Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is often called “the Paris of the Americas”. It is the 11th largest city in the world with over I million people. In atmosphere, attitudes, architecture, and modern awareness, this metropolis more closely resembles a western European capital than any other South American city.

You will arrive at the modern EZEIZA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, or at the domestic AEROPARQUE. In the city, there are numerous buses decorated in brilliant colors. There’s also an antique subway with 5 lines…identified with the sign “Subte”.

PLAZA DE LA REPUBLICA: This square is marked by a 220 foot-high obelisk that commemorates the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding in 1536. It is the cities most famous landmark…and reminds US visitors of the Washington Monument. You might also think of it as “the Argentine monument to the suppository”, as the people, jokingly do. The Plaza fringes the entertainment and theater district, and the nearby area swings day and night.

PLAZA DE MAYO: This is considered the true center of the city and houses a number of government and office buildings. The many parades of the city start here. The square is one block wide and two blocks long, and was named to commemorate the date of independence from the Spanish viceroy. In the past, as many as 100,000 people jammed the square to hear their leader Juan Peron. Today, the plaza has lovely flower gardens and fountains.

CASA ROSADA: Facing the eastern side of Plaza de Mayo, this houses the offices of Argentina’s president. It was a fortress in colonial days. It is from the balcony of this building that Eva Peron delivered her rhetoric to the masses. She continues to be very popular here.

EL CABILDO: Also located on Plaza de Mayo; this building, now a historical museum, is the site of the former city hall. The Casa Rosada and the Cabildo are guarded by soldiers in red and dark blue ceremonial uniforms, complete with sword and feathered top hat. Photo op!

LA CATEDRAL: Near the Plaza de Mayo, this Greek-facaded, gray structure has gone through many restorations. Here is the tomb of General Jose de San Martin, the Argentine who helped liberate South America from Spain. The church also houses the CHAIR OF RIVADAVIA, a symbol of the Argentine presidency. It belonged to the nations first president and is used whenever the current president visits the cathedral. The president, by law, must be a Catholic.

PLAZA DEL CONGRESO: The National Congress, Argentina’s legislature is located here, in the square, block-long, white Greco-Roman structure. Nearby, is a quite park, for resting or for people-watching.

LA BOCA: Little Italy! This old port area was originally the heart of the city, now populated by working-class Italians. It still retains the color of a village in southern Italy. Very colorful!

AVELLANEDA BRIDGE: Be sure and see the view from this bridge, which spans the Riachuelo River. An escalator will carry you onto the bridge.

PALERMO PARK: This is where the “Portenos”, as the people of Buenos Aires call themselves, go for relaxation. Spread over its 1,100 acres are lakes, lawns, forests, and formal gardens. It’s a city within a city. The D line subway goes to the park.

AVENICA NUEVE DE JULIO: This is the widest street in the world…one city block wide or 425 feet across. Here one will find grassy squares in the center, each sectioned off and named after different provinces. The avenue was built by tearing down square block after square block of apartment and office buildings. It is presently 26 blocks long, and still growing. In addition to the Obelisk, the avenue has two huge fountains with special lighting effects. It’s the perfect place for strolling and people-watching. Lots of activity on this avenue.

TEATRO COLON: Filling almost one square block, this majestic building is the center of the city’s classical music life. It’s been one of the world’s major Opera Houses for nearly 80 years.

SAN MARTIN PLAZA: Named after the Argentine liberator, this park has a huge statue of him at its western end. It’s a favorite spot for visitors from other parts of Argentina to take photos of themselves.

AVENIDA LAVALLE: A downtown pedestrian-only street, and one of the most active spots of the city. No matter how late at night, or early, there is always something to do here. Shopping!

SAN TELMO: This area has retained its cobblestone streets, colonial houses, and passageways too narrow for modern cars. Antique shops are plentiful here, and a popular flea market is held each Sunday. At night, the area becomes brightly lit tango bars and cabarets. It is located several blocks south of the Plaza de Mayo.

PLAZA FRANCIA: This area is particularly lively during the summer, as a place to sunbathe, picnic, and nap…or lovers/trysts. Also on the plaza is a new and attractive CULTURAL CENTER.

MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES: Located across the street from Plaza Francia, this is Argentina’s finest Art Museum, with a strong collection of modern artists from Argentina. Its Classical European section is poor, but there are major works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Chagall, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Hours Tue-Sun 9-12:45, 3-6:45.

CEMENTERIO RECOLETA: If you like Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, you’ll adore this place. The mausoleum here is a venerated necropolis – a city of the dead, and THE place to be buried. No common graves allowed – only famous families. Among those famous…Eva Peron, and her crypt is locked and guarded. Many pilgrimages to her crypt.

JARDIN BOTANICO: This municipally run garden contains flowers from around the world. Plenty of benches line the walkway. It’s a good place to relax.

THE TOWN OF LUJAN: This well-loved Argentine town is located 43 miles from Buenos Aires. The town stands on the spot where a miracle occurred 350 years ago, when the wagon carrying the statue of the Virgin from one church to another, suddenly stopped on the road and would not budge. Taking this as a sign, the people built a chapel to the Virgin on the site, and the town grew up around it. Every December, more than four million pilgrims worship at the shrine of the Virgin of Lujan. It is a monumental Gothic structure.

MUSEO HISTORICO NACIONAL: This museum features mementos, trophies, and depictions of famous Argentine historical events. Thu-Sun 3-7 PM.

MUSEO DE ARTE HISPANO AMERICANO: This museum contains a valuable collection of Spanish -American art of the Spanish colonial period from the 17th-18th centuries. Tue-Sun 2-7 PM.

MUSEO DE LA FARMACIA: Apothecary antiquities are on display here.

RIVER PLATE STADIUM: The national sport of Argentina is Futbol or Soccer. This stadium seats 80,000 and is always packed when First-division games are played.

A VISIT TO AN ARGENTINE RANCH (ESTANCIA): Two ranch trips are available. One is a short 12-mile bus trip and the other involves a 2-hour ride across the pampas. Both feature delicious “parrillada” cooked over an open fire, gaucho dancing, and superb views of the countryside. The life of the gaucho is steeped in tradition. Dressed today as he was hundreds of years ago, he wears a broad-brimmed black hat, tight-fitting shirt, bolero jacket, baggy trousers, silver-decorated belt, and leather boots. If it’s cold, he also wears a poncho. He carries a gourd and bombilla (straw) for sipping his bitter tea. And finally, he carries on his saddle, his boleadoras, used to fell stray cattle. These tools of the gaucho are demonstrated and exhibited on the tours. Generally this writer does not care for this type of “touristy” activity. However the ranch visit and the food were first rate.