argentina day 1 :: buenos aires :: 08.23.2007

my friend Y and i arrive in buenos aires (BsAs) after a long flight (with a layover in santiago, chile). there was a longish wait in the immigration line (made longer by people from other flights who cut in front of us), but we made it through with no problem ... and i "smuggled" in the sandwiches from TJ's we didn't eat on the plane.

the drive into BsAs didn't take too long, maybe 40 minutes. our driver was very chatty with Y, telling her the ills of BsAs and the catholic church. this would be the first of many conversations in spanish i'll only understand a fraction of.

from the highway, before getting into the city, we saw some pretty dilapidated houses, dirty apartments, lots of graffiti, and laundry hanging on rooftops. this area, called capital, sort of reminded me of areas along the highway around osaka :: the same narrow concrete apartments blackened by years of soot, the signage on the sides of buildings, the open sky around it all.

getting into the city proper was much like other big cities. Y saw resemblances to paris and there was the same hurried vibe (and crazy driving) as nyc. the buildings are crammed together; they're narrow, old, and many are architecturally interesting to look at.

one thing i'm really intrigued by are the doors to the buildings. many are tall and wide and made entirely of glass. others have ornate ironwork gates, and still others are made of beautiful wood. it seems modern, classic, and historic all at the same time.

we arrive at our hotel, ayres de recoleta, in the recoleta neigborhood of BsAs. it's small and modern-looking, basic but clean. as we're checking in, Y and i are mistaken for a couple. we had to have the "matrimonial" double bed changed to two single beds. according to the hotel guys we're an oddity because most of their same-sex guests are couples, not friends. (our tour organizer, manuela, couldn't figure out my gender from my name so she had us booked as a married couple at all of our hotels. after we met with her she had to change all of our reservations.)

our room on the second floor (which is actually the third floor because the lobby is floor 0) is not super big but has a simple kitchen (not that we'll cook) and a nice (but small) bathroom with a bidet, which i was determined to learn how to use. the room looks out onto the street (j. e. uriburu street), which i'm disappointed about because i'd read there are rooms with views of cementerio de la recoleta (recoleta cemetary).

eva peron's marker (one of many)

after unpacking, eating our sandwiches, and emailing our husbands we head out for a walk. the cemetary is just around the corner from the hotel. we bought a map of the "cemetary celebrities" from a very odd lady and head straight for evita's family's mausoleum. compared to some of the other mausoleums it was fairly simple, but it was decorated with flowers from visitors and photocopied pictures of evita.

walking through the cemetary is like walking through a deserted town (with the exception of dozens of stray cats and tourists). some mausoleums really look like little houses with curtains on the windows and little doors on the front you can peek through. but instead of a couch you see a coffin (or two or three). some mausoleums are neglected; the glass is broken on the door, rubble has fallen on the coffins, greenery is growing through the stonework. others are immaculately kept; the marble is unblemished, the stained glass sparkles. there's literally a million details to look at, craftsmanship to marvel at, and countless lives to wonder about.

creepy as it sounds, i really fell in love with this place and i could've spent all day here. (in fact, i returned two more times to take more pictures.) [check out my flickr set of cemetary photos here.]

we walked on, peeking into the basilica of nuestra señora del pilar (which had gorgeous golden altars and relics), walking along the outside of the design center, and heading back towards the hotel.


one big annoying thing so far is that no one seems to curb their dog. you have to watch every step and some blocks smell really bad. apparently, argentines love dogs and you can find strays and pets all over the place. considering we're in the city center with only apartment buildings, we see a lot of large dogs (being walked by professional dogwalkers). the strays also seem to be well-fed and more than just tolerated by the porteños (BsAs residents).

because we had more time before the evening's tango show, we decided to go to the museo nacional de bellas artes. on the way there we stopped at freddo and had our first taste of argentinian helado (ice cream). Y had dulce de leche con brownies and strawberries; i had limón and a tart brazilian fruit that i can't remember the name of. (i just looked it up :: it's called maracuya -- passion fruit.) very refreshing and yummy.

fine arts musueum

we made our way across av. de libertador towards a massive very museum-like structure. turns out that was the law school (the huge political banners gracing the side of the building should've given it away). the fine arts museum wasn't as impressive a building and it was closed to boot.

plaza francia

instead, we walked some more and looked at statues at plaza francia and plaza mitre.

i managed to guide us back to our hotel after walking past some fancy looking apartment buildings along gelly y obes. back at the hotel we got ready for our dinner and tango show at esquina carlos gardel, compliments of our tour organizer, argentina con noi.

at first, i wasn't sure if i would like it. but it turned out to be quite enjoyable.

dinner was served first (at 9pm). the twosomes were seated across from each other at long communal tables in front of the stage. Y and i both ordered steak, of course. apparently it's a little bit difficult to get your meat cooked anything less than well in argentina. i asked for mine pink, and it was good, but could've been redder.

the show started about an hour later. my knowledge of tango is very limited, so this show was good for me because it showcased the many moods and styles of tango. i was fairly surprised at how playful, upbeat, and comical the dance can be. there was also the very passionate, intense, seductive dancing that often comes to mind when you think of tango. there was even some groping and very wet kissing going on! the cutest was the older gentleman who danced. he didn't do anything fancy like flipping around his partner, but it was so clear that he'd been doing this for a long time and still enjoyed it.

we didn't get back from the show until 12:30am. we had to get up fairly early the next day for the city tour so we quickly showered and went to bed. i got up a few times during the night but i'm usually a restless sleeper when i'm traveling.

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