Buenos Aires (BA): day 1 = overview by bus & feet

Trip Start Dec 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 14, 2011

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First 24 hours in Buenos Aires (BA) is over.

I will later group the photos in the respective areas but for now this will be a day by day blow … yes it is sounding like a glorified travel diary!

Those who have been fortunate to have visited BA will relate to the names and photos. Those who haven’t - if you can, go one day to see and experience it for yourself! I have 8 nights here …. Why 8 you may ask?

Today’s bus city tour was a good orientation to get ones bearings on this city of some 13 million people. Flying in at sunset last night to the city airport right in the heart of the city, I saw how spread out the city was. Realistically most tourists just stay in the city’s centre 7 suburbs or locally known as barrios. BA has 47 barrios.

BA city is full of lovely old buildings, parks and gardens, plazas plus numerous monuments. Wherever possible I will try to capture images of the people side of this city as well.

My Adventure World vouchers were awaiting me and the 3 hour city tour one said ‘pick up at 10.15 - 10.45 am‘.

A walk around some of the closed up market shops in the blocks in my immediate area before having a leisurely breakfast when I heard my name called … but it is only 9.30 am!

We travelled north through:

- Retiro passing the Tower of the English (now no doubt called the ex Tower of the English) and the start of the museums. BA has 120 + museums and thank goodness I am not a museum person.

- Palermo passing by the green parks with the fitness people out and about. The Japanese garden would be nice on a hot day to wander through.

- Recoleta. Dog walkers abound. Being the rich area, a dog walker earns as much as an average citizen. 200 peso or US 50 per month per dog or US $500 per month for 10 dogs. Some have as many as 25 dogs or US$1,250 per month. Recoleta has besides Eva Peron’s tomb her only monument. She died through cancer at age 33. Many embassies are located here.

- San Nicolas with the Colon Opera House and 70 metre Obelisk.

The tour had 3 brief stops. These were meant to be a teaser so that we can come back later.

Stop 1 = 20 minutes at Plaza de Mayo or town square and the Casa Rosada where the President works from. It is also known as the pink palace, Cathedral Metropolitan, Banco de Nacion and Cabildo de Buenos Aires or city hall to you and me. At least I now know where the toilet is in this part of the city - back of a series of tiny tourist shops arcade and toilet or banos not even sign posted.

- San Telmo with the Russian Orthodox church with the 5 sky blue onion domes. The houses here are certainly poorer unlike the expensive Recoleta.

Stop 2 = La Bombonera or the chocolate / candy box is the home to the local soccer / foot ball team Boca Juniors. Why is the Coca Cola signage at the top of the stadium in black? Simple - The local team Boca Junior colours are yellow and blue while the rival team River Plate colours are red and white.

Stop 3 = La Boca as the brief 30 minute stop here was just enough time to capture the mood and colours of the short closed off Caminito street with its brightly coloured buildings that I won’t need to head back there. I love taking photos of colour and texture and La Boca had it all. Again which image to leave out?

The Italian stevedores, meatpackers and warehousemen brighten up their tiny houses with bright colours of their native southern Italy. Story has it they used left over paint from their boats. Today the colours of the Boca Juniors are dominant.

La Boca along with San Telmo claim to be the home of the tango.

I told the guide that less time at Bombonera as we didn’t even get into the stadium but wondered through the Boca Juniors fan shops but spend more time at El Caminito Street and neighbouring streets.

La Boca is still a working class part of town. Sadly on our way back we past what I shall call another shanty town so close to the heart of the city. Even in the city I noticed beggers and homeless …

- Puerto Madero the newest of the suburbs along the old docklands and tour over.

At the end of the 3 hour tour I was dropped off at Galerias Pacifico Florida (a major mall) to change some money. On entering I was struck in the central cupola by not only Father Christmas, the Christmas tree but by the ceiling murals painted in 1945 with the glass ceiling.

Right by Calle Florida, the pedestrian only road was jammed pack with nearly wall to wall people. Not my kind of shopping street. I walked back to Plaza de Mayo Square and while in the Cathedral Metropolitan saw the Grenadier Regiment guards about to change so followed them out back to the pink palace.

Madero use to be a run down dock area and is now modern with offices, apartments and restaurants lining the old wharves or docks. The Puente de la Mujer or women’s bridge is the focal point of this area. This pedestrian bridge is best viewed from afar.

Now after 5 pm and while the sun will not set till 8 pm, it was time to head back. The riot police were all kitted out and gathered at the edge of the Plaza de Mayo. The commuters paid no attention to them.

The 12 columns outside the Cathedral Metropolitan represent the 12 apostles.

As it was rush hour, I had to join the throngs on the underground or subte: D line for the 3 stops to the Caliao stop. It’s crazy only 1.10 pesos or NZ 0.36c to travel either 1 stop or the whole line or even transfer to other lines. Yes, the subte is not air-conditioned, old and has that run down feeling.

Once off the subte I saw what looked like SWAT police and more police cars and cycles …

What will tomorrow bring? A free day … Trouble its over 30 C and HOT in the afternoons. The forecast is for even worst later this week. So being in air-conditioned buildings or walking in the shade of the buildings or trees is so appealing.

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