Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Buenos Aires. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buenos Aires. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Buenos Aires (Episode Three)

8 November.

Another blue sky day. We must make the most of it!

After another buffet breakfast and a few minutes sorting out a taxi and checking in for our next flight, we recovered Juan's  BA Bikes from the courtyard and peddled down a roughly cobbled street with old tram lines to the Waterfront. It's a regenerated area that looks a bit like an upmarket version of Liverpool's attempt at 'regeneration'.

Just beyond the waterfront is a nature reserve very similar to the one we regularly visit near Puerto Pollença in Mallorca. Today there were lots of joggers, cyclists and walkers scaring off the wildlife. No crested coots here, but we did spot some giant turtles.

A flotilla of yachts filled part of the ocean horizon, seemingly enjoying a Sunday morning race. Or were they off to reclaim sovereign lands?

Anyway, Sue and I pootled gently around the earthen tracks of the reserve, trying to keep below the 10 kph speed limit.

The waterfront overlooking the nature reserve is home to a series of fine bronze sculptures of famous Argentinian sports stars. Gabriella Sabatini is pictured. I'm sure there must also be one of the inestimable Maria Bueno.

Several rests and coffees in a shady bar later, and we were back on Avenue Independencia and returning to BA Bikes, which we highly recommend.

The guys at BA also explained something that had been puzzling us. Maté. We'd seen people filling cups with hot water or orange juice, then drinking through a metal straw, often sharing the cup with others. Juan's team explained that the cup is filled with a thick bed of herbs, so it's similar to drinking herbal tea. We shared his cup by way of a demonstration. We explained that the Scots do something similar (without the herbs) with whisky, shared by way of a quaich.

Wuxing Nick's food recommendations were starting to overwhelm us, so we headed to Gran Parrilla Del Plata, which we'd discovered is a highly recommended steak house near our hostel. "Fully booked" was the answer we were expecting, but our 12.45pm timing was immaculate as we were allowed to sit outside where they don't take bookings because of the vagueries of the weather. Luckily today's conditions were perfect for al fresco dining. Five minutes later all the tables had been taken.

We enjoyed the meal, though steak doesn't head either of our 'must have' lists.

We learnt a few things. "Expensive" may mean that it is relatively pricey compared with other places, but our lavish lunch with a bottle of Malbec and complimentary drinks to finish cost less than £15 each. We learnt to share a salad - we actually got that bit right. We also learnt that one steak dish between the two of us would be plenty, and might even leave space for dessert.

We are in the San Telmo district, famous for its Sunday market. And what a market! It seemed to extend for miles, eventually petering out beside a pleasant park, Parque Lezama.

After re-grouping with the aid of a bottle of water we made our way back through the hordes to El Zanjon, a house with a rich history. The conducted tour took us through the ages from when the plot was on the edge of the embryonic city in the 18th century or much earlier. After independence a rich Spanish family built its residence, complete with watch tower to keep an eye on the nearby shipping, here in 1830. Later that century a series of yellow fever epidemics drove the wealthy to properties on higher ground to the north. The family home was abandoned and declined in an unoccupied period before being converted to tenements in around 1910. Now the building was home to 23 families. It had two toilets and one kitchen. Abandoned again around 1950, it was bought by an Argentinian company in 1985. They weren't allowed to inspect before buying! Entry by the new owners was effected via the roof. In my experience of such projects, disaster, delays, and collapse of the purchasing company would be a probability in this scenario. But apparently the purchaser scrapped its plans to convert the tenement into a tango hall or other business and spent the next 17 years restoring both the property and its predecessor tunnels. The resulting museum and function venue is magnificent. Today there were tours in any number of languages taking place every few minutes. The staff must be exhausted.

It's hot again, so by the end of the El Zanjon tour we were ready to return to the hostel and prepare for the next phase of the trip.

The next posting will be from cooler climes.

Today's pictures :
Buenos Aires Waterfront
Three views from the nature reserve
Gabriella Sabatini
San Telmo market

Lunch at Parrilla Del Plata

This is for Wuxing Nick and Brexton Travels.

