Vamos Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is walking down tree lined streets, enjoying gentle breezes, beautiful parks and plazas, and meeting friends for a coffee at a sidewalk café.
To get a feel for the city I spent several days just walking around with no specific destination in mind, stopping in neighborhood cafés whenever one looked inviting. Sitting in one such café looking out across an intersection, I could easily imagine I was in Paris or Madrid. Narrow tree lined streets joined at the intersection. Along each side were low-rise (six to ten story) apartment buildings with balconies overlooking the street below. In addition to the lobby at street level, most apartment buildings also have a store front or two for small shops and restaurants. In every block, there is almost always a small market, and fresh fruit and vegetable stands as well. Here, people just buy enough food for the day.
Even though the streets were full of cars and often congested, I did not hear the constant blasting of horns. Mostly, drivers just waited their turn, knowing they would eventually get to wherever they were going. Pedestrians were much the same. Although they walked with a purposeful gait, they don’t seem to be bothered by obstructions or congestion blocking their passage.
While walking around I was also been struck by how elegant the women of Buenos Aires were. They are fit and trim, perhaps because the city is pedestrian friendly and everyone walks several miles per day. They also put a lot emphasis on their appearance, dressing stylishly even when going to the neighborhood market for a few items. Smoking was also a lot more prevalent than I expected. The Argentinean surgeon general must have forgotten to issue the warning about the hazards. Nevertheless, the women who smoked, did it with a distinctly “Lauren Bacall” flair, delicately holding their cigarettes between the tips of their fingers.
While in Buenos Aires, I had the opportunity to hook up with some adventure riders I previously met during my travels. I had dinners with the group of guys I previously wrote about from England, Ireland, Scotland, and USA. A few days after our dinner they headed home.
I also hooked up with Pejman, one of the guys I met on the Stahlratte when we sailed between Panama and Cartagena. Pejman’s route to Ushuaia was a little different than mine, so we had many things to talk about and share. Like me, Pejman was spending a couple weeks in Buenos Aires. After Buenos Aires, he plans to fly his motorcycle to Spain where he will ride through much of Europe and then head to Iran where he has family. If things work out, he may continue riding and complete a “round the world” ride back to his home, and starting place, in Australia.
One of the true highlights of my stay in Buenos Aires was the opportunity to get to know Verónica and Luis, my Airbnb hosts. Even though they hardly knew me, I was welcomed into their lives like an honored guest and made to feel like I was truly a member of their family.
Shortly after I arrived, they invited me to an Argentinean BBQ at their home located outside of the city. As you may have heard, Argentina is known for it meats, and Luis grilled up a feast that afternoon. Eating his awesome BBQ, drinking excellent Argentinean wines and conversing with my new friends made for a terrific day.
Maria, a friend of the family, prepared an extensive list of things she and others recommended I see and do while in Buenos Aires. It was her list that guided my activities while I was there. One of her personal favorites was the El Ateneo Grand Splendid Book Store, which was housed in a converted theater. It was a great place to pull a book from the shelf and spend an hour or two reading.
A week later, Veronica and Luis had another party with more excellent food and wine, and dancing on the patio until the wee hours of the morning. In addition to the family and friends I met the week before, they also invited Inaki a real life gaucho. He showed me pictures of the things he does when on the ranch. He also showed me a photo of an x-ray of his arm with all kinds of screws and metal rods used to put it back together after a fall from a horse. If it were me, I would have given up being a gaucho. But Inaki got back in the saddle and continued doing what he loves.
Richard, Veronica’s cousin, took me on a guided tour of town of Tigre and the river delta beyond. We took a combination of subways and electric trains, which were very modern and graffiti free, to travel the approximate 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the center of Tigre. The delta beyond Tigre was formed by the confluence of the Rio de la Plata and several other major river systems that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. During our two-hour boat ride, we covered just a small section of the vast delta and its complex of channels and islands. Since Richard had worked around Tigre for many years, he was able to share things about the area that even the tour guide on the boat didn’t know.
Based upon Maria’s recommendations I visited several venues in Buenos Aires to experience the city’s arts and cultural life. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes was the first museum I visited. Upon entering I was surprised to learn that I could take pictures of the pieces on display as long as I did not use a flash. The same policy was in effect at all the other museums I visited. On display at the Bellas were many works of art created by some of the most important European artists; Manet, Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Rubens. There was also a special exhibit featuring the works of Xul Solar (not his real name). This Argentinean had a unique style and was very influential.
Another important building in the City that impressed me was the Teatro Colon. This theater is home for the opera, ballet, and symphony. Even if you don’t enjoy these types of performing arts, the theater is still worth a visit. It is over 100 years old and maintained in spectacular condition. During the tour I learned about its lengthy construction, the various architects that were involved in its design and construction, and the styles they used in various parts of the building. Experts who study such things believe this theater is among the top four in the world for its acoustics. Having attended a rehearsal by the philharmonic orchestra, I can attest to the acoustics. I am certainly not an expert, but the sounds were amazing.
Another very interesting building and art center was the Centro Cultural Kitchener. From the outside, this building is imposing for its size but is constructed in a conventual style and would not leave a lasting impression. In its former life, it was the central post office for Buenos Aires. Inside, however, you realize the outer shell actually houses two large suspended auditoriums: one for the performing arts and one for displays. Along the outer walls were more display areas. I included a couple of pictures, but they really don’t capture the uniqueness of the interior space where the auditoriums are located.
Yet another interesting museum was the MALBA, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. When I was there much of the display areas were allocated to the collection referred to as the General Idea. The General Idea was a collection created by three artists from Toronto, Canada. Many of the pieces on display were very edgy to say the least.
Although it is not a museum, the Casa Rosada is another impressive building that I toured. It is similar to the White House in the USA, except the president does not live in the building.
On the recommendation of Veronica and Maria, I also went on a one-day excursion to a coastal town in Uruguay call Colonia. Getting there was easy. I just hopped on the ferry that travels between Buenos Aires and Colonia several times a day. Colonia was founded by Portugal in 1680, but during its history it changed hands several times between Portugal and Spain. As I walked the cobblestone streets I could easily image what life was like hundreds of years ago in this picturesque costal village.
My last couple of days in Buenos Aries we spent walking around the City, celebrating Pejman’s birthday with him and his friends, and attending a jazz concert at the Centro Cultural Kitchener.
Sandra and Javier at DakarMotoswere the ones who arranged shipment of my trusty BMW back to the USA. I filled out a couple simple forms and paid the fees, and they took care of everything else. Then on the agreed upon day I rode my bike to the airport where it was crated, inspected and turned over to the airline for shipment. The next time I would see it would be at the airport in Phoenix.
It is probably obvious by now that I really enjoyed my time in Buenos Aires. I developed an affection for the people and the city that will stay with me forever. Although I may never permanently relocate to Buenos Aires, I am certain I will return to visit my new found friends and this lovely city.