Tag Archives: Buenos Aires

Flying Stories – Argentina

There are two airports in Buenos Aires. Ezeiza is the main international airport that you will most likely fly into from non-South American countries. AEP is the airport right in the center of town and is only a 15 minute drive from most hotels. I went via this airport to Ushuaia, about a 4 hour flight south from Buenos Aires.

While going through security in the early hours of the morning, a family was right ahead of me. They had a sleeping child who was passed out on the shoulder of one of the parents. Well the security guard took the child and held it while the family went through then handed him off once they were through. It was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen in the airport but it definitely would never fly in the States.

As in Europe and Asia no bags are allowed in the Emergency Exit row. (Being tall I always ask and typically get it because the ticketing person takes pity on me.)

While on my flight down to Ushuaia, there was mild turbulence but on a scale of 0-10, it was a 1. Yet the seat belt sign remained on for the majority of the flight (I should note that it was turned on right after the beverage service). I had been sleeping due to the early morning hour so decided to go to the restroom upon waking up. I made my way back to the restroom and was promptly yelled at halfway down the aisle by the seated flight attendant to return to my seat. I was half awake and wasn’t really paying attention to what exactly was being said but I had a feeling I should probably sit down. A couple of other people tried the same but were told to sit down as well.

At a certain point it became what in my mind was an inhumane situation, especially given the lack of actual turbulence. I just charged back there and politely but desperately, asked in Spanish if I could please use the restroom. The flight attendant yelled at me some more and pointed at the seat belt sign but she did manage to unlock the restroom for me in the process, because yes, not only are you supposed to not get up but you can’t even get in the locked bathrooms.

As a traveler and a human being, at a certain point you don’t care when it comes to the bathroom. I will gladly pee anywhere if it means I don’t embarrass myself by peeing in my seat! In this case there was only one appropriate place since we weren’t in the great outdoors.

 

 

Buenos Aires Miscellaneous

Down on the waterfront of Buenos Aires is the Reserva Ecologica. It kind of reminds me of the Garden by the Bay in Singapore but not quite as manufactured.

It has some nice walking paths and lots of wildlife!

Walking through the area there makes you forget you are in a big city. The only noise is a variety of bird songs and some bug noises. It is a nice retreat.

There is a wide walking path along the whole waterfront area with various food trucks set up and lots of tables and chairs for hanging out.

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In the heart of the city is the Calle Florida, a long pedestrian street that goes from the Casa Rosada/Plaza del Mayo area to Plaza San Martin in the heart of the city. Nearby is the Galerias Pacifico, a shopping center with some beautiful art in it.

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In the center median between the various lanes of the major thoroughfare through town, there are a number of art pieces. I’ve already mentioned the obelisk. Here is another piece.

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Tango!

As a visitor to Buenos Aires, I highly recommend doing a typical tourist activity – a tango show.

These are well coordinated and definitely aimed at tourists but I feel as though they are worth it. The ticket will include a pick up from your hotel, dinner, and a show.

I went to a show at Tango Porteño which I felt was fantastic! There was a live band playing during the tango. The costumes were exquisite. As were the singers. It felt like an authentic show and not one just catered to tourists as I mentioned above.

The dinner had free flowing wine and they always made sure your glass was full.

As a “table of 1” person, I started chatting with the gentleman next to me who was also there alone. He was from Japan but lives in Brazil and has lived there for the last 30 years. We had an absolutely fascinating conversation throughout the evening. One of the benefits of traveling solo is being able to easily engage with other travelers. I had many unique conversations as a result.

On the way to the event, I had a delightful conversation with my driver that eventually led to discussing how Spanish differs among Spanish-speaking countries with different slang and word preference. img_9269img_9271img_9272img_9273

 

Catedral Metropolitana

The Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires is where Pope Francis was before his big move to the Vatican. It is where he was simply Jorge. It is beautiful inside but not as big as you would have thought it would be.

There were a number of displays dedicated to Pope Francis around the Cathedral.

