Buenos Aires, Argentina
11.27.2007 - 11.27.2007
This morning, we packed our bags, at breakfast, and checked out of the Holiday Inn Express. A short taxi ride delivered us to the Hotel Emperador where we could meet with our Vantage Tour group. Since we arrived at 8:00 a.m. and they weren't due to get there until 11:00, we left our bags at the hotel and went for a nice walking tour.
Our "old neighborhood" was the Centro area; now we are in Recoleta. This is a step up in the world of Buenos Aires. About five blocks from our front door, we got to Posadas and Alvear Avenues which are the Buenos Aires equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Lots of really expensive stores, huge hotels, people in the latest designer fashions — and dozens of dog walkers. Besides stores and hotels, we saw several inviting little parks built around monuments and some foreign embassies (Brazil and France have beautiful, old restored mansions).
Somewhere along the way, we rested and had an espresso coffee. One of the nice things that nearly every coffee house and restaurant does is to give you a little "treat" for free; with our coffee, they brought a little dish with four pastry balls for each of us. Last night at dinner (and the night before), we were served an empanada (hot, meat-stuffed pastry) as soon as we sat down. No charge.
Revitalized with caffeine, we headed for the big stop of the day — Recoleta Cemetery. This is a well-known cemetery for two reasons: one, it is filled with above ground mausoleums that are very elaborate (much like in New Orleans, only more so!); the second reason is that Evita (Eva) Peron is interred there and her grave is a shrine of sorts. We saw too many wonderful statues to photograph. Everything is so well-kept and well- designed.
Our sightseeing done, we walked back to the hotel, checked into our room, and met up with our group. There was an orientation, some questions and answers, and instructions to meet at 4 p.m. if we wanted to go on a bus tour of the city. We met a group of four people from Roseau, Minnesota (one of them is younger than us — she's with her grandmother...otherwise, most folks are quite a bit older than we are...). We also met a foursome from near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Lunch was at a nearby Italian restaurant (many "Portos," as Buenos Aires residents call themselves, have Italian backgrounds). Once we got back, we napped for a bit and then got on the bus. We drove through several areas that were new to us, and then we stopped at...Recoleta Cemetery! Ah, well, there is a lot to see there, including a lovely chapel next door. Back on the bus and to our last stop: La Boca neighborhood. This is the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires. "Boca" means "mouth" and this is where the first port was located; I guess cargo goes into the port like food goes in a mouth? Anyway, many of the homes are colorful old buildings made from corrugated metal, leftover scrap from the wharves that sailors used to put up places to live. And tradition says that they used any leftover paint from the ships, which accounts for the mish-mash of color. Very unique.
Upon our return, the two of us found another Italian place a block away, ate dinner, and now we're ready to curl up and dream about tomorrow...