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We had a late arrival to our hotel here last night but we had a moderately early start this morning for a tour of the city. This is an interesting city with lots of statues and monuments, long history, and broad boulevards – some, 10 lanes wide – filled with all manner of vehicles, each alternately speeding or stopping while crossing or straddling lane markers.
Happy Birthday to DD!!
Well, I guess I did not get very far with that last entry. There is just so much to see and do. The first stop on our city tour was the cemetery. Yes, the cemetery; judged to be one of the finest in the world. This cemetery is much more than a collection of gravestones scattered about on a field of green. In fact, there is very little green and the gravestones are replaced by hundreds (or thousands?) of family sized mausoleums. The narrow pathways are filled with paving stones. Families own or rent these lavish, carefully designed structures. Many have statues. Most have bronze plates. Some have gold trim. Most are neat and well kept but some are old and broken. Entire families are interred. Most famous is the Duarte family that includes Eva Peron still decorated with fresh bouquets. It is a most fascinating experience despite a rather mundane sounding option.
We cruised through the city center and downtown Buenos Aires. Amongst the streets lined with tall office buildings, banks, government offices and high end stores is a tight cluster of four of the largest McDonalds that I have seen! Around a block or two, the cathedral loomed. Beautiful and spacious. Gold gild. Statues. Two high pulpits. And over all, a huge Christ on a cross. From the rear of the church, it appeared to glow from within. Not far away, the pink governor’s office filled the end of a broad promenade. A century or more ago Argentina had two political parties; one represented by the color red, the other, white. The governor wanted unity. Therefore, he had his quarters painted pink.
Different parts of the city house different interest groups. The Tango Quarter, an Italian community, La Boca, more. We toured the fascinating El Zanjon museum/archeological site. Buenos Aires was established in 1580. Since then, of course, it has gone through many changes. Building, growing, waves of immigrants. Shrinkage, recessions. Yellow fever epidemic. Razing and rebuilding. Land fill. Even as we, today, canalize and modify water courses, so did they in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
As it happens, several years ago,
Oh my! December 1!! Wow, somehow it just does not look like winter out there. And, as I write, we are on a boat, crossing a lake. We will have two portages and go through customs on our way to Chile.
Well, as I started to say… several years ago, an entrepreneur bought this old house in southwest Buenos Aires to renovate as restaurant. As the rubble was cleared, another house was discovered below ground level. And another below that. And a neat stone lined canal. Each layer of houses represents a century or more older in time and culture. Detritus, trash, waste, and fill was found both inside and outside the structures. The canal operated much the same as our modern culverts – to control the movement of water in a stream.
That evening, some might argue, was a major event in our trip. A Tango lesson. That’s right – Tango Lesson! It began quite innocently. Just walk around the room to the beat of the music. It accelerated. Then, a partner. And then, more complicated steps. We were all smiles as we congratulated each other over our accomplishment. But then, the instructors did a brief demo. We all wondered how they could go from what they had taught us to what they could do. This was followed by a big dinner, great tango music, and a tango show.
Oh, I nearly forgot. I think it was the last evening in Buenos Aires. Karel and I, along with a handful of others attended a special performance at the Opera House. Both the performance and the house were rewarding. We actually occupied an entire balcony booth on the second of six levels. It was a fun show and it felt absolutely decadent!
You know what? It has just occurred to me that I have not told you about our tour guide, Jane Bell, our guardian angel. Karel and I met Jane in Rio de Janeiro. The others in our group – eight others besides Jane, Karel, and me – are from Australia and they have been with Jane in Peru and Bolivia before Rio. Jane is the glue and the magic of this trip. She is knowledgeable and experienced. Multilingual. And a cheerful attentive, patient, omnipresent, people person. She either leads us on an impromptu minitours or co-leads with a local expert. She suggests options during a free time and willingly leads the way. Jane showed us the way and spearheaded our booking for the Contemporary Music program in the massive, elegant space of the Buenos Aires concert house.