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The Vatican has beautiful refuge type place in BA, which is where the Pope would stay when they are in town. Although given its opulence and also his connections in BA, Pope Francis probably wouldn’t stay here. IMG_9221.JPG

Los Desaparecidos

In the 1970s, a lot of people were taken and most likely killed under the administration at the time. They were called “the disappeared” or los desaparecidos. Demonstrations and gatherings of more than 2 people were banned at the time but epople knew they had to take action. How could they do this without disappearing themselves?

A group eventually called “Madres/Abuelas de la Plaza del Mayo” began gathering at 3pm every Thursday at the Plaza del Mayo, which is right in front of the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Office. Gathering would be the wrong word though, as of course this was not permitted.

The group began walking around the center monument, with scarves tied around their nects. These scarves were the diaper cloths that are used for babies, signifying the conneciton to their children who had disappeared.

The first five walkers were sent to concentration camps, then killed, to send a message to the group but they would not back down. Each week, the Madres countined to peacefully walk around the plaza.

As some of the women who disappeared were pregnant, many of the madres (now abuelas/grandmothers) wondered what happened to their grandchildren as well.

Finally years later, answers came. At the time, the babies were adopted by politicians, military people, etc. basically any of the people in power. The madres/abuelas set up a DNA databas to find their lost children/grandchildren. They put out advertisements to people, providing an age range and asking them to submit their DNA to find their true identity.

Imagine the struggle for these people though… They are stripped from their mother at birht and placed with a prominent family. The only family they’ve ever known who have theoretically loved and cared for them throughout their life. And now they could find out that these people, their parents, are the “bad guys.”

Would you do it? Could you do it? Some have.

Over 120 of these people have been found. Recently a leader’s grandson was found which helped to increase the number of people checking.

On my Aerolineas Argentina flight, there was an advertisement in the flaps of my snack box asking “Do you know your identity?” with informaiton on how to find out more.

It gave me goosebumps. In my college Spanish film class, we watched a move about the Desaparecidos from the point of view of a political leader’s wife who has loved and cared for her daughter since birth. Then she found out about Las Madres de la Plaza del Mayo and she confronts her husband and seeks out more information. It gave me goosebumps as well.

Currently painted around the center statue of the Plaza is a circle, showing the walking path, and the outline of the scarves worn by the Madres.

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Casa Rosada

The Casa Rosada is the home of the government of Argentina. They offer FREE tours on the weekends and holidays (basically whenever the government isn’t in session) in Spanish. There is also a single English language tour a day.

Since I speak both and there were a lot more Spanish tours, I selected one of those. Don’t forget to bring your passport though if you plan on going on a tour as it is needed to get in.

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The tour takes you through a central courtyard with tall palms. It reminded me of a the old Middle Eastern design style, with the harem covered on the second floor looking down at the activities. There were frosted and decorated glass pieces on the second floor to block off the private areas for the president. The President no longer resides at the Casa Rosada.

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Visitors get to see the Salon de Eva Peron, with a sitting area and then big meeting area/dining room.

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There was also a Hall of Famous Argentinians including Manu Ginobili, Lionel Messi, and Mafalda. Mafalda is a famous cartoon character. She was featured in many of my Spanish materials in high school.

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A unique feature is a look into the President’s office, as in the Oval Office of Argentina. They do ask you to put away phones and cameras but that’s all. The one door isn’t all the way open for security reasons but you get a general idea of what’s inside. The office had a large wooden desk, with a casual seating area in front of it.

Just outside of it is a fancy old school elevator with a red velvet bench seat, for the use of the President.

In a notable showing of a lack of separation between church and state, there was a nativity out in front of the house.

Take a look at this bust. The person had a band aid on and didn’t mind having it in their official bust. IMG_9192.JPG

 

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Casa Rosada means pink house in Spanish. It used to be red as cow’s blood was mixed into the concoction that covered the house. Even after the change of materials, the house has continued to be painted pink to keep with tradition.

