Thursday, February 16, 2017

Exploring Buenos Aires....This Time on Foot.

Colorful La Boca neighborhood.

After a few hours of riding the hop on, hop off bus, we decided to get off and do a bit of walking. My legs definitely needed some stretching out!  We hopped off at the Av. 9 de Julio stop and crossed the wide avenue, heading towards Teatro Colón.  Traffic is insane here!

The most notable monument on Av. 9 de Julio is this obelisk - the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, a national historic monument that was erected in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city. Reminds me of home though our obelisk was erected in memory of the 1st President of the US - George Washington.  The obelisk in Buenos Aires is not quite as tall.


Our walk took us to Plaza 5 Mayo which presumably commemorates the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza as there is no significance, that I know of, to the date in Argentine history.

Facing the plaza are several buildings of note starting with the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, the main Catholic church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Admittedly, its facade does not look like that of a typical Catholic Cathedral so we didn't think it was a church.  The doors were closed so we didn't go inside.



Famously, the cathedral houses the mausoleum of General José de San Martín, a national hero of Argentina, Chile and Peru. San Martín, along with Simón Bolívar, was one of the most important figures of the Spanish American Wars of Independence.  He's interred here because he's Argentinian by birth.


This small, white Colonial style building with a bell tower  looks like a church is actually not. Called "Cabildo", the building which was completed in 1751 was the original seat of city government established by the Spaniards. 


The most impressive building facing the plaza is La Casa Rosada, the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina.



There was a small protest taking place as we walked across the plaza towards La Casa Rosada. I have no idea what they were protesting.  Fortunately, they were all very well behaved or our stroll across the green might not have been as pleasant!


Our walk took us towards San Telmo where Bro was hoping to hit up the local market though I told him that these days, the market is more focused on selling antiques than on produce.  I don't think he was convinced.  I was hoping to catch a tango performance in one of the places in San Telmo.  I had read it's popular for local dancers to come here....I think mainly for tips.

Once again, we passed the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.  This time, I had a much better view than from the upper deck of the hop on, hop off bus! 



Bro was navigating us on our walk; he enjoys reading a map as do I but I don't much like having to refer to one when I am out and about sightseeing.  Ergo, my travel partner, whoever it may be, has to be the one doing the map reading. :-)

Enroute to the heart of San Telmo, we passed through Paseo de la Historeita which translates to *Cartoon Walk*.  It's a street circuit that has whimsical statues of popular Argentine comic characters.

It all started in 2009 with a sculpture of Mafalda sitting on a park bench in Chile and Defensa streets, on the corner of the building where Mafalda "lives" (Chile 371).  She was so popular that the city added nine more characters.  Of course, we had to do the touristy thing and pose for photos.  We just so happened to come across Mafalda who was created by Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known by his pen name Quino.  I jokingly said to Bro that if I still had my bangs, I would look just like her. In fact, we are pretty much twinning today - perfectly matching shirt colors :-)

Here I am with Mafalda on my left and Susanita on my right.

On the other side of Mafalda is Manolito.

Bro posed alongside Isidoro Cañones, a character created by Dante Quinterno.


Though it was the afternoon of a weekday, the streets of San Telmo were remarkably quiet.


It's a pretty area with lovely Spanish colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.


We passed by a lot of shops selling antiques but we never came across the municipal market itself.  Apparently, contrary to what I had thought, there is a market here that sells produce.  Too bad we didn't find it as I know both Bro and I would have enjoyed spending time in it.  We love our markets!


We did make it to, Plaza Dorrego, a small city square.  I heard the music long before we saw it.  The sounds were coming from a boombox and an Argentine couple were doing a few tango moves....not with each other but with tourists.  I guess they were teaching tango for tips.  That was disappointing.  I was hoping for a full performance.  I would have gladly left a tip for that.  Instead, I got distracted by a group of young boys enjoying gelato.  Oh.....I wanted some but I had already decided to go to a place called Volta, located in Recoleta.  It serves up what is arguably the best gelato in town.  We did walk inside the gelateria here just to satisfy my curiosity but I am willing to wait for the good stuff!



I don't know what churches these are the tops of but I thought they were beautiful.

From San Telmo, we decided to hop back on the bus to go to our next destination, the La Boca neighborhood.  We walked to the closest Buenos Aires Bus stop which stands right in front of Usina del Arte, an early 20th-century electrical power plant that has been turned into an arts venue, with 2 auditoriums and gallery space.  The hop on, hop off buses are suppose to come around every 20 minutes but don't hold your breath.  They pretty much run.....whenever. You have to be really patient!

Back on the bus, we once again passed through the area around La Bombonera Stadium.


