Buenos Aires is on the coast and it is the nation's capital. The area has 4 million persons and 1 million persons travel into the downtown area during the weekdays. Thus car traffic is crowded. The main work in the city is civil service and commerce. The city is on the coastline of what looks like an ocean but they refer to it as the river of La Plata. The coast water is freshwater and brown color with silt. The mouth of the river is considered to be between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay which is 130 miles to the northeast. It must rain a tremendous amount in the eastern side of the Andes mountains!
Buenos Aires is an active modern city. It has a very large public bus transportation system. Graffiti is very prevalent throughout the city. It's very easy to find persons who speak English. They accept their Argentinian peso, dollars, reales (Spain) and euros.
On the shore near the downtown area is San Telmo. It is famous for the origin of the Tango dancing. It was the main port for the European immigrants in the 1800s. The Italians settled in the coast line and the Spanish settled within the city. San Telmo once housed the wealthy. The area was struck with an epidemic of yellow fever and thus they immediately abandoned the area and moved slightly inland to what is now called Recoleta. San Telmo was abandoned to the poor and new arrivals and they created their own music style which was prohibited then throughout the city. Now it is a revered dance style known throughout the world. There are similarities with the development of jazz in the US.
Recoleta is the area that still houses the best inner city housing, museums and the consulates. This area also has the historical cemetery of the wealthy and it is a tourist attraction. It looks like a very tiny city with granite and marble burial sites. The grave site of Eva Peron is here and she is still revered as a protector of the the underprivileged. The grave site next to her was for sale and the asking price is $125,000.
Overall, this main city area is relatively small since the downtown workers rush in and out of the city each day. They seem to have as many cabs as in Manhattan.
What is apparent is the how the people here have strong European physical characteristics. You commonly see persons with clear German, Italian and French features. We kept running into many tourist from Russia. Sitting at an outside cafe you hear many other European languages spoken.
We took a city sight tour and the political history of the country is commonly highlighted. This country has had its share of dictatorships and juntas in recent history and has altered and eroded the financial stability of the country. It suffered hyperinflation in the late 20th century. It is stable for now and people seem hopeful about their future. As one cab driver put it "it has not gotten worse, so we consider that good news." The financial housing and banking bubble burst in the US also had a negative impacted the financial stability in Argentina and surrounding countries. Banks here invest around the world and they were heavily impacted and major projects were halted and abandoned and are now being restarted and finalized.
We returned to our hotel to get ready to see an evening tango theater show. We were picketed up at our hotel and taken to the dinner and live performance event in the city. Transportation is included in the the price. Dinner was quite good, no limit on wine and the performance was wonderful. Steak meals are very popular throughout the city. A must for anyone visiting here. They also returned us back around midnight.
The second day here we went to an all day field trip to a gaucho ranch. It was a good tourist attraction. It was approximately a two hour trip to the countryside (the pampas). Gauchos were basically nomads that made their living gathering and keeping cattle that had strayed off the ranches and into the plains. Now that there is no open ranges, they work on ranches. They are cattle hands that work the livestock.. They have their own unique dress style and culture. During the day we enjoyed wine (again), rode horses, enjoyed wine, heard some gaucho folkloric, enjoyed wine (yes, again) and danced to their local music. The pictures others took of Trini and me seem to show that we enjoyed ourselves (perhaps a bit too much Argentinian Melbec wine from Mendoza-their Napa Valley area).
He last day here we spent the morning at an open air arts fair. There we hundreds of small booths throughout several blocks. Clearly the artists and local vendors community is quite large here. I recall reading somewhere that many of the immigrants from Europe were political refugees, anarchist, socialist, writers and artists. It is clearly a different group than the ones profiled in the US. It's commonly taught those who came were seeking religious freedom or seeking financial opportunity. There are multiple Jewish communities throughout South America. They arrive before WW II.
In the afternoon we went on a bicycle bike tour of the city. It was a four hour trip. Thank God it was a Sunday. The city is mainly flat and they have bike routes. Here the routes are mainly for recreational use. While biking I was remembering our visit to Stockholm where bike routes there are the city's second freeways. The issue here is that the streets are uneven, they go through park areas where there are many kids and car traffic that can be busy. I admit I was riding the bike awkwardly as if I had just learned to ride of the first time. I was the oldest of the riders and I keep up with the group of 5. I need to keep working out!
Tomorrow we get back on ship to begin our second cruise. It will head south to the Patagonia region, go around the Horn of South America, enter the Pacific Ocean and begin our trip back to Los Angeles. We have thus traveled for 23 days and have 34 days left. We will visit Montevideo, Uruguay tomorrow.
Off to join some persons we met and we will share a bottle of good wine and traveling stories.