Well, we woke up this morning refreshed, but sore all over. I think we walked more the previous day than we have in months. We went downstairs to the breakfast buffet. They had coffee, cereals, cheese and ham slices and all kinds of croissants and pastries. A very nice start to the day. The previous day had been hot and muggy. But today, the weather was picture perfect. Overnight a little thunderstorm had passed, with brief rains and it had cleared the air. There were deliciously cool breezes that would last throughout the day. Perhaps why the city is called Buenos Aires?
Denise had the idea to find a tour bus, to kind of get an overall view of the city. The desk clerk, who spoke perfect English, told us that they had such tours near Plaza Martin. After consulting our little "Lonely Planet" map, we decided to try the subway. The Subte station was very close. After a short walk, we went downstairs and purchased tickets. You can buy the tickets separately, or buy a ticket that can be used repeatedly, until it is expended. The cost of the ticket- $1.10 (about $.30 US). This is the best bargain in town. And you can make your transfers on the same ticket, as long as you don't leave the stations. The subways are clean (not Toronto, but better than New York). Also, the stations have beautiful tile murals all over the walls and even some on the floors. I think another visit will warrant a trip on the different lines, and pictures of all the art. Kind of an underground art gallery.
We arrived at Plaza Martin after one transfer. This is a beautiful, spacious park (actually a series of them) that extend to the Retiro (the main bus and train stations). The Retiro is like Grand Central Station and is undergoing a renovation of the facade. You can go anywhere in the country from there.
We were stopped by a man who had all kinds of information about the area (he had brochures) and directed to the Bus Tourístico. He was also collecting for some charity (he seemed to be quite legit) and so we gave him something for his help. We weren't able to find the bus, however- probably our lack of Spanish rather than his directions. But we did wander about the Retiro for about an hour and asked several people about it, including some policemen. All were rather vague in their answers. It could have been me, but I really think they didn't know. Eventually, we found a tourist information booth and they gave us the brochure and explained the system.
The Bus Tourístico (a double decker bus), which is sponsored by the city, travels a circular route and make 12 stops at various popular destinations. You find one of the stops (or go to the starting place in Plaza de Mayo) and you can get on and buy a ticket. The ticket is a 24 hour ticket for $50 pesos each (about $13.50 US). They have headphones which broadcast an ongoing cultural and historical dialogue in several languages. As you go through the city, you get an idea of the relationship of it's parts in a very short time. I think this bus is a must for the first time visitor. We finally found the stop at Plaza Martin (right where the man in the park had directed us). We hadn't recognized bus stop before, but when we saw it, we realized it had all the information, plus a schedule of stops. The bus comes every 30 minutes and you can get off and get on at any time you want at one of the designated stops. We took the full circuit, for an overview and then went around and got off at the starting point- Plaza de Mayo.
Plaza de Mayo is where the Casa Rosada (the official seat of government) is located. It is colored pink either 1) because the colors of the two opposing parties (white and red)were mixed together to promote bipartisanship or 2) that the blood of cows was mixed with wine to resist the effects of the sun. Either way, its a beautiful pink building. This of course contains the historical balcony where Eva Perón (Evita) comes out to address the crowd after her husband (President Juan Perón) is released from captivity. Currently it houses government offices, and apparently the president has an office there where daily business is conducted.
Walking down towards the port (Puerto Madero), you are greeted with a lovely walk along the waterways that carry the cargo ships and other traffic throughout the extensive area of shipping and containers. Along the water itself are beautiful brick buildings with restaurants and cafes. You can get buffalo wings at "Hooters", drinks at "TGIF" or have dinner at dozens of upscale restaurants. The bridge behind me is called "Puente De La Mujer", inspired by the angle of Tango dancing.
There is also a beautiful sailing ship that offers a walk-on tour for $2 pesos. We had planned to go back the 3rd day, but didn't quite make it.
I had been trying to locate a restaurant that would epitomize the meat eater's experience in Bueno Aires. I wanted a restaurant where they brought meat around to the tables on huge platters, where steaks flopped over the edges of the plate. If I could have found a restaurant that threw meat at the customers (like the Pike Place Fish Market)- that's what I wanted. There were just too many choices. The guidebooks had some suggestions and a City Guide website had others. We had been invited to a fish dinner by Tom and Nancy, but I was holding out for meat, a side order of meat and a meat related dessert. Well, with all the choices and no clear winner- we ended up in a beautiful restaurant near the hotel ordering a fish dinner.
I will have to admit that this dinner was exceptional. It was a complete fish (each one sufficient for a couple), off the parrilla, served on a wooden board with potatoes and salad. We all split a couple of bottles of wine and it was all we could eat between the two of us. We had a delicious chocolate cake for dessert. Our portion of the meal came to about $178 pesos (about $48 US), which included one bottle of wine, the gave us a discount of about 12% (probably because we are in the off season in BsAs). I gave him my MasterCard to pay. Here is where it begins to get ugly.
They returned the card, saying that it couldn't be processed. Oh no! What now? Well, we had enough cash to pay for the meal, but that would leave us short of money for the following day. Here is what happened. I had tried to use the card to purchase our trip tickets, but it been declined at that time. So, about a week beforehand, I had called the credit card company and found out that a payment was missing. I tracked it down and found out that I had paid a Sears retail account (which I no longer use), rather than the Sears MasterCard account I use. I contacted them, they reversed all the charges and in the end I was left with a negative balance on the card. I was told that would clear it up. Apparently it was still hung up in credit limbo and I didn't want to draw any more cash out of our Uruguayan account.
So we went back to the hotel for our last night there. Counted out our money. I had some UY pesos, but the banks don't change Uruguayan money, for some strange political or economic reason. So we had about $80 pesos (about $21 US) to last us out the entire last day, and we were leaving BsAs at about 11:00 in the evening. How would that work out? Would you like to be stuck in a foreign country, in a city as complex as New York or Paris with only $21 dollars between the pair of you?
More on day 3.........