Admiring Historic Buenos Aires

We started day 2 in Buenos Aires with a continental breakfast in the hotel and then boarded a bus for a half day city tour, which included some of the historical and cultural sites of Buenos Aires.  The group on the bus was bigger on Sunday than it had been the night before.  Several people hadn’t made it out for the tango show and the time between our different destinations allowed us the opportunity to get to know some people we hadn’t spoken with the night before.  There were probably 20-30 of us now, including Mike, a guy from Seattle who was visiting all 7 continents in a 3-month period, and Mona, a girl from DC who had recently spent time working in remote areas of Africa.

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Our first stop on the tour was La Recoleta Cemetery, a burial ground located in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires.  It is known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, characterized by its large mausoleums and statues (over 90 of which are national historic monuments) and for being the resting place for Argentinian elite, including Eva Peron.  While she passed away in 1952, her body was not placed in the Duarte family mausoleum for 20 years.  Her remains have been placed in a heavily fortified crypt several meters underground to protect her remains.

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The sun shown brightly on that summer day and what could have be an eerie place with shadows cast by the tombs was quite tranquil and quiet, despite the number of visitors.  A few cats wandered the pathways, seeming to be tenants of the area.

As we walked around, we paused to appreciate the mausoleums – some ornate and well attended to while others were draped with cobwebs, a symbol of the end of a family line or a nod to how expensive the upkeep is.  We had been told the mausoleums are often more expensive than apartments in the city.  The tombs were surely something to behold and we could have spent much more time at the cemetery than the hour or so that we did.

La Recoleta Cemetery was followed by a stop near La Casa Rosada (the Pink House), the President of Argentina’s mansion and home to the balcony that Evita often used to address the Argentinian people.  While unable to visit the building, we spent some time nearby in the Plaza de Mayo walking through an outdoor market.

From there, the bus took us to La Boca, a barrio of Buenos Aires and a port (the mouth of the Riachuelo River).  Sports fans may know the area as home to the futbol club, Boca Juniors.  However, it is also a popular tourist destination because of the colorful houses that align Caminito, a pedestrian street.  Immigrants from Italy who settled in La Boca brought their traditions with them, painting their homes with the leftover paint from the shipyard.  While the area was small, only a few blocks, it was an inviting and a sharp contrast to the cemetery we visited  earlier in the day.

At the end of the tour, Melisa and I opted to be dropped off so we could explore a bit more on our own before returning to the hotel.  We walked along the water and had lunch outdoors.  Despite the shade, the heat was overwhelming and we were happy to have ordered frozen lemonade to sip on.  After the busy morning, we returned to the hotel for a short nap and to plan for the rest of our time in Buenos Aires.  The remainder of the day, and our time in the city, was at our leisure.

 

Arriving in Argentina

img_7514Melisa and I were all smiles as we boarded our plane from Atlanta to Buenos Aires late the evening of December 9th.  While our flight from Atlanta had been delayed, it couldn’t diminish the excitement we had for our next journey together – one that would include us both visiting our 7th continent, something we had discussed doing since we had begun traveling together a few years earlier.

We had booked our trip through Quark Expeditions with Antarctica being the end goal, a final check of the continents on our list, but putting down our deposits in June afforded us a few days in Buenos Aires.  For this Boston girl, the thought of enjoying some summer sun in December was highly welcomed.  However, I worried going from cold to hot to cold was going to make Antarctica seem even colder than I imagined (more to come on that).

img_7538Despite our delay, we able to make it to Hotel Emperador Buenos Aires around noon.  The Christmas tree in the lobby that greeted us felt slightly out-of-place in the mid-80 degree weather, but the hotel was beautiful with a manicured patio in the back, enclosed with greenery that made you forget you were in the middle of a city.  We were early for check-in, so were pleasantly surprised when our room was ready for us.  We quickly dropped our bags, changed into some weather-appropriate  clothing and left the hotel to explore the city and get some lunch.

We strolled the sidewalks and took a turn when we saw a park surrounding a clock tower.  After passing a brightly colored market and a bus station, we found our way to a quaint little cafe.  We ordered empanadas and took in our surroundings, which included a number of locals watching a fútbol game.  Had we had more time, and foresight, we would have loved to see a game in person.  The “Superclasico” River vs Boca took place the weekend we were in Buenos Aires and it was sold out.  We watched fans enter the city on buses a day later with music and drinks.  The spirit of the game was infectious!

img_7552After a little more exploration and food in our bellies, we made our way back to the hotel to rest a bit and freshen up before the night’s activity – a tango show at La Ventana, located in the heart of San Telmo, the oldest barrio in Argentina.  Melisa and I eagerly anticipated the night, both because it offered us a chance to see a dance Argentina is so well-known for, but also because we knew we would be meeting a number of people who would be aboard the Ocean Endeavour, our expedition ship to Antarctica.  We beautified ourselves (more than we would for the rest of the trip, which was much more active) and headed down to the hotel bar for a drink.  As our glasses clinked, we celebrated the beginning of our trip and the adventures that would unfold over the next 2 weeks.

That evening, we boarded a bus without about 10-12 other people for the show.  Melisa and I kept to ourselves a bit on the way there, but when we got to La Ventana, we were seated at a table with 3 other women – Anne who is from North Carolina, and a mother/daughter pair, Dorothy from Connecticut and her daughter, Margaret, who lives in New York.  We got to know one another over wine (which was unlimited with the meal) and shared a lot of laughs.  We had time to connect and talk about what we had packed and our expectations for the trip while we ate.  The tango show didn’t begin for a couple of hours after we had arrived.

We weren’t allowed to take photos of the show itself, but it was a mixture of song and dance.  There were three pairs of dancers who at times performed all together and, on other occasions, were highlighted separately.  They danced to live music and would take breaks for singers to perform.  While songs were in Spanish, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina remained recognizable.  Our night ended with a ride back to the hotel – full of our typical silly selfies – and the knowledge that we would be having an incredible trip.img_7558