I wasn’t that impressed with Buenos Aires initially. We were driven through squalid-looking, traffic-jammed back streets to our ship. But, the ship wasn’t due to sail from until the evening of the second day, so we took the city tour. It completely reversed my first impression; I can only think the driver was trying to take a short cut through the less salubrious area of town … which didn’t work. The city proved to be just as confused and bustling, but in a friendly sort of way. There was much to see, especially in the way of architecture. Most styles seem to meet here.
One building in particular reminded me so much of the Metropolis in Madrid that I wondered if one was modelled on the other.
In Washington, they have the White House, but in Buenos Aires, the President’s Executive Mansion and offices are in the Pink House … or, to give it its correct name, the Casa Rosada.
My favourite stop on the tour was the La Boca district. This was where the first settlers lived; they built a sort of shanty town, and decorated their houses with paint scrounged from passing ships. I love to see houses painted in such bold, brash colours … although softer pastels are a close second.
From time to time, ladies in expensive looking evening dresses would approach. I thought the worst (and obvious) at first … but in broad daylight, and with wives present? Surely not?
Maybe they wanted to show us how to dance the tango, or maybe be photographed with them, looking like we were dancing the tango … for a fee, of course. I never found out for sure, for I didn’t take anyone up on the offer. I was wearing my ‘city-sightseeing-but-trying-not-to-look-too-much-like-a-tourist’ rig, but still thought I’d just look ridiculous. But, maybe, if I’d been wearing a suit?
We rounded up the tour with an almost mandatory visit to the ‘dead centre of Buenos Aires’ … the Recoleta cemetery. The Argentinian love of architecture didn’t stop at the places they lived and worked in. In death, even their elaborate mausoleums seemed like an attempt to show off their power and influence, and ‘out-jones’ their neighbours.
Elsewhere in the world, there are famous cemeteries on the ‘must visit’ list, but mainly, it’s because of the famous (or infamous) people buried there. But really, there’s only one person buried here that everyone’s heard of; Eva Peron. And, of course, most of the guides shepherded their groups to her last resting place, which isn’t really prominent; just another grand monument among other equally grand constructions.
Outside a nearby café was an effigy of a man in racing overalls. Could it be another famous Argentinian; one I’d heard of even before Ms Peron was immortalised in the musical ‘Evita’? Juan-Manuel Fangio? However, closer inspection revealed that he looked nothing like Fangio. I thought of the other Argentinian racing drivers I knew of; Carlos Reutemann? Froilan Gonzalez?
A plate by the image told that it was Oscar Alfredo Galvez! Who he? Never heard of him! But, he must have been highly regarded, for the local motor racing circuit is named after him.