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Argentina

Argentinian Autumn (Spring) Break

Finally, something warm!

sunny 75 °F

I've had Buenos Aries on my mind as a destination for a long time. We finally found a good price for flight and hotel when we were looking this winter. After booking the trip, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of guidebooks. Then life happened and our trip snuck up on both Mike and I. This was the least prepared I've been for a trip. But, I figured between the two of us, we'd be fine.

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Obelisk

It's strange, you don't realize how far away Argentina is until you fly there. Ten hours from Atlanta. Ugh! I kept saying it'll be ok since it was an overnight flight. I'd get some sleep and wake up in Buenos Aries. I forgot Mike's baby curse. Needless to say, I got very little sleep. That didn't stop us from the regular Mike Demana First Day Death March (TM). After checking in, we hit the streets.

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The warm, sunny weather was a welcome change from the clouds and snow we left in Columbus. The cobalt blue sky was just the antidote to lift my spirits. We headed towards the Plaza de Mayo where the Casa Rosado is. This is the building where Evita made her famous speech from the balcony. Also on the plaza, we happened upon a festival with native dancers.

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Native Dancers

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Casa Rosada

From here, we headed to the waterfront. How do you pass up wandering along the water on a beautiful Saturday afternoon?

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All in all, it was a wonderful start to, what I'm hoping, is a great week!

Posted by Jengt 18:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Market Day

San Telmo's Sunday Market

sunny 75 °F

Sunday in Buenos Aires was another warm and sunny day. Our plan for the day was to check out the Sunday market in the San Telmo neighborhood. All of the guidebooks and our friends who have been here recommended we check it out. How could we say no? We hopped on the subway to save our feet a little wear & tear.

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I was expecting the market to be a park filled with a handful of booths with handcrafts. The market was that and so much more! If you are looking for ANYTHING, it's for sale here. I saw fine china, furs, an old diving helmet (and the boots to go with it), jewelry and antique firearms. Quite literally, everything you could think of. The market stretched for blocks and blocks. As we walked along the street, there were some lovely colonial buildings with charming balconies.

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While we were in the area, there were a few museums we wanted to see. Unfortunately, our luck wasn't with us. The first, we couldn't find. Another wasn't open. We did manage to check out the National Historical Museum. It's small, but with some interesting items. We did pass a couple of beautiful churches as we wandered.

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The uneven street was starting to take its toll on us so we headed back to the hotel for a brief siesta. Just what the doctor ordered!

Dinner was at a neighborhood pizzeria a few blocks from the hotel. Loaded with cheese and pepperoni, a great pizza! By the time we left, the place was packed with locals and there was a line to get seated. I would highly recommend El Cuartito if you're ever in BA!

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I'm not sure what tomorrow holds, I'm sure it will be another great day!

Posted by Jengt 15:57 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Timeless Beauty

Art is in the eye of the beholder.

sunny 75 °F

It may sound strange, but one of the sites in Buenos Aires I was most interested to see was the cemetery in Recoleta. I'd heard about the ornately carved crypts and mausoleums for the wealthy of Buenos Aires.

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On Monday, we decided to get a little later start so we could take the subway and miss rush hour. Even with the aid of the subway, we had a good walk to reach the cemetery from the subway station. It was another warm, sunny day and I was enjoying the great weather.

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I noticed a few tour buses as we approached the entrance. I was hoping there wouldn't be throngs of people everywhere. Luckily, most were only there to see Evita's tomb so we wouldn't be stumbling over each other.

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We picked up a map for 40 pesos (about $2.50) to see where all the famous people are buried and set off away from the groups. I was enthralled by the detailed carvings and intricate metalwork around each corner. Simple, elegant places of rest were next to extravagant statues with weeping angels at their feet. I was snapping photos trying to capture some of the details that caught my eye. There were beautiful stained glass windows with rich hues of color.

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We wandered the streets of the cemetery for a couple of hours, finding a special detail or carving around each corner. I was saddened to see some of the crypts in disrepair with broken glass and trash on the floor.

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Towards the end of our circuit we passed the row where Evita and Juan Perron are. It was easy to find, just look for the long line of people taking selfies. *sigh*

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After a couple of hours wandering around, we decided it was time to take a lunch break. We had noticed a brewpub across the street so decided to try it out. We had a tasty lunch and rested our feet for a little while before checking out the rest of the Recoleta area.

After lunch, we set off to a nearby parks to see the Floralis Generica - a massive silver flower sculpture. When it was originally built, its petals would open and close with the sun. However, with all things, the gears broke leaving the flower permanently open.

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From here, we started the walk back to the subway and our hotel. We had plans to have dinner with a friend we had met a while back on a travel website. Florencia and Pablo were gracious hosts. We met at a brewpub in Palermo for drinks and then had dinner at a traditional Argentine restaurant. We shared a huge platter of various sausages and meats. It was all wonderful! I'm still having a hard time adjusting to dinner at 9pm.

After a leisurely dinner and great conversation, we eventually called it an evening with plans to get together later in the week before we leave. All in all, today was a day to remember. Fascinating architecture in the morning and an enjoyable dinner with new friends to end the day.

Posted by Jengt 19:32 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Over the river to Uruguay

A day in the old town of Colonia

sunny 78 °F

For our first day trip from Buenos Aires, we decided to head across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay. We set out early to catch our ferry. Expecting a full day's worth of sightseeing, we booked a late ferry back to BA, giving us plenty of time to see all the museums and sites. We may have over planned.

