01.02.2014 - 10.02.2014 28 °C
Day 30, Feb 01, 2014. Buenos Aires
10AM was our scheduled departure time from the ship and we walked down the gangway to pouring rain. A tent was set up at the bottom where umbrellas were handed out. Yesterday when we returned to the ship in the sweltering heat we were given ice cold towels. Nice touch.
A waiting bus took us to the terminal where we found our luggage and grabbed a cab to our hotel.
The sidewalk in front of our hotel was torn up and three men were working in front of the entrance doors. Our hotel staff greeted us and apologized profusely for the inconvenience of no electricity. in the middle of the night the lines 'blew up' and they were now fixing them and should be done in a few hours. I have heard this story before and was concerned it could turn in to days.
The manager assured us that this happens quite often. The electrical lines are old and rather than maintain them the city electrical company decided to just fix them as they break.
We are given a candle and are shown to our room on the second floor. It is a lovely room and we are glad that it is not has hot as yesterday as the air conditioning is not working.
Soon after we grabbed a cab and headed back to Recoleta to the 'Belle Arts Museum' (museum of fine arts). Not having any expectations we are blown away by this small building.
Admission is free and although there were three floors, the second is under construction.
Starting on the third floor we find ourselves at a temporary exhibit called 'Madre"
Large black and white photos in three rooms of the faces of women aged 50-70 I would guess. They are the mothers of young people, mostly boys, who went missing after a demonstration in the 70s. I have never seen portrait photography this amazing and so sorry that I did not bring my camera. The expressions on their faces and in their eyes was so moving.
Downstairs contains a very impressive collection of wonderful Argentine art as well as many of the European masters which was a surprise. Rembrandt, Goya, Mattise, and Van Gogh just to name a few. There was a very strong connection to Europe in the arts.
Later in the evening we walked the pedestrian mall, Florida Street, to people watch and get some exercise. The rain was merely spitting now and the temperature comfortable.
Dinner was at a restaurant near our hotel and we went back there twice more during our time here.
I had a salad and Doug ordered a steak. Argentina is known for it's beef, free range and grass fed it did not disappoint. Covering the plate it was about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. The cost for his meal, with salad was only $13.
Cattle ranching is becoming less and less in Argentina. One of the last places where cows are able to graze the fields freely is not as lucrative as growing soybeans. Per square foot you produce more soybeans than beef on the land here. The future is unclear for the beef industry.
We walked for hours exploring our area. A church and then the Parliament buildings were in the first area we stopped. There is so much history here and there were large pictures of many of Argentinas past leaders hanging in the Parliament. There was even a picture of Che Gueverra. I had my pictures taken with these two guards but it is quite fuzzy.
I had really hoped to be able to see a concert at the Opera house but it seems that the entire city of Buenos Aires almost closes shop in February. It is the equivalent to our August and many locals go to the beach or mountains to escape the heat.
We opted for a tour of the building instead and it was fantastic.
Our guide, Emmanuel, was a student there and was very informative and had a great sense of humor. The theatre took over 32 years to build and seemed to have a bit of a curse on it, so they thought. The first two architects died at the age of 44 as did a few of the workers. From then on any worker about to turn 44 would quit. It took a lot of convincing to finally find a third to finish the job. He was told he would be safe as he was age 65, but taking no chances he said he would do it but not take a salary.
When it finally opened, the price of a ticket to a show was about three months salary of an average worker. It was a place where the rich and politicians would come. Most people came to the Opera house, not for the show, but to be seen and to see who was there and what they were wearing.
The building itself is very ornate and beautiful but not gaudy. It reminded us of a combination of the Hermitage and Marinski Theatre in St. Petersburg.
Every chair, drape, carpet and piece of wood was designed in a way to accentuate the acoustics. When you hear a show at the Opera house it is unlike any show you have ever been to according to our guide. He was so passionate about this place. If I were to ever come back to Buenos Aires I would plan it around a concert here.
Today we explored the area of San Telmo. Yesterday Buenos Aires was like a ghost town, there were only tourists on the street as it was Sunday. The day before it was the same. It seems that in Buenos Aires people love to go out at night, and they don't start until midnight and go to 4 or so in the morning. So on Saturday and Sunday a great deal of the shops are closed and everyone except the tourists, are sleeping
Today however is Monday and the streets are packed with people. Argentina is in a financial crisis right now. The peso has dropped considerably since we have arrived. You would never know it however, the locals are still out with lots of bags of their purchases and filling cafes and restaurants.
We are only able to withdraw $1,000 pesos a day, the equivalent of $140 CAD which is inconvenient and expensive with the service charges added to each withdrawal.
Police have a very big presence and almost every store has a security guard. We have never felt unsafe however. We find the people here all extremely friendly and helpful when asked questions. A young man from Belgium who is staying at our hotel remarked how the Argentinians are so relaxed and laid back. No one is stressed out. It is true, they never seem in a hurry, I have never heard a raised voice or cross word from or to anyone.
When two people meet they do the fake kiss on the cheek. Co workers, people who know each other on the street, men to men, women to women etc. Everybody seems generally happy to see someone they know.
Line ups are for everything. In the morning we see maybe 100 people or more lined up at the insta banks all over town. There are even more lined up inside. Line ups for grocery lines, movie theatres, and post offices. But no one ever complains or looks annoyed. You never hear anyone say
"Come on......hurry up already!!" They all just stand and patiently wait.
San Telmo is an area of antique stores. Items are sold in areas here. If you want appliances you go to one area of Buenos Aires, another for cameras, somewhere else for eyeglasses etc.
Here were many antique shops. Most were closed today however as yesterday, Sunday, was a big day for a lot of antique flea markets in the streets etc.
