getting up at 8am wasn't the easiest thing to do btu we managed to get to breakfast at pilar, a cafe down the street, and eat a hearty breakfast. i instantly fell in love with the small, croissant-like medialunas and loved that they made my café con leche to order. at that instant i knew what i would be eating every morning of this trip.
we were met back at the hotel by carolina (our guide) and gaston (the driver) for our city tour of BsAs. we hopped into the little car and drove around recoleta and palermo. we stopped at the huge metal flower sculpture next to the law school. it was donated by an engineer to show his thanks to the city for educating him for free. the flower was made somewhere else (i think in the u.s. since the engineer now lives in miami) and rebuilt in BsAs; it cost five million dollars. the cool thing about it is that it opens and closes depending on the amount of sunlight.
to get to plaza de mayo we drove along av. 9 de julio, which is kind of a crazy street because it's so wide and cars are crossing every which way and going around the circle around the obelisk.
we got out at at plaza de mayo where people were feedings tons of pigeons. mass was going on at catedral metropolitana so we couldn't take pictures inside. the outside is built in a very neo-classical style with columns in the front; you wouldn't think it was a catholic church. inside we saw the tomb of general josé de san martín, the national hero.
next, we made our way across the plaza to look at the casa rosada, which is currently a very unattractive salmon pink. the little flag was flying, indicating the president (néstor kirchner) was in the building. we also saw the balcony where evita often addressed the people of argentina.
it appeared the riot police were preparing for a demonstration, which carolina said were common on thursday and friday. she also informed us that the madres de plaza de mayo haven't demonstrated here for about a year.
san telmo and la boca were next. they're two of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. san telmo had cobblestone streets and la boca was pretty dingy. even the boca juniors stadium was graffitied.
the boca juniors futbol team was started early in the 20th century by italian immigrants. they couldn't decide on team colors so they agreed to use the colors of the next ship that came into port. that turned out to be a swedish ship and the team colors became blue and gold.
the caminito is a famous alleyway in la boca. it's a total tourist trap but the colorfully painted homes are bright and cheery, unlike some of the neighboring blocks, which were pretty grungy.
Y took pictures with a tango dancer since la boca is one of the birthplaces of tango. she also bought a painting of tango dancers by a local artist. i bought a boca juniors hat for ian since the jerseys, which was what i wanted to get originally, were too expensive.
gaston drove us along the old waterfront (even though we weren't "authorized") so we could see the boca (mouth) of the la plata river, where it meets the riachuelo canal (the water changes color here because of the sediment in the la plata and the lack of oxygen in the riachuelo).
our last stop was puerto madero, where we said good-bye to carolina and gaston. Y and i walked along the waterfront, which is redeveloped and full of businesspeople. since we were in the area we stopped at buquebus and bought our tickets to colonia for next friday. that'll be three countries we visit on this trip.
after walking to florida street we took our first cab back to the hotel. we couldn't give the cabbie the address but we managed to get back by pointing this way and that way. cabs are really cheap here, just a few dollars for a ride across town.
lunch was empanadas at a cafe around the corner from the hotel, with a view of the back of the cemetary. this was a really cheap lunch; i think the empanadas cost a peso each.
since it was still fairly early in the afternoon we walked towards the fine arts museum again, hoping it was open this time. along the way vendors had already set up shop along the front of the cemetary and design fair for the weekly weekend craft fair. we "window shopped" for gift ideas because we plan to get our gifts next weekend when we're back in town. but i did buy two little finger puppets for the kids.
the museum was fine, nothing fancy. admission's free, there are no maps, and you just sort of wander around. i liked the exhibit they had about alejandro sirio's illustrations.
having figured out there's no subte (subway) access in recoleta, we took a cab back to plaza de mayo. (the "E" symbol i kept seeing was not for the E line but for parking, estacionar.) from casa rosada we took the A line, which has old wooden cars. the cars are probably the oldest in south america; so old, in fact, that the doors don't close automatically, so a subway employee stands in each car to open and close the doors manually. it costs 70 centavos to ride the subte ... that's less than a quarter! we took it a few stops to congreso, which is a huge ornate building.
from there we walked with tons of other porteños leaving work on av. callao. our destination :: el ateneo bookstore on av. santa fe. i originally saw this bookstore on flickr and was mesmorized that it was built inside an old theater. i love bookstores to begin with but this one was like nothing i'd seen before. and it really is a cool bookstore with a huge mural on the ceiling and a cafe where the stage would've been. the front private balcony seats have been converted to reading nooks and shelves lined each balcony. i held off on buying anything but it was fun to browse the spanish childrens books.
it was a nice cool evening so we walked the rest of the way back to the hotel. i'm beginning to recognize certain street corners and i'm feel comfortable around our immediate neighborhood.
but tomorrow we're off to puerto madryn bright and early (our wake-up call is at 4am and we're leaving the hotel at 5:30!), so no more exploring until we get back to BsAs on thursday.