18 Nov 2015

Expedition To South Georgia Island by Maureen

21/23

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This morning, we left cold and snowy Ushuaia and flew to warm and humid Buenos Aires. We grabbed a taxi to our hotel in downtown BA. It's a beautiful time to be here -- all the trees lining the streets are blooming purple flowers and the parks are very green. As soon as we checked in to our room, the lady we booked a city tour with called to let us know she would be at the hotel shortly.

Liz arrived and met us in the lobby with city maps. She sat us down and gave us an overview of the city and its history. Then we hopped back into a cab and made our way to La Boca, the district that used to be the first port in BA and holds a lot of history, including originating the Tango. As a port city, a lot of men arrived here from European cities as well as local regions. Therefore, brothels also popped up. The tango as a dance began as a way to, "get men ready to go in five minutes," according to our guide. The music was played on accordions and violins because those were the instruments that were brought over from Europe. Many of the songs were sad and were about longing for home.

Top photo: Gina walking through La Boca
Bottom photo: La Boca - very colorful

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After La Boca, we drove through the new port area: it's very new and like most port cities, it's redone its old warehouses and turned them into apartments, shopping, and offices. We then drove to La Recoleta -- a district where the old 1% moved to when the original port area (La Boca) became overrun with port workers and when yellow fever started spreading. This area became known as the 'Paris of South America' because many of those 1%-ers travelled often between the big European cities and BA and so they brought over the designers/architects of the time to build their palaces -- they wanted to be the royal families of BA. We were told that when the women would come back to BA with their fancy, new, European dresses, they were't quite fancy enough and so gold thread was woven through them. This area now is like the 5th Ave/SoHo of NYC and is full of fancy shops and buildings.

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Next, we explored the Cemetery -- Cementerio de la Recoleta -- where the rich families built mausoleums for their dead. These mausoleums could hold up to 17 family members, both above and below ground. It reminded me of New Orleans' cemeteries, except at a much larger scale. Each family mausoleum was designed according to the times and the wealth. Some are still very well maintained and are updated with stained glass and other fancy things, while others have been abandoned and are falling apart; but the families bought these spaces and so even the abandoned structures are there to stay. We did see where Evita is entombed, as well as other famous Argentinians. This cemetery is also well-known for its cats -- there are many strays who live here and are well-fed.

Top photo: Depicts the differences in family mausoleums
Middle photo: Wandering through...
Bottom photo: Gina petting a couple of the resident kitties

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After exploring La Recoleta, we taxied over to the Catedral Metropolitana -- there were plaques set aside for Pope Francis -- he comes from BA and was appointed Archbishop here at some point. It was very pretty inside with lots of gold decor and marble walls and mosaiced floors. By this time, the tour was about finished and we were famished, so our tour guide took us to Cafe Tortoni which was a famous French-style cafe known for thoughtful discussions about art, politics, philosophy, etc. We each ordered hot chocolat y tres churros. (Irene took all the photos, so photos to come once I receive them.)

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When in BA, one must attend a tango show. Our tour guide set us up with one -- La Ventana: Barrio de Tango. We were picked up at our hotel a little after 8:00pm, started dinner around 9:00, and the show started at 10:00. There were live musicians and about 5 pairs of tango dancers who did group routines as well as highlighting different types of paired tango dances. There was also a section of the show that spotlighted native music with pan flutes and drums and guitars. Then there was a surprising tribute to Evita with the female singer dressed in a fancy gown while clips of Evita giving speeches and doing Evita things played behind her while she sang 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina' en Español. At the end of the tribute, the tango dancers came out waving Argentinian flags. It was quite patriotic... While the tango dancing and music were impressive and entertaining, Gina, Irene, and I agreed that we preferred the native music portion of the show the best.

Top photo: Our location-specific wine (Argentina is well-known for its Malbec grapes -- we consumed several bottles of Malbec throughout our several days in Argentina and can attest to its popularity)
Bottom photo: Gina and Irene before the show