I passed through Buenos Aires on the way to Antarctica. I had booked a flight from Delhi (via Frankfurt) which would reach Buenos Aires at 8 am the next day with a further connection to Ushuaia the next morning. I thus had the day to explore the city which I did by booking myself a ‘Small Group City Tour of Buenos Aires’ on Viator.com. By no means sufficient because Buenos Aires is a very cultural city with a lot of heritage & demands at least 3-4 days to see in sufficient measure, but enough to give me a glimpse of what all the city hides in its four centuries old existence.
I had chosen a small hotel in the Palermo area on Booking.com (giving me the flexibility of not paying till the last moment) which was one of the happening neighbourhoods of the city. It was about 30 kms from the airport & took about an hour to reach there. I shared a cab with another person (not the safest thing to do in a new city!) but saved a cool $17 on the taxi fare 🙂
My first impressions of Buenos Aires – wide, clean roads. All traffic following their respective lanes, no mad rush or overtaking, no honking. Highways had a min & max speed limit.
It was almost 10 am by the time the cab dropped me at my hotel. I checked in & asked if my package breakfast could be provided that day itself as I had a very early morning flight to Ushuaia the next day & breakfast wouldn’t be laid out at that hour. Though it wasn’t my kind of food, I still hungrily gobbled down some croissants, cookies & a coffee which were offered. The gentleman at the reception was very kind to check on the ‘Blue Dollar’ exchange rate for the day & also sketched out a map for me marking the location of the nearest Exchange Office & Mc Donald’s as a possible place where I could get chicken. Yes, Argentina is primarily a beef eating country & not every restaurant serves chicken! Dumping my bags in the room I quickly set out to exchange some USD to Argentine Pesos.
It was already about 11.30 am by the time I returned to my room. The Exchange Office gave me a little lower deal than the published rate but I didn’t have too many dollars to exchange so it was ok. I had also picked up a chicken burger which I planned to have during the tour as lunch.
My pick up was scheduled for 1.30 pm. Although I felt fatigued with the back to back long flights there was no time to rest. It was 12.30 pm already by the time I finished freshening up. Hungry again, I pre-poned my lunch & devoured the burger. My transfer pick up arrived a little ahead of time & I was ferried to Park Hotel where I was transferred to a van & met the others on the tour.
The others were all Seniors & pensioners, but only in age. Some of them had already returned from Antarctica & the others were on their way! They all had lots of stories to tell of their world travels & I was left amazed at their spirit!
Our guide was a bubbly young girl by the name of Florencia & the driver was a spirited young man called Josef who welcomed me on board with an energetic handshake.
We began the tour a little past 2 pm & picked up all the remaining guests by 2.25.
The first headed to south Buenos Aires & drove past the famous ‘Woman’s Bridge’.
Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for “Woman’s Bridge”), is a rotating footbridge for Dock 3 of the Puerto Madero commercial district of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is of the cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge type and is also a swing bridge, but somewhat unusual in its asymmetrical arrangement. It has a single mast with cables suspending a portion of the bridge which rotates 90 degrees in order to allow water traffic to pass. When it swings to allow watercraft passage, the far end comes to a resting point on a stabilizing pylon. A number of streets in the Puerto Madero district have women’s names thus giving the bridge its name.
Still in the Puerto Madera area, we next passed a strange bronze sculpture – that of a car & a man! It was a monument to Juan Manuel Fangio, a world famous Argentine race car driver.
Juan Manuel Fangio (1911–1995), nicknamed El Chueco (“the bowlegged one”, also commonly translated as “bandy legged”) or El Maestro (“The Master”), was an Argentine driver who dominated the first decade of Formula One racing. A member of the Formula 1 Hall of Fame, he is regarded by many as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time and holds the highest winning percentage in Formula One, 46%, winning 24 of 52 Formula One races he entered. He won five Formula One World Drivers’ Championships—a record which stood for 46 years until bested by Michael Schumacher.
The monument has been designed by sculptor Catalan artist Jos Sabaté & was erected along Azucena Villaflor in front of the Mercedes-Benz dealership on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Fangio’s death in 2005. Five exact copies of the statue, which depicts the Formula One racing legend next to his Mercedes-Benz W19, stand at race venues around the world.
Florencia was given to occasional exaggerated dramatic expressions. Part of her job I guessed.
We passed through beautiful streets lined with old heritage buildings, colourful art & jacaranda trees.
The Kirchner Cultural Centre is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is the largest of Latin America, and the third or fourth largest in the world. It was opened on May 21, 2015, and is located in the former Buenos Aires Central Post Office. The cultural centre was named after former president of Argentina Néstor Kirchner, who oversaw its conversion.
We made our first stop at the Plaza de Mayo or the Main Square.
The Plaza de Mayo (English: May Square) is a city square and main foundational site of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was formed in 1884 after the demolition of the Recova building,The Plaza de Mayo has been the scene of the most momentous events in Argentine history, as well as the largest popular demonstrations in the country.
The Plaza de Mayo houses the Casa Rosada at its eastern end.
The Casa Rosada (English: Pink House) is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina. The palatial mansion is known officially as Casa de Gobierno, (“House of Government” or “Government House”). Normally, the President lives at the Quinta de Olivos, the official residence of the President of Argentina, which is located in Olivos, Greater Buenos Aires. The building also houses a museum, which contains objects relating to former presidents of Argentina.
The Main Square also has an obelisk popularly called the ‘Pyramid’.
The Pirámide de Mayo (English: May Pyramid), located at the hub of the Plaza de Mayo, is the oldest national monument in the City of Buenos Aires. Its construction was ordered in 1811 by the Primera Junta to celebrate the first anniversary of the May Revolution. The monument is crowned by an allegory of Liberty, the work of the French sculptor Joseph Dubourdieu.
Towards the western side Florencia also pointed out the Avenida de Mayo or the Main Avenue flanked by the Cabildo (old Town Hall & now a Museum) on one side & the Buenos Aires City Hall on the other.
Contd in Part II…