Fountain By Our Hotel
I had the privilege of going to the fabulous city of Buenos Aires this summer. Argentina had been dream spot for both me and my dear friend Noah for quite a while. We had narrowed it down to three destinations: Germany, Norway and Argentina. Having recently gone to Spain, we thought maybe it would be best to go somewhere other than Europe, that and Norway was very expensive at the time. Germany was cheaper, but we wanted to add another continent to our list. Consider it done, Buenos Aires!
There were a few things to consider, first it was winter going into early spring.
Because of that we weren't sure what to pack. We heard it could get warmer in the days and colder at nights which put us in a quandary. We wanted to pack light so we could bring back more items from our trip (leather coats, shoes, etc), but we wanted to be dressed appropriately.
A Street Scene In Buenos Aires
Second it is a long flight. Ten hours to be exact as all of the flights were overnight. I cannot sleep on planes and knew this was going to be painful. Besides not being able to sleep on planes, I am hyperactive and can't sit for more than 45 minutes. Even better! I ended up taking a sleeping pill to make the dream happen. It worked! I don't condone it folks, but I had worked that day and needed sleep desperately! Not an excuse I know...but I really can't sleep on planes...
Anyway, we landed the next morning, rushed through customs (is there really a way to rush through customs in any country?), grabbed a cab and we were on our way.
It was a pretty quick ride to our hotel. We were warned about the traffic and the aggressive driving before hand, so both Noah and I thought we were going to be sitting ducks the moment we exited the cab. Not the case; NYC is a lot worse than Buenos Aires as far as trying to kill pedestrians goes. I was pleasantly surprised that NYC had prepared me for traffic in any city. The only thing I did notice was that the fumes were really thick in the air from the cars. Maybe it was because of the use of diesel? I don't know for sure, so don't quote me on that.
Paying Respects to Eva Peron
The hotel was quite simple. In fact, during our whole duration there, they were doing construction from morning to night. Not the best situation. The elevator had so many changes that we thought we had walked into the wrong hotel a few times. But I am not here to talk about hotels and elevators, oh no, my friend.
So, as quickly as we could, we dropped off our stuff, changed our clothes and hit the street.
The first few hour of scoping out new surroundings of any new place is always interesting. We decided to grab lunch and ponder Buenos Aires and adjust to the culture, so we sat outside in a cafe which was open even in winter. It was pretty warm 65 degrees...nice. We tested out our language skills; Noah's Spanish is pretty good though both our accents are probably very bad. I noticed that the people were very friendly and simplistically fashionable right away. They don't try too hard, because they don't have to dammit! I like their style!
A Funky Tree That Won't Be Ignored!
For the first day we wanted to keep it simple since we both were pretty tired. We weren't in the mood to travel too far and decided to check out Calle Florida. It was very touristy, but a must when visiting Buenos Aires. It was as crowded as rush hour in Times Square, but it was only 2:00PM.
People were going in all directions, going to work, trying to get donations, trying to sell you their handmade goods, wanting to usher you into their shops to buy leather, throwing their pamphlets at you. I really don't like people bugging me on the streets. It happens all the time in NYC now. Even when you get off the subway in the mornings someone is throwing paper in your face to come to their store. So, I got tired of that rather quickly. But still there is no place quite like Calle Florida.
Pay Your Respects to the Maestro!
We spent a lot of time there during the trip only because both of us wanted a leather coat and it was the place to be. The leather prices are unbeatable and they will even make a coat from scratch if there isn't something to your liking. It was cheaper to buy a handmade coat in Buenos Aires than buying a new one in The States that is made with cheap leather. You can't say no to that!
But after a while, you need to get away from Calle Florida.
The restaurant prices are high and the crowds grate on your nerves. The people there are one of a kind; one of the most memorable was The Maestro. He was an older gentleman who would stand outside of a music store and conduct to the music of the CD that was blaring out onto the street. He was a Bernstein incarnate and his skills were second to none!
The Coffee Victory! Thanks La Recoleta!
One thing to be aware of, there are people who will attempt to pickpocket you at the Calle Florida. It isn't just a thing that happens in Buenas Aires, but most major cities. While we were eating at a restaurant a street over from Calle Florida, we noticed that we were being scoped out by a man who was sitting at a nearby table but had ordered nothing. Both Noah and I knew he was scoping the joint and was interested in us because we were speaking English. What he didn't realize was that we both live in NYC and can spot a shisty person pretty quickly.
In the end, he realized that he wouldn't be getting anything from us as we didn't have anything worth taking as my bag was in my lap, my knees squeezing it like the jaws of life.
Cats Hankerin' for Ham!
He did however rip a watch right off of the arm of an another unsuspecting American tourist. Yep, ripped it right off of her arm and ran. As, I said this could happen anywhere, but just be more aware in any crowded touristy spot and trust your instincts.
