Landing in Buenos Aires in the early evening, on our taxi ride to the hotel we were instantly impressed by the abundance of parks and attractive balconied buildings. It had a more European feel than anywhere else we had been, although the music emanating from shops, cars and parks was decidedly Latin American!! Our small hotel, the Grand Petit Casa would have been right at home in Paris. Tall, narrow and with a tiny, ornate lift that must have been 90 years old!
Invaluable as we were on the 3rd floor. It was in Recoleta, a central and safe district.
Buenos Aires is on the huge River Plate Estuary, and was founded in 1540. It expanded in the 18th century due to successful cattle farming, and in 1816 gained independence from Spain. It has always been a city of immigrants, and is very multicultural. By the early 1900s it was a booming city, with a great love for European art and design, so many buildings have a marked influence from Art Nouveau, Art deco, often in a French style.
Britain built their first metro line, with very ‘London underground’ tiling! Beautiful French style coffee shops abound, with elegant style, stained glass, and amazing cakes! One even had it’s own tango theatre!
We just had to sample them… for research purposes of course!
Having only a few nights in Argentina, I wanted to make sure we had sampled the ‘Best Steak in the World’ claims from every angle, so tonight we were booked into Don Julio’s Parilla, apparently quite renowned, as you have to book months ahead or queue outside. When we arrived at 7pm, there was already a queue, even though the restaurant wasn’t yet open! They eat late in BA. Some don’t open until 8 or even 9 PM!
I had booked to sit at The Bar, which meant you watched them cooking the steaks. Oh my! Sourced from grass grazed Hereford and Angus cattle, these steaks were incredible.
Huge in both length, width and height, they also looked delicious. Our waiter thoughtfully suggested we share, as each steak weighed over 16oz!! They tasted Amazing!
Next morning I had booked Elisa, a local guide who promised to take us to see some ‘hidden treasures’ of the city, rather than the usual tourist trail like the Casa Rosado where Eva Peron addressed the crowds!
First we wanted to visit Recoleta cemetery, famous for it’s ornate mausoleum, created as the 19th century, wealthy families vied to outdo each other, even in death!
Eva Peron is the most famous inhabitant, finally buried here as Eva Duarte, in her family vault. After her death from cancer, aged just 33, in 1952, her body was embalmed and lay in state, but after the military coup, her body disappeared. In 1971, it was eventually traced to Milan, where it had been buried. It was returned to her husband, in exile in Madrid, and eventually back to Argentina and buried, 5 metres below ground, to prevent ‘interference’!
This poignant tomb is of a young woman who died on her honeymoon in Austria. The mausoleum is a recreation of her bedroom, with the girl in her Wedding dress outside with her dog.
Sadder still, are the memorials dotted all over Buenos Aires to the 30,000 people who ‘disappeared’ in the dirty war, during US backed military rule between 1974-1983.
Elisa was true to her word. We visited El Ateno, a beautiful bookshop in an old theatre;
A huge Victorian gothic building in the heart of the city, that we assumed was a museum, or the town hall, but which turned out to be a hugely extravagant building to house the waterworks! These pictures show what the inside was like, and the grand exterior!
Then the stunningly beautiful church, Basílica María Auxiliadora y San Carlos, built in 1906, and where the current Pope, Francis, was baptised.
It is unusual because the stained glass windows are all floral, bearing a striking resemblance to William Morris designs!
It is also where a certain Carlos Gardel sang in the choir. Unknown to us, he is a legend in Buenos Aires. Tango music had it’s roots in the immigrant and poorer sections of BA society. Not just music, but songs with powerful, sad, or sometimes amusing lyrics are a huge part of society here, and Carlos was one of the most loved singers. His picture is everywhere!
Tango was banned during the military years, seen as subversive. Now it is back, with dance halls, outfitters and classes everywhere, appealing to young and old.
We went to a rather edgy steampunk style hall, where a lesson was taking place. We watched in awe, but I only filmed a snippet!
They had an interesting line in chairs too!
The streets in this neighbourhood, San Telmo, also have a decorative style of decorating their houses called fileteado!
Theatre Ciego has a new lease of life as a theatre for the blind. Each performance is in darkness, encouraging the audience to use their other senses.
This street has some interesting benches.
We were completely fooled by these, completely baffled as to why you would leave fabric seats outside. Until we felt them! They were solid! Brilliant.
Then Tango lessons on the pavement!!
We visited a buzzing market, one of many, where really fresh produce mingles with the delicious aroma of hundreds of freshly baked empanadas!
Finally, in a quiet neighbourhood, a tiny barbers shop, run by a 4th generation family. They have preserved the barber shop as it would have been 60 years ago, including equipment and products!
This device once gave you a perm… how I am not sure!!Barber shops were centres for singing, and every week locals gather here to listen to some old tango singers from another era. We were the only tourists, and were made very welcome. It was a lovely atmosphere and a privilege to see.
Chris resisted the pressure to shave off his beard… in the old fashioned way!!
Our last night in BA was spent in Restaurant Roux, named after the sauce, not the famous chefs! We had a wonderful meal, in a restaurant full of regular patrons, judging by the hugging and kissing that was happening as each one arrived. Despite their horrendous inflation, (prices have increased by 50% in a year), the pound is still strong, so our wonderful meal was about the same as a 2 course pub meal at home.
We loved Buenos Aires. A slightly edgy, vibrant, elegant city.