We were whisked by bus to our accommodations, the Amerian Buenos Aires Hotel in the Centro district of the City, and Virginia provided us with a brief orientation tour of the area immediately surrounding our hotel. We were on our own for lunch and starving, as it had been many hours since our airline breakfast. We set off with Ross and Jane on foot for the Puerto Madero waterfront, where we had been told there were many good sidewalk cafes only to discover that none of them opened until noon, a full hour away.
After about thirty minutes we found a kind restaurant manager at the El Mirasol Del Puert restaurant who agreed to let us sit at their tables outside until opening time. We were most grateful when a waiter appeared fairly soon to take our order. Lunch was simple but elegant: empanadas, salad and wine with a good bread and olive oil.
Lana wanted to visit the well-known crafts fair that is held on Sunday afternoons in the Recoleta area of the city. So, after lunch we hailed a cab and headed in that direction. At the fair there were many artists and crafts persons from the local area. The goods were extensive and like most crafts fairs, some were delightful, others rather kitschy. Lana was most intrigued by a lady who used gourds and wood to create brightly painted birds and had an interesting discussion with her. Jane was intrigued with some silver earrings constructed in the shape of a stack of shells; she made the purchase. Then it was back to our hotel for a much needed shower and short nap.
In the late afternoon we meet with our primary trip leader, Alex, a native Patagonian. Alex spent some time going over the schedule and expectations for the next twelve days. Then we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to other members of the group. Most of the members of the group are our age or older, many, but not all, retired from professional positions: one neurologist, two geologists, several microbiologists, two social workers, teachers and a number of business people.
We are also a very well-traveled group. For one couple this is their fifteenth trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), and it was not uncommon for others to have traveled with OAT on four to seven different occasions. We were relative newbies with this our third trip. Alex stressed that OAT trips are not "bubble trips" that weave a fantasy, as some of the more expensive companies provide. Instead, their philosophy is to provide an experience closely connected to reality: we will see the good and the not-so good sides of the areas where we visit, and we will not shirk from controversial topics or conversations. This philosophy is one of the reasons that have kept us coming back for more OAT trips.
Finally, it was time for the item on the afternoon schedule that Bob had been dreading ever since signing up for the tour, the dreaded tango lesson. Our instructors, Alicia and Carlos, glided into the room. They were tall, Alicia in very high stiletto hills, both very thin and dressed in black. Yes, they definitely looked the part, and once the music started it was clear that they were very talented dancers. Their performance was dazzling. After their performance, it was time for us to give it a try, and before we knew it we were dancing with partners and doing the basic eight-step tango, albeit for us quite clumsily with Lana suffering a few mashed toes. Finally, the session came to a close. Although the experience was not as bad as Bob had expected, it's clear that we are not cut out to perform, what for the right partners, is a most beautiful dance.
Our group went to dinner together at the Posada de 1820 restaurant where we were treated to a delicious Argentinian steak dinner served with a very good Malbec wine, also from Argentina. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and collapsed into bed to finally get some much needed sleep.
Our plane touched down at Buenos Aires airport about 7:00 AM after an overnight flight from Miami. It had been great to meet Ross and Jane, our Connecticut friends and traveling companions, at the Miami airport just before departure. Sleep was fitful on the plane, so we were all somewhat fuzzy headed as we made our way through the passport and customs check. Virginia, our Buenos Aires city guide was awaiting our arrival just inside the waiting area. Soon we were introducing ourselves to ten more of our traveling companions. Later in the day we would meet another ten members of our group who had taken the pre-trip excursion to Easter Island with Alex, our Chilean tour guide, making the group twenty-four in total.