Over the next couple of days we decided to venture further away from our hotel near the Obelisco. We pretty much walked everywhere since the weather was pretty mild, 65 to 70 degrees daily. One of the things I noticed about Buenos Aires is that people really respect their meal times and don’t believe in rushing. This is not how it works in NYC at all. Expect to take at least an hour and a half per meal. At first, as an American it was hard to get used to; especially after living in NYC. Everything is on the go all the time in New York.
So I am used to grabbing a coffee in the morning off the street and power walking to work as fast as possible.
Lost in La Recoleta
In fact the first two days I was looking to grab a coffee off the street for my morning walk only to find it isn’t done that way in Argentina. You sit down and enjoy your coffee. Wow, what a concept. It was great for the first day or two, but I am a creature of habit and found that McDonald’s was the only place that has coffee to go. Finally my life was complete, so with coffee in hand Noah and I headed to La Recoleta, which by the end of the trip ended up being one of my favorite places.
La Recolta includes the graves of some of the most influential and important persons of Argentina; including ex-presidents and probably the most famous person buried there, Eva Peron.
I have been intrigued with Eva Peron since I was a teenager, and even more so after performing in the musical Evita. So, Noah and I decided we couldn’t pass up seeing her final resting place.
One of La Recoleta Cats on a Weekday Stroll
We figured it would be easy to spot since it is one of the most visited sites at La Recoleta. We would be wrong. First off I have the worst sense of direction and maps don’t help at all. I am lucky I get to work on time every morning with my sense of direction it's that bad; I am not exaggerating, unfortunately.
We finally just accepted the fact that we would find it eventually and wandered around La Recoleta and enjoyed the sites. That is a strange thing to say considering you are surrounded by a bunch of graves, but after the bustle of the city, it really is quite serene and relaxing.
There are so many beautiful statues to see and so many interesting stories to be told.
Also, there are cats everywhere; around 75 from what I have been told. We felt sorry for them and decided to bring ham for some of them compliments of our hotel’s continental breakfast the next day. The joke was on us! When we showed up the next day we found tins of dry food everywhere! It turns out that the cats are fed twice a day by the local women; though I doubt they get ham.
Anyway, while looking for Eva’s tomb, we found the statue of Liliana Crociati De Szaszak. It is nearly impossible to walk past this statue without stopping; it is one of the more haunting sites there.
There isn’t much known about Liliana except that she was an art student who died while on her honeymoon in the Alps. During the night, her hotel room was taken out by an avalanche, killing her while she slept but leaving her husband alive.
Her family built the tomb out of wood and glass because they were Lillian’s favorite mediums to work with in life. A statue of her likeness in her wedding dress was erected along with her dog that would stand with her for all eternity. Below the statue is a poem written by Liliana’s father which is heartbreaking. Every time I returned to La Recoleta, I had to stop at this spot, it really draws you in.
After about an hour, we found Eva’s tomb.
I really expected to find more people there, but it was early in the morning and we were the only people there. Otherwise I think it would have been easier to spot. We actually liked that it was deserted because it would be easier to snap some shots, take in the view and move on with our day. If you come later, there are a bunch of people and it is nearly impossible to get photos without random people’s heads in them. Not a good photo op in my opinion…
Jardin Japonese - Good Place to Rest Your Weary Feet
The next few days we visited the local markets near La Recoleta where you can get great jewelry and crafts from local artisans. I got a couple amazing silver rings for a very reasonable price, along with a couple necklaces. I would recommend going here to anyone visiting Buenos Aires, great prices and great craftsmanship. I think it is only open on Saturdays so plan accordingly and bring cash.
The Casa Rosada
We also visited the local parks and checked out the statue Floralis Genérica. It is a large steel flower that opens up and closes according to the time of day. I could use one of these in my home. I have a brown thumb and could kill a cactus in less than a week. But I am happy to report I have kept my cat alive for a few years and she appears to be quite happy, so all is not lost.
The Palermo is a great place to stroll and you will definitely get your full weeks worth of exercise if you walk along this.
During our walk from the Palermo, we stopped at the Jardin Japonese. I have to say after visiting the Japanese Gardens in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon this one paled in comparison. I was a little disappointed. It was very tiny and really not that impressive, though the fish were alive so that is a plus. I guess we can’t complain too much. After 5 miles of walking we finally got to sit down and the price was right at $1.25 USD after the exchange rate.
Park at the Casa Rosada
We trudged further still and came upon the Casa Rosada and the name did not let us down. It was a house and it was pink. This is where the government officials stay (namely the president).
The Perons' used to give their speeches here and I had to quell the desire to do an Evita pose. I didn’t want to be disrespectful in any way; that and the guards were coming out at that time to make their daily rounds. The surrounding park was beautiful and was well kept. We took several snapshots and then headed to the lovely church nearby. Both Noah and I enjoy fine architecture and it was a nice quiet place to reflect at for a while.
