Buenos Aires in Bloom…

8 02 2012

We depart Ushuaia for Buenos Aires in the evening. Aerolineas Argentinas has not recovered from the strike. Things are still backed up, and there is some confusion about which plane we are to board as now two are headed for Buenos Aires. Ours is an aging MD-80. There is an in-flight “meal,” but guess what? Opening my meal box, another dreaded ham and cheese sandwich is lurking inside. I cannot eat it, and give it away! In Buenos Aires, we’re staying at the Castelar Hotel again.

Morning dawns very warm and beautifully sunny. I scramble downstairs to the breakfast area. And what awaits is a breakfast feast for my eyes! The Castelar Hotel has a breakfast buffet with a much wider selection than most of our lodgings on this trip. Eggs, bacon, sausage, real orange juice, fresh fruit, all things I love in the morning! This day starts off nicely!

Today we’re going to explore Buenos Aires by bicycle and subway! There is a subway station right near our hotel. We pay our fare and wait for the next train. When it arrives, it sure is something! It’s positively ancient, a living fossil. I’d say right out of Victorian England! It’s outside is wooden, the inside is wooden, and the windows are open. Once inside, the doors clang shut – no warning whatsoever. It jerks forward, and is off to the next stop. Passengers are of many different niches. Professionals, blue collar workers and students.

We reach our stop, walk outside and into the warmth. It’s already over 70 degrees, headed to 85 degrees today. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Since we were here last time, the flowers, and flowering trees, have bloomed and are peaking! The avenues are lined with Jacaranda trees. These trees have beautiful purple flowers.

We walk the cobblestoned streets to the bicycle rental shop. Once there we perform the obligatory rental ritual and begin the process of adjusting the bikes for ourselves.

We’re to bike down by the Puerto Madero area, on the water, and then head to the Costanera Sur Nature Reserve.

The Costanera Sur Nature Reserve sits beyond Puerto Madero on the Rio De La Plata River.

A lot of adjustments have to be made…and I think it’s funny because most of us are Dutch, and the bikes have KLM Royal Dutch Airlines ads over the rear wheels!

We ride through the old section of town with narrow streets, and then have to cross the busy boulevard, over the canal and then to the reserve. The reserve has a number of trails which lead out to a view of the Rio de la Plata.

We see many Portenos enjoying the warmth and sun. Men jogging in Buenos Aires don’t wear t-shirts. They go shirt-less. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good idea. We reach the river and there is a 50-boat sailboat race going on.

So some folks have leisure time and money to spend in Buenos Aires!

There are some interesting creatures taking advantage of the refuge.

We see plenty of parrots. Green parrots are gregarious and noisy, as well as busy eating nuts in the trees!

Later on, we see some iguanas being heckled by birds. It looks like the iguanas were trying to steal eggs?

It was time to return the bikes. But it’s a Friday and now rush hour. Buenos Aires drivers are seriously aggressive, yet we’ve got to wind through many lanes and intersections. All I know is I want to stay behind Saskia, our leader, because she knows the route!

Many twists and turns later and with sweat beginning to run down my face, with all hands still safe, we make it back to the rental shop.

Tonight we see a tango show. I won’t go into too much detail, but while the dancers were athletic, gifted, and talented, the show was outdated and stale for my taste. I was impressed by the dancing, but everything else seemed like a put on.

After the show some of us went for a drink at a local restaurant. It was Portenos doing what they do. There was hardly a seat to be had, it was past midnight, and even children were in abundance! Late night festivities are a ritual!

Buenos Aires – Halloween!

3 12 2011

Monday in Buenos Aires broke clear and bright.  I was now in the southern hemisphere of course, and unlike home in Oregon, days are growing longer, instead of shorter, so morning light comes in early!

Things are going to be interesting, as we spend time in the city but then we are set for a 17-hour overnight bus ride to Puerto Madryn tonight – in coastal Patagonia. Once there we are to simply check in and head out. I wonder how I am going to handle that? Will adrenaline just keep me going?

Today we are going to see other parts of the city. We’ll get to see some parks, and the rehabilitated and upmarket Puerto Madero riverfront area, plus the Rio de la Plata, and the cemetery where Evita is buried, a soccer stadium, and take a peek at where Tango is done. Today is Halloween in America, so I am excited to get to the cemetery!

