Buenos Aires – Recoleta Cemetery

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One of the many popular tourist areas in Buenos Aires is the Recoleta Cemetery. Located in the famous neighbourhood that bares its name; Recoleta.  The cemetery is the final resting place of many families and famous Argentinians such as Evita Peron, Raul Alfonsin and other past presidents of Argentina.

The cemetery is known for their magnificent mausoleums decorated in very ornate fashion and styles from Art Deco, Art Neuveau, Gothic and Egyptian styles, housing remains of family members. Most of the mausoleums are kept very well, but others are slowly decaying and falling apart. The reason, I’m told by my family members, is that every 25 years, the remaining live family members have to pay a fee to the cemetery to maintain the remains. If they do not, they no longer take care of them. There are no new burials allowed at the cemetery, unless the family already has a mausoleum.

I see dead people

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Though many of the styles are very elaborate, you might be surprised to find out that the grave site for Evita Peron (buried under her maiden name Duarte), is very simple in style. I have to admit that seeing her final resting place did put a tear in my eye the first time I saw it. I’m not sure why it did, but maybe the connection and understanding her history did this to me.

Evita - Recoleta

The cemetery is open daily until 5pm and is a great place to walk around and reflect. The centre court area is the only real place for shade on a sunny day, so be prepared to have drinking water in hand as you walk through there.

Buenos Aires 2011 – Puerto Madero

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The Puerto Madero neighbourhood is one of the newest neighbourhoods or barrios in Buenos Aires. This past year it celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. Before being a residential neighbourhood, Puerto Madero was actually the old port of Buenos Aires prior to 1926. This port was created into 4 separate docking areas to allow larger cargo ships to dock as the river bed was very shallow and most ships would have to have their passengers and goods ferried in before this.

The revitalization of the area 20 years ago drew in large international architects which help create the now most trendiest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, with trendy cafes and restaurants as well as the newest residential high rises. For me this neighbourhood reminds me a bit of Yaletown in Vancouver with old warehouse buildings, new high rises and closeness to the water.

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The interesting thing about the neighbourhood is that all streets are named after women. Also one of the newest links between the east and west banks of the neighbourhood is the Puente de la Mujer (The Women’s Bridge) built in 2008 by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

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One of the drawbacks is there isn’t great access to the Buenos Aires Transit system, mainly the Subte, and not many buses serve the area. Although there is a tram that runs part of the length of the neighbourhood, it truly is the only drawback in my mind.

To the far East side of the Puerto Madero, they city created an ecological reserve, though I haven’t visited it yet (and probably won’t be during this trip), I’ve heard it’s a great area to see some great birds and enjoy nature away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires 2011 – Day 5 – 8

It’s hard to believe that a week has already flown by on this trip to Buenos Aires. Russ continues to attend his Spanish school and when he gets off we explore more and more of the city. We’ve explored El Congresso, San Telmo and experienced a train ride to my aunts place.

The Congress (El Congresso) building is located on the Congressional Plaza which is west of the Plaza De Mayo where the Presidential house is located. The park is usually a site where there are several protests (luckily on this day there was none). The building was designed “by the Italian architect Vittorio Meano and completed by Argentine architect Julio Dormal, the building was under construction between 1898 and 1906.” [wikipedia]. The building is truly a great site to see and the Plaza itself is amazing.

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The next day we found ourselves exploring the oldest section of Buenos Aires – San Telmo. This is area is distinguished by the many colonial buildings, Tango bars, cobble stone streets, cafes and many antique stores throughout. Every weekend many people come to San Telmo for their famous street markets where you can find many antiques, art and artisans selling their wares. From what I understood they have two separate fairs, one on Saturday located at the Plaza Dorrego and one on Sunday along the street Defensa. This is a must for any visit to Bueno Aires.

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On Sunday found us traveling on train to my aunts place. This time I managed to take my camera and tool some photos of the train station (El Retiro). The images are so 20’s and nothing much has changed. I love this place for the character of the building itself. The cost to my aunt’s place was only $1.10 ARG which works out to be about $0.80 $0.30 CDN. Can’t beat that for transit. What I did noticed during our train ride, is that people here don’t seem to care about littering. They would just throw any piece of paper out the window or just let it drop on the floor, yet oddly the streets are not crazy with trash.

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There are still so many places to explore in this city. It’s hard to get it all in one trip and you truly have to come back again to just find out what you missed. We still have 2 weeks left here so I’m going to try to make the most of it and keep on exploring throughout the other neighbourhoods. We still plan of course on visiting Montevideo Uruguay this coming weekend and hopefully Duane Storey will tag along with us.

I’m having an amazing time here and really not rushing to do much everyday. All these neighbourhoods can be done in a few short hours, but lingering along and stopping in a cafe or two along the way truly makes the experience all that much more enjoyable.

