Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo/Colonia, Uruguay
Feb 11, 2017
|Sunday Feb. 13, 2017-02-12
Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo/Colonia Uruguay Feb. 6-14/17
We took an earlier flight to Buenos Aires in order to maximize our time there. What a fabulous city – grandiose with wide avenues and a vibrant cosmopolitan flair. Like Toronto it is a city of neighbourhoods, and it is Latin America’s most European city.
The afternoon we arrived, we took a “Free Tour” ($15/per person) of La Recolata Cemetery. Worth the price of admission – so to speak – “Requiescant in Pace”. People were lining up and dying to get in……
The cemetery was built in the gardens of a disbanded monks’ convent (or as we would say, monastery). In 1822 it became the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires and now contains 4,691 vaults and over 350,000 stiffs; and is the final resting place of many notables – Eva Peron (Evita), various Presidents, etc. The price of real estate is high – and the vaults go up, up, as well as down, down, and sideways under the walkways. There are many elaborate marble mausoleums decorated with a variety of architectural styles – Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque… Many mausoleums cost up to $500,000….people want to honour themselves even after they are gone and mostly forgotten…
The evening dinner was highlighted by a surprise on our bill – a charge of $16 for bread – mind you the bread was very good. KP had a little talk via her Spanish hands with the Manager – but, alas to no avail. But he knew she was not happy. Well the meal was delightful to say the least…..and expensive…..but the bread put KP over the top. The courses were mammoth….and we should have split the appetizer and main. They must have thought we were in the ‘dough’. Nice ‘freebies’ - bubbly aperitif and après lemoncello rounded out the meal.
Our city tour the following day was outstanding, our guide Nila was wonderful (same age as Kim) – and showed us the highlights of Buenos Aires - Casa Rosada (the Pink House) which is the executive mansion/office of the President; the changing of the guard (every 2 hours) at the Metropolitan Cathedral; the gorgeous national Congress Building; the Japanese Gardens, an oasis in the middle of the city; Floralis Generica – the steel & aluminum sculpture of a generic flower that opens in the day and closes at night (Thom didn’t even know this and he has been here before). We also went to Caminito, in La Boca neighbourhood – famous for its brightly painted street walls, tango, artists etc. Nila was like a mother hen and wouldn’t let us walk around much – she says it was not a nice neighbourhood.
We spent a block of time in the Evita Peron museum – that woman accomplished a lot in her short life – she died at age 33 of ovarian cancer – she was married to Juan Peron for only 7 years before her death. She is applauded as a defender of workers’ and women’s rights. They certainly have made a ‘saint’ of her in Buenos Aires.
This evening’s dinner was at a ‘closed restaurant’ called Steak by Luis and was recommended by our friend Reggie (Argentinian, raised in TO, now living in Panama). The restaurant is in a loft and is open only 4 days a week. It was an Asado (BBQ meat, meat & more meat) with wine pairings and was a fabulous experience. Was a home styled meal and we sat with couples from Norway, France, USA, England and Argentina. A lot of fun….way too much food…and I can tell you, Thom is NOT going to try intestines any more….no shit….uugh.
Our last full day we walked (a long way…well for Kari anyway) to the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) – it is a museum dedicated to the arts from the onset of the 20th century. It was interesting – worth the walk as it was senior’s day & Free (truly free) admission. I told them that Kari was over 65 and had to argue the point….of course while she was in the Bano….washroom for those not speaking Spanish.
Next, we toured Teatre Colon….you’d think they’d check the English translation before naming these sights……which is really the opera house – known worldwide for its perfect acoustics. A beautiful piece of architecture/art built in 1908 that seats 2,487 and has standing room for 1,000. Was simply outstanding and worth the $25US per person entrance fee…..even though there wasn’t a performance…..lol….
That night it was dinner and a Tango show – Thom went wild and has over 140 pictures (edited). Well the acts were quite good, dancing and singing and so on….and Kari told Thom after that they told us we couldn’t take any pics….well Thom didn’t hear the instructions and actually took over 300 pics…..but edited down. If you want to understand the Tango, I’ll sell the photos with Thom’s Tango 101 book. Thom mentioned that the show was much better than the Tango that he danced with Bent, our friend from Denmark, when he was at another Tango theatre in Buenos Aires, a number of years ago. And the dancers were certainly better…probably their daughters….
