Buenos Aires Day 3
Waking up on the first day of a new year is usually a strange experience – and in a different city it can almost be surreal. My lesson for today is this: this is my trip – not anyone else’s – and if I miss some big “highlighted” place, I was not meant to see it this time around. I guess that does highlight the events of today. Let’s just say that I faced some challenges, but I made my own memories. The challenges included the following items. Is the Subtle even running today? Will anything be open in San Telmo? The heat, the sun, and feeling cold in the shade and needing water… Underestimated how far it is to walk to … Is there a bank machine that is not only accessible but has money? Water!
So, at breakfast, I was joined by the two women from South Africa who were staying in the other rooms at Maggie’s – one was from Cape Town and one from Johannesberg. They were heading to San Telmo – my plan as well. San Telmo is one of the oldest areas with cobble-stone streets and an antiques market on Sundays. Maggie did not know how much would be open today, however they said that it was open and very busy last weekend (Christmas). So, I headed out with knowledge from my research on how to use the Subtle to get there. That presented one of the challenges of the day. It should have started by 6 AM on Sunday, but there were signs (in Spanish) that indicated that the start would be later – but I did not see a time for this to occur! No problem, I can walk.
Next challenge was getting a little more cash but the first bank I thought I would try not only locked the access to the automatic teller machines, usually a swipe of your card will give you access, but the windows were shuttered up! No problem, I had some cash, I would be ok.
I headed toward Plaza de Mayo and once there, I saw people starting to set things up along one cobbled-stone street, so I figured I was heading in the right direction. I tried to find a street sign (another challenge) and did finally saw one that said I was on Defensa. Yeah! I was ACTUALLY on the street I wanted. How could that happen without a GPS or a guide dog?
While you could tell this was a slow morning for most of us, there were sights, sounds and smells everywhere. One smell was an incense that was for sale – it reminded me of a little like frankincense, but with a wildness attached to the essence. There was music of different types being played – from tango to Spanish pop to the Beatles.
Along the route, I saw a couple of beautiful churches. The first I walked by is a beautiful yellow building called the Basilica del Santisimo Rosario and the Convento de Santa Dominigo. It contains the masuleum of Manual Belgrano, whose house is next door. He is one of the important generals of Buenos Aires. I loved the statues in front of this church. The second church I saw is the Nuestra Senora de Belen, also known as the Templo de San Pedro de Telmo that was built by a Jesuit architect who started it in 1735.
As I was walking down Defensa, something caught my eye on a street called Pasaje San Lorenzo and I made a detour to only discover I found something written about in one of my guidebooks: Casa Minima. It is “famous” for being one of the smallest houses in the city at 2.5 meters across and 12 meters deep!There are a numbers of legends surrounding why this house is so small – including one that it was built by a freed slave whose former owner allowed him to build this house on his property! I found it to be very quaint as it was squeezed between two “mansions” – but painted a bright colour as it to say “Hey! Look at me – I’m beautiful!”
Heading back up De3fensa, the street become more crowded with vendors as I headed towards Plaza Dolores. I finally found a bank with an accessible ATM – only to discover that it was out of cash! That challenge continued but did not dampen my interest in the world that was opening up – the weekly Antiques Fair in Plaza Dolores. It is a small square filled to the brim with vendors and people – and as usually I always seemed to be walking “upstream” against the crowd!
The vendors were just as colourful as the people shopping – one was a gaucho selling all things … well .. gaucho! Whips, boleros, leather belts, cow bells! Then, I found a shop where I could get my typical “tourist” souvenier – an apron. This one has tango dancers on it and will blend quite nicely with the rest of my collection!
Around the plaza are a number of bars and restaurants – many featuring tango dancers (wow … que surprise!). I sat at one of the outdoor cafes to people watch and eat empanadas with cheese and roasted red peppers. It was also a great way to people watch and relax in the shade after my long walk/. I also got to watch dancers and listen to a tango band – not bad for the price of a lunch!
After spending a nice early afternoon in SanTemlo, I thought I would be able to walk along the Puerto Maderno to San Martin Plaza. Yeah, right. Maybe if it was not 31 C. and humid. Maybe if my favourite pair of walking sandals decided to give me blisters. Maybe if there were more shade! I made it from Dique 1 to Dique 4 before I finally gave up. I found a bar were I got some water and “limone aid”. Then decided to make my way “home” even though I was not quite show how far that was. I headed back to the main central area and when I spotted the Pink House, I knew I was on the right track. Heading up Ave. do Mayo – I stopped once more at a café for “café y agua mineral sin gas” and even though I said this in Spanish, I guess it was not good enough as I ended up pointing to what I wanted from the menu. At least I did try! Refreshed, I was able to get within one block of “home” before the sidewalk tripped me. Luckily, the camera was packed in my day pack and I am physically undamaged – and no one say me, so even my pride did not suffer.
The apartment was cool when I entered – even though there are no air conditioners – and I spent a few minutes resting and re-packing in preparation for the next phase of my trip. I was also a bit upset because everyone who had been here had given me great places to go – and it appeared that I would not see most. Then I reminded myself – this is my trip and my experiences and memories. I did not have to please anyone else – just remember that there is a lot more to see or do here and I will just have to plan to come back! But I decided I needed to try to have a plan for the next day.
So, as the day cooled down, I headed out for dinner. There were limited choices as many places were closed because it was a holiday. I finally settled on Café Iberia and had a waiter who was very nice. One thing I have learned about ordering café at the end of a meal meant you got an espresso (perfect) served with a small glass of agua mineral con gas and a small pastry.
I called it a successful day and a great way to start a new year.