26 February 2013. We arrive in Buenos Aires at 8.30am after being served breakfast on our VIP 20 hour bus trip from Iguazu Falls.
We’d hoped to go via Uruguay but scouring forums and blogs for information on this route suggested complicated stops and connections with people being stranded at quiet border towns for half the night and having to hitch. Didn’t really fancy this with three tired kids and all our bags! It looks more straightforward to cross the Rio Plato from Buenos Aires into Uruguay so we’ve decided to wait!
We get a cab to the apartment we’ve booked and meet Maggie who is renting it to us. It’s in a lovely old building with old fashioned lift. The kids think it’s amazing and the apartment is gorgeous. High ceilings, balconies, overlooking a church dome a little like St. Paul’s cathedral in miniature, three bedrooms and a huge dining room with floor to ceiling mirror (it sometimes doubles as a Tango dancing room!) and pictures of Marilyn Monroe everywhere:)
Maggie is a charming Brit who moved to BA ten years ago for tango and gives us tons of info about visiting the city.
We spend the morning settling in, then head off for an afternoon at the ‘Children’s Museum’ – it’s more of a play centre but still ab fab – with chances to be movie stars, work in a pretend MacDonald’s, a supermarket, fly a plane, work on a building site or as a judge in a court and loads more…
They are unphased by handling everything in Spanish – not a problem in global MacDonald’s though a bit confused understanding the proceedings in court! They spend the last 90 min traversing a climbing wall for a Daddy-money-challenge (they weren’t allowed to put a foot down – amazing what they can do for a challenge!) before we head home for a delicious pasta supper bought from a wonderful local Italian shop specialising in fresh pastas and sauces.
27 February 2013. OK, so we are in this amazing city and should we rushing out to explore. Instead, we stay home all day and love it!
If we had pyjamas it would have been a pyjama day!
Martin and I have a ton of planning to do! Change our flights out of Santiago (again). Make decisions about our Patagonia itinerary and if we can fit in the Falklands. Book flights to the Falklands, Banking. Blogging. Catching up on washing. The kids enjoy having two bedrooms between them, they find a shelf of DVDs to watch and even manage to do a modicum of schoolwork!
We only go out to the local store for lunch and supper provisions. We need days like this. You cannot imagine how much of a treat it is to do this from time to time!
After supper, Martin and Ben decide to head out for a lads’ night out to a Comedy Club that has an English night with great reviews, slightly against Mum’s better judgement. The performers were a little surprised to see a 10 year old in the front row and they had quite a lot of fun heckling. Ben said he understood ‘most of it’ ?!!? They had a great time and the girls had a quiet time home with an earlyish night for Zoe and Lara and a blogging night for me.
28 February 2013. A lie in and a very late start, with more movies, blogging, Skyping, trip planning and school work.
Late afternoon we go to buy ferry tickets to Uruguay and have a lovely walk around the modern docklands followed by dinner at a cosy bistro called ‘Dada’.
1st March 2013. A lovely day! We’re refreshed from our two productive but quiet days at home!
Mid morning we’re enjoying coffee and Googling and talking about Argentina’s history, Eva Peron and Buenos Aires, working out what relevant sights we might want to visit for a bit of history and politic! We’ve just watched Madonna singing ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ on YouTube, when we hear drums, music and shouting. We run out to the balcony to see crowds of flag-waving demonstrators heading up our street. A bit more Googling and we discover the city has its 1st-of-the-month demonstration. Many of the flags have Eva Peron on them. Topical!
We go out and follow the demonstrators, stopping for breakfast in a café. Zoe chats with a waiter and finds out more about what’s going on. They have these massive political demos every month. Christina Kirchner, Argentina’s president drives by, up to the government office – followed by hoards of flag waving protestors and floats.
Mrs Kirchner then makes a speech which is broadcast from the senate (or was it congress?!) across the city. This is why the café suddenly filled up and everyone starts watching the tv! We follow the activities and crowds up to the senate feeling intoxicated by the colours, dancing, flags, noise, heat and crowds…
…until it becomes a bit too much and we finally head off away from the crazy streets and cacophony, find a quiet and amazing sushi place for lunch.