As I mentioned, the Casa Rosada is only open on weekends. The rest of the week, barricades create a perimeter around it. These started in 2001/2002 because in 2001 it was determined that the banks would go bankrupt on December 19th, 2001. Of course the President also stated that the banks didn’t have to give the money back so people were quite upset to say the least.

The protested outside of the Casa Rosada. A helicopter had to come in to get the President before crowds busted in.

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Recoleta Cemetery

The Recoleta Cemetery is probably one of the most visited tourist spots in BA. It is attached to the Recoleta Church.

The cemetery used to be the garden for the priests. Now it is THE place to be buried in BA. Apparently people will even have fake burials just to make them feel important, moving the body out of the cemetery after the guests have left. IMG_9233.JPGIMG_9234.JPGIMG_9236.JPGIMG_9237.JPGIMG_9238.JPGIMG_9239.JPGIMG_9240.JPGIMG_9241.JPGIMG_9242.JPGIMG_9243.JPGIMG_9244.JPGIMG_9246.JPGIMG_9247.JPGIMG_9248.JPGIMG_9249.JPGIMG_9250.JPGIMG_9252.JPGIMG_9253.JPGIMG_9254.JPG

Eva Peron is buried here under her maiden name, Duarte. The prominent figures buried here would not have accepted her though so it is said she is buried among her enemies.IMG_9227.JPGIMG_9228.JPGIMG_9230.JPGIMG_9231.JPG

The cemetery is full of above ground family mausoleums that go deep into the ground. It is fascinating walking around and seeing the various designs. Some are kept in perfect condition, others are in ruins. The cool part about those in ruins is that you get a better view deep into cavern where the people are buried. It’s a tight squeeze with a stairwell and a place for a casket to be moved downwards before being placed on a shelf.

 

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Recoleta Walking Tour

This tour was another free walking tour through http://www.buenosairesfreewalks.com/.

This one begins in the morning at the Colon Theatre, named after Christopher Columbus. It had many different architects as they kept dying…One notices that the style on the first level is different than that of the second, which is different that that of the third. IMG_9203.JPG

Nearby is the Supreme Court of Argentina. Its judges have lifelong terms as long as they can prove they are healthy, which include a 96 year old.

The justice system is very slow here, as a result there is a 2 for 1 law regarding sentences. Every year you spend in jail without a sentence, counts as two off your eventual sentence due to the slowness. IMG_9201.JPG

Just in front of the court is a statue of the person who killed the Governor of Buenos Aires whose family lived only a block away. The family stopped opening the doors to that side of their courtyard as a result.

  • Buenos Aires is full of gumtrees. They are BIG and beautiful, especially as they grow out and not up.
  • Buenos Aires has the 6th largest Jewish community outside of Israel. At the oldest temple in the city, there is a security guard station and a barrier for car bombs. The first terrorist attack in BA was on the Embassy of Israel in the 1990s. It is now a memorial with a tree planted for each person killed.IMG_9205.JPGIMG_9215.JPG
  • The main street in BA is 9 de Julio de 1816, indicating when BA gained independence.
  • The Palacio San Martin is where all of the heads of state are welcomed. For instance, President Obama fairly recently. It is a ceremonial building only, with paperwork handled next door.IMG_9207.JPG
  • The former palaces of politicians and important people are now embassies. Apparently the U.S. has one but I didn’t feel like walking around the entire massive compound/fortress to find it.
  • The French Embassy/palace is where 9 de Julio de 1816 Avenue splits/ends. It was going to be incorporated in the avenue as part of eminent domain but the owner sold it to the French, thus giving it diplomatic immunity as it was now an extension of French land.
  • The Four Seasons has a palace as part of their hotel. The bottom is a club for its top customers and the top is a $25,000 per night suite where stars have stayed, including Madonna (who played Eva Peron in the movie). This palace used to have a conservative owner who disliked artists as they were considered the “prostitutes of society.” Now artists regularly stay there. IMG_9218.JPG
  • In order for the Spanish colonies in South America to get independence, all had to band together and achieve it because they were all surrounded by each other and would be suppressed by each other if there was an uprising.
  • Jose de San Martin is the only person in Argentine history to be liked by all Argentinians.
  • Take a close look at this photo. Do you notice anything off?IMG_9217.JPG
  • The whole facade is painted! Those aren’t actually windows.
  • A dog park in BA!

