Friday saw us getting g a quick glimpse of BA thorough a couple of half-day tours.In the morning, we had a pre-arranged tour of the city and in the afternoon, one that we booked yesterday to a holiday resort area to the north of the city
BA is a very alive place. It bustles with energy. Patrick. my room mate and I were up early and took a quick stroll thrugh the streets. We found the Central Court, the Opera House ansd a number of other significant buildings in the Government area of the city. Most of the grand building seem to have been constructed before the 1890’s and are now showing a great deal of wear. Some are being reonvated but Argentia ihas been an economic basket case until recently and there is little money (or poor administration) for this type of thing. Many of the buildings have a strong European archtectural influence. Argentina has had many settlers from places such as Spain, Europe, Italy & Russia.
It seems important to understand something of Argentinan history to be able to make sense of some of the things that we were seeing. Argentina was granted inddependace from Spain in the 1817. The country has had a lot of instability – most of which lately occurred during a period of military rule between I976 and 1983. This ended with the Falklands War. The current prresident seems to be driving a strong economic agenda but previous ones have made sme disastrous economioc decisions.
We found that the city is broadly divided into three areas. In the Centro are the commercial, government and business areas.To the south, by the port, are the midlle and lower class suburbs. To the north ae the upperr class and wealthy arreas. These suburbs were first created in the late 1800’s as new places needed to found following an outbreak of yellow fever.
In the first part of our morning , our tour was to the northen suburbs of Palermo and Recoleto. Here there were very expensive houses in leafy streets and guard posts on the corners for security. This was certainly the ‘Toorak’ end of town.
Recoleto is famous for its large cemetery. It is like a city in its own right. – the paths are like streets and the mausoleums give the impression of being houses in the streets. Many notable locals have been interned here over the years. In sorne, coffrins are visible – some stacked neatly and others more higgeldy piggeldy. The most famous, and most visited mausoleum is the grave of Evita Peron. She was the wife of President Peron and was well loved for her concern for the poor and undepriveldged.
After leaving Recoleto cemetary, we visited the man city square. It is in front of the ‘Pink Palace’ – the preseidential offices. On the other side of the square is the original Spanish Town Hall. The cathedral also faces the square. In the centre of the square is a fountain around which the mothers and grandmothers of about 30,000 people who mysteriously dissapared under the rule of the Generals gather each Thursday to maintain awareness of their lost ones and to try and bring a number of the last perpetrators to justice.
The last stop on our morning tour was to the port area of La Boca. This is where a lot of Italian immigrants first settled. It is renowned for it’s very courful houses. It is alos the birth place ofr the Tango – a dance that originated in the Brothels in the area. This little community now trades heavily on this history with the tourists.
In the afternooon, our second tour took us to an area about 35 km to the north of BA in the delta area of a river that flows into the River Plate. The river banks are the site of weekend / holiday residences of the rich – each with it’s own jetty. Some houses are clearly mansions although others are miuch more humble. A few have seen much better days.
We travelled back to the city on one of the newer commuter train lines with a stop at one station which had a little market and a number of very trendy shops. I found a birthday card for Cathy’s birthday on the 25th. I have no idea as to when it may arrive, but Caathy – there are some birthday greetings in the mail.
We didn’t get back to the hotel until aboiut 7.30 pm and stayed there for dinner as we had to pack for an early start on Saturday morning for a flight to El Calafete to begin our real adventure in Patagonia. We are still finding that things are very cheap here. Patrick and I had dinner at the hotel – steak, chips, salad, a bottle of good red wine and coffee and the total bill came to 16 pesos each – about $4.
I will probably not be able to upload this until I get to Patagonia. My prevous episode got delayed as couldn’t get a good enough satellite phone connection in BA – between the tall buildngs the phone simply couldn’t see enough sky to get a strong enough signal. I am sure that I’ll get better reception when I am out of the city.