus station. Even there, I had an hour or two to kill so I put my big backpack in a locker and walked around a bit to kill time. The bus didn’t show up on the departure board and was a bit late arriving which gave me a little bit of a panic attack. It was almost empty, maybe eight passengers on the bus so I had plenty of room. The actually give you a few snacks and one meal although nothing is really any good but you eat it to keep busy and from getting hungry. I didn’t sleep as well as my first bus ride in Argentina and got up early drinking tea with my feet up at the front of the bus on the top deck watching the traffic and scenery go by.

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