An English person in Buenos Aires.
After seeing the sights in Rio, and then Iguazu, I caught the 13:00hr flight from the Argentinean side of Iguazu to Buenos Aires which got me into BA at 14:50. I then went to one of the taxi cab kiosks in the airport and got a taxi to my hotel, the Claridge. I remember the taxi being very cheap, and I took my first glimpses of BA, wow the roads seem to be very wide. To my left through the mist I could just make out the river plate.
On arrival at the hotel I checked in, from the outside the Claridge looks very impressive, and the inside seemed to be as well, very oldie worldie. To get up to my room via the lift, I had to put my door card into the lift to let me go anywhere. The room I was given was next to the lift shaft, but over the next three nights I hardly heard any noises form the lift.
I unpacked my bag, phoned up Eternautas who were giving me my tour of BA tomorrow to check that they were still ok, and went exploring. My hotel was very central, in fact within 30 seconds walk I was in the main Florida shopping street, and the first person I came across was a street busker singing an Elvis Presley song in English, and there I was over the other side of the world, feeling like I’m at home. I then walked down to the Plaza de Mayo via a few side streets as I did a part of the one of the walks in the Lonely Planet guide and saw the Casa Rosada and the main Plaza. The winter had obviously taken its toll on the plants and grass as they were a bit threadbare. As it was getting dark, I then walked back to the hotel, for a quick drink in the bar, and a rest. I asked the people on reception for a nice Parillia for the evening, and they directed me to one just off San Martin square called Parrilla Al Carbon. Wow what an experience that was, I sat down and glanced over to a couple sitting very close to me, and the bloke had a massive great big plate with the biggest ever t-bone steak on it, and nothing else. Half an hour later he was still chomping through it.. and I joked with him whether he was going to have a pudding as well. I asked for a bit of loin beef, and a salad, and I was amazed at the size of the beef that I got… it was huge!!!!! The Malbec red wine went very nicely with the beef, and I headed back to the hotel. Whilst walking through Florida on the way back, there were a couple prostitutes working along the main street, who when they saw a foreigner, they headed straight for you, and handed you their card. A quick no was enough to get rid of them.
The next morning I took it easy and went for a stroll in the morning up Florida towards San Martin, the shops are much classier up that end, and I stopped for a sandwich and a drink in one of the coffee shops up there. Walking back down Florida to the hotel, there were obviously the owners of the shops or helpers outside the front door trying to get people into their shops. Whilst it was annoying at first, you soon learn to just ignore them. Or a gentle no always helps.
At midday I started my Images of BA tour with Eternautas, which was conducted by a young girl who had lived in BA all her life. She spoke very good English, and we were chauffeured around by a driver. This meant that we were able to leave what ever we wanted to in the car, go for a walk and get back into the car again.
We first went to the Plaza de Mayo where I had been yesterday, but the main square took on a whole new meaning when I learnt what was around the main square, and why this square is so important to BA. We then took in all the districts of BA during our tour including San Telmo, and La Boca, where we went past the football ground. We also stopped in perhaps the most touristy area in La Boca (Caminito) for a walk around the local shops/cafes, and waterfront, but we also went around the old cobbled areas and very run down areas of La Boca, which held more fascination for me. We then went onto see Puerto Madero, reminds me of London’s new docklands area, Avendia 9 de Julio and the Obelisk, then onto Palermo and finally to the Cementerio de la Recoleta, which of course is the famous cemetery. Although the cemetery is perhaps the major attraction of going to BA, and the mausoleums were totally different to anything I’d ever seen, it wasn’t really for me. Yes of course I saw Eva Perons mausoleum. I certainly thought the tour, was well worth the money, and it gave me a great view of the many districts in BA. The guide dropped me off at the bottom of the park near Plaza San Martin so that I could go and see the Falklands/Malvinas memorial. I was amazed at the amount of Argentineans who were killed in the war, what a waste of life. The memorial was guarded by two soldiers in uniform. Then I walked up to the Obelisk, and for a walk across Avendia 9 de Julio. I stopped in at an Italian for a meal and a drink before returning to the hotel for a well earned rest.
The next morning I decided to go to Colonia in Uruguay. I asked at reception what time the boats went, they phoned up the Buquebus place, and told me the times, and then told me how to find the Buquebus place. It was a 15 walk from the hotel, but I couldn’t find the place very easily.. I later found out that a big lorry had been parked in front of the sign to the Buquebus entrance. Anyway I went inside and bought a return ticket leaving at 14:00 hrs and coming back at 20:00hrs. Don’t forget you need to be at the ferry an hour before you travel, and don’t forget your passport, even when you are buying your tickets. It does take a little while to fill out all the forms that you need to fill out to go from Argentina to Uruguay, so leave some extra time. The ferries leave BA at the following times or did when I was here in Aug 2007 08:30, 09:00,11:15, 14:00, 18:15, 19:30 and 23:59, and they leave Colonia at 04:30, 09:15, 10:30, 16:00, 17:30, 18:45, 20:00
There is a very nice café in the Buquebus entrance, it puts the British cafes/bus station/motor service stations to shame. The trip to Colonia took an hour each way, with the sea being very calm. The town is a short 10-15 minute walk from the Buquebus set-down place. Now I didn’t get any Uruguayan money out before going there, and to be honest there was no need to, as you can pay for everything via Argentinean pesos. On my walk around Colonia I did find an HSBC atm in the old part of the town, so I did get some Uruguayan money out. The old town is nice and relaxing to walk around, and on the day that I went (a weekday) there weren’t too many people around. I went up to the top of the lighthouse and looked out on the view across the River Plate and the town of Colonia. I also stopped at the quayside at the bottom of the town for something to eat and a drink. By this time the light was fading so I walked back up the ferry, getting there about 40 minutes before it was due to sail. On the way back I had a first class seat upstairs, which included a bottle of water and a sandwich with waitress service. It was a shame that you couldn’t see out as it was dark.
I walked back from the ferry port to the hotel, dropped off my camera, and then went for a late night walk around Florida and up and around the Obelisk. There were numerous shops still open, and I felt very safe walking around. I stopped in a bar for a drink and then went back to my hotel.
The next morning I caught a taxi outside the hotel at ¼ 12 to go to the local airport for my 13:00 flight to Rio. The hotel reception said that I didn’t need to be at the airport until 45 mins before departure. I got through customs at 12:40 and the plane left at 13:00hrs. Looking back I would of left the hotel earlier as you couldn’t choose your seat on the plane.
Anyway looking back on my trip to BA, I enjoyed it, seeing all the different sights, especially the large laned avenue, taking in a Parillia and that massive amount of food. I felt safe walking around BA, everyone seemed friendly enough.
Although BA doesn't have the wow factor that Rio has, it does have its own character and charm and a very Europeam feel to the city.