Saturday, 29 March:
A Peregrine Falcon got the day off to a good start as it flew close overhead while I had coffee on the terrace of our apartment. Although I’ve seen Peregrines a number of times before, this one provided good looks.
After a light breakfast we all walked to Avenida Santa Fe and caught the Subte green line to downtown Buenos Aires, an area also referred to as “microcentro.”
We shopped, strolled the long pedestrian mall on Florida, which was full of cheap touristy junk for the most part, except for the very chi chi Galleria Pacifico. Jim & I were looking for leather jackets, but found prices too high in the galleria (US$600’ish), and the styles too flashy.
After a pretty good lunch at nearby Fila we walked around Pza. San Martin and after dropping in at a few more leather stores, found what we were looking for at Juan Lopez, where Jim & I each bought nice simple leather jackets for US$160 (minus a 10% discount for paying cash!).
The world’s first official Barbie store. Yay?
We caught a cab back to our apartment, picked up our laundry (side note, although when traveling we normally do our laundry in the sink and hang it to dry, at US$3/load at the laundry in the ground floor of our building, we saw no need to do it ourselves!), and rested for a bit.
After cocktails and a cheese plate, Sarah & I were feeling peckish, so we walked more or less randomly around our neighborhood and wound up having a surprisingly garlic-free mediterranean meal at Garbis. I love garlic, mediterranean food is just not at all good without it!
Our sleep was interrupted at 12:30am by a very loud party several buildings over. Although it wasn’t particularly close to our building, we could clearly hear the words and recognize the ’80s songs they were playing, and when I got up to see where it was, a flat about a block away had disco lights flashing. Fortunately, the party didn’t last too long and we slept unbothered for the rest of the night. Given the Porteños very late-night lifestyle, I imagine this was probably just a pre-party before everyone headed out to a club, many of which don’t even open until 2 or 3am.
Sunday, 30 March:
Sunday is fair (“ferria”) day in BsAs, so after a quick breakfast we caught a cab to La Boca. At AR$20 (about US$7), this was one of the most expensive taxi rides we had while in Buenos Aires – not bad at all compared to San Francisco’s high-dollar cabs!
La Boca is a “colorful slum” if you will, and I had mixed feelings about doing the touristy thing and seeing the area, famous for its brightly-painted buildings (and Boca Juniors soccer team). We arrived and walked around the closed-off market area, which featured some nice handmade crafts amid the tourist-trap trinkets.
La Boca’s buildings were originally painted in these bright colors because the residents, unable to afford quantities of paint, begged leftovers from boats at the nearby port, and so a colorful patchwork arose.
It is not clear to me how much of that original motivation remains vs. keeping the area colorful to lure in tourists like us, but at any rate, we enjoyed strolling the cobbled streets until …. at least a half dozen huge tour buses unloaded, and callers sprang into action trying to entice folks into a tango lesson, lunch, or both.
La Boca musicians
I stopped and listened to two guitarists for a few minutes, as they were very good, and seemed to be enjoying what they were playing. We soon reached the critical level of our touristy meter and decided to quit La Boca. As usual, a cab was at hand practically instantaneously, and we headed towards the city center to the San Telmo district, known for its Sunday antiques and crafts fair in Plaza Dorrego.
Plaza Dorrego vendors
The San Telmo market was much more our speed – amid the many obvious tourists like us were plenty of locals out enjoying the lovely day. The outdoor market, for which several city blocks are closed off, was less antiquey and more of a flea market. For what reason I do not know, seltzer bottles were featured prominently among the goods on offer.
Jim & Diane went their own way while Sarah & I went ours, and the two of us enjoyed meandering around the booths and poking into the great many antique stores lining Plaza Dorrego, although the prices seemed pretty darned high for many items.
Lasts forever! (sorry, couldn’t resist…)
We relaxed for a bit over a beer and some nuts at a dark, comfortable, quiet bar nestled in a corner of the square, then re-met up with Jim & Diane and had a tourist-oriented, but very tasty, lunch.
We’d about had our fill of large crowds after lunch, so we took a cab to show Jim & Diane the Recoleta market, which Sarah & I had stumbled on during our one day layover at the start of this trip. It was our favorite market of the three, and featured many more craftsfolk selling goods they had made themselves. An unremarkable lunch and a short cab ride later we were back at the apartment.
