>Day 87. Walking tour…Buenos Aires

>We met up with our tour guide, Jessica (different company from yesterday!), at 9:30am and headed back south to San Telmo to learn more about that neighborhood where we had hung out yesterday. This area was originally an elegant neighborhood, reminding us of New Orleans with its iron balconies everywhere…


The below narrow house, six feet wide, had been built on land provided by one of the aristocrats to their servant in the 1860’s when slavery was abolished….they didn’t want their servant to get too far away…


…we thought it was interesting that this happened about the same time as it in the US, and wondered what the connection was. As you will recall, when Cynthia and I were in Russia, we learned that Russia had also freed their peasant slaves at the same time.

The aristocrats deserted this area during the yellow fever epidemic in 1871, and the area was converted to tenements for poor Italian immigrants, with several families per room. Today, the neighborhood is home to students, artists, foreigners buying up apartments; with dilapidating mansions in need of repair next to buildings renovated and turned into condos with courtyards. There are also restaurants, cafes, antique stores, funky stores, etc. So a cool, re-gentrifying area.

We stopped in at this store….


…where the owner makes mate cups….


Mate is a type of tea and you fill up the cup (made out of a gourd) about 2/3 full with the tea and then pour the hot water in the cup. Then you use a small straw made of metal or bamboo that has holes in it which filters out the tea as you drink it. People share this as a sign of friendship…Argentina’s version of “three cups of tea.”

As we cross over into Montserrat, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, we came upon the Church of Santo Domingo…note the cannon balls in the left tower….the British had taken over this church as a fortress during the war for independence. Argentinians had shot the cannons at the British. When they restored the church, they placed the cannon balls in the tower as a reminder of their fight for freedom. This is also the resting place of Manuel Belgrano, who was considered to be one of the main figures in the wars for independence. He also designed the Argentina flag, and Flag Day is celebrated on his birthday (side note: Argentineans celebrate 30 holidays!) The statue depicts him as a scholar and soldier.


Next, we came across this pharmacy, built in 1894, with all mahogany shelves and cubbies, and still functioning as a pharmacy.


….then another establishment, the city’s oldest bookstore, dating back to the late 1700’s, and which is the best place to find rare and antique books…

Then it was on to the Plaza de Mayo, which is full of Buenos Aires history! It’s name is related to the May revolution in 1810, which marked their independence from Spain. This site was the headquarters of the city council from 1580 to 1821. The building is not as it was then, but serves as a monument and museum to independence. In May 1810, this was the site from which their independence was declared….

…the following year, they added this obelisk to the plaza to mark the one year anniversary of their independence…

This plaza has been the site of many historic events and is where any protests that happen take place….it looked like one was forming when we were there…


…apparently this is very typical here. It is where the Las Madres march every Thursday, even now (more about them later). It is also where the crowds have gathered to hear political speeches from the Casa Rosada (the “pink house”), which is the office of the president. Many spoke from this central balcony…


…while Eva Peron and her husband spoke from this side balcony to be closer to the people…


The house is pink because the colors of the two opposing parties at the time it was built were white and red, so they combined them to get a pink house. (they now have pink spotlights that shine on it in the evening, which isn’t really attractive).

Another important building on the plaza is the Metropolitan Cathedral, the most important cathedral in the city. It doesn’t look like a typical cathedral from the outside…


…but inside……

This cathedral is also the resting place of General San Martin, who is considered the most important independence hero. His crypt is guarded by two guards during viewing hours….


The Avenue de Mayo is what is often referred to as reminiscent of Paris…


…and its intersection with Florida street is referred to as BA’s Times Square…


A famous cafe on the Avenue de Mayo is the Cafe Tortoni, which we popped into for a “churros and chocolate” break…


…it was definitely built to be like a cafe in Paris, with marble topped tables and cafe chairs, and is where the artists and intellectuals have hung out over the years.


A couple of times we hopped on the Subte to get around, which is purportedly the oldest subway system in the southern hemisphere (Budapest had claimed to have the oldest system in the world).


BA does apparently have the widest boulevard in the world, Ave. 9 de Julio, which is 18 lanes wide. This avenue was planned with extreme foresight in 1888, as Buenos Aires now has about 13-14 million people.

We went past the Spiraling Tower of Babel, which is a temporary sculpture of 30,000 books from all over the world…


We had now made our way to the San Martin Plaza, with its sculpture of their famous independence hero…


We stopped off at a local cafe for lunch in Recoleta, the neighborhood where we are staying. Recoleta is where the aristocrats went when they fled from San Telmo during the yellow fever epidemic. Then we headed to the Cementario to hear more about the famous people there…this is a cemetery only for the rich and famous, and everyone wants their mausoleum to be the best…


The below statue represents a young 19 year old girl from this wealthy family who they believe was buried alive…they heard screaming and opened up her casket and there were reportedly scratch marks on the lid of the casket….she had now, however expired. Her family, who were quite distressed over this, built this statue showing her trying to get through this door…


Many military and political heroes are buried here, including Roca, a former president of BA…


But anyone who visits wants to see only Evita! When she first passed away, her body was stolen and was missing for a number of years. When it was finally recovered, where she should be buried was a conflict. Many thought she should not be in Recoleta, as she was not from an aristocratic background, and was not an elected official. Isabella, Peron’s new wife, made the decision that she should be buried with her father’s family, who was aristocratic (she was an illegitimate child of his). Part of this decision by Isabella was because she did not want Evita buried with her husband who was in another cemetery.

Wow, what a tour! And I’ve only covered the highlights!! Jessica is an expat from New Jersey, and she really knows the city! In seven hours we had gone all of the way from the southern neighborhood of San Telmo up through the northern neighborhood of Recoleta.

So time for an evening of rest….so for dinner we did carry out at a place in our block, El Sanjuanino, which is famous for their empanadas….and they were great, as were their tamales!!

Tomorrow, we head up to Iguazu Falls (pronounced eewazu).

Posted Day 91.

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2 Responses to ">Day 87. Walking tour…Buenos Aires"

  1. marykathryn says:

    >WOW! What a great day. Very interesting and wonderful photos. Enjoy your remaining time. Going by so fast.

  2. dottie cunningham says:

    >Boo hoo! Only one more week! (I have on my hat!)

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