Good air, cemetaries, and the walking dead…

Well, I made it! I am actually in Buenos Aires now. I will abbreviate the city B.A. from here on out. Hope that´s OK.

I feel like a zombie (aka, walking dead). Have not really slept in about two days I guess, and frankly, I got minimal sleep for three nights before I left home. However, I did still manage to catch my city tour at 2 pm… which did turn out just fine. So, I hit the ground running. I made all my flight connections and my bag arrive along with me… which is always good. I came in to B.A. on the very efficient shuttle system which cost only US$11 and they transfered me straight to my hostel.

After that, I had a good city tour and my guide was really excellent. She is an anthropologist who works at the local ethnographic museum. We were able to go to all the places I won´t have enough time to see on my own except Palermo and I think I can go there tomorrow after I see the Zoo and Botanic and Japanese Gardens.

My first impressions of Buenos Aires are very positive. The temperature was surprisingly lovely today. It only started out in the morning at about 65 degrees, but warmed up to about 75-80 and was sunny with a pleasant breeze all day. I can see how the city got its name. If you haven´t put it together yet, Buenos Aires means ¨good air¨ in Spanish. And, in fact, there is surprisingly little pollution given the amount of traffic and the tremendous population. This may be due to the fact that the city is chock FULL of gorgeous, bushy trees which must be offsetting any carbon emissions, etc.  In addition, the city is right near the pampas (grasslands/plains), not stuck in a valley like Los Angeles or Pasadena (my home town), so the air seems to circulate well and there is usually a nice breeze. That´s all I can figure. 

In B.A. and the surrounding area there are no less than 12 million people! The number is smaller if you just count the city of B.A. proper. The people seem pretty friendly. For instance, a woman stopped me on the street today just to tell me that I was not walking down the most lovely street in B.A., but rather should go a couple blocks over to fully enjoy my walking experience. I thought that was nice of her, or perhaps she was just showing that she could recognize an English-speaking tourist a mile away. There is a certain pride that comes with that talent, I suppose. Whatever. It was still nice of her.

My city tour took me all over the place and the best part was that it ended up being a PRIVATE tour because no one else booked for today. So, I was in a relatively air-conditioned car with a driver and my guide. They took me to the Microcenter, Plaza de Maya, the Obelisk, all the government buildings and important plazas, and catherdrals in the area. Then, we went to San Telmo and La Boca, both rather bohemian and artsy sections of B.A.

In La Boca — which means mouth as in the “mouth of the Rio de la Plata” or river of silver — we saw loads of colorfully painted buildings and artist stalls. In San Telmo, we saw some dancing, a version of the tango, right in the main plaza. I hope to see some real tango when I return to B.A. Dec. 19 if I have any money left to go to a performance. Sometimes, however, you can just see couples performing in the plazas or near cafes around town — especially in San Telmo and La Boca.

After that, we visited Puerto Madero, at the riverfront. This is a very posh neighborhood and the properties are costly there. Frankly, it doesn´t really look like Argentina but a mix of European and American influences with tons of restaurants with English names. I even saw a TGI Fridays.

The tour finally ended after a good 3+ hours in the Recoleta Cemetary. Let me just say that this is no ordinary cemetary but rather a museum for the dead. The monuments and tombs are extraordinary and highly ornate. I´ve never seen anything like it. Needless to say I took lots of photos there. To top off the charm of this cemetary, a community of CATS — the domestic sort — inhabit the area and are apparenty fed there by the groundskeepers. Aside from their mangy fur, they looked rather healthy and friendly — not at all as you would imagine a bunch of feral cats. As I was photographing one tomb, a little black and white cat came right up to me, sat by me, mewed a bit, and rubbed its head on my knee. Once again, there are cats in my itinerary. What a surprise…

I sat in the Cemetary for a while on a shady bench and just absorbed the atmosphere. The place is not at all scary as one might imagine graveyards to be, but quite peaceful, well-kept, slightly mysterious, and totally enthralling. Oh, yah, and did I mention that EVITA PERON is buried there? Well, she is and I saw her tomb. It is like a shrine. Much loved for the work she did to improve the lives of the poor in the country, she is still hailed as a heroine and symbol for many folks who still bring offerings, photographs, notes, and flowers to her tomb. However, I have to say that the tomb itself is quite unassuming. You would easily miss it without a guide or handy map given to you as you enter the cemetary. Several people stopped me to ask where it was, in fact. Fortunately, my guide had shown me on my tour and I was able to direct them. However, the cemetary is like a maze and even when you are retracing your steps, you can easily get confused as I did when leading a couple guys from Holland back to her crypt. We did eventually find it and fortunately were not lost in the cemetary.

Having NOT slept in about 2 days, let me just say that in walking around that cemetary, I myself felt like the walking dead. However, it´s amazing how your mind can over-ride your body. I was pretty dead-set (pun intended) on seeing the place. Even now, every once in a while, I feel like my body is swaying — almost like I am on a ship. Or perhaps I´m just knodding off periodically and don´t realize it. Hmm.

Well, after the cemetary, I sat in the park nearby a little while and looked at the map my guide gave me. I figured out that my hostel — the Recoleta Hostel — is located just down the street from where the tour ended at the cemetary. So, I strolled back toward my hostel early in the evening. It was perfectly safe — a very nice part of town where you find some of the best hotels and shops — and it was still pretty light as the sun stays up longer here. On my way, I found a nice little cafe and was able to procure a good vegetarian dinner of ravioli… which tasted like it had been made fresh, actually. However, as good as it was, something tells me that I am going to be up to my ears in pasta by the time I leave this country. There are actually some very good vegetarian restaurants in town that serve more than just pasta and pizza, however, and tomorrow I think I´ll have to try one for a change. By the way, vegetarianism is more common here than I had imagined. In fact, my guide today was also a vegetarian.

So, aside from the fact that I´m not entirely sure if I am really typing all this or it is a dream, I feel pretty good. Buenos Aires is quite a complex and diverse city from what I´ve seen so far, and yet it has a certain familiar feel for anyone who has been to the larger cities in Europe such as Madrid or Barcelona.

So, perhaps that´s all I should write — as if this weren´t quite enough — for now, since my arms now feel like they are floating upward from my body whenever I remove them from the keyboard. Interesting… these signs of sleep deprivation. I´m sure some scientist somewhere has studied them. Just wanted you to know that I am fine and enjoying myself here so far. Tomorrow, I hope to get to the Zoo, Botanical Garden, and Japanese Gardens, as well as Palermo perhaps. We´ll see how early I can get up in the morning. It is just about 8:45 pm here now and I am going to go to bed I think. I really need the rest.

Hasta luego.

Explore posts in the same categories: Antarctica & Argentina, My Travels

2 Comments on “Good air, cemetaries, and the walking dead…”

  1. Mike C. Says:

    I’ve heard BA is sometimes called the “Paris of Latin America.” Sounds like you’re having a good time and seeing lots – hopefully you’ll get a good nights rest tonight! BTW I always pride myself in trying to “spot” American tourists (or German tourists for that matter) here in Cape Town!!!

  2. June Colton Says:

    Dear Laurel,
    Thanks a million for staying awake & telling us about your travels & giving your comments. It was very interesing & I’m glad you are having this great experience. Hope the rest of your trip goes as well. Now, get some sleep! Sending lots of love.

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