I had chosen the Hotel Ayres Colonia with the expectation of walking to the ferry terminal. It was certainly close enough. However, when I looked out my window the morning of my departure, I found a full gale in process. Rain was coming down in sheets, small rivers ran along the gutters, and the trees were bowing before the wind. I would need a taxi after all.
I also packed everything in plastic, although Buquebus, unlike JAL, did an admirable job of keeping my checked bag dry. (No, I have neither forgotten nor forgiven.) Buquebus did a less good job of keeping to the schedule: the smaller (and possibly slower and cheaper) Colonia Express left on schedule, carrying most of the backpackers, while the Buquebus passengers had to wait an extra hour. Still, at one point it looked like we might not leave at all, as the captain had some understandable difficulty getting his large craft alongside
For the first, and likely only, time on this trip I was met by a man with a sign with my name on it. Having a fixed rate for the ride proved especially beneficial when the driver had difficulty finding my hotel. He pointed out a couple of times that the additional distance wasn’t going to cost me extra. Along with the remise (car and driver), I had picked a more-expensive-than-usual hotel, after I was talked out of staying in the cheaper but dodgier San Telmo barrio (good advice). I had been a little dubious about the hotel, as it was very highly rated on Tripadvisor, and I had had a couple of bad experiences with highly-rated places. This time, though, the rating proved justified, and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. (I had thought I was about to quit posting on TA, after they pulled my review of the Kalemi in Gjirokaster, the owner apparently having claimed it was about a different hotel, and that he didn’t have the amenities I mentioned. Since there is a bare handful of places to stay in old town Gjirokaster, and the only amenities I had mentioned were the view and the bathroom, this was patently ridiculous, and so I told TA. It took two or three weeks, but they finally put my review back up again.)
With the delays, I didn’t have much afternoon left, and after getting settled I decided to go visit the Las Violetas cafe, which had been highly recommended on my planning thread. This also meant I could check out the Subte (metro) in general, and the original line in particular. I had no trouble buying a ticket (actually a small set of tickets), nor with navigating the system, but I did encounter a well-known scam for the first time. I connected from Catedral to Peru through a crowded and rather wet tunnel and was just reaching the new platform when a young woman tapped me on the shoulder to show me globs of some yellow substance on the back of my coat and trousers.
I do wonder why I was picked for this scam. I was wearing the rain pants I had bought for Patagonia, and my heavier, but still washable, coat, and would have no trouble getting rid of the stuff without stains. I simply swore and kept walking, but when a second young woman offered to clean me up I handed her a couple of tissues and let her get on with it, meanwhile keeping a death grip on my bag (which I had been carrying in front as I usually do on metros). I don’t keep valuables in my pockets, so they were out of luck. (Actually, I later discovered 26 cents American at the bottom of one pocket, but the pockets on that coat aren’t designed for easy access.)
Las Violetas was nice enough, with some pretty stained glass and a fin de siècle vibe, although the cheese cake wasn’t great. I found the metro less impressive, the historic line being uncomfortable and in need of some TLC. The four blocks of Scalabrini Ortiz between my hotel and the metro could also use some care and attention, although the supermarket and pharmacies were fine once I went inside. I concluded that some subsidies must be in effect, because a subway ride is only 2.5 pesos, and two liters of water from the supermarket less than 6 pesos. Officially the rate is 4.76 pesos to the USD. I had not realized when I planned this trip that the Argentinian government had currency controls in place. I think that the black (blue?) market rate is more like 6.8, but that’s not so easy for a tourist to access.
I am not in general a fan of bus tours, but the forecast was for more rain, so I signed up for one for my first morning. Happily, only three other people had made the same decision for the same tour, and the guide was good. Besides drive-by sightings of things like the (modern) obelisk and the (turn of the 20th century) Teatro Colon, and of barrios like Puerto Moderno (new and fancy) and San Telmo (old and decrepit) we got off in the Plaza De Mayo, La Boca, and for a guided tour of Recoleta cemetery. This took care of a number of my sightseeing priorities.
La Boca, listed in the all the guidebooks, was a major disappointment. Aside from the football stadium, in which I had zero interest, the “sight” consisted of three streets totally given over to cafes and souvenir shops and photo ops. The worst kind of tourist trap. Recoleta cemetery, on the other hand, I revisited after lunch, although it did not displace Lviv’s cemetery in my affections.
Since I paid for the bus tour in dollars, I was entitled to a free walking tour later in the week. I would, it turned out, do a lot of walking in Buenos Aires.