We gather and head out into the city. The weather is unimaginably perfect. Smog-free, smoke-free, cloud-free, no humidity, a light breeze, and 80 degrees! Shorts weather! I ask if this is typical and the answer is no. I’m told that the Chilean volcano sent ashes this way not long ago, obscuring everything. And it can get humid! No matter. Today is incredible!

A high quality of life is evident as I see plenty of joggers and cyclists in the parks, one of the biggest is Parque 3 de Febrero, and another smaller one is Parque de la Flur. It’s clear somebody has planned parks into the city architecture. These parks are huge. They have rows and rows of flowering plants and trees, and plenty of lagoons. Birds are attracted – parrots, doves, swans, geese, swallows and swifts. The parks are filled with statues of all kinds.

In fact the city was planned by a French landscape architecht, Carlos Thays. He directed the planting of the thousands of Jacaranda trees that line the avenues. These trees put out beautiful purple flowers in November. We will see them when we return! He also directed the fantastic assortment of other trees I saw, such as palms and magnolias.

We don’t have a ton of time, so we have to see a lot of it by bus. We do stop in the parks, we get to see Puerto Madera, we walk through several of these beauties.

It’s obvious people have a quality of life here. People are out roller blading, or jogging, or enjoying the parks. There are sailboats.

I also notice a marked difference from Mexico and some of the Southeast Asian countries I’ve been to. People here have breeded dogs. Instead of “street dogs,” or what I call “generic dogs,” those light brown dogs ubiquitous in these other countries, in Argentina I see black labs, german shepherds, beagles, afghans, etc. Not only that, I see dog walkers! Imagine that. Things can’t be all that bad, right?

Take a peek at the video of a nice day in Buenos Aires!

It is Halloween, so we’ve got to visit a cemetery! The cemetery we see is full of mausoleums – above ground. It’s absolutely perfect, and I’m filled with glee that it is Halloween. I scamper around and my fun is only increased by the the discovery that many have coffins visible. Some have glass doors with stairs leading down to the ? underground. Others in disrepair had broken glass, making it look like spirits had escaped.

And many had cobwebs covering the inside, or chains “locking” opened doors, making it look like something was trying to get out! It can’t get any better than this.

Something tried to escape!

So, I just couldn’t help myself. So here’s a nice video of what I saw: .

And of course the obligatory Halloween mausoleum video:

Later I saw some folks trying the tango for gawkers…

Well, that’s it for our time in Buenos Aires, until we return in three weeks!

We are about to embark on a 17-hour bus ride. Prior to heading to the bus station, we get take-out empanadas for everyone.

Empanadas...good stuff!Now the empanada is something I can deal with for lunch. They are like mini-calzones.  They can be stuffed with cheese, pork, chicken, beef, onion, all sorts of good stuff!

OK. Now we get to the bus station. Bus travel in South America is something else. They have these double decker overnight buses. Ours was such a bus.

The seats almost fully recline. Leg room is almost like airline business class. The bus is equipped with flat screen televisions – we saw at least four movies. If you have earphones, you have awesome sound. And get this! There is a steward! That’s right. We have a uniformed guy who comes around and serves snacks and dinner! And free wine/beer!

So, bus travel ain’t so bad after all. I quickly discover the best seats are 2nd floor in the front – there, you get an incredible view!

So, the journey to Patagonia begins. My partner for this segment is Monique. We talk about work, about our health, about Holland and America. We view “Captain America.” I find that movie infantile. Worse, later they show “The Expendables.” Well, at least they show a comedy in between.

The bus moves through Buenos Aires rush hour traffic. Eventually speed increases, and it moves at the speed limit on a multi lane highway into the Pampas. Ranches (or Estancias) raising cattle pass by one by one. So it is here where the cows are raised!

Eventually, however, the Pampas gives way to what looks to me like Eastern Oregon high desert. This is the Patagonian steppe. The highway becomes one lane in each direction. There are no vehicles visible ahead. There are no hills. This nothing-ness – this is something we will see for the next several days!

Except, however, for the Atlantic Ocean!