Buenos Aires deserves its nickname as the 'Paris of South America', being a beautiful city with grand buildings, wide boulevards and lovely parks. However, Italians have had most influence on the Argentine lifestyle. On the negative side, they have bequeathed some chaotic driving patterns and a culture of corruption (or at the least bribery and jobs for family members). The positives include the brightly coloured architecture ( particularly the Caminito district in the suburb of La Boca) and fabulous expresso coffee and ice creams/gelato. There is a strong coffee culture; my expresso is inevitably served with a small glass of sparkling mineral water and two small biscuits.
Another very strong element of Buenos Aires is the street art or graffiti. The graffiti was mainly political when we visited in 1985, just after the end of the military junta. Graffiti was one of the few forms of expression and public protest. Now, there is clearly a strong street art movement, with very colourful and unusual graffiti adorning houses, shops and trains. Buenos Aires also has another form of street art known as fileteado, that are hand painted, ornate signs on cafes and other buildings, usually done in bright colours with curlicues and lovely calligraphy.
And, of course, Buenos Aires is the home of tango. Last time we visited, we went to a tango and dinner show that was organised solely for tourists. This time, we had two quite different experiences of tango, both enjoyable. One night we went to a tango show that was produced by one of the local theatre companies, attended almost entirely by locals. There were 8 dancers, a 4-piece orchestra and a singer. The show included a mix of traditional dances and some modern interpretations, including one sensational dance to Eurythmics music. On another night, our bed and breakfast organised an evening for the 8 guests (4 bedrooms) that included a traditional Argentine parilla, or grill of huge amounts of meat, coupled with tango lessons on the terrace outside on a balmy evening. Much wine was consumed, but the dancing did not improve!
We will have had six nights in Buenos Aires, allowing us a very relaxed time, visiting the different 'barrios' or neighbourhoods. This time, we are not staying downtown, but in a lovely suburb called Palermo, with tree-lined streets, trendy boutiques, fabulous restaurants and cafes. So we have become expert at finding the best bus lines and subway stations to take us through the different neighbourhoods. The busese are also works of art, with many having lovely Art Deco style signage and colours; they have featured in quite a few of my photos!
One of the more unusual sightseeing destinations in BA is the Recoleta cemetery, that has magnificent above ground tombs and is very atmospheric. The crowds still gather at Eva Peron's tomb, some sixty years after her death. We visited the Eva Peron museum in Palermo which showcased some of her clothes, as well as documenting her influence on Argentine politics. There was some fascinating black and white footage of her life, including the huge crowds at her funeral with a 14 day period of official mourning.
We also visited some other interesting museums. There is a futuristic building housing the Museum of Latin American art. And the Museum of Decorative Arts is a gorgeous, palatial mansion. Perhaps most impressive was the opera house, called the Teatro Colon. Before the construction of the Sydney Opera House, the BA opera house was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. But it is more beautiful, being an elaborate building with magnificent stained glass, gold covered walls, gorgeous chandeliers and a real sense of theatre ( think phantom of the opera).
Tonight we are heading out for another traditional meat grill. It is expected that you order one meal for two people, given the amount of meat that is served! Tomorrow, to Valparaiso, Chile, our last stop.