I don’t think either of us were fully prepared for the hot, hot heat of a Buenos Aires summer. Between Wednesday (2/15) and Thursday (2/23) we ventured to various neighborhoods around the city, saw a handful of tourist attractions, tried to dodge encounters of direct sunlight, and took time to relax at our (thankfully air-conditioned!) apartment. In no particular order, below are a few of the more memorable moments.
Cemeterio La Recoleta: This cemetery houses the tomb of Eva (Duarte) Perón, as well as tombs and monuments of Argentinian presidents and Nobel Prize winners, and the founder of the Argentine Navy. We initially attempted to go here on Wednesday but a sign on the gate said it was closed. Based on the number of tour buses parked outside the entrance, I have a hunch that this closure was not advertised well. We made a second attempt on Thursday which proved to be successful. The cemetary is a maze of rows upon rows of mausoleums, each with their own style and level of upkeep. Some were impressive displays of wealth and significance, while others were broken down and covered in cobwebs. As much as I tried, I could not capture the creepiness of some of the mausoleums in pictures, a few of which could have been props straight from the movie Young Frankenstein (in my head I kept hearing “Frau Blücher” followed by a horse whinny). The tomb of Eva Perón was more modest than expected, but easy to find by following the hoards of tour groups. To add to the atmosphere, we could overhear a nearby street performer playing classic tunes on his saxophone. Having gentle music drifting through the cemetary was a pleasant addition, although it felt a bit odd when he started playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Museo Eva Perón: This museum pays homage to Eva Perón and is located in a beautiful building originally built in 1923 as a private residence. In 1948 the Eva Perón Foundation bought the property and converted it into a temporary shelter for struggling women and children. It has since been declared a national historic monument and was inaugurated as the museum in 2002, exactly 50 years after Eva’s death. My favorite pieces of memorabilia were Eva’s classy but modest dresses and hats from the 1930s and 40s, as well as the massive stove in the kitchen (nearly the size of a pool table) which I’m assuming functioned to serve the residents and guests of the house when it was a shelter.
Floralis Genérica: As with the cemetery, we initially attempted to see this metal flower sculpture on Wednesday but couldn’t find it no matter how much we wandered around the park, watching the “you are here” marker circumnavigate the destination marker on our phone’s navigation app (Wednesday was not our best day). As we would later learn, the marker on our map was located in the wrong park, leading us on a wild goose chase in 90-degree weather. We tried again on Thursday with great success. Turns out, when you’re in the correct park the sculpture is super obvious and impossible to miss. It’s a 75+ foot high metal sculpture with a reflecting pool below, surrounded by expansive green lawns. The six petals of the flower open in the morning and close in the evening. Although it wasn’t functioning properly when we were there it was still lovely in its simplicity and impressive in its scale.
Casa Rosada (“Pink House”): This building is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina. It has also been the location of many important political moments in Argentina’s history, including the famous balcony scene portrayed in the movie Evita. We made the long walk (made longer by the heat but easier by the ice cream) from our apartment to the Plaza de Mayo outside the mansion and found a shaded bench to eat lunch. The plaza is a central city square, named after the revolution in May 1810 which took place here and lead to Argentina’s independence. While the building and its immediate property were somewhat underwhelming, the streets surrounding the plaza were bustling and made for good people-watching.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid: This has been named one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world for good reason. It originally opened as a theater in 1919 and was converted into a cinema in the late 1920s. In 2000 it was converted into the bookstore it is today, with bookshelves and reading nooks in the upper balconies and a cafe in the area that used to be the stage. Many original features remain intact, including the crimson stage curtain and detailed architecture throughout.
Gardens and Parks: Buenos Aires has numerous gardens and parks throughout the city, including several within easy walking distance from our apartment. One such park is a botanical garden partially made famous for being home to a large population of abandoned domesticated cats. We walked through the park on two different occasions but had no luck finding any cats.
Alastair’s Haircut: Sometimes the mundane parts of life can have an interesting spin when performed in a foreign country with a language barrier. Alastair was overdue for a haircut so we hunted around and found a barber near our apartment. Despite neither employee in the shop speaking English and mullets being prevalent in some areas we’ve passed through, the end result was a success.
Our Apartment: We’re staying in an apartment building in the Polermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The building has elevators with manual doors and there’s a hefty lurch when it first starts moving which took awhile to trust and get used to. The elevators are also quite small and we nearly maxed-out the weight limit during our first ride while carrying all of our backpacks. The apartment itself has a washing machine that has been getting plenty of use considering our ripe backpacking laundry as well as the current heat and humidity causing us to break a sweat as soon as we step outside.
Tango Show: One of the dominating influences on the Argentinian arts and culture scene is tango. We bought tickets for a tango venue which offers dinner prior to the show, but opted to have a relaxed dinner at the apartment and only attend the show which started at 10:30 in the evening. After an afternoon nap and evening coffee, we donned our dress-up clothes (some of which may or may not have been hiking clothes a couple weeks prior) and walked to the venue with plenty of time to spare. Our ticket purchase included drinks, which we would soon find out were options of sparkling or still water and BOTTOMLESS GLASSES OF WINE. A majority of the audience ate dinner at the venue and it appeared some of them had likely been attempting to find the bottom of their wine glass for quite some time by the time we arrived. One such gentleman was seated behind Alastair and was part of a large group of Japanese tourist. He approached Alastair and asked if he would take a picture of him posed with the Brazilian woman who was seated next to me. Alastair obliged, assuming the man’s forwardness indicated he knew the woman. Nope. After taking the picture we learned it was the man’s first time approaching her. He was simply infatuated with how gorgeous she was and wanted a souvenir of her to take back home (I had also noticed her beauty but refrained from documenting it or discussing it with her). Afterward, Alastair sincerely apologized to the woman and explained that, based on the man’s lack of apprehension or shyness toward her, he thought they had at least exchanged greetings prior to the picture. Thankfully the woman (and her mother who she was attending the show with) was able to take it as a (weird but) humorous compliment and laugh it off.
We’ve had a good fill of Buenos Aires, including our obligatory servings of a steak dinner, gelato and regional Italian-inspired pasta and pizza. On Friday (2/24) it’s off to our next destination: Bolivia!