The people here truly live their life and it is great to see.

Buenos Aires 2011 – Day 4

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Today was a very late start to the day. After arriving late from my aunt’s home the night before, all I wanted to do is sleep. Russ was also up and down all night long as he ate way too much and was feeling awful. I felt bad for him as he had to be at class at 8am that morning. He eventually went to class, but came back afterwards to fall asleep until his 2pm classes. I took the opportunity to sleep most of the morning away and then headed out on my way when he went to school in the afternoon.

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I ended up walking around towards the Plaza de Mayo, which comemerates the revolution that lead to the independance of Argentina back on May 25, 1810. The park is also where the Casa Rosada is located. This is the President of Argentina’s home and the plaza is always the scene of many governmental protests. Luckily I still haven’t seen one of the many famous protests yet.

As well as the Casa Rosada, there are other major landmarks around the Plaza: the Cabildo (the city council during the colonial era),  the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, the May Pyramid, the Equestrian monument to General Manuel Belgrano, the current city hall, and the headquarters of the National Bank.

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I took a break at some steps near by the park just relax and people watch, when I noticed a tour bus pull up in-front of me that said “Buenos Aires Shopping Tour”. I wasn’t sure what mall they were pulling up, but then I thought that maybe the steps where I was would lead me to a mall. As I got up and entered the door way, I notice this was actually a church, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires to be exact.

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This Cathedral was gorgeous inside. I couldn’t believe the details, the frescos, the floor. All amazing to see. Although I didn’t get much detail about the Cathedral itself, it is obviously a very famous one. You can read more about the Cathedral over on Wikipedia, a truly amazing history.

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I ended up picking Russ up again and we headed to walk along Santa Fe Ave for a much needed shopping break. We loved that street the last time we stayed in Recoleta. Though the prices have changed somewhat since we were last here, it was fun to see some European style of clothing and see some trends you don’t see back in North America.

We walked around, what Russ and I like to call now, our old neighbourhood, and stopped by for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants from the last trip here – Los Inmortales. This place has some history with some great photos dating back to the early 50’s to current time. The food is fantastic, but be warned that they do charge you a $6 peso per person table fee.

We walked back home and finally got to relax a bit. The next day will be more exploring of areas we didn’t get a chance to see on our last visit. I’m also hoping to catch a museum while I’m here, but not sure which one yet to go to. I have 16 more days here to explore so I’m sure I’ll find one eventually :).

Buenos Aires 2011 – Day 3

Waiting for the Subte Today in the morning we met up with Duane Storey, who is also here from Vancouver, but sticking around for 3 months, to help him figure out to get his cell phone working. I managed to get ours working the day before and wanted to show him how to get his working. To get to his place, we had to hop on the Subte, Buenos Aires’ amazing subway system. At a cost of only $1.10 Pesos (roughly $0.35 CDN), one can travel in one direction most anywhere in the city. We hopped on the D line at stopped at Plaza Italia in Palermo. The stop is great as it is located just outside the Buenos Aires Zoo and the amazing Italian garden which I love (I’ll have to get back up there to take some more photos).

Since Russ didn’t have much time to stick around and hang out and Duane had to get back to work, I headed down to the Retiro (main train station) to see about getting us tickets to go visit my aunt later that evening. Of course I’ve never gone all the way with the Subte to the Retiro and got lost trying to find my way around, but in the end it all worked out great.

Waiting in line for coins To purchase tickets to on the train out to my aunt’s place, I had to use one of the many automated ticket outlets. The bad thing with this, is that you have to have to have coins with you. Coins here in Buenos Aires are very hard to come by. Not many stores want to give them out which is very sad as you need coins to ride the buses here. They haven’t developed a pre-paid card system as they have in Mar Del Plata (yeah I’m surprised as well). So if you need change, you have to line up at the Monedas counter to get some change. This line I recall used to be huge and would take several hours to get your coins. Luckily the line up wasn’t that long and within 20 minutes I was able to purchase some much needed coins.

After Russ finished his class we quickly headed back down to the Subte, got off at the Retiro, and boarded out train to my aunt’s place. The train ride took about 30 minutes and we lazily walked up to my aunt’s home and were greeted amazingly by her. We of course talked abit as we waited for my other cousins to arrive. One who I haven’t seen in over 20 years as he is now living in Puerto Rico.

With my cousins

I have to say the evening was a great highlight for me. It’s always great to connect with family you haven’t seen in so long and always great to see how loving and caring they are. It was also great to enjoy a great home cooked meal that included asado and some great salads. Russ got to practice his Spanish more, and he is improving. Afterall my aunts were able to understand him this time around.

Can’t wait to visit more of my family later on this journey!