Day Two (New Years’ Eve) in Buenos Aires found us with time to explore. From our hotel in Puerto Madera, it was an easy walk over the bridge to the Government House, commonly known as Casa Rosada. (Yes, it is pink.) The front of the building faces the sea. When constructed it was on the waterfront, but now Puerto Madera lies between it and the water. This part of the building is under construction and is fenced off. It is the other side of the building which is perhaps more famous.
Evita’s balcony is on the back side facing the Plaza de Mayo. The Government building itself is gated so you can only get so close. I was amazed at how much trash there was in the Plaza, actually everywhere in the city. I wasn’t sure if it was the holidays so there hadn’t been normal trash collection or if this simply was how the city usually looked.
Also along the plaza was the Catedral Metropolitana with its neoclassical columns. I would never have guessed it was a church from the outside. The most interesting spot inside was the tomb of General Jose de San Martin, an Argentine hero. There was a large crowd of tourists taking pictures near the tomb, making it easy to visit the rest of the Cathedral uninterrupted.
Boris wanted to visit the Cabildo, the town council building, but it was closed for the holiday. We walked down the lovely tree-lined Avenue de Mayo stuck our head into Cafe Tortoni, the oldest and most famous cafe in the city. It was packed with tourists.
We decided to head to the barrio (district) of San Telmo, once the premiere location in the city, until a yellow fever epidemic drove people to higher ground in Recoleta (another barrio of Buenos Aires). Along the cobblestone streets, we saw a single family home with two bathrooms and one kitchen that had been converted into a tenement house for 23 poor families (about 100 people). A private investor had purchased the property and restored it back to the original configuration. It is unfurnished and is now used to host functions.
The rivers that intersect in San Telmo were on the bottom floor of the property. They also filtered water into cisterns to hold fresh water up to one year, using turtles to eat the mold. Later streets were built over the rivers. We were able to walk through the old tunnels passing under several of the adjacent buildings.
The city’s antique shops are concentrated in this area of the city. We went though the Mercado San Telmo which has been operating since 1887. The building has a beautiful original glass ceiling-very french.
We had lunch outside in Plaza Dorrego under the trees and umbrellas where Tango dancers performed for tips. They were very good. There was also a craft market on the Plaza where we found some wonderful handmade knives.
Our last stop in San Telmo was Iglesia Nuestra Senora de Belen, a former Jesuit school and later a Bethlemite church. The church towers were remarkable. We noted that like in the Cathedral, the stations of the cross were paintings, rather than the statues or carvings we are used to seeing in other churches.
The building next door was bricked in and had a prison plaque.
On the walk to San Telmo, we passed through another section of the city Montserrat and visited the oldest church in the city, Iglesia San Ignacio de Loyola. With its dedication to St. Ignatius, it is no surprise that it is a Jesuit church.
And this was just the first half of our day…