After a good nights sleep, we were awake well in time for our full days walking tour of
. We decided to have a recce of the area, and
go and get a coffee and some breakfast.
We walked down the street and came across a McCafe. There was a distinct absence of any other
coffee shops so we had a latte and muffin – that really was a latte and
muffin. Brits abroad!! Buenos Aires
Ceri met us at 10.00am – our tour guide for the day from BuenosTours. He was born in Canada of British parents with a Welsh name and now lives in
so there was no language barrier. He
spoke perfect Spanish, and because he has lived in the city for around eight
years, knew it like the back of his hand.
The first job we had to do was to exchange some money on the “blue”
market. The hard currency here is
dollars, and we got 11.4 to the dollar as opposed to the 7.8 on the official
market. This, apparently, is the way
everyone works. Inflation is quite high,
and the peso is not a good currency to have.
The dollar is worth a lot more.
We had been warned of changing money on the streets, as you may get fake
notes, but when you are with a local it seemed very safe to do so. The government taxes everything that comes in
to the country over and above a very nominal allowance, so it is also hard to
get anything here. What is available in
the shops is very expensive, like mobile phones, and if you order one from
another country the government looks at it and decides how much tax you should
pay on it – often then making it not worth getting. This apparently was the thinking behind
putting the mobile phone make and model on the paper – but as we were told the
idea and the reality are two different things.
Nobody has their immigration form taken from them as this was the idea
and the reality was nobody wants to do anything with it. Argentina
We then got in a taxi to start our tour in the oldest part of the city – San Telmo. On the way we passed the “Pink House” which is a bit like the White House in the
, but the president doesn’t
actually live here. There was a large
statue of Christopher Columbus at the back of it, that was all in pieces over
the ground. The present president,
Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, decided that it had to come down. This was an unpopular choice, and as soon as
the pieces hit the ground the Governor of Buenos Aires declared it property of
the City and there it still is. We heard
about the history of when the British were here, and then the Spanish, and how
they fought for independence. The
streets in this part are cobbled and very narrow, and not particularly well
kept. The buildings were ornate, if not
a little unloved. We passed the San
Telmo markets that are on at the weekend, where tourists and locals alike
shop. There are many monuments to
various generals, and some of the buildings are absolutely magnificent. Next to them were newer buildings that were
downright ugly. We stopped for a coffee
and croissant in a typical café and sat at the table Ceri took us to. “This is the exact table that the pope used
to sit at every day to have a coffee before he went to the Cathedral where he
was Arch Bishop before he moved to the USA ” says Ceri. Paul was sitting on “the chair”. That gave a slightly different perspective to
the morning coffee! It was a fantastic place,
with tango music playing in the background. Vatican
We passed a church that still had cannon balls embedded in one of the towers, although I think they must be replicas because if they were originals the tower wouldn’t still be standing. Again, it was when they were fighting the British. We then walked around the square in front of the Pink House – this is where protests about various things happen just about every day. There is a permanent protest about the Malvinas (
Falklands) and a police presence all
around. But everything was peaceful, and
apparently usually is. The Pink House was
made famous by Eva Peron, and we saw the balcony where she and her husband made
many of their speeches. The most famous
one, the “Don’t cry for me ”
one was made from there in the film, but not in real life. Just made it easier to say it was! Just down the road was the Cathedral, where
we stopped for a short while to have a look.
It was a lovely building, with the body of General San Martin in a
mausoleum down the right side aisle guarded by two soldiers. There was a changing of the guard whilst we
were there. The new guards come marching
in with tourists scattering to either side of them. If one of the tourist doesn’t notice them
coming, or gets in their way, they just march on the spot until the way is
clear. Quite amusing. On the other side down the left hand aisle is
a board filled with Jewish writing – one of the things that has shown how
moderate the present pope is, and probably helped him to get his present
job! There are not any other Catholic
places of worship that allow other religions in. The cathedral has been rebuilt six times for
various reasons, which is why it looks in such good shape I think! The roads now are wide, as are the pavements,
and the buildings are in a completely different style. We had a quick look in the famous Café
Tortoni – there was a queue to get in for overpriced coffee and not so good
food we are told - but it looks good! I
much preferred to have sat on the Pope’s seat anyway. Argentina
We then went a few stops on the underground – the British designed it and the Irish built it. We were even entertained by buskers actually on the train. Very cheap – about 25p. Much cheaper than the
version! We then were back around the park outside our
hotel where we had walked this morning.
There was the most enormous rubber tree in middle, with metal supports
holding up its gargantuan branches.
These trees are very common in London – the Gauchos used them
for cover. There are a couple of statues
here, and in the distance a clock tower that was originally called the Tower of
the English. After the Falklands war it
was renamed the Argentina , and a memorial to
the Argentinian dead was erected facing it.
We then walked past a very grand house (we had walked past a few, but I can’t now remember which family owned what, but
was one of them) that once had a very good
view. Apparently, the daughter of one
house was going to marry the son of another wealthy family, but his father told
him he would disinherit him if he did.
