Friday, April 27, 2012

Wednesday Morning in Buenos Aires

Knowing the afternoon and evening was going to involve hours of standing around waiting and that we would be sitting all night, we decided the best thing to do Wednesday morning was walk. 

We walked in the direction of La Boca, crossing the Puente de la Mujer along the way.

 All the cross streets in this part of town are named for women who have been influential in the history of Buenos Aires and Argentina.  Not only do Los Portenos of Buenos Aires name their important streets for women, the people of Argentina are proud of the woman they elected to serve as president.  Although we sensed considerable dissatisfaction with the government in general, Cristina Fernandez continues to enjoy relatively high ratings despite the troubled Argentina economy.

Back to the canal and its bridges:  I took these pictures to show how the bridges across the canal operate.  

Puente de la Mujer is a bit different, but the principle is still the same.

We walked until we came to a freeway that was not designed to be pedestrian friendly at all.  We hailed a cab and it turned out to be a very good idea.  Obviously, it was a lot farther to Caminito than I had thought.

The cloudy sky made the colors pop so much more brightly than on my first visit.  Love those colors!!!!

Time for lunch!  It had to be traditional Caminito fare.  In spite of the fact that tourists are fed a steady diet of beef, most Argentinians eat very little meat.  Like poor people everywhere, meat is shredded, chopped, and mixed with all sorts of grocery items to make a little go a long way.  A favorite method of presentation is the empanada.  Much like the Mexican empanada, it is a filled pastry.  Unlike Mexican empanadas, it often contains at least a bit of meat.  

We treated ourselves to three different types and washed it down with cold white wine.  Dessert?  I distinctly remember that we had dessert, but I don't remember what it was.  Too much wine?  Perhaps.  However, I think it had more to do with the tango dancing.  

This presentation was not nearly as polished as the one on Saturday night, but it was a bit naughtier and looked much more authentic in a gritty kind of way.  Best of all . . . they let me take pictures.  It wasn't easy; those guys move fast.  Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that have fast moves.

I was surprised to learn that Italian immigrants invented the tango in Buenos Aires bordellos.  As we watched these two couples, it was easy to imagine a late night brothel scene in the 1800's.    I think every one's temperature went up a bit just watching. 

The dancers, two vocalists, our waiter, and us!  What a great way to say good-by to a European city where everyone spoke Spanish.  We had a great time!
Just a word about the flight home.  Determined to be on the Wednesday night flight, we arrived at the airport HOURS early.  We made up a list so the first to arrive would be the first served.  Sometimes you have to take justice in your own hands.  By the time the airline staff showed up, we were an organized bunch of stand-bys.  The staff knew we were on the edge of armed rebellion.  Not trusting them any farther than we could throw them, we held onto the list and as each stand-byer approached the desk he/she passed the list to the person whose name appeared next.

The next morning in Mexico City, we were faced with the same issue.  We did not arrive in Monterrey until about 4:30 in the afternoon.  

Here's the deal:  If I ever consider flying stand-by again, I beg of my friends and family:  STOP ME!

Meanwhile, don't cry for me, Argentina.  I'll be back!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon in Buenos Aires

So . . . we had a few hours before we had to be at the airport for the 10:00 flight to Mexico City.  Nacho rented a hotel room so we would have a place for the luggage and a place to freshen up.  

We didn't have enough time to return to Camilitos so we opted for the cemetery.  Not just any cemetery, this one is special.  The Recoleta.  Final resting place of Argentina's finest, and a fabulous workplace for sculptors.  Pictures are the only way to approach this topic.

Keep in mind this is a very small sample of the sculpture in the cemetery.  If you like sad garden art (and who doesn't?) this is the place for you!

The church associated with the cemetery was once a monastery.  It has a long, complicated history.  If you would like you can visit the basilica website:  I only want to share with you the last part of the prayer to Our Lady of Pilar.

"Show godless and embittered men who only trust weapons and live the explosive temptation of violence that peace is still possible because love is possible."

John Lennon couldn't have said it better.

The church is now a museum and I couldn't resist a few photos - without flash, of course.  Most were impossibly blurry.
Nothing in the museum could outshine the statuary in the cemetery itself, but the bells were rather wonderful.
We returned to the hotel to meet Nacho and Marisol.  Nacho reported having had a great afternoon with friends and he was in a high good humor. Marisol was sad to be leaving her family, but excited about returning to her apartment and her boyfriend and her dog - not necessarily in that order.  Oh, we were a happy group on our way to the airport.  

After about three hours of waiting, it became clear we were not flying to Mexico City on Tuesday night.  Remember the stand-by tickets?  Well inconvenience has turned into sour impossibility.  There simply were not enough seats on the plane to accommodate everyone who wanted to fly.

Back to the hotel where Nacho convinced the man behind the counter that he hadn't really checked out at all.  They found a closet with a window for Stanley and me.  Marisol was so disgusted with the situation she decided it would be a good time for her to spend a few more hours with her family.

The only saving piece to this situation was that now I had all Wednesday morning to return to Camilitos.  There's always a silver lining.

Monday in Mendoza

First, it wasn't all grapes and wine.  Mendoza is famous for its olives and olive oil.
We visited two wineries and tasted some very good wine.  Some of it was familiar and some was brand new to us.  Read about Mendoza wine here.
Both wineries were outfitted with older concrete tanks.  Both wineries were equipped to take care of vast quantities of wine.  Neither one of them would have trouble with Nacho's order of 20,000 plus liters.  

We also visited a bottling plant.  A little dilapidated?  Yes, but it can certainly turn out lots of bottles for a small price.

