24 Hours in Buenos Aires

Monday, 23 October 2023

Before I met Maureen in New York and stayed in two interesting hotels – The Chelsea and the TWA Hotel – I had two weeks in South America. Catching up with two countries – Uruguay and Paraguay – which I would have visited in 2020, if that pandemic hadn’t come along.

Most of my travels were by bus – and wow, buses have really improved in South America in recent years. I remember abandoning a bus in Ecuador in 1985 because my children – Tashi and Kieran – were only 4 years and 2 years of age and I really wanted to see them grow up a few more years. This trip my travels started in Buenos Aires and my first trip from there was by ferry.

OK you fly into BA in the morning, you take the ferry out the next morning, what do you do with your 24 hours, particularly since you can’t check in to your hotel room until 3pm? You pull your elderly Lonely Planet Argentina guidebook out of your daypack and head off on the Buenos Aires walking tour.

◄ Galerias Pacifico – From the Pulitzer Hotel, where I’d left my bag, after checking out the ferry terminal for my boat the next morning, I headed for the beautiful Galerias Pacifico for a strong café con leche. During the day I have a drawn out lunch, an empanda pollo, a cono vanilla from KFC and later another empanada, this time jamon y queso, and then another café con leche,

▲ Teatro Cervantes – my walk takes me past the ‘lavishly ornamented’ 1921 theatre with its ‘grand tiled lobby and plush red-velvet seats,’ if I’d been able to go inside.

◄ Temple de la Congregacion Israelita – right across the road is this notable Jewish centre.

▲ Escuela Presidente Roca – from where I walked south along Libertad to the Teatro Colon, ‘one of BA’s most impressive buildings’ and almost adjacent to the impressive Escuela Presidente Roca. There is absolutely no shortage of impressive buildings in BA. Remarkably I’ve been here several times, but never for more than a couple of days at the most, usually because I was heading south towards Antarctica.

◄ Obelisco – next I recross Avenida 9 de Julio, past the 67metre Obelisco, a real symbol of the city. On the other side of that impressive boulevard I walk along the pedestrianized Lavalle with its non-stop CAMBIO-CAMBIO-CAMBIO accompaniment. Changing money, preferably at the ‘blue rate’ is a big deal in Buenos Aires, it’s an indicator of how screwed up the economy is – for no good reason – that so many people spend so much time working their way around its absurdities.

▲ Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires – next it’s a circuit of the Plaza de Mayo, past the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires – with its tomb of Argentinian hero General José de San Martin – then the Piramide de Mayo, where on Thursdays the ‘Madres de la Plaza de Mayo,’ the ‘mothers of the disappeared’ continue to gather in memory of their children who disappeared in one of the worst excesses of the military dictatorship. Well the Falkands War did one good thing …

▲ Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo … the Pink House is where Juan and Evita Perón made their appearances. And Madonna in her movie Evita.

◄ Don Quixote Memorial & Eva Perón image – from the Plaza de Mayo I walked along Avenida de Maya, but not in to the very tourist popular Café Tintoro, since there was a line drawn up outside. Another historic café stop, Café Richmond, seems to have disappeared. Crossing Avenida 9 de Julio yet again, it’s the major spine of my BA wanderings, I pass this memorial and image.

▲ Palacio del Congreso – then I continue past the Palacio del Congreso, dodging skateboarders en route, past the abandoned Confiteria del Molino and finally back to the hotel to check in. After a brief pause I set out again, starting at the Plaza San Martin, with, of course, an equestrian statue of San Martin. There are a bunch of notable buildings around the park including the Edificio Kavanagh. Then on – and on, it’s a fair distance – to the Recoleta Cemetery

◄ Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar – and the very interesting Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar church

▲ Centro Cultural Recoleta – it’s almost adjacent to this interesting arts centre and there’s a busy and very touristy arts & crafts market. I decide against a couple of ‘upstairs’ bars with views over the cemetery but settle for a beer in La Biela, for 2300 pesos, about US$6 at the official rate, US$4 on the blue rate. It’s heading towards dusk at 7pm and also getting surprisingly chilly. Then back, with a little detour around Plaza San Martin again, to the hotel. I could have done a lot more, if I had more time to do it, but that’s a pleasant little wander-around look at the city. Having started out slightly put off by BA – well it was grey and drizzly in the morning – I’m coming around to it by late afternoon. It is slightly run down looking, modern and often quite affluent feeling, but also a little tatty at the edges.

My notes from the day:

• An awful lot of police on foot, all in their blue outfits
• A lot of homeless, generally sort of untidily bundled up in blankets and shawls
• There may be a lot of this and that, but there’s a distinct shortage of street cleaners. Or street repairers, there are so many loose or missing paving stones, potholes and the like. Careful where you step.
• I like the way corner stores and small markets always seem to be fronted by lots of fruit on display
• Statues always seem to be fenced and gated off

▲ Buquebus ferry, Buquebus Ferry Terminal – next morning it’s only a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the Buquebus Ferry Terminal for my 830am high speed ferry across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay. That isn’t my ferry (mine was not quite so fast), but it’s still not much more than an hour.