He shrugged his shoulders and married someone else to keep the
money. The daughter then built a huge
building in the front his one, so that he couldn’t have any view anymore – a
woman scorned etc… We walked down into
the Recoleta District, which is the new “ La
of around here. Full of art galleries
and very grand houses – this is where the rich and famous now live. We had lunch in a little restaurant that is
famed for its pasties – who said they originated from Chelsea ?
They were delicious. And it was
accompanied by a Penguin of wine. No –
I’m not drunk or seeing things. The wine
here doesn’t come in a carafe, it comes in a Penguin. Neat!! Cornwall
The next stop was up to the
. The poor used to bury their dead here, but
when it was decided that this was going to be the cemetery for the rich, the
poor were “politely asked to go away”!
This, we were told, was not like any other cemetery you have ever
seen. A cemetery is a cemetery I
thought. No. It was a cemetery like I had never seen. Space is sold here, and there are rows and
rows of mausoleums. Some very large,
some very small, but the whole thing is like a town with streets and houses on
either side. Many of the generals and
famous people have a spot here – anyone that wants to buy a plot and build what
ever they would like to be buried in.
Many are made of marble, some a brick, some have stained glass windows,
some have seats inside, and some have coffins!
Not buried at all. The whole
family can go in as long as there is room – so the deeper you bury them the
more you can get in. Some have servants
buried with them – well, outside the mausoleum but within the confines of the
plot. Even in death they have their rightful
place! The stories that come with some
of these were amazing – something you don’t get out of a guidebook. Then we came to Eva Peron – who was buried
under her family name of Cemetery
of Recoleta . Shortly after she died her husband, the
president, was overthrown by a military coup, so the body had to be
hidden. It had been taken to Duarte , and buried there
for fifteen years under an assumed name.
Juan Peron had fled the country, but in 1973 came out of exile and was
elected president again. He had the body
exhumed, and was then taken to La Recoleta cemetery and buried in the Milan family plot. This is one of the most popular mausoleums in
the cemetery. There are constantly
flowers left on the front of the gates to the entrance. Above one of the mausoleums was a satellite
dish – perhaps some of the living relatives like to watch the football whilst
visiting the dearly departed! It really
is a surreal place – you just don’t imagine that you are walking amongst rows
and rows of dead people. Some of the
stories we were told involved tragic deaths and ghosts. Yeah right!
Wouldn’t like to be here after dark though! Duarte
From here, we went to a lovely ice cream parlour and tried some of the rows and rows of flavours that they have. Very refreshing! This brought our tour to an end. What a fantastic way to have seen this city. It is the best way to have seen the city, and to have experienced it both as a tourist and a local. We were probably about a mile from our hotel, so we retraced our steps and got back to the hotel at around 6.30pm having walked around eight miles during the day. Not once did we feel threatened or intimidated, but we had been warned to not show any jewellery or phones. Just sensible precautions in a place where pick pockets and thieves operate – as in most large cities.
A shower and change and we were ready to go to the Dinner and Tango Show – when in
… The Esquina Carlos Gardel in supposed to be
one of the better shows – and there are quite a few. This one includes transfers from the hotel –
the venue was around twenty minutes in an area of Buenos Aires that we hadn’t been earlier on
in the day. We passed lots of bars and
clubs – it was Saturday night and was quite busy. We were shown in and to the table – a lovely
table at the front of the “dress circle”.
We were given champagne and the menu – very civilised. The bottom tier was rows and rows of long
tables and people were packed in. I much
preferred where we were – but we had paid for the VIP section (as one does when
backpacking as we are!). The menu looked
good, but I had read reviews that the food was only OK. It was OK.
Nothing special, although the steak that I had must have been five
inches thick. The wine was poured freely
- not bad either. A film was being played
on a large screen with the history of the Argentine Tango – quite a history
because it took over half an hour.
Spanish with English subtitles – although some of it was miss spelt and
lost in translation. Buenos Aires
We were then invited to have our photo taken with a couple of the tango dancers – and then in the tango position ourselves. I could just imagine Craig Revel Horwood saying “yours arms are hopeless darling”! I somehow don’t think we will be purchasing that keepsake. The show started soon after that, and was very pleasant. It was about an hour and a half of various dancers, and a male and a female singer. I looked over at Paul and could see that he was riveted – not! Oh dear – it was a long and busy day and this was not the way he would have liked to have finished it. Was it worth the money – probably not. Would have I wanted to have left Buenos Aires without seeing a tango show – definitely not. It had to be done. The show finished around midnight, and the transfer back to the hotel was very smooth and efficient. Considering how many people were gushing out of the building, this is the bit where the VIP comes in handy. Back to the hotel to fall into bed ready for an early morning call to go back to the airport! I can see on Paul’s face that he really wanted a couple of weeks relaxing in the
Caribbean. Instead, I have organised a kind of boot
camp. We shouldn’t have gone to see The
Adventures of Walter Mittey or whatever it was – gave me itchy feet!