Our overnight flight to Buenos Aires (pronounced 'eye-rees'...I've been mispronouncing it all along), was uneventful, thank the Lord, so we were transported via taxi to our hotel, 'Reino del Plata'. We had time to freshen up before our 10am city tour, which was partially on foot, partially via van.
We are now the same latitude as Cape Town, South Africa...the farthest south any of us have ventured! Looking down, I could see patches of farmland in various shades of green, bordered by poplar trees. We discovered that the Argentines use the trees to define their property, and to protect it from the winds across the steppes.
Our guide, Carlos, took us to the square, around which the government buildings sat. We saw the 'pink house' (think, 'White House') or presidential palace, where many historical events have taken place. Of course, Eva Peron, president of Argentina, and dearly loved by the common people, carried on many political activities there, speaking to the throngs from the balcony. A half a century after Evita's death in the 50's, Madonna sang 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' from the window of the President's office.
We then headed to a Cathedral dedicated to the Captain General of the Revolution, D Jose de San Martin. His body lies entombed inside, with military guards. The interior itself was magnificent, dressed in Carrera marble, intricate wood, and ceramic tile from Britain, laid in a Venetian pattern. It reminded Dan of a mini St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
Next on our agenda was the north harbor district of San Telmo, where emigrants, (Spanish, German and Italian, to name a few), landed, and soon built muli-leveled apartment complexes, in which to settle their families. All were brightly painted, and to this day, are well preserved. This is the community where the Tango dance originated.
The area was bustling with activity, with cafes, restaurants, and shops in abundance. They are known for their woven shawls and sweaters, mate cups and bombilla spoons (pronounced, 'bom-bee'-ja') which has a strainer attached at the bottom. Since the gourd or cup is filled at least halfway with mate, it is necessary to strain them, or one would suck up a mouthful of soggy leaves! The mate ceremony is done in a social setting, with one cup passed around, filled with hot water many times over. We hope to learn more of this tradition later.
Then we drove around the downtown area, very similar to Chicago, with it's tall buildings and waterfront. A beautiful aluminum flower was seen in a local park, whose petals would open in the morning, and close at night, activated by solar power! We passes by a specially designed white structure called, 'The Woman's Bridge.' Evidentially, it was thanks to Evita that the women of Argentina have the vote.
We stopped and toured an old cemetery, Recoleta, which had elegant old family tombs or mausoleums, standing side by side like row houses. Very similar in structure to those I saw in New Orleans years ago. Here was the tomb of Evita Duarte, along with her three sisters and one brother, who were illegitimate, and mistreated by her father, who was of the upper class. Which is why she helped the underdog during her rule. I couldn't stop snapping photos in this cemetery...the sculptures and details were outstanding.
Buenos Aires is the city of Revolution, excellent grilled meat and the Tango. Who would have known that the British controlled this area, too?! It amazes me that a tiny country such as Britain could have not only enough troops to conquer the world, but plenty of people to govern the colonies they ruled. Just goes to show what a nation can achieve when they are orderly and drink tea nonstop!
We then arrived back at the hotel, hungry and tired. As we needed to rise at 3:30am, it was necessary to turn in early. So, we found a restaurant called Las Remolinos, that served a savory grilled meat...just what we needed to fill our tummies and refresh us for the 15 block walk back to our hotel. Then, it was an early goodnight...up at 3:30am for a 4:30am trip to the aeropuerta!