18 October 2008 – day 16 - Saturday

We've been busy busy busy. In fact, we've been so busy that I'm actually writing this on Sunday morning, not Saturday night. The reason is because we didn't get home until about 1:30am. So what have we been doing?

Well, after we got ready and had breakfast, we got on the bus and took our city tour of Buenos Aires.

The bus took us around town and showed us the various sites.

The tour was led by our local guide, whose name is Sylvia. She is one feisty woman (and that's a good thing).

When we were picked up at the airport yesterday, we teased her about soccer (“football”) because earlier in the week, the team from Chile beat the team from Argentina. It was the first time Chile has beaten them in like a dozen games. So it was fun to tease her.

She talked about how many people think that the people of Argentina are arrogant or that they think they have the best world, best soccer players, best this, best that. She tried to downplay it, but clearly she was proud of her country.

She told us that Buenos Aires literally means “Good Air”. Originally, the city had a much longer name. She told us what it was, but I don't remember. Something like Spanish for “Santa Maria of such-and-such of the Good Air.” Eventually people began abbreviating the name until everything was dropped but the “Good Air” part, and thus, Buenos Aires.

Well, from what I've seen, there isn't much good air here. Like all big cities, it is very dirty, very noisy and very polluted. This is in sharp contrast to Chile where everything was pretty clean, quiet and the air was fresh.

Our first stop was a square where there was a statue commemorating the day that Argentina won their independence from Spain.

There was also “Independence Hall”, which was very much like the similar building in Philadelphia.

There was also a big cathedral nearby, but we only had time to peek our heads in the door. We decided that we might return if we had time, so we could take our time at the church.

Driving through town, I think Buenos Aires has a lot of squares like this. We didn't have much time to explore and we had to get back on the bus.

Next, we went down into the underground to ride the historic subway. I think they said they said this subway was first one built in South America. It was built in the early 1810's, and the car are still in operation. They contain their original woodwork and such. It was actually quite beautiful.

After we got off the subway, we walked across the street and visited a small diner. This was one of the last remaining diners, a remnant of an era gone by. It was beautiful inside.

As we drove through the city, Sylvia talked about the politics of Argentina. She talked about Juan Domingo Peron and Eva “Evita” Peron, who was greatly loved by the people. The people loved them so much, Peron's political party was renamed to the Peronistas. By way of contrast, we Americans loved Abraham Lincoln, but not enough to rename the Republicans the Lincolnians. So you can imagine.

When we drove by their soccer stadium, Sylvia joked about how Soccer is the State Religion, and this stadium is their place of worship. Apparently, one of their rival teams has black and red as their team colors. Well, the rivalry is so great that they would only permit Coca Cola to advertise on their stadium if they agreed to change their colors from black and red to black and white! Imagine them telling a big corporation like Coca Cola what to do!

Anyway, it was great fun hearing her talk about it.

Next, we drove to a historical part of Buenos Aires where there were brightly colored houses

and lots of street vendors.

Oddly, the buildings were decorated with great big oversize caricatures of people. They looked like something left over from Brazil's Carnival. Some of them were pretty elaborate.

We disembarked the bus and shopped and mingled with the people for a half-hour or so. It was fun.

Back on the bus, we drove down to their river area where we saw a floating casino among other things. At one point we were stopped in traffic when we happened to notice the local Red Hat office! I took photos and pointed it out to everybody. It was cool to see.

Next, we saw a huge piece of art that appeared to be a colossal metal flower. They say someone pushes a button at sunrise and sunset to open and close the huge petals.

We saw beautiful parks with gnarled old trees,

and people walking around enjoying their weekend. Eventually we ended up at a very cool old cemetery where Eva Peron is buried.

The cemetery was fantastic, filled with angels and statues.

In many of the grave sites, there were caskets stacked on top each other several levels deep into the ground.

I would have loved to spend more time there, but we had to go.

Next, we stopped for lunch, and it was a huge lunch. Just when I thought dinner was over, the waiters set out huge plates filled with a steak and French fries, and then a big dessert. We were stuffed.

After lunch, we had the afternoon free. Kathy

and I grabbed our city map and walked back to our first destination where the big cathedral stood. It was a very nice church and we took lots of photos.

As usual, they had some good stained glass, so I had to photograph some of it.

After visiting the church, we walked across town admiring the old-world architecture.

Sylvia had told us that, unlike many old cities, Buenos Aires doesn't believe in tearing down old buildings and erecting new ones. So there are lots of cool old buildings all over the city. There are also lots of monuments, statues,

and parks with huge gnarled trees. Gotta love it!

We walked until we came to a big park we had seen earlier from the bus. When they pointed it out from the bus, they told us that there would be a big handicraft market there later in the afternoon. By the time we got to the park, we were tired. It was a lot further than we expected. We walked through all the handicraft vendors, and Kathy bought a leather fanny pack. I didn't find anything I wanted to buy. We sat on the grass and watched some local entertainment: a group of native South Americans, dressed in full gear, began to play some beautiful music. It was cool.

Meanwhile, other performers were setting up; there was a tightrope walker walking on a rope he had strung between two trees. It was lovely.

Eventually we needed to use the Banos, the bathrooms. We found a nearby shopping mall and went inside. When we were done there, we hailed a taxi and had him take us to the Obelisk, which is a monument that stands a couple blocks away from our hotel.

We were exhausted from a very full day. Nonetheless, Kathy will not be daunted and the very worst thing in the world is to sit in a hotel and do nothing. So we decided to take an optional tour which was a Tango show. Tango dancing is very big here in Argentina, and this show really showed it off well. However, I was very tired, had a full belly, and had an alcoholic drink in me. The music's lyrics were all in Spanish, so I couldn't understand what they were singing. So for me it was an enormous struggle to stay awake. I didn't really enjoy the show much, except for looking at the very thin, athletic and limber women who did the dancing.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was after midnight. It was 12:30am. But that's not the worst of it. It turns out that Argentina went onto daylight savings time as well. So it was really 1:30am. And we had to get up very early to catch our flight to Iguazu falls.

To make matters worse, Kathy has been sick with a cold almost the whole trip. So she has spent a lot of nights up coughing and coughing. I doubt if I got even four hours of sleep.