Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buenos Aires in March - Wandering with Jim

Jim and I spent an entire day walking the streets of Buenos Aires. We explored more of the downtown area, and the Monserrat and the San Telmo districts.

In the downtown area, the Colon Theater which showcases opera and ballet, is one of the most famous lyrical theaters in the world.

The Basilica of the Holy Sacrament, popular for weddings, is an elaborate church built in the early 1900's.

Some interesting architecture in the downtown area caught our eye.

The city's oldest church, The Cathedral of the Saint Ignacio, was started in 1710. This is where we began our tour of the San Telmo district which was once the most fashionable residential district of Buenos Aires. The residents left their homes at the end of the 19th century because of a yellow fever epidemic. The mansions were turned into tenements for immigrants.

We discovered the fascinating Edificio Otto Wulf which was built in the early 1900's,

the Block of Enlightenment which was the intellectual center of the city in the 17th and 18th centuries and today contains an antique shop,

a wonderful bookstore filled to the two-story ceiling with books,

several colorful produce markets,

old buildings at various stages of renovation,

Cafe with Legs,

an ornate building with exquisite paintings that now serves as a pharmacy,

the City Museum depicting every day life during colonial times in Buenos Aires,
the Basilica of the Holy Rosary built in the mid 18th century with it's mausoleum of the national hero, Manuel Belgian,
quaint restaurants,

beautiful doors,

the original National Library with it's beautiful architecture and stained glass; now a center for the National Ballet,

an ancient warehouse turned concert house....

...with an interesting old elevator, cute kids,
and antique shops galore.
We finally found our way to the charming Plaza Dorrego with it's street vendors and tango dancers. It is surrounded by beautiful old mansions that have been converted to shops and restaurants. It was the sight of the swearing of the National Independence in 1816. We enjoyed a conversation with one of the tango dancers who, surprisingly, was from California. She invited us to her show that evening.

After a much needed rest in the plaza, we continued our tour. We wanted to see the beautiful church down the street. Across from the church, kids were just getting out of school. Some of the children were intrigued by something in the church yard. It turned out to be a toad.

We soon found ourselves in a rather dilapidated neighborhood.
We briefly explored the heavily guarded National Historical Museum and then made our way to Parque Lazama which looked as neglected as the rest of the neighborhood.

The Cannon Mattress sign, the Swiss Family Robinson type railing and the view of the Russian Orthodox church huddled in the midst of modern buildings caught our attention.
Worried about spending much more time in the neighborhood, we hurried on our way. We walked to the Puerta Madero where we encountered young men experiencing some kind of initiation. Other youth were dousing them with food. What a mess! The main attractions at the port include the Fragata Sarmiento and the Bridge of Women in the photo on the right. The bridge was designed by a Spaniard and is supposedly an abstraction of a couple dancing. The boat, now a museum, is a former naval ship that sailed around the world 40 times between 1899 and 1938 before serving as a training school for Argentina's navy.

We decided to attend the tango show that we had been invited to earlier in the day. The tickets were much more affordable than those for the more popular shows. Although, we were a little nervous about that, we decided it would be worth the adventure. When we arrived at the theater that evening, we were not surprised to find the place in a sad state of repair or that the meal we received was terrible.
We loved the show, however. It was amazing to watch those tango moves up close and personal. On the taxi ride back to the hotel, we finally got to see the famous Obelisco.

That concludes our adventures in Buenos Aires! What a great experience. We're hoping that some day we'll get to return and explore some more.