Monday, March 3, 2008

BA continued

So we’re still on the city tour and go to visit more of La Boca neighborhood, specifically the caminitos. The Caminitos were sort of like tenement houses where immigrants fresh off the ships in the Buenos Aires harbor could go and live. They are brightly colored because the only paint that the people could get was that which was left over from painting the nearby ships. BA is extensively European and they can thank the many immigrants who came over on ships in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We got out and walked around one touristy area and were able to walk through an artisan market and were blown away by some of the fantastic paintings and sculptures that we saw. Back on the bus, as we continued to drive around we passed many huge parks or squares that you would picture seeing in any large city. People were stopped for picnics, or tea/mate time, or even that much needed siesta. You couldn’t help but notice another familiar occurrence on the streets of BA, especially near parks: dog walkers. Our guide said it was very common for people to hire dog walkers to take their dog out on private or public walks. As for the public walks, it wasn’t uncommon for us to see a person walking 5 or more dogs all at once! Imagine the pooper scooper you would have to carry around! For our final destination, we visited the Recoletta cemetery where the members of the namesake high-class neighborhood are entombed. One of the highlights was to see the tomb of Eva Peron, the wife of a former President of Argentina, one Juan Peron, and heroine of the working classes. She was both controversial and beloved by the people during her husband’s terms as president and it was a sad day in Argentina when she succumbed to cancer at a young age. There is a Broadway show called Eva Peron telling the story of the young woman’s rise to fame and an Argentine version Evita that we watched earlier as part of a class. Madonna and Antonio Bandera star in a movie version of the former.
After the tour, we were set free until dinner time, and four of us decided to visit the Natural History Museum across town. Because of its distance, we rode the Subte (the BA subway system), me for the first time on a subway! It was every thing that I ever dreamed a subway would be…loud and bumpy and gave me a nasty case of vertigo when I got off. Other than that it was a pleasant experience. At the Museum, we saw all kinds of weird and wild stuff from a South American perspective. When I say that, I don’t mean that Argentine scientists name things differently that we do, only that many of the dinosaur and prehistoric animals I had never heard of before, most likely due to their only being found in South America. It was very fun to wander around with my friends finding funny ways to “interact” with the exhibits to produce comical photos. After our private tour (and being thoroughly exhausted and very hot and sweaty) we retreated back to the hotel.
For dinner, we walked to a restaurant called “La Estancia” (ranch) and had another unbelievable meal. We had the choice of an appetizer, beef or chicken, and what dessert we wanted. I’ve never seen so much meat on a plate in my life! I swear that the steak I got was half a foot long, three inches wide, as many thick, and every bit of it very good. I’ll also have to throw in for my good buddy Alex Cox (wish you could be here man) that we had a course of freshly baked provolone cheese. We pictured it more as an appetizer, but they didn’t serve it until after the main course. Interesting, but I don’t feel as though it cleansed my palate at all, it that was its purpose.
The highlight of the next day was visiting the zoo. I wanted to go to be able to specifically see native South American animals and got what I wanted. We saw capyberras, native wildcats, an Argentine black bear, llamas, and two types of rodents that they let run wild in the zoo: nutria (muskrats) and a strange rabid looking animal that I to this day have no idea what they are called. One funny anecdote: Mark and I walked up to the baboon exhibit and all of a sudden they went nuts! They threw themselves at the front wall of the cage and screamed their heads off! We finally figured out a kid wearing a monkey mask had approached the cage and they were acting out of territorial interest. That kid would have been a gonner had that cage wall not been there.
On the way back to the hotel to gather and head back home, we walked by a huge metal, flower sculpture that is mechanized to open during the day and close at night. I would have really liked to have been there when it opened at sunrise. After that we perused the fine arts museum and saw actually paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrant. There wasn’t anything like Starry Night, but it was still cool to actually attend a fine arts museum. I’m becoming so “cultured” on this trip it’s scary!
Later that evening we climbed, exhausted yet enlightened, onto the Buquebus for our return voyage.

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