Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Day in Buenos Aires on the Double-Decker Bus

Not feeling chronologically inclined today, I'm going to start with the end of the trip. Because it is freshest in my mind and I have a gazillion photos to share. Plus a little video. No, this is not a Project 365 post although it sure seems like it :-)

After conference ended on Saturday we headed across the river on the ferry to spend a couple days in Buenos Aires. We only ended up sight-seeing for one day but we packed a LOT into that single 17-1/2 hour day. Based on the recommendation of several people we opted to do the double-decker bus tour of the city because it allows you to get on and off at will.

We left our friends' house at 7:15 Monday morning; it wasn't still dark, but almost. Taking a bus and then the subway, we ended up downtown by Café Tortoni, a Bs. As. landmark. Opened in 1858 and remodeled to its current glory in 1893, it has seen more than a few Argentine movers and shakers plus celebrities from around the world sit down at its marble-topped tables for cups of café con leche. It's a huge place, easily accommodating hundreds -- although that morning there were only fifty or so.
I'm not a huge fan of bread and coffee every morning, and that day I just wanted yogurt and fruit salad. Not too many places serve it but Café Tortoni does, which made me very happy. But if I had been in the mood for bread, my friend K's breakfast was bountiful enough for all. We had to laugh when it was set on the table. Then we understood why the waiter had scooted a second table up next to ours before bringing out our order. K's platter was HUGE!
On the way to buy the tickets for the double decker bus tour we passed a used bookstore and ending up spending over half an hour there. For those who know us and our friends, you know we're all bibliophiles. I found a January 1958 issue of Popular Mechanic (in Spanish) for Ivan while he enjoyed talking to the shop keeper -- who had been personal friends with Jorge Luis Borges and other famous Argentine authors.

[This is my kind of sight-seeing; meandering at our own pace so conversations like that are possible.]

The bus was equipped with headphones and jacks for a multitude of languages.
We climbed to the open, upper-level deck for better views of the city.
This group of protesters had blocked off all but one lane of traffic on a major street. Most protesters are professionals; protesting for hire is how they make a living.
The tour looped around the city and we opted to get off in La Boca first. Right along the river, this area was populated primarily by dock workers who scrounged materials from the shipyards to build their roads and homes. Here's a picture of the wooden sidewalk (in front) and cobblestone street (the stones were ballast from England).
Their homes were put together piecemeal with bits of salvaged tin, wood and paint. Initially the colors were simply because of necessity since they used whatever leftover paint they could find but over time it evolved into the "signature look" of La Boca.
Young tango couples stake out corners, willing to give impromptu dance lessons or take photos with the tourists. Other dancers are employed by the restaurants to provide mealtime entertainment. At lunch we sat at a table on the edge of one sidewalk café, able to watch tango there or turn around and watch these folklore dancers at the next restaurant.

Hopping back on the bus we meandered around to Puerto Madero, where the ferry had docked on Saturday evening. While waiting for our friends that night we had wandered around the port area and found a great café serving loose tea (K has a passion for tea) and wonderful food. We'd been so full after dinner that night we didn't have room for any of the delicious looking desserts. So Monday we decided mid-afternoon tea and dessert at the Central Market Café was imperative.
Soledad Pastorutti and her entourage were setting up for a concert on the nearby bridge. Ivan walked over and took a few photos as they were trying out the sound system.
Little did we realize what that concert would do to our plans.

We had decided to catch the next-to-last bus from Puerto Madero but discovered that the police had blocked off the street where we were supposed to catch it, since that was right by the concert venue. Not sure what to do, we waited (and waited and waited and waited) on that corner until we saw the bus a block away and ran to catch it.

And then we just sat in traffic for well over an hour. Going nowhere, along with all those flooding into the area for the concert. Traffic was at a virtual standstill. After an hour inching along one city block, the driver finally made it to the corner and turned the only way he could to get away from the traffic jam. We figured he'd just forego the rest of the tour since it was so late but, no, we did it in the dark. It did give us a good idea of where things are located though, for future visits to the city. Some day we'd love to visit the botanical gardens, the zoo, and the art museum.

Anyway, it was well after nine by the time the tour ended and by then the tea and dessert were but distant memories. Not being familiar with the city, we wandered up and down streets looking for a place to eat. It took a while to find a place serving more than sandwiches. We're used to slower service and a meal stretching out for a couple hours, but we told our server we had time issues. He still took a sweet forever. Ivan normally has the patience of Job but even his wore thin that night.

It was 11:30 p.m. before we made it back over to the subway, only to discover it had closed for the night.

Downtown. 11:30 p.m. Over an hour from where we were staying with missionary friends.

Let me say I was so thankful for my fluent biligual husband! He was able to find out an alternative way home using the bus system, which took longer but did eventually get us back to our friends' house. At 12:45 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Loooooooong day. But a very good one, with lots of photos and memories.

Including this big green shoe. No particular reason to take this photo except it amused me.
At midnight it doesn't take much.


Rosalyn said...

I love the shoe picture!!Rachel thought it was cute too.

SusanD said...

I'll start at the top and work my way down. Love those marble top tables and the leather chairs too. And oh, the food looks scrumptious.

Really? People earn a living protesting? Never heard of that before. -- The wooden sidewalk was very intriguing. -- Love the colors at La Boca.

The fruit, chocolate, pastry, whatchamacallits looks delicious.

I so would have taken a picture of the shoe too. lol.

Thanks for sharing. Blessings, SusanD

Skoots1moM said...

Buenos Aires's double-decker buses look like fun
Café Tortoni's marble-topped tables and café con leche, WOW!

Used bookstores always intrigue me.
Protesting for hire? what a concept.

the walkways are very interesting.
Loved the colors of the piecemeal salvaged tin, wood and paint.

The guy standing at the top of the steps is interesting...what is that, an art gallery?

Mealtime entertainment is always a fun thing to get to see.

One of my favs is nesidewalk cafés
The nerve of blocking off the street, you didn't know you were going to get your EXTRA exercise running, did you?

Stupendous photos and memories!
Love the shoe pic :)

Pray for us...I'll be one of 14 counselors riding charter buses to Panama City tonight for our Spring Retreat with 125 high schoolers \0/
we'll be praising, singing, studying, and hopefully getting a little sun and surf...even though it's only going to be about 68*

Mari said...

What fun! I love the wooden sidewalks and cobblestone street. I can't believe people can get work being protesters!
The shoe at the bottom is so cool~!

sara said...

I loved going on your tour with you!! And though it was a long day, it seemed like a great one too!!! I would love that breakfast bread platter...yum!!!

riTa Koch said...

So very interesting. You know more about BsAs than I do--history of La Boca & all!
Would have loved to talk w/ Borges' friend! Wow! What did he have to say.

Lhoyt said...

Not Cinderella's slipper, that! Must have been made for an Amazon!
Seriously, though, You're giving me nostalgia for a visit to Bs. As.