Of all the wine I tasted I liked numbers 28 and 30 from the first winery best.  Both were excellent Bordeaux blends with great color, aroma, and flavor.  I  may have been influenced by the great lunch that went with them, but I don't think so.
Later, we visited a wine shop designed to show off Mendoza wines at their best.  Housed in an old home, each wine type had its own room artfully presented.
We had very little time to walk the streets of Mendoza, but all of us had a good feeling about the city.  I would like to go back with more time.  Here's a sample of the sights I saw:

That night we went out to dinner.  More steak.  Soooo good!  Unbelievably good! 

Early next morning, it was back to Buenos Aires!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sunday Afternoon in Mendoza

We felt better after the two hour flight from Buenos Aires to Mendoza.  Once we got checked in at our hotel we were ready for the next adventure.  Nacho found a cab driver who would take us on a tour of wineries and off we went.  Full of expectations!
The taxi driver was still smiling, 
but things were getting tense!
What about a church?  Do you guys like churches?
Sure!  Let's go see a church.
This wasn't just any church.  One guide book refers to it as an airplane hanger-sized church.  I don't about that, but it was big.  It was also surprisingly beautiful.  No photos were allowed inside, but the outside of the church is stunning.  I never did get the whole story behind the structure in the upper right hand corner of the collage.  The other two pictures speak for themselves.  This church is Mendoza's version of Lourdes and they have all the gee-gaws and gadgets you might need to help you remember your visit.
Best of all is the water.  The healing waters of El Challao are famous in the area.  Nacho and I took a drink, and it was refreshing.  However, neither one of us felt the miraculous cure.
Back in the car, I paged through some tourist information we had picked up and found an advertisement for a Sunday brunch at the local Sheraton.  I was just about done with the failed wine tour and I was pretty sure there would be wine at the brunch.  It was a no-brainer.
 It was a good move!  The food was delicious and beautifully presented!
The view was outstanding!
Did I mention the wine?  Red, white, and champagne were all included in the price of the brunch.  Not wanting to play favorites, we tasted them all.  There wasn't a bad one in the bunch.  We could have stayed there longer, but what can I say?  We needed a nap.

Later that evening, much later, we went for a walk, but we made a pretty early night of it.  We had a big day ahead of us on Monday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leaving Buenos Aires

The purpose of the trip to Buenos Aires was two-fold:
1.  To spend time with Nacho.  Since he moved to Mexico City, we have had very little time to visit.  We thought it would be nice to have some time with him in a relaxed setting.
2.  To taste the wines of Argentina and perhaps be of some help to Nacho as he chose wine for the hacienda.
We had enjoyed the city and the river by ourselves for three days before we met up with Nacho late Saturday evening.  
He scooped us up and took us to La Ventana for wine, dinner, and a fabulous tango show.  No doubt there are other venues just as wonderful for watching professional tango dancing, but I cannot imagine there is a better venue.  It was the most relaxed I had seen Nacho in a long time.  Some friends of his met us at the restaurant, and he seemed to enjoy all of us.  He even took time for some fun on the dance floor!

As for Stanley and me, we chose to pose for a formal portrait with the professionals.  Our plan is to take a few lessons before trying out our skills on the Argentina dance floor.

We felt we were on our way to achieving the first part of our purpose behind the trip.  Now . . . on to Mendoza for the wine part.

Only one issue - The tango party made for a very late night and a very early morning.
At the airport Sunday morning, Marisol was the only one who was really awake. It was going to be her job to keep us all on the straight and narrow.  and what a job that would be! 
I snapped this picture of Rio de la Plata from the airport.  What a beautiful morning!

The Great Buenos Aires Tour

Early Saturday morning, we went looking for a city tour of Buenos Aires.  What we found was a real bargain!  Translations of the narrative in several languages was advertised, but only the Spanish was in full operation.  The Spanish was of the Andalusian variety, full of shhhh's and an irritating lisp.  Impossible to understand.  Some segments were also available in Portuguese, but that was of little help.  

No matter.  The guides were affable and the weather was spectacular. 
Here in no particular order are some of my favorite pictures from the Great Buenos Aires Tour.

Shipping, shipping, shipping!

Plaza Mayo
 and the beautiful Casa Rosada
Sculpture everywhere
A city famous for its parks and trees.  Almost every balcony sported some kind of planting.
An array of architectural styles
including the crypt of San Martin, Argentina's George Washington
the Obelisk

and finally . . . La Boca . . . and especially Caminito, birthplace of the tango.

There is never enough time to do everything you would like to do on a trip, but I knew this short visit to Caminito wasn't enough for me.  If there were any free moments available, I wanted to come back.

Walking Down Florida Street

We strolled down Florida Street, a pedestrian only street lined with high dollar shops.  

Enough window shopping!  We were hungry and Stanley needed a beer.  Finally, one block over, on still another pedestrian street, we found an Irish pub.  Stanley knew what he was going to order immediately.  Nothing would be better after a day on the Rio de la Plata  than a pint of Guinness on draft.  Small glitch!  There is no draft Guinness in Argentina.  The local draft may have been second choice, but it washed down the sandwiches perfectly.  

As we finished the beer dregs, a fascinating scene unfolded on the corner.  An office building had piled all their recyclable material out on the sidewalk.  A trash truck came by and collected a small bag of trash and left a man to sort through the recyclables.  Another truck came by and picked up the neatly bagged material and the man.  The whole operation took less than ten minutes.

San Martin, War Memorials

Walking from the train station back to the hotel, we passed a building interesting not only for its architecture, but also for its educational window display.  The subject: local bats.  

Across the street beautiful Plaza San Martin and the war memorials commemorating those who died in the Falklands War.

Up the stairs and through the woods past lovely sculpture


to visit the impressive monument to San Martin, liberator of Argentina.

Back at street level, I had to do a double take.  Was that really an arctic exhibit?  Yes!  And to tell the truth they did a pretty good job of reaching arctic temperatures.