Friday, March 10, 2017

Celebrating our birthdays in Argentina

Beautiful sculptures in city parks
It’s something we promised ourselves several years ago, when we moved to Mexico, travel in South America because it was now so much closer to us.  Sure, it’s closer, but some of the countries are still a long way away. On Saturday February 18th we flew eight hours south to Santiago Chile, then another two hours east to Buenos Aires Argentina. In the end it was well worth the time. 
Buenos Aires is an old and glamorous European-style city with a population of twelve million in its greater metropolitan area. 

The ancient buildings are amazing, the public parks plentiful and huge, and the residents are very cosmopolitan and friendly. 

Ancient rubber trees in city parks

We stayed in the upscale Recoleta neighbourhood with its fashionable restaurants, designer shops and model-thin residents. Not a place for anyone bigger than a size two to shop for clothes. Not our size. Not our style.  Lawrie and I haunted the outdoor shopping plazas for two days, purchasing only two casual t-shirts.

The best way to see the inner city of Buenos Aires is by the hop-on, hop-off tour buses that operate from nine in the morning until six in the evening.
Boca neighbourhood - interesting but becoming touristy
The cost is about $30.00 USD per person, to use the buses for a day. The traffic in centro is thick, at times coming to a standstill with the congestion of commuters, buses, delivery trucks and motorcycle riders filling every available space on the roadway. We have driven in a lot of big cities around the world, but we had to admit we were happy to let the taxi or bus drivers do the hard work, giving us time to enjoy the sights.

Recoleta Cemetery

One of the most famous sights is the Recoleta Cemetery located in the neighbourhood where we stayed. 

It covers fourteen acres of land, and has approximately 6300 large tombs, some as big as a small house, holding the remains of the rich and famous of Argentina including several past presidents, the granddaughter of Napoleon, and Nobel Prize winners. 

Recoleta Cemetery has been designated as one of the ten most beautiful cemeteries in the world.  Who knew there is a world-wide rating system for cemeteries?

Statue holding up rubber tree branch
Some of the interesting differences that we noticed between Mexico and Argentina.
The Argentinian cities are very clean, and relatively quiet. They are also big into recycling with one communal container in each block for cardboard and metal. 

We rented a car and visited several places during our three-week adventure and rarely did we see vehicles that weren’t well-maintained including functioning mufflers. Wow, what a treat compared to the collection of barely-held-together-beaters that are the norm in Mexico.  We kind of missed the heart-attack inducing vehicle back-fires common on Isla.  

In Mexico we have topes, the marked or sometimes unmarked speed bumps, in towns and cities. 

In Argentina, they have reverse-topes, dropping the front wheels into a shallow ditch. We didn’t see a lot of warning signage but soon learned in small villages to keep watch for the neck-jarring drop.

Centro - park in Buenos Aires
The main Argentinian highways are very easy to drive on with one minor exception – the lack of signage. Usually we would spot our turn-off, after we had passed the exit point, necessitating a turn back at the next over-pass, and a bit of scrambling through the narrow one-way streets to get to where we were headed. We completely missed one shopping district three times, deciding in the end that perhaps we really didn’t want to go there after all, and found a tasty restaurant to enjoy a leisurely lunch.

One of the many pampered pooches in Buenos Aires Argentina 
Most Argentinian city dogs are well-fed pampered pets, wearing collars or harnesses and are walked on leashes.  Dogs are welcome in every park, and every pet owner picks up the doggy-doo-do.  There are doggy-day-care services that walk the pooches sometimes ten at a time through the parks before returning to a large penned in area where the canines can play and interact with each other.

Meat, meat, and more meat!

The food in Argentina was amazing, but not exactly what we had expected. Yes there was beef, and more beef, with a side-order of beef that was standard in every restaurant, with nary a vegetable in sight. But since it was settled by the Spanish back in the 1600’s we expected more spice, more heat to the food. Instead it had a very northern European touch, interesting but subtle flavours and not spicy.

And one very perplexing Argentinian habit, the placement of a plastic bottle on top of a car’s roof. We spotted this in a number of places before Lawrie finally asked someone what it meant. 

It’s a For Sale sign for the car. Ingenious!

This car is For Sale - look at the plastic bottle on the roof
Sorry this week’s blog post was late – we arrived home late Wednesday afternoon after a twenty-four hour trip. 

First we had a flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile, then an eight-hour flight to Mexico City, then another flight to Cancun, a bus trip into centro, a taxi, the Ultramar passenger boat, and a final taxi, collapsing inside our front door grateful to be home but happy we experienced Argentina.

Next week’s blog: Wine Country Argentina! Yum!
Cheers Lawrie and Lynda 

Birthday lunch at O. Fournier Winery Argentina

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