Days: 373-377 (3 July 2015 – 7 July 2015)
Total distance travelled: 84,170.76 kilometres (52,279.98 miles)
With the skies now dark and the wind blowing, we find ourselves seated at just inside the doors of the Colonia Express ferry terminal.
Welcome to Buenos Aires and back into Argentina!
We were waiting to be collected, however it wasn’t a bus or taxi for which we waited… rather, it was for whom we waited and in this case it was Carolina and Nacho (Ignacio), two Argentineans we’d befriended back in Mexico City, and had not seen in person since our adventures in Guatemala around eight months ago!
Like a sudden whirlwind they made their entrance, having been made a little late by the capitals post work rush hour.
Hugs were exchanged, packs were lifted, and we were on our way into the night.
Our first thoughts as we wandered along this old port region of the city (that has now been reclaimed and gentrified for use as upscale apartments and restaurants) was, we could have been in Melbourne!
A bus, a train and about forty minutes later, and we found ourselves at their small one bedroom apartment in the suburb of Adrogue, a leafy tree lined area removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Buenos Aires.
They were also insistent that we claim their room for our time here, whilst they would rough it on mattresses on their living room floor, a situation they would not change despite our insistence!
After sharing a drink and a meal, where there was some compromise made so that we’d dine at what we considered a reasonable hour (around 8pm), as opposed to the common dinner time in Argentina of 10pm or later, we parted company, eager to get some sleep for the day tomorrow.
After being treated to a breakfast of pastries (of course it was almost mandatory that some were filled with dulce de leche), we cruised into downtown Buenos Aires, frigid on this Saturday morning, despite the beautiful blue sky above.
Then things began to get even rosier, and by rosy, I mean pink… literally!
Welcome to Casa Rosada.
This Argentinean national monument, is also the executive mansion of the president, and wears yet another hat by serving as a museum as well.
A free tour was running soon, so we wasted a few minutes with a brief wander through the entrance halls, home to a large gallery of artworks focused on Latin American liberators and freedom fighters, including the obvious Simon Bolivar and Benito Juarez.
Soon it was time for our large group to assemble, and we did our best to follow the rapid fire Spanish that our guide began to fire out.
True, we had the benefit of having Carolina translate bits for us, but with the beautiful surrounds, we were quite content just to have a good look at the place.
The tour kept us engaged for about an hour or so, which was good as we had a schedule to keep.
After time for a quick video and selfie in the Salon Blanco, we were on our way and looking for some lunch (it sounds like we only just had breakfast, but in truth we’d dawdled a little before getting ourselves into town).
You see we couldn’t afford to be too late in getting back as today was the final of the Copa America (South America’s football confederations major football (soccer) competition), and Argentina was to be pitted against hosts, Chile.
As such, a quick lunch of bondiolas (a thin pork steak in a roll with toppings and condiments of our choosing) was had down near a wetlands park, before we were on our way back to Adrogue, stopping only to collect a friend, Maty (Mathaus).
With only our own football (Australian Rules Football, described by another Argentine we met Claudio, as a combination between Rugby and Jiu-Jitsu) grand final celebrations to compare this to, we didn’t know exactly what to expect in this football mad country.
Things could potentially get crazy… then the game began.
Much to our surprise, the beer, it did not begin to flow.
At times, there was the odd shout at the television, a pile of leftover breakfast pastries were put on the table… many rounds of mate were shared, but it wasn’t the raucous, wild ride that we’d anticipated.
To be honest, we were a little disappointed…
Eventually, the game got tense, extra time passed and eventually things progressed to a penalty shoot-out.
Incredibly, Argentina, the favourites, lost!
Only then did a few beers begin to get passed around, although other than a brief dash to get more beer (there is a ban on alcohol sales after 9pm, but the guys knew a place) the night never really got too wild.
Eventually Maty drifted home, as did the two other arrivals Floppy (Florencia) and her boyfriend Claudio, and we all retired for the night.
The working week was now upon us, so our friends would be busy for much of the week.
To get an idea of how crazy it can be for our young Argentinean friends, they not only work essentially all day, they then head to university for the afternoons and/or evenings… and this is the norm!
This goes part way to explaining why so often they prepare and consume dinner so late!
Now what it meant for us, was we were free to head into town and explore at our leisure, so that is what we did, about a half hour train ride seeing us there.
Carolina actually had a late start to work that day, so had helped guide us into town, and we started our day in downtown Buenos Aires, pretty much where we’d left off the previous day.
