BA CONTRASTS- THE OLD & THE NEW
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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NOVEMBER 11 12
WEATHER: Ranged from overcast to sunny, 70% humidity
JOURNEY: San Telmo, La Boca, Puerto Madero
After a healthy breakfast of cereal and fruit we found bus 29 and headed for the barrio, La Boca. Bus fares are 1.25 pesos which amounts to around 30 cents and you can travel all over BA on them, but you need coins and for some reason there is a shortage of coins in Argentina and you struggle to get them; when you get on the bus you tell the driver where you are going and he tells you the fare, which is deposited in a large cash box that issues the ticket, so he concentrates on driving the bus, and can get going fast. We admired the cool attitude of the drivers who never get involved with passengers (one called the driver a thief when the cash box had run out of change) or the traffic.
La Boca was the site of the original port in the late 1800s, and Spanish and Italian migrant workers settled there to work the warehouses and meat processing places; the story goes that the colourful houses that the area is famous for, originated during that time when the workers painted their simple dwellings with paint left over from the repair of the boats. It was by all accounts a rough barrio!
Today the area is a top tourist spot, although the river looks pretty polluted and you are not supposed to wander beyond the tourist area, especially at night.
Caminito is the most interesting street with artisans, craft shops and restaurants line up to make a colourful display. The brightly painted buildings are quite spectacular and we enjoyed the walk around but were not inspired to shop or eat here.
Nearby is the famous Bombonera football stadium, the club of the famous but now disgraced Maradonna; we didn't get too interested in seeing that but we did think about trying to get tickets to a football match! We didn’t. This country is passionate about soccer as everyone knows.
There were quite a lot of tourists arriving by tourist bus and the small streets got crowded; we liked looking at the works of the artists and thought that some of the paintings were good. Leather goods were a popular item as well but the best we ould do was buy a postcard to send home- oh well we left $2 in La Boca!
We hailed our bus amid the manic traffic and it took a while to manoeuvre out but the expert driver wove and turned and we were on our way. We had quite a walk to our next destination:
Puerto Madero- the modern part of town!
We had seen a fair bit of the city and were completely unprepared for this shiny new area; you could suddenly have been in New York or Sydney. The streets were clean and wide, the foot paths were solid and glistening high rise apartments and businesses replaced the historic architecture elsewhere.
The lovely "Ecological Reserve" was a huge green park where people were exercising, having picnics and just hanging out in the shade. In the late 1800s a modern port to cope with the huge exports to Europe was built here but was not adequate on completion, and the present port was set up in nearby Retiro.
We crossed the pedestrian “Womens Bridge” and made our way towards the city centre so that Sheila could check out “Café La Puerto Rico”, established in 1897. As a listed “historic” site, the interior must retain its original décor and furniture, so it looks a bit shabby and very old-world. The coffee and empanadas (an Argentinian special, similar to our pasties) were pretty good, but a bit expensive and the service by a very senior gentleman was disinterested and remote. Oh well, we got a picture of Sheila outside and headed out.
Coffee prices we paid in Buenos Aires ranged from 95 cents (Au24 cents) to 18 pesos (about Au$4); there are very few take-away coffee places, as it is said that Argentinians like to socialise when they stop to eat or drink- nice, we thought. The favourite snack to have with coffee seemed to be the “media- lunes”, half- moon shaped pastries similar to a croissant and quite delicious. Sometimes you would get a tiny butter cake or media-lunes FOC. The price did not always match the quality or trendiness of the café. We thought the coffee was generally served quite weak!
Later on, after many kilometres of exploring the city we stopped at a busy Italian Restaurant- Manolo- for a late lunch and it was just fabulous, great food and service and nicely air conditioned on a day that had got hot and steamy. The icy cold Quilmes (local beer) was good too!
Italian food and influence is everywhere in Argentina, and we enjoyed a change from the parilla.
Ice-cream is a much loved treat in the city and you see people tucking into a litre container of the delicious stuff- “dulce de leche” is the favourite flavour for ice-cream and for pastry fillings; made from boiling milk and sugar to a caramel, it is truly addictive and we made a few too many trips to our favourite place, about 6 blocks from our apartment.
Which is just what we did that night after our busy day.