Buenos Aires: the Jewel of Argentina
While travelling round Argentina we had been continually disappointed by the lack of buildings with grandeur in the towns. Well Buenos Aires has Grandeur with spades. Everywhere you look are huge colonial buildings on a scale to rival any of the great cities of the world.
We arrived into Buenos Aires at the docks (close to where the ferry to Uruguay departs) and we walked through the Puerto Madero part of the city. This is the old docks area which has been completely gentrified and is now a restaurant and convention area.
We walked from here right up into the heart of the city and up Avenida de Mayo, the main axis of the city which has Congress at one end and the Cathedral and Presidential offices at the other.
Our hotel was just off the North end of the Avenida de Mayo. We were staying in the Lennox hotel which was a modern boutique hotel and very nice while still being good value. We dropped off our bags and set out to explore the city some more.
The Congress building itself is very impressive and was actually modelled on the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
Splitting the city through the centre is Avenida 9 de Julio which is a massive street with up to 16 lanes of traffic. City residents (Portenos) claim that it is the widest street in the world. There are two striking landmarks on this street. One is a big skyscraper with Eva Peron’s face on it and the other is The Obelisk (67m high).
Continuing down Avenida de Mayo we reached the Plaza de Mayo which is the main square of the city with the Presidential offices at one end. Here we found the Cathedral which is in a classical architectural style and not what you would expect at all. In fact we walked passed it a couple of times before realising it was the Cathedral.
Inside the cathedral is the tomb of General Jose de San Martin who is Argentina’s most important hero (responsible from liberating Argentina from Spanish rule).
On our second day in Buenos Aires we first headed to La Boca. This is a blue collar neighbourhood of the city with the football ground of Boca Juniors at its centre (one of Diego Maradona’s old clubs).
The tourist heart of La Boca is Caminito street where the buildings are painted multi-coloured hues and there are tango dancers in the streets. Although it feels a little touristy the place still has a charm of its own and is very different to the other districts of BA.
In the afternoon we headed over to the Recoleta district which is the site of the Recoleta cemetery. This is where the city’s rich and famous are buried in massive tombs which form streets like a city of the dead. Only the very rich can afford a pitch here and some of the tombs are incredible in their grandeur.
Many of the crypts have basements which are full of coffins.
One obligatory stop in the cemetery is the tomb of the Duarte family which is where Eva Peron, Argentina’s number 1 heroine, is buried.
Also nearby to this amazing cemetery is a modern artwork, Floralis Generica . It’s a massive metallic flower whose petals open during the day and close at night.
Our third day in BA we were beginning to get tired from all the walking around but we kept at it. Our first stop was the main shopping area of the city which is called Florida. There is a grand shopping centre here called Gallerias Pacifico with painted vaulted ceilings and a big central fountain. We visited an art gallery on the upper floors with a big exhibition of Marilyn Monroe photographs.
We stopped off at Café Tortoni which is a BA institution. Having tea at Café Tortoni is a bit like tea at the Ritz, just not so elitist. It’s a real old world place where we had proper scones though they were served with Dulce de Leche, no jam and whipped cream here!
The highlight of the day though was in evening when had booked a dinner and tango show. The dinner was actually surprisingly good with excellent wine. The tango show itself was in a small club with chairs around little tables. It lasted around 2 hours and was real mixture of tango, singing and traditional music. All in all it was very enjoyable.
Our final morning in BA dawned and we were slow getting out of bed. We walked on tired legs over to the San Telmo district for the Sunday Market. Plaza Dorrego is the centrepiece for a large and busy market on a Sunday much like you might find in any European city. It was enjoyable to walk round and we were pleased and surprised to bump into our friends Luis & Lacey (lostworldexpedition.com).
However the time came when we had to make our way back to El Tigre so we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags. However on the way we encountered a massive demonstration marching down Avenida de Mayo. The protesters were marshalling in Avenida 9 de Julio so we had a hard time crossing the road and had to dodge organisers and protesters to get through. The demonstration was anti-government and is an annual affair.
This meant that we couldn’t get a taxi to the train station because of the traffic disruption and had to walk all the way.
BA is a fantastic city and of all the cities in South America it is certainly our favourite. It would be so easy to spend a month here enjoying the buzz of city life and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the city. BA is a world class city to rival London, New York and Paris and I can’t think of higher praise than that !