La Bocca and Recoleta

Trip Start Aug 10, 2007
Trip End Dec 27, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

We set off excited to explore this most European of south American cities.
I led us off confidently towards Recoleta, the area where Eva Peron is buried.  However, after 25 minutes we realised we were in an area called "Constitucion", which is very close to La Boca, and in the opposite direction of Recoleta!
Our lonely planet book said catch buses 86, 53 or 29, but we couldn't find them!  I  asked a bus ticket seller in the Constitucion plaza and we were told to catch bus 53 (and they said lonely planet were wrong.  So we went and waited at the bus stop for the #53, and were then told to go to the 68 rather by a number of instant passengers.  This was all I could take so I told Jules I did not care how much it cost, we had to get a taxi rather.  The taxi cost 10 Pesos (about $3) and we were there within 10 minutes, which was doubly irritating as we had spent about 20 minutes trying to find which bus to catch!
So we arrived at La Boca and I remembered which street to go along, Caminito.  It's only a short street, running diagonally between the riverfront and Calle Olavarría.
Legend has it that a local artist, Benito Quinquela Martín, encouraged the immigrants living in La Boca to paint their houses in bright colours.  The name "Caminito" comes from the name of a Tango, inspired by La Boca in 1926.
The houses are all made of corrugated-iron or wood, and are painted with the brightest colours available.
The southern end of Caminito leads down to the riverfront, known as the Vuelta de Rocha. The harbour is run down, dirty and stinks!  To the left of Caminito stands one of Buenos Aires' major landmarks, the massive iron Puente Transbordador or transporter bridge, built in the early years of the twentieth century and now out of use.  And three blocks away is the Bocca Juniors' stadium, made famous by Diego Maradonna.
So we wondered around La Boca and enjoyed the atmosphere.  We stopped to have an Empanada at a street café and were entertained by a duo playing the most famous of La Boca instruments, the concertina.  Then suddenly we heard a wheezing screech and an old white haired guy was attempting to sing for us.  It was bad, but he was in to it and giving it horns, so we smiled and clapped (mainly because he was finished).  Then a young couple danced a ordinary tango (I had certainly seen better tango dancers the last time I was in BA, and this couple looked clumsy).  But we dropped some Peso's in the hat that came around as they were obviously students of the tango and   were starting out.  However, when our bill came we were sorry for having left them anything as the café nicely charged us 3 Pesos each for watching.  Although it is not that much money, it was more than the Empanadas cost us!
As Julie hates being 'conned' it did take quite a while for me to help her move on and forget the little incident.  She started to feel better when she pointed out to me that all the buses mentioned in the lonely planet and the others from Plaza Constitucion where all there in La Boca.  The fact that a bus ticket cost 75 cents was flaunted in my face while we caught the bus to Recoleta.  I took the taunting as I was responsible for going in the wrong direction in the first place.
We soon forgot all about the cost of taxi's compared to buses when we arrived at the Recoleta Cemetery.  The cemetery was designed by French engineer, Prospero Catelin originally, before being remodeled in 1881.   The Cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important people of Argentina, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters. Internationally, Eva Perón is one of the best known persons buried in this cemetery and we had definitely come to see Evita!
The cemetery is a mixture of impressive, well maintained elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles and then there are the others that have fallen into disrepair.  In some places the coffins are visible through holes in the mausoleums.    The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.
Each mausoleum has the  family name etched into the facade.   An interesting feature is that the date of death is displayed, but no date of birth.
We saw the famous colony of feral cats that reside within the gates, as they come out in the evening to be fed by the locals.
We wondered around aimlessly until a German lad showed us where to go to fond Evita´s spot.  He had purchased himself a map of the cemetery and was diligently going around looking at the various famous mausoleums, we were just wondering around looking like we knew what we were looking at!  We found the Peron´s  mausoleum down a smallish passage.  There were quite a few people taking photographs so we waited our turn and then took some pics ourselves.  Julie was quietly contemplating the moment when a polite French man ´passed gas´ in front of her, turned to see that she was behind him and calmly pretended that all was ok.  I know all you UK readers will be saying ´typical´, but still, be farted upon while staring at Evita´s grave is something that you don´t expect!!!
To assist Julie´s recovery from her harrowing experience, I took her for a ´´Submarino``.  I (and most of the SA ladies hockey team) had lived on submarino´s when we were in BA in 2000, so I had always wanted Jules to taste one.  We found a coffee shop and sat down to enjoy our sub´s.  A submarino is a tall glass filled with hot frothy milk, into which you drop a bar of chocolate and wait for it to melt.  The ones I had had before were stronger than hot chocolates!  Unfortunately this sub sunk fast in Julie´s estimation!   The problem was that the chocolate bar was a short, small dark chocolate and so did not have the same ´kick´ as I was used to, and Julie was not impressed.
However, there was still one more event which might make Jules forget her horrific ordeal ...................... the Tango Show!
Jules was very excited to get spiffed up for a change and off we went to the Tango Show in San Telmo.  We went to the Michelangelo one, which was quite posh,  and full of dermatologists!  The dermies were having a conference and had booked them all in.  So we were surrounded by dermies as we sipped our champagne before the show in the foyer.  We smiled and wondered around and then went up to the main hall.  We all sat at tables for two and had a very good meal.  We had a starter of chicken salad, a main  course of delicious rib eye steak (perfectly grilled) and  desert was a flange in Dulce Dulce.  As your glass emptied, it was filled by an eager waitress.  So we had a good meal and met someone that you may know Susie .......... Mr and Mrs Carstens.  They have a daughter Michelle who played for Michigan, under Michelle Madison??  They were sitting near us and we seemed to have a lot in common - like our train experience in Shanghai as Mrs Cartsens had a similar journey in Romania, except she had her shoes  stolen!
The lights dimmed, the spotlight switched on and then all hell broke loose ............ a big lady singing ´´opera´´ like.  She belted out a tune, a smooth guy came along and did the same , and just as we wanted to throw  something at him .............. the tango began.  The Tango is something special to watch when done properly and we did enjoy the different tangos.  Tango is a dance of emotion and so they have sad,  happy, sexy etc. tangos.  We had the ´´boere orkes´´ with the concertina´s, fiddles, big bass  etc. giving it stick.
All in all it was a bit long  winded and after 4 hours we were very ready  for our beds!  
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