Buenos Aires: Never Say Never or Third Time Lucky
The first time we visited Buenos Aires we vowed never to return! In January 2009, we crossed with the ferry from Uruguay, arriving around 11 in the evening. After several tries to find a place to sleep we found ourselves eating breakfast at 5am. We were on the road soon after 6am, out of the city vowing never to return !
We relented on that vow and visited Buenos Aires again in May 2009. We had sold our camper in Chile and we made a stopover on our way to Europe. We rented an apartment in the city and felt like this time we would do the city justice. And we could have, but for the ingenuity of local pick-pockets. Friends had warned us, so we were prepared – but the foul smelling fake bird dung was all over our clothes nonetheless. It soured the experience of the city for us .
In 2014 we came back to South America. Our plan was to visit places we loved and other places we had missed last time. Argentina wasn’t really on the list and its capital, certainly not. Strangely, we spent a lot of our first year in Argentina and loved it . The end of 2015 found us close to Buenos Aires again!
We were safely ensconced at Andean Roads in Tigre, where life was relatively quiet and there was no hassle. Our first foray into the city this time was by taxi. We spent some time around the pedestrian zone of Florida and managed to take the Subte (‘subterranean’ = subway). We felt quite comfortable and were happy to recognise some places from our second visit.
Since this experience had been quite satisfactory, Juergen suggested we drive into the centre on Sunday for the San Telmo market. We have learned that Sundays or siestas are the best times to drive Berta into a city in Argentina. The roads are quiet and parking places are easier to find.
On the way into the city we had met another overlanding couple at a toll booth. They were also heading into the city. Their plan was to park near the Planetarium, where they had stayed comfortably before. We decided to check it out before visiting the markets. We drove into the parking lot of the Tennis Club and the security guards greeted us in a very friendly manner. They told us we were welcome to park there even overnight, for as long as we like…
The San Telmo street market was great. Lots of colour, music and people enjoying the scene. We remembered it from last time. Then we had rushed through, with one eye over our shoulder, since we had been attacked by the pickpockets for the second time on our way there. This experience went a long way towards dimming that memory.
A few days later we left our secure spot way out in Tigre and ventured into the city. We stayed 6 nights.
The area around the Tennis Club and Planetarium is Palermo, east of the city centre. It has a lot of parks, lakes, and more parks. There is street art, the city’s mosque, a large rose garden, dog walkers, Plaza Alemania fountain (gifted to the city by a German immigrant group), a Japanese garden (which at 50 Pesos per person seems rather too expensive to visit) and a lot of people making use of the area to exercise, picnic or just relax under the trees.
It is also walking distance to supermarkets, panaderias [bakeries], cafes, restaurants and banks. We spent part of our first day wandering around the area, shopping and photographing the action in the parks and around the lakes. We were also interested in less animate things – the mosque and various pieces of street art we came across.
Our second day in Buenos Aires was Christmas. So, how should we spend Christmas Day – drive into the city centre and have a look around while all the shops and businesses and offices are closed. Yep, great idea!
The roads were fairly empty, so we drove right into Plaza de Mayo and found a park just off it. We hadn’t realised it at the time, but we had been within a couple of blocks of the Plaza on our Wednesday trip into the city.
Plaza de Mayo has the cathedral and Casa Rosada, amongst other sites. After wandering around the plaza we walked a big circle. Avenida de Mayo brought us past some great examples of the architecture of Buenos Aires. Café Tortoni is a landmark along here. It was closed for the holiday, but we had been there in 2009 for coffee and cake, so we weren’t missing out.
We reached and crossed the enormous Av. 9 de Julio – one of the widest streets in the world. From there we decided to walk along the back streets a bit. Randomly we chose Libertad and were really lucky. For 3 blocks Juergen was busy snapping street art, which was mostly on the roller shutters covering the closed shopfronts – another advantage of walking about on a holiday!
The obelisk looms large in the centre. It’s not really beautiful, but at least it lets you know where you are! An unusual thing in a grid patterned city is the presence of roads on the diagonal. We walked one of these – Av. Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña – to get back to Berta. The diagonal makes for some very interesting architecture when multi-storied buildings are built on corners which are 45 degrees rather than 90.
With everyone still in holiday mode, we decided to push our luck a little bit more on ‘boxing day’, as we call it at home! Later in the afternoon we drove to La Recoleta to revisit the famous cemetery [link to our separate photo gallery] .
We arrived at 4 and the bells started ringing for exit at 5.30. It was just long enough. We took 120 photos that we saved and probably as many more that we deleted… When we compared them with our photos from our visit in 2009, a few were almost identical but most were of a completely different part of the cemetery. I’m sure if we went back again we would find the same thing! This time we found Eva Peron’s mausoleum, probably the most famous person buried there. We noticed a queue down one of the narrow ‘streets’ and went to check it out!
Sunday came around and we decided to visit San Telmo again. It was every bit as colourful and enjoyable as the week before, and we saw new parts we had missed. It was also a perfect day out, except that I was targeted with the smelly fake bird poo as we were walking to the truck to leave.
Apart from that, it had been a fairly perfect few days. At last we had visited Buenos Aires and cast out the shadows of previous visits – almost. We found ways to drive around the city without being totally stressed – almost. The traffic in this city is totally chaotic and on the day we left we needed to drive right into the chaos of Av. 9 de Julio to reach the motorway which would take us out of the city. This time we were happy to be leaving, but also happy to have been there.