Thursday, 27 March:
We woke up ungodly-early and caught a pair of cabs to the Punta Arenas airport, careening wildly in the light rain. I’m not sure, but we think the cabs may have been racing each other the 5 miles to the airport. If so, Jim & Diane’s driver won, but only barely. Once boarded we had a 1.75-hour flight north to Puerto Montt, and another 1.5 hours to Santiago de Chile, where we had a too-long 3-hour layover and ate a terrible meal at the airport’s Ruby Tuesdays. Fortunately the last leg of our many-hop day was only one hour from Santiago to Buenos Aires, and on a comfy plane with personal seat-back entertainment to boot.
At Ezeia (Buenos Aires’ international airport) we contracted a Manuel Tiendes car for AR$125 to our apartment for the next week and a half. This was a fine arrangement, especially for 4 of us, although we had to help the driver find where we were staying – a good thing S & I had studied the local maps beforehand!
View from the back window of our apartment
Our apartment, located in the chichi Palermo district of north-eastern Buenos Aires (which I will mostly abbreviate as the locals do – BsAs), was a 2-level affair atop a 16-story residental tower, very nice, and with good urban views, although the kitchen could have had a bit more in the way of utensils.
We settled in, sought out and found the local grocery and got quick pasta dinner fixings, made a somewhat lackluster dinner, and retired early, eager to enjoy the next 9 days in this fascinating city.
Friday, 28 March:
After a good night’s sleep and light breakfast, Sarah & I grabbed a map and phrasebook and headed out for a walk to the Palermo SoHo district, a very pleasant 25 minute walk away along tree-lined streets.
Although the walk was pleasant, the sidewalks were not, studded densely with dog droppings and broken pavement. A few blocks down the reason for the land mines became clear:
Palermo SoHo is a pretty tony shopping district, with many expensive-looking boutiques, although at this hour (~10:30), little was open. Bar 6, mentioned favorably in our BsAs guide, looked inviting, so we popped in and enjoyed a delicious coffee and pastries in this concrete-chic eatery.
More shops were open after our snack, and we enjoyed strolling the mellow, verdant streets and poking into the shops, which despite their chic looks, were pretty affordable by US standards. We picked up some gifts and souveniers at a nice place called Missiones, then had a leisurely stroll back to the apartment, where we rested and snacked.
View from our apartment’s balcony
Jim & Diane were still napping, while Sarah & I felt like exploring, so we set out again to check out the large belt of nearby parks. We crossed Libertador, definitely the widest one-way street I’ve ever seen (more than 10 lanes, one way, and a city street, not a freeway!). We skirted the Jardin Japonaise, then crossed another amazingly-wide street to enter the greenbelt proper.
Monk Parakeet / Cotorra
A flock of Monk Parakeets (LIFER!) and Eared Doves (LIFER!) greeted us, and I tested Sarah’s patience while getting photographs of them. Common Rock Pigeons were here as well, along with the Argentine national bird, the Rufous Hornero.
A house floated incongruously in a lake between a few roads, puzzling us until we began to decipher the signage, which as best we could tell was a very visual plea to help victims of recent flooding in northern Argentina.
We soon walked by the planetarium, one of the less attractive buildings I’ve seen recently, but at least there were some domesticated geese and a few feral cats nearby.
Neotropic Cormorant / Biguá
Onward in Parque 3 de Deciembre we enjoyed closed roads and lovely urban park-scaping, as did many local birds, including a great many noisy Monk Parakeets, Neotropic Cormorants, Rock Pigeons, Rufous-bellied Thrushes (LIFER!), Cattle Tyrants, Chalk-browed Mockingsbirds and such.
White-winged Coot / Gallareta Chica, with young
A recent White-winged Coot family foraged by the shoreline, as human lovers stole sweet nothings in the shadows and grasses.
Snowy Egret / Garcita Blanca
I saw a Snowy Egret, one of the very few non-lifers we’d see on this trip. It was somewhat comforting to actually see a bird that I am quite familiar with amid all of the exciting new-to-me birds we had seen so far. We entered the pretty, although not-in-bloom, Rose Garden, and walked its paths southward, enjoying the mature plants and trees, and the surprisingly abundant bird life.
Red-crested Cardinal / Cardenal Común
A flash of red caught my eye and closer inspection revealed a lovely Red-crested Cardinal (LIFER!), the first cardinal of any sort I have seen in the “wild.” Also present were a couple of White-tufted Grebes. Although they didn’t afford us the same great view we’d had in Torres del Paine, they were still a treat to look at.
After we’d had our fill of the Red-crested Cardinal, we walked back toward our apartment through the park’s many paths.
Some sensual statues studded the surroundings, with burnished parts betraying myriad touches by immature hands.
I have no idea what kind of tree it was, but many huge, spreading trees were tossing beautiful pink flowers carelessly all over the place, providing a wonderful contrast with the green of the parklands, and the heady stench of diesel exhaust from the nearby thoroughfares.
Many streets in this area are named after countries, and appropriately, at the terminus of “Republica de India,” was a bust of Ghandi. We walked just a few blocks more back to the apartment and met up with Jim & Diane.
We caught a cab to Palermo Hollywood (an odd name for a district, but there you have it), hopeful to eat at Sudestada, but although we arrived at 8:45pm, before they even opened, they informed us that they were fully booked. BsAs is a city of late-night dining, with few restaurants open before 9pm, and many clubs starting at 2am, much too late for my constitution, which is more used to a 10pm bedtime!
After striking out also at Green Bamboo, we randomly picked “Azema Exotic Bistro,” which despite its somewhat silly name, was pretty tasty, and reasonably priced. We quite enjoyed the inexpensive and ubiquitous taxis – it was only AR$10 (about US$3.50) each way for the four of us on a 30-block ride, not bad at all!
Back at the apartment we settled into bed, happy for an excellent first full day in Buenos Aires, city of “Good Airs.”
Part 1: Getting to Patagonia
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 <– You are here!
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