Day 3 – Wednesday 10th October 2018
Argentina, Buenos Aires
By plane – 0
By foot – 8.36kms/10.74 miles
By public transport – 20.3kms/12.6 miles
Steps taken – 23,153
Wow….this city is alive with street life from busy sidewalk cafes to lush parks….it’s like jumping on board a moving train….the city just whizzes by.
The Argentine capital must be one of the world’s most exhilarating cities, with astounding art, fascinating neighbourhoods, fabulous foods and a passionate population devoted to having fun all…night…long!
So off we went exploring once more….
Firstly we headed North of the city and we saw some of the most expensive Avenues, Hotels and Apartments in the Recoleta Area.
We saw ‘The 9th July Avenue’ (named after Argentina Independence Day). Its 140 metres wide, with 18 lanes, the biggest in the world.
Here we visited May Square which houses Casa Rosada, the Palace and Office of the President of Argentina.
That famous balcony
This is also where ‘The Mother’s of the Plaza’ de Mayo, which is an association of the Argentine mothers who’s children ‘disappeared’ during the state terrorism of the military dictatorship between 1976-1983 come to protest.
On 30th April 1977 they held a protest right here in May Square in front of the palace, the first of a weekly march. To this very day, the Thursday of every week at 3.30pm these mother’s still march in solidarity to combat the atrocities that had been imposed on their lives.
Forty years later they still refuse to be silenced, some must now be in their 80’s.
The mother’s march wearing white headscarves to symbolise the diapers of their lost children.
These white headscarves have become a symbol of courage and representation of the relentless battle for justice. It just leaves you speechless!
Symbol on the ground where mother’s protest
Former Colonial Government Building now a museum about history of the Country
To gather our thoughts before leaving this area we headed to the oldest coffee shop in the whole of Argentina, Tortoni coffee shop which opened in 1858 and of course we had a coffee!
This has been voted one of the 10 most beautiful cafes in the world and I can see why.
From here we headed next to the San Telmo area.
Now this place way way back used to be an affluent area until an epidemic of yellow fever broke out in 1871 and the residents or those that could, escaped to the Recoleta area. It became a poor people’s area.
The La Boca neighbourhood sits near here, famed for its colourful houses, tango and football team – the famous Boca Juniors. The stadium known as La Bombonera Stadium was also where Diego Maradona became ‘God’ for his fans!!
The centrepiece in La Boca is the cobblestone strip, El Caminito, or little walkway. It is postcard perfect.
But there is much more to La Boca than what meets the casual tourists eye. La Boca is in an economically disadvantaged area, so it can be dangerous for visitors who stray off the ‘tourist path’, but this area has so much history.
This was the neighborhood where new immigrants first established themselves when aiming for BA…Italians, Spanish, French, English, Irish, Eastern European and Greece amongst others.
The new arrivals constructed tenements made of scrap metal and painted shacks with bright leftover marine paint to liven up the one-time wasteland.
Today the houses here represent the neighbourhoods typical tenemant shacks, painted in bright colours, emulating the early immigrants.
It was this cross-cultural mix that gave birth to the tango whereby factory and port workers would gather to dance in the central halls of tenements and vie to grab the attention of the few women available at the time.
During the early colonial expansion the colonizers housed African slaves and once Argentina gained independence many of the freed stayed.
The Tango is everywhere and its obvious it’s one of their biggest passions. I have been told this can be a test to ones relationship and I have been warned that, the ‘dance of love’ is tricky to master and it is said a couple’s aptitude at getting in sync with each others is microcosm of the relationship!
It is day 3….I have another 25 days to go in the wilderness so this relationship will not be tested by the tango today (Read: NEVER), this girl does not dance and certainly not in hiking boots….my kind of dance is for a different place and it will involve stepping forward (Read: walking)!
The Tango was a man’s dance, a ghetto dance involving knifes and we were told that if a lady at that time danced the Tango they thought she was a prostitute! However a well to do lady went to Rome, danced the Tango for the pope and the dance he approved! Just like that the Tango was then danced by the upper class in Recoleta!!
If I’m going to be honest La Boca was my favourite part of the city, full of charm and personality, with history oozing from every corner. Walking down the famous Caminito I was blown away by their colourful painted houses.
There is obvious extreme poverty here however and such huge differences can easily be seen between poor and rich.
Not even a 20 minute walk from this area is Puerto Modero, a dockland area.
The famous footballer Lionel Messi owns an apartment here.
Puerto Modero used to be a really poor area until 1990 and it’s since been redeveloped. Even today construction work is taking place.
Also just to throw it in, all streets here in this neighborhood are named after women.
We then headed to Recoleta Cemetery.
So this cemetery was opened in 1822, and is home to hundreds of illustrious corpses, laid out in a compact yet very extensive maze of granite, marble and bronze mausoleums.
Originally a public cemetery, it is now even harder to get into than the posh flats that surround it…not that I’d be ‘dying’ to get into it excuse the pun.
As we wondered around we could see graves..and even some coffins, of notable people including presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the ‘Irish’ founder of the Argentine Navy, and a granddaughter of Napoleon….it is also the home to the famous Evita.
Grave of Evita (Eva Peron)
It’s certainly an elaborate cemetery, but romantic and ageing at the same time which made it a very atmospheric place….I was left pretty speechless.
This is what inside some of them are like
So my head spins and explodes with information overload and I haven’t even mentioned all of what we saw today.
But as I try to process all of the information a few random thoughts/observations have entered my mind…..
……. Argentinians certainly love their dogs. There are dog walkers everywhere, they even have restaurants that have dog menus along with human menus….
……..you can park your bike inside Burger King!..
…….we never saw much on Che Guevara which I was surprised at…
….a local Argentinian told us “The Argentinians dress like the English, act like Italians, speak Spanish but think of themselves as French”…
…The Botanical Gardens where we visited yesterday was previously the Metropolitan Zoo…
…Buenes Aires is a city full of trees and I love trees…
Think I’ve just found my favourite tree ever!
…Buenes Aires means ‘good air’….is that due to the above comment, city full of trees?….
…..and lastly La Boca was also visited by Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, but I’ll leave those two for another day!!