WE LOVED Buenos Aires – IT IS A DEFINITE REPEAT VISIT - LIKELY ON OUR WAY FOR A CRUISE OF ANTARTICA. This is Kari’s way of slowly giving me a subtle hint re: one of our next travel sojourns. We will want to include Pantagonia for sure
Thursday Feb. 9th, we took the Ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Uruguay. It was great, very easy (easier than the bus at the border of Chile and Argentina) and the Ferry crossing only took 2.5 hours. Hell we were 2.5 hours in immigration between Chile and Argentina. We were met and promptly swept away to our hotel – Alma Historica Boutique Hotel, in Civdad Viega (old city) - Very, very nice!!! We have a terrific suite in this small, two year old boutique hotel that has only 15 suites. Five star for sure and would recommend without hesitation.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay and is a mix of modernity and tradition – translates to new buildings that are cutting edge modern and old traditional style building - some restored but many dilapidated. The non-art graffiti (unlike Valparaiso, Chile) is heart breaking and speaks to some social issues – the disparity between socio-economic groups. The run down buildings amongst new is tragic and will take years for people to invest and turn the look and economics around. Overall we were not impressed.
Our first day we had a city tour – old and new city – in an Antique 1930 Ford with the driver/owner, David (Da-veed, like Mr. Hambley). To us, Montevideo seems like the ‘poor & distant’ cousin to Buenos Aires – contrary to what the World Bank says about Uruguay. (NOTE: We did not make it to the famous Punta del Este – which is the playground of the rich and famous or the wine regions of the country, so our view may be a little biased). We finished the tour with lunch at the Peurto Market (Port Market), mostly BBQ – meat, meat & more meat. Vegetables are a rare menu item in Argentina and Uruguay. These people must be continually plugged- that 'up', not 'in'.
Well, the next day we did take a full day tour to Colonia del Sacremento, the oldest city in the country that has been a Unesco World Heritage site since 1995. We were pleasantly surprised - it was charming – well worth the 2+ hours drive. Colonia was established around 1680, by the Portuguese, and went back and forth between they and the Spanish – and; now, after successive destructions and occupation rebuilds, the old city is a fusion of Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial architectural styles. Quite a delight to visit. Great restaurants, craft shops and some great old buildings.
We had some terrific meals out in Montevideo….. very innovative cuisine and fabulous tastes. What we can’t figure out is that the costs of food and material goods in Montevideo are on par with Toronto prices and how these people live on sub par salaries is a real question. All in all South America has been a gastronomic delight – and I am sure our waist measurements show that. Thom feels that he’s been in a ‘dickdoo’ contest from the get go……
Tomorrow we are heading home – long trip – leaving hotel Monday at 0930, flying to Santiago with an extensive layover at the airport and then arrive TO the next morning (Feb. 14th) at 0540. So looking forward to the drive back up north to Collingwood after all this travel… will be nice to get home to all our family and friends…..and speaking English ….. Thom says he’s going to continue to practise his new found Spanish on all …..so look out Amigos. And if anyone wants to see all those illegal Tango shots….book a time with Thom.
Adios……..and Happy Valentines Day to all.
Thom & Kari
P.S. Kim sent a message last night saying “Just got your postcard? WTF – hand delivered? Did you just mail it without a stamp and hope it would reach us lmao? Or meet someone from Calgary while there”
This is a direct quote from Kim – pardon the French. BUT THIS WAS AMAZING - A POST CARD WE 'MAILED' IN GALAPAGOS GOT HAND DELIVERED TO CALGARY, BEFORE WE GOT HOME!!!!
For you to understand, I need to refer you back to our Galapagos post of January 21st:
"On our last afternoon we headed to Post office Bay on Floreana Island. Here you land on a beach and head to a spot where 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel for use as an unofficial mail box. The custom continues to this day with Galapagos visitors – you leave a postcard and wait for someone from the destination town to collect it and hand deliver it to the addressee. Believe it or not, when sifting through hundreds of post card addresses, we came across one postcard addressed to someone in Collingwood, our hometown. Will be fun to get home and do a surprise delivery to the address on Birch Street. What a co-incidence for sure."