Setting the alarm to wake was tough, but necessary, to ensure we arrived at the ferry port in time to pass through Uruguay and Argentina immigrations before boarding our ferry to Buenos Aires. We had just enough time for a quick coffee and breakfast before leaving for the port. We had the front desk order a taxi,which they said would take 5 minutes. About 10 minutes later a taxi came by the hotel (which is kind of out on its own) and sped off when it saw us. Weird. We waited a bit longer then checked with the front desk who confirmed one would arrive. 10 minutes we still had no taxi so they placed another call for us. When our taxi arrived a few minutes later, we told him to take us to the port, and he immediately commented "Oh, you're late!". Si. Luckily it's off season so we had plenty of time to go through both immigrations (which sit about a foot apart from each other) and wait for the ferry. Interestingly, as we boarded there were people deboarding from an incoming ferry of another line on the bridge next to us, as we walked by a man stopped in his tracks and stared at us. It was so noticeable and humorous...we must look like tourists! The ride itself was smooth and we arrived in Buenos Aires an hour later at 10:45 am. The day was a sunny, clear sky and 78 degrees.
Once we collected our overnight bag, which we had checked, we met our tour guide Jessica from BuenosTours. She is an expat from New Jersey, living in BA for 8 yrs now. She came initially on a 6 month semester abroad from Northwestern University in Chicago and loved it so much she came back. She studied Latin America and Spanish.
As soon as we walked from the ferry building you could feel the buzz of activity and choas that only a large city has. A few blocks from the port Jessica got us a taxi to drop our bag at our hotel, the Urban Suites in the barrio of Recoleta. Since we were just across from the Recoleta Cemetary it was a perfect spot to begin our tour. It was amazing! Over 5,000 plots, most massive structures with statues and Catholic images. This was the family burial site for the über wealthy in Argentina, as well as famous politicians, important military leaders, and even anti-government figures who were assassinated by the government. There just happened to be a ceremony to commemorate the 146th anniversary of a military figures death, as well as a funeral taking place that day. The Cemetary covers 4 square blocks and is so large that you could get lost for hours there. We saw Evita's unassuming grave and learned about her influence for changes to assist the working class, her untimely death at 33 at the height of her popularity due to cancer, and the kidnap of her body for 17 years by political opposition groups against her husband, the President Peron. Jessica also talked about the turbulent political atmosphere in Argentina, Peronism and various anti-Peronists. So much turmoil, it was hard to keep it all straight but really fascinating.
We wondered through Recoleta, Retiro, through San Martin square admiring all of the impressive buildings surrounding it, then took the C-line subway to Avenue de Mayo into the Centro city. We walked across the largest avenue in the world, Avenue 9 de Julio, with its 19 lanes! It is 140 meters wide. We saw the Obelisk, which is where the first Spanish flag was placed, and the President's pink building, similar to our White House, except that it's only for business, not a residence.
For lunch we stopped at the historic Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe of its kind in the city. It was where writers and anyone who wanted to be seen would go. It still has its original old school vibe with older waiters in their bow ties who can magically remember every order without pen or paper. Bryan and I enjoyed Aperol Spritz' while Payton had the hot chocolate with churros, which they are known for. Delicious, like a chocolate bar melted in milk. It was the real deal. Payton and I had the crust less toasted Ham and Cheese sandwich, which is a staple here, anytime of the day. Bryan and Jessica had the lomo steak sandwich which was awesome too. Lunch included some really interesting discussions regarding the menu, cuts of beef, life in Argentina and Jessicas's decision to move here.
Next we meandered our way to Plaza de Mayo and down to San Telmo, where Jessica lives. She walked us through some interesting markets and the oldest pharmacy in the city to get decongestants and antibiotics for Bryan and me, both of us suffering from sinus troubles. San Telmo is having a resurgence due to antique shops and markets bringing lots of people to the area for weekend markets. There were many cool restaurants in the area and it's said Tango started in the area but no one can be sure. Throughout the day we discussed ice cream/gelato, therefore she suggested we stop at Momma Nonni's (where grandma Nonni was still working). Bryan and I shared banana split and chocolate cherry while Payton had Oreo con crema and dulce de leche. I think the banana split was the best I've had on our trip. Our trip ended in San Telmo about 6 pm where Jessica helped us get a taxi back to our hotel (about 100 arg pesos or $7 usd). The traffic was heavy, she mentioned that the normal business day is 10 am to 6 pm with a 1 hr lunch so everyone was trying to get home.
For dinner we were planning to meet an Argentine woman Bryan met in MI during a training class 2 weeks ago, however an unexpected Ford audit made it impossible for her to join us. She was swwet enough to recommend some nice places, however all required a trip back near where we had just come from our were full steakhouses. Wanting something light we found a local empanada restaurant a short distance from our hotel. It was gorgeous out so we enjoyed the walk. Once we arrived and walked through the door about 8:15, an acceptable dinner time here, the entire restaurant stopped and stared at us. You could have heard a pin drop. It was so funny. It's actually happened a few times I our trip...either they immediately peg us as foreigners or tourists or it really is the blonde hair which Jessica mentioned on our tour. Once the staff came out of their trance they ushered us to the basement seating, upstairs being full. Only one other couple was there when we descended the spiral, wooden stairs, American also, however the place was full within 30 minutes. We ordered the local beer, quillmes, empanadas, a baked lentil dish and pasta for Payton. We'd been dying for salads but afraid to eat them here, however seeing one delivered to another table Payton couldn't resist and ordered one with carrots, lettuce and onions. Then Bryan saw a beef dish of another patron and ordered it. Called Milanese, it looked like schnitzel. It was a thin cut of beef, breaded and cooked, Served with lemon. We could tell our waiter was handling a lot of tables and getting frustrated with our "additions", in fact we never got our 2nd beer, but he handled it well. All of our food was delicious, except Payton's which was bland, however we blamed it on "the incident".
When they bought her pasta it was in a morrocan clay baker. Our waiter took the lid off and walked away not realizing he brought her ravioli with bolognese sauce, not the spaghetti with tomato sauce she ordered. After flagging him over we explained the error so he took the dish back to retrieve the correct pasta. Unfortunately as he rushed up the circular stairs he dropped it, spilling pasta and sauce all over the stairs! We were cringing. He tried to clean it up with some nearby napkins but had to go into a closet for better supplies. Just as he went into the closet the other waiter servicing the basement descended the stairs with a tray of glasses, glass water bottles and beer. He hadn't seen what happened and ended up slipping on the sauce on the last steps spilling his whole tray...glass and drinks shattered everywhere! They reacted so well...laughing it off as we all clapped. After cleaning it up they brought Payton's new pasta which had very little sauce on it, due to the rush I think. At that point though we weren't going to send it back.
As we left the restaurant upstairs we noticed they were watching Argentina play soccer, maybe that's why it was so packed. By the time we got back to the hotel the match was over, Argentina won.
We had some time to read and check emails before bed, happy that we didn't need to set an alarm for the morning.