La Punta de La Mujer With Hooters In The Background
During our time in Buenos Aires, Noah wanted to see La Punta De La Mujer a famous bridge in Argentina. I am not a fan of bridges or water, but I am a giver, so with camera in hand we headed in the direction of the white bridge. The bridge is quite lovely really, white and delicate; I understood why it was the bridge for women.
Well, the actual reason it's called the bridge for women is that it leads to a bunch of streets that are all named after women. Nice touch. After standing on the bridge for a few moments and breathing in the fresh air, my eyes were diverted to an orange sign on the horizon. Hooters Restaurant! I was confused, this was the bridge for women and there was Hooters in plain view. What was going on? Hooters in Argentina? Of all the exports from the US this is the restaurant that was chosen? Well, at least the Buffalo Wings are good; or so I have heard.
A Tribute to Eva Peron
Near the end of our trip we checked out the Museum of Eva Peron that is run by her great niece.
In my lifetime I have read pretty much every book available on Eva Peron and have seen hundreds of photos. The museum threw me off at first because even though it was three stories, there didn’t appear to be much in each room. But after I check out the first floor I realized that though there weren't that many items, the items they had were one of a kind.
The Guards of La Casa Rosada. Imagine This in 3D!
There were old news clippings, outfits that she had worn in famous photographs, videos and audios that I had never seen before of both Eva and Juan. I think the videos were my favorite part because I had never heard Eva Peron’s voice prior to the visit. They even had clips of all of her films that she had made in her younger years. I have to say she wasn’t the best actress so I am glad her political career took of.
The most incredible room at the museum had to be the one right before you exit.
It was a film clip about her death and disappearance of her body. There was even an interview with her sister about the rediscovery of her body and the damage done to it during the seventeen years it was missing. There was also a video of Eva’s damaged embalmed body, I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know anything like that existed. It was little unnerving, but put together so well that it really left quite an emotional impact.
The Colors of La Boca!
The final room is a simple white room with Eva’s coronation dress in the center. Surrounding the infamous black dress are several copies of her book La Razón de Mi Vida with classical music playing in the background. Simple, but powerful. Definitely worth visiting if you have any interest in the Perons'.
Our final day we decided to take one last jaunt, so we headed to La Boca.
It was a long walk from our hotel, but since we were going to be on a plane for 10 hours later on that evening, we thought it would be a good idea. I have to say maybe taking a taxi would have been a better idea. A few spots on the way there were a little sketchy and this is coming from someone who used to work in Harlem, NYC! It took a while to get there, but it wasn’t hard to miss once you stumbled upon it. La Boca is a neighborhood where mostly Italian immigrants moved to during 1880 • 1930. Pretty much La Boca is a bunch of buildings painted in bright colors. The Genoese had a tradition of using left over paint from the shipyards to paint their houses because the price was right (free from what I gather). So to this day they keep the tradition alive.
More of the Park at the Casa Rosada!
We didn’t stay here long to be honest with you.
It was a big, bright, overpriced tourist trap! Everything they had to offer cost more than anywhere else in the city and the people were very pushy which was unnerving. I think we lasted 15 minutes there which was unfortunate because it took over an hour to get there on foot. I just didn’t vibe with the atmosphere. My advice to anyone visiting is if you have limited time, look at the pictures online. I feel that there are so many other great places to visit. But then again, I know many people who loved this place, so to each his own.
Coy Fishies at the Jardin Japonese - Ready To Eat!
I wish looking back that I had gone to La Tigre since that is one of the places the locals kept talking about, but the weather was unpredictable and on the final day we didn’t have enough time.
I have to say that Buenos Aires was one of my favorite locations thus far (sorry Rhode Island).
The people were just amazing. I didn’t meet an unfriendly person in the bunch, honestly. Everyone from the hotel attendants, to the taxi drivers, to the waiters are so proud of their country and love to hear other people’s views of it. Also, many people will want to try their English skills on you, which is a nice way to take a break from speaking Spanish.
The Smallest Elevator in the WORLD!
Also, the food is incredible! I kid you not; the prices are even better. Let me put it this way. I hate beef. Beef and pork are the devil in my world. Noah ate the beef every night and finally conned me into eating some. I have to say that for the first time in my life the beef didn’t fight in my stomach to come back up! Argentina’s beef really is the best! It actually was good, though I didn’t want to push my luck and quit after one bite.
An Action Shot of Apartments and Buildings!
The wine is amazing as well. I am not a wine drinker but it was very affordable and quite good! In fact, our final night I had three glasses to celebrate which is impressive for me. I can hold hard liquor like a sailor, but wine is bad news for me. But it was so good, I kept kicking it back. Not good for me or for the locals! Nothing like una borracha running through the streets of Buenos Aires, though I have a feeling this wasn't the first time that this has happened in this fantastic city!