Plaza de Mayo
Todayâ€™s main event consisted of a tour we went on with a great Argentine company called Eternautas. This companyâ€™s guides are all very knowledgeable and fluent in English. Many of them hold doctorate degrees. If you all ever come to Buenos Aires or Argentina, I would highly recommend using this company.
Anyways, we met our guide at the Pan Americano Hotel in the center of town. The hotel is off of 9 de Julio, which is one of the biggest highways in the world. It has 16 lanes! We arrived by taxi to the hotel and met our guide, Nicolas. We were also joined by an American couple that Brandon had actually flown with on the same flight from Peru to Buenos Aires.
They were nice and very animated.
Street Tango dancers in La Boca
We started our tour with looking at the Obelisk which was right outside the hotel. This monument was built in 1936 on the 400th anniversary of the first Spanish settlement on the RĂo de la Plata. During major soccer games and tournaments, the Argentines turn this intersection into a celebration ground. I experienced this first hand last summer during the World Cup. We got on the bus and headed towards our first stop- Plaza de Mayo.
This square is the oldest and most historic square in Buenos Aires. It was founded in 1580 by the Spanish explorers.
Nicolas pointed out the old Spanish style architecture that still stands today. Also in Plaza de Mayo is La Casa Rosada aka the Pink House. This is Argentinaâ€™s version of the White House. However, President Kirschner does not live here. He flies in every morning by helicopter to conduct business and his other affairs in the offices in the Pink House. This square is also the site of many protests. Argentina is notorious for the daily protests that occur in front of the Pink House. The most famous protest, Madres de la plaza Mayo (Mothers of Plaza Mayo), happens every Thursday at 3:30 PM. This group consists of members who protest for a full account of the Dirty War atrocities during the dictatorship of 1976-1983. Many of these women are mothers of the desparacidos (the disappeared), who â€śdisappearedâ€ť/ were executed during this reign.
El Caminito in La Boca
We moved on from Plaza de Mayo and drove through the neighborhoods of San Telmo and Montserrat, which are two of the oldest barrios in Buenos Aires.
San Telmo used to be the living quarters of the Buenos Aires aristocracy. The neighborhood consists of many old historic mansions that turned into tenements and shops after the elite left for higher grounds. San Telmo also has a huge Sunday market that attracts tourists from all around.
A club in Puerto Madero
After driving through this barrio, we stopped at La Boca. This neighborhood is the most physically colorful by far. This is on account of the brightly colored shops and houses. In the mid 19th century, Spanish and Italian immigrants worked on the barges and docks and used the leftover paint to cover their houses and shops. The main street in La Boca is El Caminito, which is named after a famous tango song. This street hosts many lively sights including vividly painted cafes and shops, street tango performers, and local artists who paint/sculpt right in front of you. La Boca is also home to one of Argentinaâ€™s most famous soccer teams, Boca Juniors.
Diego Maradona, Argentinaâ€™s most famous soccer player got his career started on this team. Luqman and I were both very excited to walk past the La Bombera Stadium on the tour.
Evita's tomb decorated with flowers on her birthday
Our tour continued on through to Puerto Madero. This is the newest part of Buenos Aires. You can tell this by the modern style architecture of the buildings. An interesting part of this neighborhood is the most of the street names are named after famous women in Argentine history. There is also dance club that is a smaller scale replica of the Sydney Opera House.
We hit our home neighborhood of Palermo next. Nicolas pointed out the many parks and green spaces that are spread throughout Palermo.
In particular, he pointed out a monument of a flower that opens and lights up at night and closes during the day time. He also told us about how Palermo used to host some of the richest Buenos Aires inhabitants before the economic crises hit. Now, these beautiful houses are museums, shops, and schools. Palermo is also home to many embassies including the United States Embassy.
In the Recoleta Cemetery
Our final stop was at the Recoleta cemetery. Since Luqman and I had already been to the cemetery, we were prepared for the ostentatious mausoleums. However, this was Brandonâ€™s first time and thus he was wowed and awed by the various elegant and extravagant tombs. I think because of our previous trip to the cemetery, Luq and Iâ€™s interest was not really prevalent. Consequently, we did some ignorant things.
We took pictures posing with the various statues of peopleâ€™s tombs. Even worse, we encouraged Brandon to do it with us and Steve, the other guy in our tour group, laughed and took our picture. After we got the silliness out of our system, we continued on the tour of the cemetery with the rest of the group. Nicolas showed us some of the most famous inhabitants, including Eva PerĂłn. This particular day was special because it was her birthday. Therefore, her tomb was adorned with many flowers, wreaths and gifts from admirers and supporters. After looking at some more tombs, we said good-bye to Nicolas and headed back to our apartment.
Actin' a fool in the Cemetery
Instead of taking a taxi or a bus, we decided to walk home along the main road, Santa Fe. Throughout our walk, we noticed an abundance of bakeries. After seeing about 5 of them, all of us caved and decided to buy some yummy pastries.
When we arrived at our apartment, Luqman and I decided to head to get some more of our favorite commodity-empanadas.
We walked to my favorite empanada store, La Juventil, and came back with empanadas a plenty. We ate another empanada feast and then collapsed after a long day of touring and traveling.