Sue's steak looks small but it wasn't. Nearly two inches thick. It also looks overdone, but it wasn't. 

So we made it to a Parrilla!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Buenos Aires (Episode Two)

7 November. Breakfast time.

Ooh, lots of comments, by the standards of these pages anyway. We do like comments even if they mean

- looking for tractors for Alan (none yet)
- remembering to photograph the occasional meal for Robert and Lyn (aka Brexton T)
- trying to find interesting number plates, and anything else contentious, for Alan S
- HMP3 will be pleased to spot anything sophisticated or linguistic - that's a tough call!
- Alistair P and others will be happy to see some nice pictures - I'll keep trying
- Wuxing Nick will no doubt be keen to see if we follow any of his suggestions, which are received with thanks even if we don't take them up
Jenny (aka Nightbird) will be delighted to discover that we have followed one of her suggestions
- Louise, Conrad, Gibson, JJ and others are easy to please. We just hope you continue to enjoy following our travels.

Blogging from here in BA is very easy as there is wifi in the lounge of the hostel, but we don't think this will be the case when we leave the city, so there may over the coming weeks be long gaps between transmissions. Please bear with us - we enjoy writing this diary at least as much as you enjoy reading it. Or we wouldn't bother!

Last night we learnt about the eating regime in Buenos Aires. After virtually fasting since breakfast we sought an evening meal. Not as easy as it sounds. Lots of folk out shopping; snack bars, McDonalds and Burger King. Eventually, after 5 km of wandering we resorted to a quiet and very mediocre pizzeria next to the hostel. That's not the way to do it. Today would be different, or so we promised ourselves as I jotted these notes whilst enjoying a hearty buffet breakfast at the hostel.

BA bikes was our first destination. About a kilometre from the hostel, but not far enough for my Garmin gadget to get to grips with some unfamiliar satellites.

The  bikes, pictured somewhere above, are true Tour de France quality. Mine has 30 gears, operated by adjusting my weight on the saddle. The traffic here is so gentle and considerate that we didn't bother with helmets, relying on our sun hats for protection. Designated bike lanes make travel easy, despite some wide roads. I counted thirteen lanes of traffic at one point.

Black and yellow taxis buzz around like adolescent teenagers, reminding me a little of Alexandria, but far less frantic, and the vehicles here are newer and less dented than their Egyptian cousins.

Meanwhile, police cars tour the streets sedately, even when flashing their bright blue warnings. They are Ford Mondeos with specially fitted rubber bumpers extending their length by over a foot, front and rear. I failed to spot any interesting number plates. Duh!

Our first port of call was the Cemetery.  Tomb City. Resting place of many of the great and good of Argentina. The biographies or obituaries of those ensconced in this place could extend to many volumes. Eva Peron is the most celebrated inhabitant.

A visit to a huge metallic petal, Floralis Generica, followed. An information board indicates it was built by Lockheed in 2002. Apparently the petals close at night.

Café Martinez provided a good lunch - Ceasar salad con pollo all round. Not quite the 'set meal' that we intended, but more than a good snack. Given last night's experience, and based on research, we decided to make lunch our main meal of the day, with beer and snacks later, rather than forlornly seeking an early evening restaurant, if such a facility exists here!

A short pedal from the café found us at the Japanese Garden, one of the biggest outside Japan and rather more cheerful than the cemetery. A lazy wander, admiring the vast numbers of giant carp and bonsai trees, was punctuated by an arresting halt outside an ice cream stall. Every man and his baby were out today, enjoying the hot spring weather. 28C again. The pace of life in this city seems a bit more relaxed than the northern hemisphere franticity we are more used to. Here everyone seems calmer; screaming children and barking dogs don't feature.