Right in the Plaza de Mayo which is home to the Casa Rosada.
We kicked things off at the Catedral Metropolitana, a squat, drab looking affair which Nacho had rather accurately described as fea (ugly).
Things were slightly better within, so we paid our respects at a tomb to Jose de San Martin, liberator of Chile, Peru and Argentina before making our way up Avenida de Mayo.
The previous evening, Maty had attempted to deliver us a list of must see highlights of the city in his broken English.
Essentially this directed us to travel along Avenida de Mayo (which was bewdiful), to look at this building (because it’s bewdiful), to look at that building (because it’s bewdiful)… you get the picture.
One of the buildings at least, was in fact beautiful.
It also looked very familiar.
This was the Palacio Congreso, the home of Argentina’s government, which looked eerily similar to both Capital Hill in Washington DC (at least as seen in pictures) and El Capitolio in Havana (as seen in person).
It was a grand building befitting its grand purpose, so we took a few snaps, then decided to investigate a little closer.
No entrance appeared open to us at the time, so there was to be no exploration of its inner sanctums, so we moved our sights on to another supposed highlight of the city.
Our walking route took us by possibly the city’s most iconic sight, el Obelisco, before another classic structure stood before us, the Teatro Colon.
We ummed and ahhed over the hefty looking price for a guided tour (the only way you can actually get into the theatre), eventually sucking it up and forking out the cash.
It was a decision that would leave us with no regrets.
Gorgeous marble, elegant design and incredibly coloured stained glass ceilings, this place was a delight.
Throw in a few amusing anecdotes, and we were completely sold, with perhaps the most amusing being the architects deliberate decision to place to busts of both Wagner and Verdi opposing each other across an elegant a hallway (by all accounts they couldn’t stand the sight of one another in real life…) where they could face off for eternity.
The main concert hall itself was a gem, used to accommodating high profile acts from around the world (of whom, only Pavarotti was said to dislike the place).
Perhaps in keeping with the theme, it was Italian on which we dined for lunch, two delicious and cheap bowls of pasta accompanied by a carafe of red seeing us end our second full day in the city, well indeed.
The next morning saw us use a combination of train and subway to get ourselves out to the neighbourhood of Recoleta, one of the more up market and exclusive hoods in the Argentine capital.
It might be the place to live the good life, but people were dying to get into our destination… the Cementerio de la Recoleta.
Now we love a good graveyard at the best of times, but this one certainly has a bit of star quality with its gargantuan family crypts housing former generals and presidents.
Most famous of all however is the wife of a colonel… and wife of a president.
It is Eva Perón, better known simply as Evita.
At first, we wandered around a little aimlessly, not eager to purchase the services of a guide.
We should have simply followed the crowd, so latch onto a couple who were clutching a map we did, and very soon we were paying our respects to one of the best known first ladies anywhere in the world (it’s very possible pop musician Madonna has played a large part in that).
We explored a little further, finding some monuments that rivaled skyscrapers in height, and others that despite the apparent tidiness of the grounds, looked as though they’d been neglected for many a long year.
For our early afternoon we got a little arty, although at first we feared that the scaffold clad exterior of the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes was closed, it was indeed open and entrance was at our favourite price (Free)!
There were some cool pieces within as well, a nice collection of Monets, some of the typical ballerinas from Degas, not to mention a couple of large school groups marching around.
After taking a break for lunch (where we had our first falafel since Mexico City) we sought some more peace within the grounds of the Jardin Botanico Carloss Thays.
Apparently it was home to a thriving butterfly garden, but sadly for us there were none… still it was a nice enough garden with a beautiful conservatory… just not a lot of exits, foiling our plans to simply pass through it on our way elsewhere!
Our morning theme was picked up yet again as we made a visit to the Museo Evita, obviously dedicated to probably the most famous woman in Argentinean history.
It’s possible we went here with high expectations, not unreasonable we felt given the status which she still holds, despite her passing over sixty years ago!
We were left pretty disappointed.
But for a few of her fashion forward outfits, there was little to thrill, especially when one considers that entry was not exactly cheap either…
* Colonia del Sacramento to Buenos Aires via ferry cost us $850.00 URY pesos per person.
* Entry into the Teatro Colon and guided tour cost us $180.00 pesos per person.
* Entrance into the Museo Eva Peron cost $50.00 pesos per person.
* Entrance into Belles Artes was FREE!