Buenos Aires Part II
My second visit to Buenos Aires was merely a resting point to figure out my travels through Argentina. But, as I was staying for a full day and Buenos Aires is such a massive city that I couldn’t possibly have seen everything there is to see in one visit, I took advantage of my free time to see some more of Buenos Aires.
First I found myself at Gallerías Pacifico, a luxury mall on the pedestrian Florida Street. I was lured in by the Christmas decorations and tempted to stay by the extravagant decor, the tranquil atmosphere, the mirrored walls, the glass domed ceiling, and of course, the designer stores that I can’t afford. In order to be surrounded by the grandeur of the galleria as long as possible, I took advantage of the cellar foodcourt and had an early lunch.
Back in the bustling outside, I continued to the end of Florida Street, which runs into Plaza San Martín. The plaza is a hillside park of greenery honoring General José San Martín, a hero of the Argentine War of Independence from Spain and namesake for many plazas, roads, and monuments throughout the country. The plaza looks down onto the Torre Monumental, a clock tower that was gifted to the city by its British residents to commemorate the centennial in 1910 of the May Revolution that led to Argentina’s independence.
Marching on down Avenida del Libertador, a central arterial connecting some of the city’s main areas and named for General San Martín, the “liberator” of Argentina, into the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta, I cruised past the plazas of sculptures and monuments and buildings of French architecture until I encountered La Recoleta Cemetery.
Normally, I wouldn’t be so quick to enter a cemetery. They usually give me a feeling of sadness and gloom, veiled with grey and a mist of spookiness. But from an offhand remark during a conversation at my hostel, I got the idea that the cemetery was a major Buenos Aires landmark and would be a rewarding thing to see. Plus it was free. I ventured inside, preparing to feel a bit melancholy for the rest of the afternoon.
However, La Recoleta Cemetery is not a desolate and sorrowful resting place for the departed. It is bright and joyful, a halcyon place that feels like a celebration of life.
The cemetery is like a little town of tomb houses, with streets of tombs stretching out from the town square in a maze of stone avenues dotted with trees and charming streetlights. Each tomb seems to be designed with individual characteristics that befit the family whose loved ones are housed there.
Some are muted white slate adorned with intricate carvings and topped with ornate sculptures. Others are shiny black granite tile with simple columns and iron trellis glass doors. Some are religious, ornamented with crosses or statues of angels with some even resembling mini-churches. Others are secular, displaying simple homages to the inhabitants of the tomb.
If I had a choice, I would want to live out my eternal days in La Recoleta Cemetery. Unfortunately for me, you have to be a famous, rich, and/or important person to Argentina get a spot. The cemetery contains the esteemed tombs of past Argentinian presidents, other notable politicians, Nobel Prize winners, artists, writers, colonels, generals, and Eva Perón, the heroine of Argentina.
After wandering through the cemetery town for a while, I forged ahead on Libertador and passed the National Library, of “brutalist” architectural style (which I think basically just means ugly), more plazas and monuments commemorating Evita, Pope John Paul II, a famous Argentinian general, and a renowned Argentinian doctor, and some botanical gardens. I rested in a plaza for a bit, then persevered to Palermo, a chic and happening neighborhood of posh boutiques and trendy bars, cafes, restaurants, and ice cream shops.
Palermo seems like THE place to live to be hip and fun in Buenos Aires. It is a neighborhood of shopping, drinking, and eating. I could have spent the remainder of my travel budget in about ten minutes and ended up with a wardrobe of fabulous clothes and shoes. Luckily, my resolve stayed strong.
I did have an indulgent dinner of hamburguesa completa – a hamburger with cheese, ham, and eggs – before I subwayed back to my hostel on Florida Street.
The night was still relatively young. Since Buenos Aires is said to be the birthplace of tango, and tango is the national dance of Argentina, I figured I’d better not leave the city without seeing a tango show. I absolutely love going to shows, and I especially love to watch dancing, probably because I am so bad at it myself, so I was bound to have a good time no matter how good the show was.
This show did not disappoint. Couples tangoing, sensually twisting their bodies around like Gumby. Romantical Spanish singing. An orchestra of violins and accordians. Men tap-dancing in boots.
There is something very attractive about an Argentinian man who can really move.
Anyway. Um. It was a really fun show to watch.
My days in Buenos Aires are over. Now I’m sitting at a Starbucks overlooking Plaza San Martín sipping on a Christmassy coffee and awaiting this evening, when I’ll head across the street to the bus terminal to board a bus for a loooooooong ride to Puerto Iguazú in northern Argentina.