On my last trip, I had been shown round part of Chicago by a volunteer greeter, and a couple of trips back a similar volunteer had taken me to a full-moon celebration outside Kyoto, so I was pleased to find that Buenos Aires also had people willing to show strangers a local’s view. When asked what I wanted to see when I requested a greeter, I expressed interest in Art Nouveau, and in visiting San Telmo and La Boca. Alas, it seems that BsAs is more a city for my friends, the Art Deco fans, but my volunteer, Mauricio, had gone to high school and university in San Telmo, although he now lived in Palermo.
We started by taking the metro to Obelisco, for a closer look at the obelisk (very similar to the Washington monument) erected in 1936 to mark the city’s 400th anniversary. Then we walked down to Plaza de Mayo, where this time I got to go inside the cathedral, remarkable chiefly for the flag-draped tomb of independence-hero Jose de San Martin (who had died in penury in France). In between we checked out the facades and main halls of some impressive banks, one of which had started life as a theater.
I got another look at the Pink House, aka Government House, which had once fronted the river. I already knew that Eva Peron’s famous speech had not been given from the Pink House’s balcony in real life, only in the movie. I haven’t seen the movie, but I did visit the informative Evita Museum, where I was surprised to learn how short her tenure as Argentina’s first lady had been. Then we walked to San Telmo, where I insisted on a coffee break….
I had originally wanted to stay in an interesting-looking B&B in San Telmo, but posters at Fodors and Tripadvisor had talked me out of it on the grounds that much of the area was unsafe at night. After seeing it, I was happy to be staying in Palermo. Although there are plenty of shopping opportunities. From San Telmo we took a cab to Parque Lezama and a restaurant Mauricio recommended for beef. It was here that I learned that bife de chorizo has nothing to do with sausage.
Parque Lezama is really La Boca, a more perilous barrio than San Telmo, and I was surprised that the National History Museum is there. Instead of visiting the museum, we shared a cab back to the Recoleta area, where Mauricio had a doctor’s appointment, and I planned to visit the Belles Arts Museum. I would have skipped the Belles Arts Museum if I hadn’t been meeting my free walking tour outside, and if I hadn’t heard that it had paintings by El Greco (two, one on loan from the Prado), and Rembrandt (one, attributed, dubiously in my view).
The walking tour was with my guide from the bus tour, and after trekking through the embassy district, and through some more parks to the admittedly-beautiful rose garden I decided I had had more than enough exercise for one day and called it quits. I took a taxi back to my hotel.
Friday morning, my last, I walked only as far as the mall on Av. Santa Fe. I find that supermarkets and malls are an interesting change from the tourist sights, and this one housed a couple of good bookstores in addition to the usual clothes and jewelry stores. I noticed that, unlike a U.S. mall, where I would have needed an extra layer as protection from the AC, here the AC wasn’t helping a whole lot.
I also had something a little different planned for the afternoon, a graffiti tour. This involved some walking and some driving, around Palermo, and gave me a look at some really interesting street art. The guide, an Australian woman who had lived in BsAs for several years, told us that street art really got underway after the 2001 economic crisis, as a way to cheer people up. Technically illegal, no-one gets prosecuted, and so the artists can paint in the daytime. She was obviously on good terms with a number of the artists and we paid a visit to one of the studios.