Putting on the Ritz in Recoleta
Believe it or not, six weeks is kind of a long time to be in Buenos Aires.
Not too long – we were still enjoying ourselves, but running out of ideas that didn’t involve food, alcohol, or unnecessary amounts of money.
“Hey,” Jared said, one sparkling afternoon, when the sun was practically begging us to come outside. “How about that free walking tour?”
Genius. The free walking tour is an idea that was spawned in Europe. Knowledgeable English-speaking guides wait at a designated spot every day, and if you want to join the tour all you need to do is turn up. The guides work for tips, which is a fair exchange for a couple of hours’ entertainment.
We’d already done a morning walking tour of the city center with BA Free Tours, which was OK. We weren’t blown away, but it was a better way to spend the morning than sitting in the apartment. With this in mind, we joined the 5PM Aristocratic walking tour.
Recoleta is one of the city’s ritziest neighborhoods, and a cultural hotspot. It’s where you can find posh Buenos Aires hotels, European architecture, Recoleta cemetery, and lions.
More about those later.
We met the tour group in Plaza San Martin and our guide, Camilla, who was possibly one of the cutest girls I’ve ever seen. Her adorable Argentinian accent kept me hanging on every word.
Flag Me Down
She took us to the
Falkland Islands Islas Malvinas Memorial, where we watched the six o’clock flag lowering ceremony.
“Watch,” Camilla said. “They do not fold the flag.” She shrugged. “I do not know why. When the flag is dirty, instead of cleaning it, they burn it and put up a new one.”
Sure enough, the soldier bunched it into a ball like he was stripping the sheets from his bed. He held the bundle close to his chest, straight-faced throughout the whole ceremony.
I’m always embarrassed when I hear about past acts of terrorism that I knew nothing about; one such example happened here in Buenos Aires in 1992 when a suicide bomber attacked the Israeli Embassy. 28 people were killed; 242 were injured. The site is now a memorial, with two rows of trees and benches that represent the victims.
Plaza de Cataluña
This plaza is tiny, but has a couple of interesting features. First, a small drinking fountain that is a replica of a larger one in Barcelona, Spain. Makes sense because it was a gift from Spain.
Second is this hilarious building, which I’ll let you figure out for yourself:
Apparently, in Argentina, plastic surgery is covered by health insurance. Once every two years, Argentinians are entitled to a procedure. The theory is that people might need reconstructive surgery due to accidents, so it’s written into private policies. So if two years pass and there’s no accident…hello boob job!
Or something like that.
Camillla came up with a code word – lions – to refer to women who have had obvious work done. She then sent us on ‘safari’ to hunt for lions on Avenida Alvear – the 5th Avenue of Buenos Aires.
Although I spotted a few potential lions (sorry, no photographs), I was more taken aback by the enormous mansions, most of which are now hotels.
And then there was the guy who bought one of those cows from the Cow Parade. And he put it…on his balcony. Because obviously, cows are outside pets.
The tour wraps up at the cemetery. By that time the cemetery is closed and you can’t go in, but we’d been before. Camilla gave us the history of Evita as we shivered in front of the gates. Adding to my infinite list of things I don’t know, I learned that Evita died of cancer when she was 33. Am I the only person who didn’t know that? Disclaimer: I never watched the movie.
I enjoyed this tour much more than the morning one. The subject matter was more interesting and Recoleta was just plain prettier than the center of town. All in all, a good way to spend a few hours exploring a new part of the city.