The trees that aren't already in leaf are bursting forth with spigots of green. Parrots in the foliage remind us of Wythenshawe Park on a sunny Saturday morning. Pigeons fight over their mistresses, until a sliver of bread distracts them. Tree sparrows peck, cormorants eye up the carp (too big, they settle for something smaller). South American species of dove, thrush and starling settle for anything available.

Our bike ride, which turned out to be around 26 km if the gadget can be relied upon, continued into a vast area of parkland, complete with boating lake, rose garden, myriads of cyclists and skaters, rock bands, and what seemed like a considerable proportion of Buenos Aires' population, all enjoying the sunny day.

The place is littered with statues, sculptures and memorials. Too many to mention in any detail. We returned to the hostel via Torre de los Ingleses, a 75 metre high tower given to the Argentines by the local British community when the two nations were as friendly as they should be now. It was to commemorate the centenary of the May 1810 independence revolution, and was built largely from materials shipped from the UK. After the Falklands war its official name was changed to Torre Monumental,  but many people, including the publisher of our street map, still refer to it by its original name. Perhaps some Argentinians are as indifferent to the Falklands as some of us across the ocean.

Nearing the hostel, our way was blocked by two parades. First, a massive Gay Parade. We skirted around the pink buses and embracing couples, before coming upon a Drum Parade on Mexico Street. It's still going on; we can hear it from our window as I write this long after 7 pm. The bit we saw featured gyrating dancing girls in black underwear, followed by a posse of brightly coloured drummers. It was, and still is, very noisy. Perhaps they are going round in circles!

I'll leave the identity of today's pictures to your imagination. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Buenos Aires

6 November. 

The airport could be one servicing any big city. Bus tickets are easily obtained, then we inadvertently skip to the front of the queue as our bags seem to fit best. So after a ten second wait we find ourselves heading into 'town', which is apparently the second biggest conurbation in South America.

We pass walled enclaves, then dirt coloured tower blocks, before our five lane motorway passes through a less prosperous area where the unfinished buildings briefly take on a middle-eastern aura and the footbridges are judiciously caged. Then, closer to the centre, smarter tower blocks, skyscrapers, statues, traffic jams, and the paraphernalia of a modern city centre, to the TiendaLeón bus depot.

The bus service from the airport extends to a second taxi. This takes us to the door of our destination, America Del Sur Hostel. A friendly place where we dump our bags and down cokes before setting off for a stroll.

The city has no particular distinguishing features aside from streets lined with what appear to be the tips of warheads. These are effective safeguards for pedestrians in the absence of raised pavements on the beautifully cobbled streets.

"Cambio" was the word we were waiting to hear, signifying an enclave of money changers. These people apparently offer much better rates than banks - we just hope the guy we used didn't dump a load of counterfeit notes on us. I couldn't tell the difference when the girls at the hostel were explaining how to identify dodgy notes, but whilst I was counting, Sue checked a few watermarks and reckoned we should take the risk (14.7 pesos to the US $, as opposed to around 10 from a bank).

Plaza de Mayo provided a place of calm amongst office workers and tourists. Surrounded by magnificent buildings and monuments, below a burning sun that was orbited by a 'Sun Dog'. We have left the warm English autumn and found the hot Argentinian spring. 28C here at lunch time. Not that we needed any lunch after Air France's more than ample breakfast and an extra dinner in the middle of the night.

By the time we'd admired the vast cathedral and enjoyed a long coffee, it was time to return to recover our stuff from the hostel's luggage locker and claim our room for the next three nights. It's a very comfortable en-suite offering with a shower that's much better than ours at home.

We are on holiday. I finished reading the book I started yesterday - Cathy Reichs' 'Grave Secrets' (Temperance Brennan 5), set in Guatemala where some of our friends will shortly be visiting. More appropriate for our own trip is my next book - Bruce Chatwin's 'In Patagonia'.

The picture above the Sun Dog is of Casa Rosada, a presidential palace beside Plaza de Mayo, sued as a preaching pedestal by people like Eva Peron and Galtieri when they sought public support. There was no preaching today; perhaps they are waiting for the flower beds to be planted.