Let me pick up again with our account from yesterday when we left the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays.
We headed west from the gardens into Palermo Soho, one of the developing barrios with lots of shops and great restaurants. We carried on into Villa Crespo to Sarkis, an Armenian restaurant that serves wonderful food. We had some of their special dishes, as recommended by the waiter and various reviewers we had consulted in our research. We started our meal with kepke for me and stuffed zucchini for DW and then on to cheese bourek and a kafta brochette. We finished with probably the best baklava we've ever had, topped with creamy vanilla ice cream and accompanied by thick, rich cafe orientale. It was more than we would normally have but, fortunately, we had a long walk home!
On the way back we passed the building housing the apartment we had originally booked 6 months earlier with Reynolds Propiedades in the Palermo Uno Tower on Uriarte. That is a beautiful place with great amenities, and I think we got suckered by Reynolds and/or an owner who had a chance at a 6 month tenant at a higher rate and used the "story" that there was a "plumbing problem." Checking the Reynolds listings today, one sees that the unit is booked out until the end of July. Cancel the 6 weeks and substitute with 6 months. In the short term, it may make good business sense. We were not impressed.
When that deal disappeared and we didn't like the alternatives being offered by Reynolds, we started scouring the already depleted inventory (given that we were only 3 weeks from D-Day). The place we settled on was acceptable though not ideal, and I must say that on balance ByT gives me a better impression than Reynolds. And in the end, we really like our current location better, so that's a decent compensating factor!
Also off-putting was the great difficulty I had getting Reynolds to return the US$264 that we sent them last July. I sent repeated requests that were continually dodged and deflected, until, after 3 weeks, they finally returned my cash through Western Union (and I had to pay a fee to get it). I found that quite stressful.
But that's all history now, and I'm getting side-tracked!
Following a little down time and some journaling we took off up and down the side streets of Palermo Botanico, and all the bustling night life at the cafes, shops and restaurants.
It was trash night, and we were at first startled to see hordes of trash pickers rifling through garbage bags and abandoned or thrown away articles at the curbs. Then we remembered, when we saw the pickers wearing special uniforms with reflective tape, that we had read about this program organized by the government that brings in the trash-pickers from General San Martin, Argentina, a suburb of Buenos Aires, where almost all of the neighborhood's 60,000 residents earn their living through trash picking and recycling. It seems a pretty innovative approach to the recycling challenge. And on Tuesdays, it adds to the hustle-bustle on the streets.
We stopped for helado at Persicco, but they were crowded and a bit disorganized there so we left and ended up at our "go to" spot, Jauja. Curious, I asked the manager about the pronunciation---I thought it was "yow ya." Wrong! It's more like "Cow ha," with a bit of a guttural thing. I need to work on it. We placed our orders and enjoyed our treats--the chocolate profundo is out of this world! Meanwhile we were asking about the various flavors, and DW was treated to a continous round of samples, so she was impressed. The sauco with passion fruit was another winner. They were very kind at Jauja, and as we were leaving handed us a colorful chart of the blossoms and fruits from the Andean region, used in their flavors. And to think that 5 days ago I had no idea what sauco was (Sambucus Nigra on the chart, and a beautiful blossom)
This morning started well, and we were enthusiastic about our plan to take the City Tour at Buenos Aires Free Tours http://www.bafreetour.com/english-home.
Yesterday, I had picked up a copy of the Guia T, which is a key to understanding the collectivo (bus) routes. I had mastered it pretty well, I thought, but we were hesitant to try the bus since we were pressed for time and uncertain of how long the ride would be. We decided to use the subway Subte D and hopped on at our nearest stop, Scalabrini-Ortiz, and settled in for the ride.
After 3 stops, we realized we were headed in the wrong direction. Off we got and changed course. The train was crowded and we were running late. At a certain moment, I realized the guys on either side of DW and me were working a little pick-pocket routine. Too close for comfort. I could see the deal unfolding. The guy on my right took off his jacket and draped it over his left arm. He moved a bit closer with the sway of the train. I pushed his jacket aside to reveal his sleazy hand making a move for my breast pocket, and I pushed away hard and told DW to stand back. I was thinking perhaps a sharp elbow to the head would emphasize the point, but then what does violence gain you? Not much. In any case the game was over, we were pulling in to the next station, the boys hopped off the train, and we were still in custody of all our possessions. We compared notes, and DW had had her pockets frisked, but they had been empty anyway.
It was getting close to 11 AM, the tour start time, and we decided to disembark at Av 9 de Julio and walk quickly from there to Congreso, the meeting place. We struck off at a fast pace amid the hordes, dodging right and left, but making excellent time. After about 10 minutes, we checked the map and realized we were headed in the wrong direction on Esmeralda! At that point, we threw in the towel and decided to kick back, take it easy, and take the tour another day---and get there early next time!
So, we wandered back to the Obelisco and Plaza de la Republica, and then over Corrientes to 1368---Guerrin Pizza!
We enjoyed a Fugazetta with jamon y queso and a couple of agua con gas. The pizza was great, but we will have to try the El Cuartito and compare, as many suggest that one or the other is the best pizza in town. I also really like the Villavicencio agua con mas gas. More gas is good!
The first downpour started while we finished our meal, but it was over when we hit the street. Our next stop was Confiteria Ideal, where tango lessons were underway on the upper level and some earnest students were attemting to master new steps. This place is dripping with a faded 19th C. belle epoque charm, in a strangely "Last Year at Marienbad" way. We ordered cafe cortado in the main floor dining room which was populated by a few old gentleman, one dozing at his table, and several young tourist couples. Behind the bar, there are coolers with wooden doors. They are the kind like the old "ice boxes" that, if you are old enogh to remember, preceded "refigerators." There is tango each night on the weekend, with a live orchestra. Confiteria Ideal is a faded rose. You can't help thinking that someone should save this place before it's too late---spruce it up,,sharpen the menu, and get the volumes up for meals and drinks. Then, of course, it would not be the same, but it seems a fragile relic, and one worth preserving.
On leaving Ideal, we did get caught in a downpour with no umbrella, so we ducked in to the nearest Farmacity to closely examine the ibuprofena and other analgesics until the rain stopped.
When it cleared we went to church.
First we went to the Paseo del Convento de San Ramon, which is a charming agglomeration of shops and restaurants facing on a beautiful interior courtyard. Next we entered the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Merced, for contemplation and prayer at the shrine to San Expedito, who it is said may intercede in just and urgent causes. We figured we needed intercession to get us off to a timely start in the coming days, and we doubtless need help to start in the right direction. Saint Expedito, help us!
Our final stop was the Catedral Metropolitana, which has a stunning silver retablo and houses the mausoleum of the great Jose de San Martin.
We took the Subte back home. We knew we were headed in the right direction, since there's only one way to go when you're at the end of the line. We found seats, so there way no groping. Thank you, San Expedito!