Thursday, February 16, 2017

Buenos Aires. A Hop On, Hop Off Tour.


I've done exactly two hop on hop off tours in my life. The first was in Marrakesh and the second was in Paris. After both times, I vowed never to do one again as you basically end up sitting on a bus for a couple of hours.  Perhaps it's me but I find that I really don't hop on and hop off as many times as I probably should and therefore, end up sitting on a bus for a couple of hours.  Wasted time if you ask me.  So I don't know what came over wme when I agreed to go on one today.  Seriously, in hindsight, I would say to not bother.  Just map out the sights that you want to see on a Google Map and then use Uber or subway to get around.  It's not only cheaper but you get to see exactly the places you want to see. 

In Buenos Aires, the hop on, hop off bus tourist bus service is run by a company called Buenos Aires Bus.  The service operates pretty much identical to one you would find in any other city.   BA Bus offers three routes and you can purchase either a 24 or 48 hour ticket. No need to buy in advance; you can just purchase on the bus.  We boarded ready with cash though I think they do take credit cards.

We opted to do the Red and Blue routes which cover the main to tourist highlights.



We had a bit of lazy morning start and so by the time we were out of the door, Bro was hustling us to walk quickly to the Recoleta stop.  I don't know why as the bus runs every 20 minutes so the most we would have to wait is 20 minutes.


The Recoleta stop is located in what I would describe as the tourist heart of the neighborhood.  Lots of very, very upscale, chic stores and restaurants.   It looked very different from our part of town which  made me wonder whether we were staying in the *poor* part of Recoleta, if there's such a thing :-)

We didn't see the stop at first.  Instead, we saw the tiny Information Center building....a one room kiosk.  We decided to heard there first to get some information.  There was a bit of a wait so I headed back outside to look around the area and take some photos.


Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

When Bro emerged, he pointed the actual bus stop which was just across the street and down the block a bit.  We were the first two people to arrive but soon enough, four other tourists showed up.  Whatever time the bus was suppose to show up, at least according to the brochure, it was late.  We  had no choice but to wait anyway so it was just a matter of being patient.


Soon we were on our way!  As Bro paid for our tickets, I made my way up to the upper deck.  Bro arrived a few minutes later with earbuds in hand.  We plugged them in, turned to the English channel and kicked back for our ride. We decided that we would ride a full circuit of both the Red and Blue lines as a way to get our orientation of the city.  We would then return another day, on foot, to better explore areas that we think are worth making a return trip to.


Our route took us down Avenida 9 de Julio which holds the distinction being the widest avenue in the worl - I think it's about 12 lanes wide! Its name honors Argentina's Independence Day, July 9, 1816.  It was jam packed with cars even though it was around 11a - well past what I would consider as morning rush hour!



The bus took us by Teatro Colón which is the city's main opera house.  It's a lovely building from the outside.  We decided to get off to check it out.  Bro had read that they offer a guided tour, for a fee, but the line was long and we didn't feel like waiting so we decided we would come back another time.   It was right around the time we approached Teatro Colón was when I realized that the photos I had been taking with my Olympus camera were being stored in the camera's memory.  I didn't realize this until I got an error message indicating I was out of storage.  What?  So of course, I opened the compartment thinking I needed to reseat the SD card and there was no card there!  I had forgotten to put back the SD card after taking it out last night to upload photos!  Doh!!  How stupid!  So it was off to find a camera shop where I could get an SD card.  I Googled for the location of a shop and found one just a short walk away.  I walked out of the shop with a very reasonably priced 8GB card. 

It was back then back to the Teatro Colón stop to wait for the next Red line bus.

Teatro Colón.

Monument dedicated to Juan Galo de Lavalle (1797 -1841), an Argentine military and politician who played a prominent role in the War of Independence.

Our Red line bus soon turned into a Blue line bus and we headed towards Stop 1 - Avenida de Mayo.


So much of the architecture of the city takes influence from European design.



The next stop was  Plaza de Congreso where we caught sight of the Palacio del Congreso , home of the nation's Congress.


We continued, one stop after another.  We never got off the bus :-)

The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario is also on the route.  This 18th-century Dominican church and monastery marks the approach to the San Telmo neighborhood.


San Telmo is a lively neighborhood and both Bro and I decided we would come back another day, on foot, to explore more of it.


Stop #7 was La Bombonera, the home stadium of the Boca Juniors football team. Their most well known player is Diego Maradona and even I've heard of him!  The fans that live near the stadium are so dedicated to the team that many of them have painted their homes and commercial establishments in the team's trademark yellow and blue colors!




The stadium is located in the La Boca neighborhood, a very lively and colorful area that we would come back to in a few hours.


From La Bombonera, we headed to a very different part of the city.  It was like instantly traveling from night to day.  Old city streets filled with old stone buildings to new city streets filled with glass and steel structures.  It couldn't have been a more stark contrast!  This was the part of town near the water - the buildings were so new it made me wonder if they had been constructed on reclaimed land. 



There wasn't a whole lot of anything interesting to see here except for the Buquebus Terminal.  We're taking the Buquebus ferry to Montevideo in a few days and I know the ferry terminal is located in Puerto Madero.  I was certain we would be back here to catch our ride to Uruguay!



After completing the Blue line route, we actually did decide to get off the bus at the Av. 9 de Julio stop.  Much of what we thought we would want to see again was what we had rode by on the Blue line so this was a good place to get off and essentially retrace the bus route on foot.    We would get back on the bus later on in the afternoon to ride a bit more of the Red line, getting us in walking distance of our apartment.

But for now, it's Buenos Aires on foot, the way I prefer it!