Then, it was to the La Boca stop where we got off.  The skies were threatening rain so I decided we better hustle and check out the neighborhood.  Like San Telmo, La Boca was oddly quiet to me. In fact, we passed by quite a few vendors who were closing up shop.  I had thought Buenos Aires would be a hopping place all day and all night but it really is a place that is more about night life than day.  On some level, I guess I shouldn't complain.  We practically had the place all to ourselves.  On the flip side, as annoying as it would be, a crowd would have made this place lively and in many ways, more fun to be in.  A shining sun would also have raised the happiness level. Seemed very gloomy here despite all the color.


I do love the colorful buildings and whimsical artwork here.  Brings a smile to one's face!




It seemed like this is a pedestrian only area.  We didn't have a map so we just wandered about.  It's a very small area so no chance that you can get lost.




Figures of Diego Maradona, Eva Perón and Juan Perón waving to passers by below.

Hmmm.....not sure what this guy is serving up.
We came across the train tracks.  I don't know if the trains run through here or not but I like the grungy, colorful feel of this place.  There was an opening in the fence and no trains coming so I quickly ran on to the tracks and took this one shot!


There were plenty of restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes but just no people. I think it was too early in the day though the restaurants were ready to serve.  A bit too early for us to eat plus somehow it felt like we would be served food catering to tourists so we opted to have dinner back in our 'hood in Recoleta.  We'll dine with the locals tonight.



One thing you very quickly figure out when you're strolling through La Boca is that you have to look up.  You never know what you'll see on the balcony or roof top!  It really is fun to just go for a walk here.









La Boca is most definitely just a touristy area.  After all La Bombonera is located here.  But there is definitely a dividing line.  Cross over it and you'll come across boys playing in a concrete yard as they do in pretty much every city around the world.


The Buenos Aires Bus dropped us off on the road that runs adjacent to the water so that's where we headed to catch the bus back in to town. We were done for the day.  This whole hop on, hop off thing is exhausting.  :-)

The Matanza River.
The whole time we were in La Boca, it was drizzling on and off. As we stood around to wait for the bus, under no shelter of course, the rain picked up. I managed to find a small roof ledge to stand under and that kept me dry, for the most part.  Bro never minds standing in the rain....even if it's pouring.  I don't mind a drizzle but I don't like to get soaked.  The good thing about the rain was that it did cool things off.  It's been a hot and humid day!

The Blue line bus took its sweet ole time to get to La Boca (patience, I must be patient!!) but it eventually made it.  By now, I was getting cranky as I realized I had not eaten anything since breakfast.  How did that happen??  Normally, Bro gets hungry around the lunch hour but for some reason, today we simply forgot to eat.  I was starting to get a headache, a sure sign of a sugar low.

Somehow the bus never seems to go fast enough when you are desperate to get somewhere quick.  I just wanted to get back to the apartment and have a bite of something to eat.  All I could think of was food....hallucinating about a burger. Bad sign.

We got off at the Floralis Genérica stop which Bro had figured was the closest to our apartment without having to ride another 8 stops to get to the Recoleta stop, where we started our day.  I didn't mind getting off here as I wanted to see the famed sculpture that the stop is named after. We had driven by it yesterday on our Uber ride to the Japanese garden.  Now, I get to see it up close.

The massive sculpture is made of steel and aluminum. It was a gift to the city by the Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano in 2002. Catalano  designed the sculpture to actually  move, opening its petals at 8a every morning and closing its petals at sunset.  The sculpture stands in the middle of a lovely park.  Since we arrived in the early evening, the flower petals were already beginning to close up.  This is such a cool piece of art!



From here, we made our way back to our apartment, walking on streets that looked very familiar because they were on the Buenos Aires Bus route.  At least I knew we were heading in the right direction.

It was quite a long walk back but with the Floralis Genérica and the sights and sounds of the streets of Buenos Aires to distract me, I forgot all about my hunger pangs until we walked into the apartment.  I made a beeline for the fridge and immediately downed two coffee cups worth of yogurt....which in Argentina is the consistency of a liquidy smoothy.  It's basically a drink.  I then stood right in front of the air conditioner to cool off :-)

It's been a long day of sightseeing and I was ready to call it a day.  We rested a bit and then headed out for dinner at a local pizza joint.  Yes....we had pizza. More on our local food adventures in another post.  I'm tired so I'm hitting the sack.  Tomorrow, we're going to attempt to get ourselves to San Antonio de Areco to spend the day in gaucho country. I refused to pay $160 each for a tour so we're going to explore taking the local bus out to the town and the finding a ranch to visit.

Goodnight from Buenos Aires!