The last few days of the trip went well. The sun came back out but the temperatures dropped a bit so we wore pants instead of shorts, but it beats the cool temperatures I heard the Boston area had in our absence.
We spent Saturday exploring the Reloceta neighborhood of the city. This area is their high-end area with French-inspired architecture along Avenida Alvear and then the famous Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Peron is buried. This cemetery is probably about the “french-est” part of Buenos Aires as it’s very similar to a Parisian cemetery (where bodies are above ground in individual mini-mausoleums). Outside the cemetery was an arts and crafts fair where we picked up a few things. A little bit more walking brought us to Palermo Chico – a very tiny neighborhood unlike the rest of the city in that the streets don’t follow a grid pattern. It’s home to some gorgeous little mansions with impeccably manicured lawns.
Finally, on our last day we explored the neighborhood known as La Boca (see photo above). This waterfront area has historically been the poor/immigrant part of the city. In recent years, it’s become a tourist attraction as a result of the architecture. Back in the day, the poor residents built homes out of scrap metal and wood. Unable to afford paint, they took whatever left-over paint offered by the shipping vessels that docked nearby. Since they only got left-over paint, they couldn’t pick the color or quantity. Consequently, they’d paint portions of their homes in different colors as the paint ran out. This left an unusual pattern of bright and fun colors on an otherwise dreary area.
The shipping industry moved to a new area (Puerto Madero) so now La Boca feels a bit more fabricated: shops have taken over the residences and buildings are being refurbished to appear old. Still, it was an interesting area.
The flight home went well. We arrived in Miami at 4:30AM on Monday with a three hour layover. Fortunately, Randy his status with the airline so we got to go to the lounge and take showers before the connecting flight to Boston.
And that was it – my first adventure to South America! And here are some final observations:
1 – There are dogs everywhere in Buenos Aires and the city has no pooper-scooper laws (or people don’t abide by them). Consequently, you can smell a lot of shit and have to dodge piles of it on the sidewalks (like landmines).
2 – I can understand why Argentina has one of the highest vehicular fatality rates in the world. The cab drivers are insane. Certifiably insane. More than one of our drivers would straddle two lanes to wedge himself between two other cars…at 40+ miles per hour…at a stop light.
3 – It’s a very green city once you get out of the Microcentro. The neighborhood streets are lined with plush old trees. It is odd, however, that nearly all large parks in the city are clustered together in the Palermo neighborhood.
4 – They don’t eat vegetables. Their idea of salad is plain lettuce with shredded carrots. The adventurous add raw onions, tomato, or egg. But that’s it. No dressing, no cucumber. Hell, no varities of lettuce.
5 – Argentinians don’t have much of a sweet tooth. One of the things I love about France is going to the grocery store and drooling over the candy aisle. In Buenos Aires, their confections suck. We had to go to Uruguay before finding a decent chocolate bar.
6 – Some things are unbelievably cheap. We had three course meals for under $12.00 each (salad, entree, dessert, bottled waters, bottle of wine). The subway was 23 cents per ride, most cab rides were around $3, a decent bottle of wine can be had for $4, and a 2 bedroom condo in a great neighborhood costs about $69,000 (all in U.S. currency). Oddly enough, they advertise their real estate in U.S. currency, yet everything else is priced in Argentinian currency).
7 – There’s a lot more to do in Buenos Aires than I’d thought. I’d have liked to explore the various neighborhoods in a bit more detail but the city is just enormous. I also would have liked to visit more areas outside the city: Tigre (west of the city along the river), Mar de la Plata (beaches along the Atlantic Ocean), gaucho country (farm country), Iguazu (waterfalls more impressive than Niagara), and Mendoza (wine country).
Still, by the 8th day I was ready to return home. And it’s good to be back…except that Randy managed to catch a cold the last few days there. And my nose is starting to run a bit.
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