Monday, April 23, 2012

El Tigre with Marisol

Marisol, our Buenos Aires guide, had the following day planned for us.  Both Stanley and I were intrigued by the Rio de la Plata that forms a huge fresh water estuary.  As luck would have it, Marisol's parents still live on the river in the same house where Marisol and her brother grew up.  Would we like to go?  Oh, yeah.

First step:  A six block walk to the train station and a one hour train ride to Tigre, the most northern district of Buenos Aires.  The train station was a nice surprise:  clean and well maintained.  This place is looking more European all the time.

Along the way, I saw this sign and it was just too funny to pass up.  I don't know if Sex with Animals is the name of a rock group, a political party, or what . . . but when I tried to find it on the internet you can imagine what I found.

Arrival at the train station in Tigre.  The sky was fabulous!

Inside the train station, Stanley and Marisol checked out the maps while I followed the flower seller to her booth.

Off to the harbor to find our boat.

They don't call the port, Puerto de Frutas just to be cute.  This was once a port for exporting the many agricultural products of the area.  Now, it is the grocery store staging area for the many homes on the islands in the Rio de la Plata area.  Goods are loaded on flat bottomed barges and taken directly to the homes.  It's a little like I envision internet grocery shopping.  

We had plenty of time before the boat ride to walk around and enjoy the many shops.  I found a basket I couldn't live without.  The young man in the picture was a fast talking English speaking salesman.  What a sucker I can be some times.  The logs in the bottom of the collage were harvested from the islands in the river.  Hardwood logs like these make a large contribution to the economy of the area.

Time for the boat!
The estuary is a maze of canals between islands populated with regular people living regular lives.  The only difference is they drive boats instead of cars and they drive along canals instead of roads. Even the children arrive at school on a school 'boat.'
That's Marisol sitting with Stanley.  You can tell she's having a great time.

Not everyone who lives on the islands is a regular person.  Madonna fell in love with the area while filming Evita.  She bought a place and I was told she visits regularly.  I didn't spot her, but I did see some places that might be fun for a week or two.  I can't imagine living here full time.

On we went until we arrived at the "get off" place to visit Marisol's family.  It took a little bit of faith to watch our boat pull away from the dock.  Marisol assured me her father would be happy to take us back to the harbor.  I could only hope she knew what she was saying.

The walk from the dock to Marisol's family home was delightful.  Unlike Venice, this was not a mix of canals and streets.  The only walk ways were sidewalks along the canals.  The vegetation was much more tropical than I had expected.  To say it was lush would be an understatement. 
The photos below were taken from opposite sides of a bridge linking two islands.

We found Marisol's mom just finishing her work-day.  She rents week-end homes and of course a big part of that is clean-up and maintenance.  Needless to say, she was delighted to see us.  Well, she was delighted to see her daughter.  If we came with the package that was ok with her.  Nothing would do except that she prepare lunch for us.  Being as Italian as she can be, the first course was antipasto:  cheese, salami, olives, bread.  The second course was fabulous pizza.  Three kinds of cheese and anchovies.  Delicious!

Marisol's father makes his living building retaining walls along the canals.  He arrived for lunch on his work boat.  I had to paste two pictures together to get it all in.   

And here is the family.  Just as wonderful as Marisol assured me they would be.

Yes, he did seem happy to take us back to the harbor, and he showed us some sights along the way including this old hotel turned museum.  

Back on solid ground, we said our good-byes and left Marisol at the train station.  She would spend the night in Tigre and join us the next morning in Buenos Aires.  
Photos made from a moving train are never anything to brag about, but here are the snaps I took on the way back to the city.

Without Marisol we would probably not have had this experience.  It was wonderful!