Wow! This city is an assortment of wonders, full of green spaces and teeming with life. Whether on an official tour or just walking from one place to another, there is so much to discover. In my first two weeks with Pangea196, I found things can change quickly — from upscale, to funky, to downright gritty. Busy streets with police cars always flashing their blue lights, yellow and black Radio Taxis, motorcycles, cars, and huge buses. Sidewalks crowded with businessmen in dress shirts, young mothers nursing babies without embarrassment, tattooed hipsters, older people using walkers or canes. Everyone (even men) hugging and kissing when they meet. It plays like Argentinian cinéma vérité.
A walk around the ‘hood
My trip started with a walking tour of our neighborhood, el Ritiro. Once the gateway for millions of immigrants, it’s now a bustling business center with a nod to its noble past. It includes the grand Plaza San Martin; huge transport depots; the IBM and American Express buildings; several historic, repurposed palaces; a few luxury hotels; and a pedestrian mall for chic shoppers. It also has the widest street in the world, Avenue 9 de Julio, which takes several minutes to cross.
Plaza de Mayo
We passed La Plaza de Mayo, the site of many historic protests, such as the brave mothers who marched with signs and pictures of their children “disappeared” during the last military junta. It is dominated by La Casa Rosada, the executive mansion and office of the President. We have the White House; they have the Pink House!
City of the Dead
We continued walking to the La Recoleta cemetery, a labyrinth of over 6,400 statues, sarcophagi, coffins and crypts. It is a small city in itself and warren of amazement. Some of Argentina’s most celebrated people are interred here, including Eva (Evita) Peron.
Interestingly, the Spanish use the temporary verb “estar” rather than the more permanent “ser” to say someone is dead. The architecture of this cemetery reflects a continuing connection to a person, even after death.
Art and gardens
The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) had a wonderful exhibit of Mexican art that I didn’t want to miss. The museum is a small, delightful gem with a big impact. The show had signage in English (yay!) and “Fridas” everywhere.
While waiting for the museum to open, I took a stroll around the Japanese Gardens. Serene and artful. The most amusing thing (to me) was their calendar “set in stone”.
There is no better place to soak up the cultural scene than at the Feria San Telmo. The inside section is a marvel of iron structure and (perhaps) permanent shops and vendors. The outside part spans several streets, tables crammed side-by-side with a wide variety of wares — everything from knickknacks to fine letter goods. Interestingly, you will not see one “Made in China” label, everything is local.
Also in our ‘hood is Teatro Colón, a huge, historic, and opulent opera house. The Palace of Versailles, interpreted by Italians, and built in Argentina. On our tour, we saw the art and amenities, admired the architecture, and sat in one of the 2,487 seats.
It is ranked as the third best opera house in the world and the ticket prices are very low compared to NYC. Sadly, this is the off-season; we will not get to attend an opera or ballet while we are here. I’m thinking it’s a good reason to return to Buenos Aires.