Lunch was at a square where two young people were dancing the tango for donations. They were quite good, but on the cruise ship we were fortunate to have a couple who performed a number of times for us and I can not imagine anyone could be better than they were.
Palermo Soho was the place we explored today. It was quite a distance so we ventured onto the subway to take us there, which is very inexpensive to ride.
After walking around for a few hours we went into a botanical park which was an oasis in the middle of all the traffic and heat.
We see people all over with cups full of green leaves and a metal straw coming out that they suck on. It looks like a big Sherlock Holmes pipe. We thought it was a drug pipe, pot or something, and were thinking how liberal they are here. Old and young were using these early morning until late afternoon.
I saw two girls on a park bench chatting and indulging so I went up and asked. They thought it was quite funny that I thought it was pot. It is Yerba Matte tea.
They put the tea in the cup, pour hot water over top from the ever present thermos and then drink through the straw. You can not get these in cafes, only use your own. As a matter of fact you can not buy a cup of Yerbe matte tea in any cafe.
Back to the hotel on the subway. It was so hot out, over 33 and 100% humidity. The subway was packed to the gunnels. It was a sardine can sauna. No one else had a bead of sweat on them and I looked like I just stepped out of the shower. How do they do that, look so cool all the time?
Another day of walking the city. We purchased bus tickets for our trip north tomorrow.
I mentioned how wide the roads are here, but last night when we were walking I counted. You can not cross on one light, it takes at least three of the six total to make it.
There are five lanes of traffic going east, then a boulevard and a walk sign. Then four more going east, two bus lanes going east, then two more going west. Another boulevard and a walk sign. Then 4 lanes west, boulevard and then 5 west. A grand total of 22 lanes in the city. This is only a few blocks from our hotel and not a freeway.
You really have to look both ways here to get across without getting run over.
Day 35, Feb 5.
The bus to Salta left on time at 10:30AM . Travel by bus in Argentina is like travelling by plane. We purchased the more expensive seats ($10 more) for the downstairs part of the double decker bus. The seats are two across, an aisle and then one single seat. They are wider than normal and recline 150degrees. With only four rows downstairs it will be quieter and the bathroom is on this floor as well. You can almost lie down in the seats and there is a foot rest.
The bad thing is of course that the seat in front of you also reclines 150 degrees.A young girl and her grandma sat in front of us and grandma had her head in my lap it seemed pretty much the entire trip.
The air conditioning stopped working about a half hour into the trip. It was so hot it became unbearable. The 10 hour journey was not as enjoyable as I had hoped.
Day 36. Cordoba.
Cordoba is a city with four Universities. Unlike Buenos Aires the sidewalks are in good repair and there is no garbage in the streets. There are a few older buildings but for the most part it is very modern and young looking. We walked every day for four or five hours to explore
We are staying in a hotel that encourages families and there are many young children and babies with their parents. It is great to hear young children playing and having fun. The other hotels were so quiet where people barely spoke at breakfast.
Again we walk the city but it is very hot.
This statue is an optical illusion. The statue is actually two feet above the water.
I am so tired of wearing the same clothes day in and day out. A large, air conditioned, mall was nearby by so I went to look for a new top or blouse. Every store int he building was very small and the clothes hung perfectly on the racks with spaces in between. They all looked like very exclusive boutiques from West Van or Robson Street. .
These little boutiques also had every size, up to size 6. The fashions were all geared to the young thin student. I am not sure where the fat people that I see shop, they must send them all out of town, as I have never seen any clothes over size 8 since we have been here.
Yesterday we took all of our clothes, pretty much everything, to a laundromat around the corner from our hotel. He said they would be ready at 7:30PM. The sign on the wall said ' Monday to Sunday, 9AM to 8PM'
We showed up at 7:45P and he was closed. The sign on the door had something different. Monday to Friday, 9-7:30P. Yesterday was Friday. We have a bus ticket for Salta on Sunday. Well that sucks.
We figured that four days was already one day too many for Cordoba and now we were here for one more. Thankfully we could extend our stay here one more night.
Another very hot day. We went to a movie at the mall, (air conditioned). It was '12 Years A Slave' , an amazing movie.
Cooler and rainy today. We went for a walk and later back the the movie theatre to watch 'August' with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Another amazing movie.
Standing in front of the laundromat at 9AM we were so worried that the fellow would not show up on time. We changed our bus tickets to leave today and only had a one hour window. A flood of relief when we saw him walk up at 9:15.
Our 10:30 bus never left until 11:30AM. We used a different company this time and got the two seats at the front which was much better. This bus has a steward who served a small lunch and keeps the bathroom cleanish,although sitting at the front meant we could smel the unpleasant bathroom during the trip. My only complaint.
Movies play on the bus. The first one was 'My name is Khan' which we had wanted to see for a few years now. Great movie. The second one was ' 12 Years A Slave' !' I worked on my blog and slept through most of that one as we had just seen it.
One reason we took the bus was to see the scenery but the steward came back and asked us to close our curtains to keep it cool on the bus.
There were non stop movies. We also saw three more, two really bad ones with terrible swearing, 'Heat' with Sandra Bullock and then the 'Internship 'with Vince Vaughn and finally ' Despicable Me ' which had Spanish subtitles and was also in Spanish.
I read , played solitaire and slept through the last few.
We were served an airline style dinner and finally arrived in Salta at 1AM. We are going to spend a week here I think. We have a lovely one bedroom modern apartment and the elevation is now at 3700 feet. We hope to climb gradually before reaching La Paz which is at 14,000 feet.
The weather looks good outside so now we are off to explore the north of Argentina.