“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
Through Trip Advisor, I had found a "Pay-What-You-Want" tour of the city. I chose this over the "free" tours because they did require a reservation so that they had a sense of how many people would be coming. Seemed more organized. There were also other very pricey tours, priced in US dollars. Ours turned out to be an excellent choice.
Our guide, Richard, was a Jewish expat from New York City, who married a local and has been living in Buenos Aires for 12 years. We met a block away from the Plaza de Mayo, the heart of the city, at a cafe called La Puerto Rico, which also happened to be where Pope Francis regularly had his morning cup, when he was Archbishop. Of course, these references (there were more) to the beloved Pope were savored!
The tour was meant to be an introduction to Buenos Aires, to give us an orientation of the main points of interest, such as churches, government and other buildings, interesting businesses, and cultural icons. He also wanted to teach us about using the bus and the subway system. Because of Richard's background, he also pointed out some sites that had to do with the Jewish experience in Buenos Aires, such as the Kosher McDonald's, and a community center that was highly secured as a consequence of an bombing of another Jewish community center in 1994. (Argentina's Jewish population is the largest in Latin America.) It was a very informative tour.
We spent just a little time at the Plaza de Mayo. Richard said he could do a whole day tour just here. It is so full of history and stories. The Mayo refers to the start of the May 1810 Revolution and Independence from Spain. Of course, there is the Casa Rosado, famous for the balcony from which Evita would address the people. The Cathedral of Buenos Aires is in the Plaza, and became even more significant as Pope Francis's diocese when he served as Archbishop. Then there is the Cabildo, the colonial city hall.
Richard pointed out to us the tents and signs in front of the Casa Rosada. He told us about this an ongoing protest for the veterans of the Falkland Wars (1982), who because they were sent to war by the former military dictators, are not considered war heroes or veterans, and instead are suffering decades later.
Our next destination was the Avenida 9 de Julio. But on the way, Richard showed us an art deco building which had a barber shop where - you guessed it - the Pope would go.
Richard pointed out these street scenes, and brought us to yet another book store (yay!).
Next stop: Avenida 9 de Julio. It is said to be the world's widest avenue. The name comes from Argentina's Independence Day (1816). There we saw the Teatro Colon, and in the distance, a building decorated with Evita's image.
Our destination was the Abasto neighborhood, where pioneer tango singer and national icon Carlos Guardel lived for most of his life. He is everywhere there.
We had a lot of fun here at this statue park dedicated to the tango pioneers.
In this Abasto area, Richard gave us a lesson on mate' culture when we saw a mate' store as we walked by. There was a very nice shopping center (where the McDonald's is). We took the subway from here back to the Avenida 9 de Julio to end at a different plaza than we were at previously. There, we paid Richard and we all parted. I was very full with new knowledge and excitement. Highly recommend this tour, if you ever go to Buenos Aires.
Later that day, we went to dinner at a restaurant in Palermo near where we were staying, called 22 Parilla. Most other restaurants close after lunch and before dinner. We hadn't eaten since the media lunas earlier and it was about six. This one was thankfully open, and we were the only ones in there. We did this a lot, as the locals eat dinner much later than we are used to. We actually split a meal, on the suggestion of the waiter, and still felt very full.
In the evening, we went back to Cafe Tortoni. I had seen this on Trip Advisor, and what had impressed me about this show was that it was listed in Argentinian pesos, rather than US dollars. There are very expensive tourist tango shows that you can go to, and I am sure they are very nice, but pricey, in US dollars. This show was not expensive, and though only an hour show, it was very well-done. We had a pizza there, which confirmed other reviews, that warned us not to go for dinner.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.