Then, we walk to the Recoleta district to visit its famous cemetery. It’s a sharp contrast to the demonstrating hoards in the city centre. We wander in search for Eva Person’s grave and other famous people, armed with a cemetery map bought outside!
It really is like walking around a city. The family ‘graves’ are like houses. Its vast, peaceful and slightly eerie to see the coffins stacked up inside. Next door we find the Science museum where the rule is ‘prohibited NOT to touch’ and spend a great couple of hours out of the sun and hands-on learning an incredible amount of physics and maths (with added challenge of having to translate the Spanish signs!) then finally head back to our neighbourhood and have dinner at a restaurant called La Rafael.
2nd March 2013. We’re on a roll with history so after we spend a lazy morning at home, we head out to walk down to ‘Casa Rosada’ – the ‘Pink House’, Argentine equivalent of Buckingham Palace, home and workplace of the president. It’s the weekend, the streets are quiet and Maggie has given us a tip-off that there are free tours of Casa Rosada on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, We walk straight in and join one which is amazing, even standing on the balcony famed for Eva Peron’s speeches.
Lazy Lara gets to ride with an armed guard in the swish presidential glass elevator while the rest of us take the stairs! We visit various important rooms and galleries but the standout is the ‘women’s room’ where the president makes many of her speeches and which celebrates various esteemed female figures in Argentina’s history.
Next door we visit the Bicentennial Museum – sadly our Spanish not really up to it, but there is an amazing movie where they give an overlay of pictures and photos showing the change to BA over the last few centuries, including significant land reclamation.
We’re interested to find their history chronicles conveniently bypass the events of 1982 and Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands, or I should say Malvinas as they are known in Argentina.
The kids have a great play in the 25 Mayo Plaza outside Casa Rosada and we’re lucky enough to see the guards ceremoniously taking down the flag at dusk, a pretty sunset and the lights coming on at Casa Rosada making it pinker than ever! We find a small permanent demonstration in memory of the Argentine soldiers who lost their lives in the 1982 Falklands conflict. We are wary to tell people we are from the UK but when we do, people are always friendly and seem to shrug that the Malvinas situation is just politics.
Finally we head home to the wonderful pasta shop again for supper/movie at home – made all the more atmospheric by a power cut in our building most of the evening!
3 March 2013, We’re full up on history, science, politics, culture and walking the streets so we have a super slow and lazy day again. Lots of checking and booking of hotels etc. by Martin and me and lots of movie watching by the kids! Eventually we go out to San Telmo and the trendy Plaza Dorado with street stalls, entertainers and a Milonga going on in the square (an informal tango dancing session which the kids want to take part in! )
A coffee for us, frap for Ben and juices for the girls in Starbucks…then home for an early night!
4 March 2013. Home for the day again. Martin needs to spend a few hours working, the kids play, I’m searching for hotels for our next few stops… In the evening we head out to a local restaurant but its closed so we head home for frankfurters, crisps, wine, movie & huge tub of gourmet ice cream from the store where you buy it in litres!
5th March 2013. We get up crazy early to pack and check out (painful, especially as Ben is suffering with a cold and asthma)
We arrive at the Buquebus boat terminal for check in at 8am and the ferry sets sail at 8.30am Similar to a cross-channel ferry and the kids are overwhelmed with a duty free shop full of European chocolate like Cadbury’s, Toblerone and giant packs of Smarties etc which are massively expensive! All the price tags are in US dollars!
As we cross the Rio Plato to Uruguay, I look back at Buenos Aires and wonder at all the land reclamation and changes over the past two or three hundred years.
Looking back at this week in our diary, I think ‘goodness, we stayed in a lot! We could’ve done so much more’ but this diary of our week gives a good idea of why we love a week or two in a city and although we missed a couple of nice neighbourhoods to visit and a museum or two, I think we did about everything we really wanted to and stumbled upon the unexpected too that helps you experience more. A week like this is a chance to down tools, unpack, catch up on calls and emails home and washing, do some forward planning and blogging with good wifi at our disposal, find local shops, cook, explore at our own pace! I guess we managed to see plenty in BA, learn a lot and have some time to relax as well. We knew we’d be coming back in a few days too!