Saturday, March 15th:
After packing on Friday, we awoke on Saturday morning and prepared to leave. Fortunately I checked aa.com for our flight, and found that it was delayed by 1.5 hours – not good when we had only a 2-hour layover in Chicago! A quick and painless call to AA customer service got us rerouted on a plane to Buenos Aires via Dallas, a more direct route, and with the same arrival time. Unfortunately Sarah & I did not get seats together for either leg of our trip, which was a bit of a bummer.
At the SFO check-in counter, I was very glad we’d called to get our flight straightened out, as many people had to do this at the desk. A flight to Miami had also been cancelled, making me glad we weren’t going to Buenos Aires via Miami! After the usual “security” rigamorole we boarded and a short 3.5 hours later arrived in Dallas.
Hungry, we tried the Food Network specials at TGI Fridays, which weren’t as bad as one might expect for airport chain food, but not anything I’ll be rushing out to try at home either. After passing a couple of hours in DFW, not an easy task, we boarded our plane for Buenos Aires (which I’ll abbreviate BsAs throughout this travelogue).
Sunday, March 16 (my birthday!):
10 hours later, we landed at Ezeia airport in BsAs, local time 8am. In our post-long-flight haze, we allowed ourselves to be taken by a cab tout, which unsurprisingly overcharged us for the taxi ride into the city (US$40, it should have been more like US$25). It was a long ride, with three toll plazas, but our driver, despite overcharging and not speaking a great deal of English, pointed out some of the sights and made small talk.
BsAs was very warm, with temperatures near 80F and high humidity, and the air was heavy with diesel exhaust. We checked into our hotel for the night, the Kempinski Park Elegance, but were too early to get a room. The fluent and affable receptionist took our bags and suggested we take a walk to the Recoleta Cemetery, to pass a few hours until a room was ready, which we did.
Recoleta Cultural Center
The Cementerio de la Recoleta is a wonderful cemetery, taking up one large city block, and housing many of BsAs’ elite, including Evita. Built entirely above-ground (except for some subterranean crypts) and laid out on a street-like grid, it is a fine place to wander about and get oneself lost. An English lady at the entrance solicited donations to keep the place up, and in exchange for a few pesos (which, by the way, were running at about 3.1 to the US dollar), we got a nice map of the cemetery with the location of notables.
Somewhat surprisingly, Evita’s tomb is quite unassuming, located on a back alley. It was easy to find, however, even without the aid of our map, because it was where all the people were! Other monuments were much more interesting, and in various states of disrepair, making for lovely photo ops.
For more of my photos from Recoleta Cemetery, see my previous post.
We were peckish after a couple of hours among the dead, so we walked down Avenida Pueyrredón and randomly chose a cafe. After deciphering the menu (somewhat), I enjoyed an Austral (the local cheap beer, and pretty tasty) and ordered a “salad.” “Salad” being in quotes because what arrived was not in any way what I would consider a salad! In a huge clear bowl were 1-inch cubes of ham, cheese, and palmetto (hearts of palm), topped with shredded carrot. No lettuce, nothing green, just a big bowl ‘o ham and cheese. Although strange, it was a fitting first meal, as it served as an introduction to the Argentines’ deep love of all things ham and cheese.
UBA’s School of Engineering
Back at the hotel, our room was ready, so we settled in and relaxed for a few. Although we were tired from the long flights, the time difference (5 hours ahead of SF) isn’t enough to cause much jet lag, so after an hour’s nap, we headed back out to enjoy the rest of our layover day.
Rufous Hornero, Argentina’s national bird
East of the cemetery is a large green belt, buffering Buenos Aires from the Rio de la Plata’s enormous mouth (factoid: the Plata’s estuary is the world’s largest at 180mi long and from 30-137mi wide(!!!). We walked around aimlessly, enjoying the green spaces amid the city’s enormous thoroughfares (as an example, Avenida del Libertador in this part of town, a one-way road, is 20 lanes wide).
In United Nations Plaza sits a wonderful piece of urban art, the Floralis Generica by Eduardo Catalano. This 60-foot flower sculpture is articulated, and closes up every evening!
Cattle Tyrant / Picabuey
Chalk-browed Mockingbird / Calandria Grande
In the grassy lawn of the park I began my bird tally for the trip with a Rufous Hornero (LIFER! – you’re going to get tired of reading me type LIFER!, but too bad), Chalk-browed Mockingbird (LIFER!), and Cattle Tyrant (LIFER!). The ubiquitous Rock Pigeon rounded out the birds we saw on this day.
We strolled south along Libertador, avoiding places northward since that was where we’d be staying for the last 9 days of our trip, then looped back to the touristy area by the cemetery and had drinks at a brewpub. A funny misunderstanding occurred when Sarah ordered a margarita (the drink) and after a delay that shortly explained itself, got a margherita (the pizza).
Another rest back at the hotel, and it was early dinnertime. Lacking the energy to hunt down a recommended place, we went back to R.M. Ortiz (a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants catering to tourists) and had a good meal at one of the many parilla joints.
The street life was pretty hopping in the evening, with various performers and the like, and the weather was warm, making for lovely walking. Inexplicably, a huge crowd had gathered to watch a mime do his thing across the street from a McDonald’s. I just don’t understand the appeal of mimes, or why they always attract crowds in touristy areas!
As our flight to Patagonia was very early the next day, we retired early. This 20-hour layover proved a great introduction to Buenos Aires, and a promising start to our trip!
Part 1: Getting to Patagonia <– You are here!
Part 2: El Calafate & Laguna Nimez
Part 3: Glaciar Perito Moreno
Part 4: El Calafate backcountry excursion
Part 5: Goodbye Argentina, hello Chile
Part 6: To Torres del Paine!
Part 7: Lago Pehoe and Paine Grande
Part 8: Mirador los Cuernos
Part 9: To Rio Verde and Punta Arenas
Part 10: Pelagic, Penguins, and farewell to Patagonia
Part 11: To Buenos Aires!
Part 12: BsAs’ Sunday markets and other diversions
Part 13: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Part 14: Buenos Aires’ Jardin Botanico and Costanera Sur
Part 15: There’s no place like home