Palermo district and the Rio de la Plata
It was lovely weather, and I enjoyed the views from our rooftop deck out over the greenbelt and to the very-sedimented Rio de la Plata. S & I went around the corner and enjoyed some delicious gelato at Menta e Cannella, then we regrouped and decided to take a cab to the Las Cañitas neighborhood, where we had a tasty dinner at Campobravo. Here we had a proper introduction to the way many Argentine restaurants serve mixed drinks. I had a whiskey and coke and Sarah a gin and tonic. In both cases they brought us a bottle of the soda, then proceeded to fill a tall glass with the liquor until we said “when.” I was a little slow on the uptake, and wound up with a tall glass mostly full of rum! At least nobody there can be accused of short pours!
After our tasty meal we headed home and to bed. It was interesting how different the 3 Sunday markets were from each other – the homogeneity that characterizes, say, farmer’s markets and street festivals in the SF area was not present here at all, leaving each market to have its own character.
Monday, 31 March:
Sarah wanted a quiet morning, so after breakfast, Jim, Diane & I took a cab to the Puerto Madera district to check out Cavallo’s Puente de la Mujere (“Bridge of the Woman”).
Window-washing, the old-school way
En route I spied a team of window-washers whose job looked much more “exciting” than that of their counterparts in the US! I was also amused to see the offices of the company I work for in a nearby high-rise. Also nearby were Microsoft & IBM, so guess this is the tech district.
Puente de la Mujer by Santiago Calatrava
Puente de la Mujer was a nicely-architected pedestrian bridge. Apparently it’s meant to be a pivoting bridge to allow larger boats to pass, but lacks the funds to complete the work.
We walked through a business park, seeking Costanera Sur, a large urban refuge in east-central BsAs, and eventually found it after winding our way through quite a lot of towering building construction.
Rufous Hornero nest
Although we’d found the park, what we didn’t find was its entrance! We walked along the road bordering Costanera Sur’s east side for rather a ways toward a promising-looking levy to the south.
Bay-winged Cowbirds / Tordo Músico
We didn’t see many birds along the roadside other than Eared Doves and Rock Pigeons, but did spy a pir of Bay-winged Cowbirds (LIFER!). We finally found an entrance gate to the reserve only to find … it’s closed on Mondays – argh! It never occurred to us that a public park would actually be closed any day of the week, but it was.
Annoyed, we hailed a cab to the Buquebus terminal to purchase tickets for tomorrow’s ferry trip to Colonia, Uruguay. This entailed waiting in two lines, one to give our passport information, and another to actually buy the tickets, which at US$60/each, were rather expensive.
Seeking a break from the fast, cheap, and convenient taxis of Buenos Aires, we boarded the #152 bus more-or-less at random, as it seemed to be heading in the right direction. It got us to Palermo SoHo, not really close to our apartment, but a district we’d been in, and we sought out La Cabrera to make reservations for later in the week. We couldn’t find it, however, as a commercial filming was taking place, and it turned out the restaurant was camouflaged!
The three of us cabbed back to the apartment, picked up Sarah, and we all had a pretty good lunch at nearby Zulu.
Jim took an afternoon nap, while Diane, Sarah & I visited the nearby Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden).
Rufous-bellied Thrush / Zorzal Colorado
The garden was both smaller and less interesting than we’d imagined, but was at least very close to our apartment, and at AR$5, was quite inexpensive. The ponds were full of very large coi, and the birding was fairly good.
Great Kiskadee / Benteveo Común
By the lake I spotted a Great Kiskadee (LIFER!), which gave us good looks before flying off. This handsome, large flycatcher behaved much as flycatchers are wont to do, alternately perching and flitting about.
Picazuro Pigeon / Torcaza
Also present were Rufous Horneros, Neotropic Cormorants, Picazuro Pigeons, and Rufous-bellied Thrushes.
A strange-looking caterpillar was in the middle of the path, so we moved it aside, although its chances of survival were not very good, what with all of the Thrushes and Horneros, both of which are grub feeders!
Despite the birds, it didn’t take very long to get our fill of the garden, so we headed home.
Peregrine Falcon / Halcón Peregrino
The local Peregrine Falcon made another fly-by, then perched right across from us! We all enjoyed good looks at this lovely raptor, and hoped that our neighbors in the adjoining towers didn’t think we were peeping toms!
Sunset over Buenos Aires
We had a tasty diner in the Retiro district at Grand Bar Danzon, which, at a mere US$30/ea, was one of the most expensive meals of our stay in BsAs! Stuffed and a little tipsy, we retired early to rest up for the next day’s day trip to Uruguay.
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
Part 12: BsAs’ Sunday markets and other diversions <– You are here!
Part 13: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Part 14: Buenos Aires’ Jardin Botanico and Costanera Sur
Part 15: There’s no place like home