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  • The Big Ben of BA

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  • Art deco building in BA.IMG_9214.JPG
  • The Recoleta neighborhood has the highest income per capita in the city. It also used to be in the country side.
  • The tour ends at the Recoleta Cemetery which I will cover in a separate post.

 

 

Buenos Aires, City Center- Free Walking Tour

One thing I always recommend when going to a new city, is taking advantage of a free walking tour. These of course aren’t free but they are based on the idea that people should be able to experience a city on any budget. There is a suggested tip as a result.

If you’d like to learn more visit this website: http://www.buenosairesfreewalks.com/

I was fortunate to be able to go on both of the free tours offered and started off with the City Center Tour, meeting at the Congreso Nacional. This building was made in Europe but assembled in BA. It took 50 plus years to build!IMG_9138.JPGIMG_9137.JPG

The guide showed us a lighthouse type building which was designed to specifically reference the divine comedy in as many ways as possible. It has a level for hell, purgatory, heaven, etc. The designed made a specific statue for it and went back to Italy to design it but it was stolen once it arrived. It was found years later but before it could be moved back to the building, it was stolen again. A copy is currently where the original was supposed to be.

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An obelisk monument was created to celebrate 400 years of Argentina. The porteños (word for people from Buenos Aires, referencing that they are from the “port city”) hated it and were calling for its removal as soon as it was installed. It was decided that nothing could be done since it was a national monument. For a campaign against AIDS, they put a giant condom over it, emphasizing the phallic shape.

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Some miscellaneous facts:

  • Argentina comes from the Latin word argento, meaning silver.
  • Inflation is currently at about 45 percent. As a result Argentinians will change their pesos into dollars so that their money is kept in a stable currency, otherwise their money is worthless soon after. The guide mentioned that when he was young, he was at the supermarket and prices were going up so fast that the price may have changed by the time you got to the register to pay. They were calling out prices.
  • 500 and 200 peso bills were recently added. Before 100 was the maximum bill. ATMs started running out of bills pretty quickly though because of inflation as you couldn’t do much with it. There are currently 4 types of 100 peso bills. One was created by the Vice President. Two are Brazilian as when they started running out of currency, the government asked Brazil to help make some. They differ slightly from the other model with letters in black and of a simple design. The last kind is more recent and celebrates Eva Peron.
  • A couple of years ago the “blue market” was really popular was/is where you can exchange currency but not through a bank. It used to have a better USD to peso rate than the banks so many people would utilize it – 15:1 vs 9:1 at the banks. Now both exchange rates are about 15:1 so its better to just get money at the bank so you know it’s not counterfeit which is more likely to occur with the 4 different types of 100 peso bills.
  • Uber has become popular in Argentina, especially due to the varying prices that cabs can change. However, there has been a battle over it. As a result, only people with non-Argentinian credit cards can use it.
  • It is always a good idea to carry around some Argentine pesos as sometimes credit cards don’t work. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when or why this happens it just happens. I always made sure to never order more than the amount in my pocket.
  • The San Ignacio Church is currently the oldest structure in Buenos Aires. It was built in 1722 by the Jesuits. IMG_9147.JPG
  • All Argentinians currently receive a free education from primary through college. Everyone can attend any college that they want but it is up to them to finish and succeed.

 

 

 

 

Mormons, they’re everywhere!

I write this headline in a very respectful way because wherever I travel, there tends to be one certainty – there will be a Mormon temple or church. I once saw 11 churches in a 2 hour drive in Ghana.

On my most recent trip to South America, I saw an enormous, immaculate temple on my way from the Buenos Aires airport to the city center.

In Ushuaia, I was wandering around town, a little off the tourist path when I had the thought – I haven’t seen a temple or church yet – and there it was! A much different style than normal with a brick exterior.

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