Leaving Brisbane ….
In order to sort out our luggage – reduce our 8 suitcases down to 4 – we decided to move out of Glenda’s brother’s house and spread ourselves out in an apartment near the airport. It was sad to leave them, but it worked out even better than we could’ve hoped. It was near our storage unit and the car storage facility. We also had the added benefit of fireworks on new year’s eve.
Arriving in Buenos Aires….
After a relatively uneventful trip via Auckland and Santiago, with 4 hour stopovers in both, we landed in Buenos Aires. We had left Brisbane at 8am on new year’s day and after about 24 hours of travel, arrived in Argentina’s capital at around 8pm the same day. The longest 1 January we’ve ever had!
After clearing customs and quarantine – very like Australia as they also scan the bags – we walked out of the glass doors into the arrivals area. Within minutes our driver was there to meet us and it didn’t take long before he arrived back with his car and swept us to our hotel. We were glad to head up to our room on the 11th floor, shower and fall into bed.
First impressions ….
After a sleep in, we unpacked a few things, had another shower and went exploring. The first thing we had to do is cross the very wide road that runs in front of the hotel. It has to be done in at least two cycles of lights as it has 7 lanes each way plus another 2 bus lanes each way!
Having been in Buenos Aires 11 years ago, we were gobsmacked at how much it has changed. The economic challenges are taking a toll on the people and the infrastructure. Pavements have gigantic holes in them and large numbers of buildings appear derelict. The area near the river which was almost new during our last visit is run down and dirty – not helped by the copious numbers of bottles and other litter remaining from new year. The people appear lacklustre.
One can hardly blame them as everywhere we go we feel like a criminal – there are security tags on the shopping baskets, we had to present our water bottles to be tagged on entering the supermarket and someone making a credit card purchase of around AUD35 had to present ID.
The police presence is extremely high and that is apart from the copious numbers of other security staff around everywhere. Even the entry foyer to the hotel is manned by security rather than concierge staff.
Searching for a place to stay post cruise….
After spending hours searching for an apartment to stay in for 4-7 weeks after our cruise, we hadn’t been able to decide. We had narrowed it down to Airbnb and had a couple of preferred options in very different parts of town. We opted to take a risk and check out the barrios (neighbourhoods) in person before making a final choice in the hope that we wouldn’t lose out.
During our walk along the water the first morning, we quickly ruled out that as a location even though we’d expected something we’d seen there with a water view to come up trumps. Whilst in a lovely restored warehouse, it was on top of a lot of restaurants, and as mentioned before, the area was looking a bit tired. It was also separated from the rest of the city by a corridor of dusty construction.
Our second day, on heading in the opposite direction to a barrio called Palermo, we moved away from the city hustle and bustle – we even heard our first bird! There were cute coffee shops and restaurants – one of which beckoned us for breakfast (at 11am). All in all, a much better place to live for a while. There is a bit of a mix – some lovely places next door to graffiti and old wiring, almost a summation of the whole place.
To cut a long story short, we selected Stephan’s place – so now we are poorer but have a place to stay when we get off the ship post our Antarctic cruise.
Airbnb link to be added
A very pleasant surprise….
On looking at the map, we’d seen an island across the river from the city and it looked as though there should be some green space, so we decided to take a break from the concrete jungle. As we crossed the river over the bridge, we were somewhat disappointed as there still seemed to be a lot of concrete, albeit more modern and linked with glass. The monument to taxi drivers provided some interest but we felt somewhat disappointed with our adventure – (there are over 40,000 taxis in BA, one for every 70 people.)
After continuing a bit further, things improved and we discovered a paved walkway bordering what appeared to be wetlands and we could make out a few birds on the other side. On our side, there were rows of caravans selling streetfood, interspersed with vehicles that appeared to house the people owning / manning said food stalls.
There were also statues of many famous Argentinian athletes such as rugby player Hugo Porta and tennis players Gabriela Sabatini and Guillermo Vilas. Sadly the one of soccer player, Messi, had been vandalised and the only thing remaining was the ball! Based on a few google searches, vandalising this statue is a regular occurrence. They may have just given up.
The saving grace of the day was most definitely the discovery of a path entering into the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur – the wetlands that we’d seen from the other side. The tracks under the trees revealed a large number of birds of various species, lots of colourful butterflies and a goanna or two. We’ll definitely be back!
Final day in Buenos Aires pre our Antarctic cruise….
Rather than go for a run, we decided to spend our last day in BA walking down to the only area we hadn’t been to this time – La Boca, home of the Boca Juniors soccer team and the well-known brightly coloured houses of Caminito.
As it was Saturday morning, the wide avenue outside our hotel – Avenida 9 de Julio – was much quieter than the other mornings and seemingly there was a lot less pollution about. The sad part was that the coffee shop we discovered the previous day – Rosso – was closed, so we had to find another place for breakfast. Having seen long queues of people trying to get into the famous Café Tortoni (See below) for the last few days and knowing we’d visited before, we hadn’t planned on going there. But given it was just around the corner and we were looking for an alternate breakfast spot, we decided to give it a try – and we were lucky to walk straight in. We could not resist the extra thick dark chocolate. Combined with a couple of medialuna (crescent shaped pastries like small croissants), it made for a decadent breakfast.
Our meal provided us with the fuel required to wonder down to the touristy areas around the Boca Juniors stadium and Caminito. It allowed us to fend off the multitude of people dressed in tango costumes offering to take photos. It was a very different experience to our last visit as then it had been very quiet. In addition, the current pope is from Buenos Aires and his statue has been proliferated among the soccer statues.
The Café Tortoni is a coffeehouse located at 825 Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Inaugurated in 1858 by a French immigrant whose surname was Touan, it was named Tortoni after the Parisian café of the same name located on Boulevard des Italiens (where the elite of the Parisian culture gathered in the 19th century). The café itself was Inspired by the end of the century coffee houses.
Over the years the café has been visited by many renowned people including politicians, popular idols and international figures like Albert Einstein, Federico García Lorca, Hillary Clinton, Robert Duvall and Juan Carlos de Borbón.