Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Buenos Aires for Christmas

Disembarking the ship at the end of our Antarctica cruise, we headed for our hotel in Ushuaia. We had planned a couple of nights there before moving on.

Tierra del Fuego National Park-at the end of the world
Our main reason for staying in Ushuaia was to visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park with its 63,000 spectacular hectares of forest, lagoons, glaciers, and mountains.

The next morning we took a bus to the Park, and after picking up a useful map, we embarked upon several shortish walking routes.

We had a lovely day, walking through beautiful and haunting forests of Antarctic and lenga beech trees, crossing interesting peat bogs, and circling pretty lagoons.

Lapataia Bay sign and end of the PanAm Highway
The Park is located at the southernmost point of Argentina and is also known as the ‘park at the end of the world’. We even found a sign saying we had reached the end of the Pan-America Highway (the PanAm).

We have driven the PanAm in Vdos and been on it several times in a bus through Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. It begins in Alaska and runs right down through the Americas to Ushuaia making it the world’s longest road.

Lapataia Bay lagoon
The Park wildlife was interesting and we spotted steamer ducks, geese, petrels, condors and a woodpecker. We even saw a beaver dam; but no beavers.

Eventually we arrived at Lapataia Bay lagoon and sat for a while admiring the view, before catching a bus back into Ushuaia.

The next day we caught a flight to Buenos Aires. Being Christmas Eve, most shops and restaurants were closed. However, we managed to buy a few goodies to eat and drink before checking into the Lemon Apartments, our accommodation for the week.

Park Lezama, Buenos Aires-quiet on Christmas Day 2017
Then we celebrated sitting on our balcony with a good wine, while watching the city lights.

Christmas Eve is a big family time in Argentina with people rushing everywhere clutching parcels and food.

Christmas Day was quiet. We walked around the area and it wasn't until much later that families emerged with kids on new bikes etc – same as at home really – but it was so, so hot.

Rey Castro restaurant-Castro top left
This was our third time in Buenos Aires city, but the first time that we had stayed for more than a few days.

At first glance, Buenos Aires seemed like a distressed old girl.

Like Paris twenty years ago, she is full of interesting but crumbling buildings, wide boulevards, narrow side-streets, graffiti, broken pavements, and lots and lots of doggie doo.

San Telmo-our local pizza place. Lemon Apartments
on left of photo
But, as with Paris, there is a certain hard-to-put-your-finger-on vibrancy that hooks you in.

You get to know the area and its character, and some of the people who live and work there, and the nasty stuff is forgotten.

It’s a fabulous and diverse city and we loved our time there.

We relaxed and walked around Buenos Aires city at our leisure, pacing ourselves in the heat. 

San Telmo-our local mini-market
The Lemon Apartments where we stayed, are modern and clean, and in a small refurbished building. The building even had a pool. We enjoyed our stay there.

The Lemon is in San Telmo, the ‘old town’ of Buenos Aires city. San Telmo proved a great choice for us, as we could walk everywhere. We had a great pizza bar up on the corner and a mini-market on the other corner which always seem to be open.

The people working in those places were all very friendly, and waved to us whenever we went past. It made us almost feel like locals!

Tango in the park at Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo
In San Telmo, we found Plaza Dorrego, a small park surrounded by cafes whose tables spilled out onto the Plaza. Then as if by magic, at around 6 pm most nights, the Plaza would come alive to the music of the tango.

The cafes would fill up, and couples would appear in lovely costumes to dance the tango – the national music and dance of Argentina.

Tango originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Uruguay). It has been awarded UNESCO status because it is deemed by the United Nations to be a part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

Beautiful old tango hall-our Tango night in Buenos Aires
We went to a professional tango show one night, that included dinner, a show, and a lesson (if one so desired). We didn't do the lesson but had a huge steak meal and a bottle of red wine - yum!

The show consisted of six dancers, a singer and a band with an amazing violin player. The programme alternated between the dancing, singing and music. The dancers were very agile and slick with some incredible moves. It was a lovely venue, great fun, and very Argentinean.

Marg at Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Over the week, we explored the plethora of antique shops, the many little green spaces, different mini-marts, cute cafes, and beautiful architecture that make up Buenos Aires.

Each suburb of Buenos Aires city is a little unique. We quite liked the newly developed area of Puerto Madero with its vibrant waterfront area and modern architecture, and the contrasting Monserrat with its grand, historic and beautiful architecture; and of course, the vibrant San Telmo.

The fabulous old market in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
We had a great time in Buenos Aires and it was good to relax after a full-on Antarctica cruise, and our campervan trip.

We have loved Argentina. We received several NZ Government warnings advising us of civil unrest there, and to be careful because of the economic situation, and high incidences of crime. But we thought it was ok.

We did see a small protest where people were marching down the street noisily but peacefully; much as we do when we march to our NZ parliament.

Parliament House Buenos Aires-the scene of many protests
The economy and currency is volatile. We considered using the ‘blue market’ of currency exchange to change our US dollars – but didn’t in the end – and we were not affected by any crime.

Argentineans are warm people, and they have a huge focus on family.

Children and pregnant women are prioritized and when it comes to standing in a queue, they are always encouraged to go first.

We even saw shops that were closed on Sundays, naming the closure as ‘children time’.

Typical mate cups
So many people consume the national drink called ‘mate’ – made from crushed and dried yerba mate root. They are so addicted to it that everywhere they go, they carry around a huge thermos flask of hot water in one arm, and their cup of mate in the other. There are even free hot water stations around towns so you can refill your thermos.

The cup is especially made for mate and the tea is sucked up through a special metal straw.

Making mate cups and straws has become an art form, and drinking mate is a national pastime! We tried one type of mate and found it very bitter.

All up, we had spent about two months in Argentina, including Buenos Aires, and it was time to move on, so we headed off to catch a ferry to take us to Montevideo in Uruguay.

1 comment:

  1. Back so soon! What a great trip you had. Thanks for sharing your adventures. :-)