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Leaving Buenos Aires

We landed in Colonia to bright blue skies and warm breezes. Another perfect day. The old town of Colonia is a short walk from the port. As we approached the city gate, I noticed a school group sitting outside the city walls. We made our way into the city with a throng of middle-schoolers on or heels. Time to head elsewhere.

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We got a map from the tourist office and mapped out what we wanted to see. Number one on my list was the lighthouse. Climbing the narrow stairs was easier than I had expected. Navigating the other tourists coming down at the same time was not. So, when we reached the top, we relaxed on the seating around the top and soaked up the fantastic views of the town and the river.

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Church towers from the lighthouse

Once back on firm ground, we wandered the cobbled streets, taking photos of the quaint houses draped with bougainvillea and beautiful tile pictures and maps. As we stopped at the museums we had picked out, we noticed they were closed. I thumbed through my guidebook to discover each of the museums was open different days of the week. One was closed on Tuesday and Thursday. Another was closed on Monday and Wednesday. It seems there is no single day that all of the museums are open. Very odd. So, to occupy ourselves, we continued to wander the streets, making friends with the various stray dogs along the way.

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Colonia's lighthouse, built in the late 1800s

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After sitting down and lingering over a light lunch, we decided we were going to find an open museum. As it turns out, you can't just go to one museum. You have to buy a ticket that gets you into all of them. Luckily, it only costs about $2 US. Even so, it may have been overpriced.

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Beautiful tile map of Colonia

I was starting to feel a little let down by Colonia. I've been to some really interesting walled cities and fortifications. I guess I'm just spoiled, expecting over the top amazing every time. My disappointment may also be, in part, that we gave ourselves way too much time and we ran out of sites to see. I don't want to paint a terrible picture of Colonia. I thoroughly enjoyed the pastel painted houses and the intricately painted tiles. However, if you're looking for a full day of history, you may be disappointed. If you're wanting a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires, then Colonia is just the spot.

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Colonia City Gate

Posted by Jengt 12:59 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Culture Shock

Going from rich to poor in one easy step.

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There are certain places that are iconic and must be seen. El Caminita in the La Boca neighborhood is one of those. I'm certain that nearly everyone has seen photos of the brightly painted houses in Buenos Aires. Everything I had read about this neighborhood stated that it was safe around the tourist area, but you shouldn't linger around any of the surrounding areas. Well, that makes it hard to get there if you're not part of a tour group. We decided to take the advice with a few grains of salt and take the subway as close as possible and then stick to main roads from there.

It was still a little cloudy as we got started so we decided to take a tour of the Teatro Colon, the opera house just 2 blocks away from our hotel. We had held off visiting when the sun was shining. Why waste beautiful weather inside? The theater was built in the late 1800s in full European style. There's Italian marble, stained glass, red velvet upholstery and gold gilding everywhere. Our tour guide stated that the architect wanted to imitate Versailles and the opera houses of Milan and Paris. No expense was spared.

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Teatro Colon's grand staircase

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Stained Glass Dome

As we entered the main theater, all eyes were drawn up and around to the boxes and galleries. All had rich red drapes and fine furniture. The guide stated the acoustics of this theater are the best of all opera houses around the world. Although there may be seats with sub-par views, there isn't a bad seat in the house in regards to the sound. Oh, how I would love to hear a performance here! I'm not a fan of opera, but I would definitely enjoy an orchestra concert!

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Inside the theater. It seats around 3,000!

After our theater tour, we set off for the subway and La Boca. It was after noon so the cars shouldn't be too , so we thought. The cars were PACKED! I thought about just getting right back off and taking a cab, but Mike insisted we go a little further to see if we had just caught a small influx. Once we reached our stop, we noticed there were people marching along one of the main streets. Not just a small group, but thousands of people. We later found out that there was a massive demonstration on the main square and all of these people were marching there. We were glad we had already visited the Plaza de Mayo earlier in the week!

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Protesters on their way to the demonstration

Unfortunately, La Boca is not well served by the subway so we had a good long walk to get to El Caminito. My trepidation about walking in the neighborhood was completely unfounded. Of course, it was broad daylight and we know enough to be aware of our surroundings and not have our cameras out as a big red flag asking to be mugged.

As we approached the area, the weather gods looked favorably on us and the sun started to peek out from the clouds. The brightly painted walls of the houses beckoned us forward. Even the bus loads of people couldn't dampen my spirits as I took photo after photo. The La Boca neighborhood is along the river, where the rich used to live - until yellow fever broke out and the wealthy just picked up and left. The dock workers just moved into the newly vacant houses and made the neighborhood their own. As more people moved into the area, they built houses out of tin and whatever they could find.

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It was amusing to see the various plaster statues hanging out windows, standing on corners and in various shops. Pope Francis was everywhere. I'm not kidding, I saw no less than six Pope Francis statues in 3 blocks. That guy gets around! There were also various murals and amazing artwork on the walls throughout the area. This neighborhood was definitely worth the walk!

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Pope Francis blessing all who walk past

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Knowing the subways would be packed to the gills, we opted to grab a taxi back to the hotel. The cabs in Buenos Aires are relatively cheap and provide an affordable alternative to a hot, crowded subway. Plus, you get dropped off right where you're going! On the way back to the hotel, we passed groups of people carrying their banners and signs heading home from the demonstration. I was doubly glad we opted for the taxi!

La Boca ended up more wonderful than I had imagined. Although it was touristy, it was art in a more approachable form. It's absolutely worth the trip!

Posted by Jengt 19:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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