We were boarding the ship on day 4 in Buenos Aires so we took advantage of the free internet at the hotel before checking out. Anyone that has cruised before knows that internet access is expensive on board (obviously a real money-maker for the cruise lines) and often erratic. We ate lunch on the Puerto Madera waterfront one more time, this meal visiting a Brazilian style restaurant, Rodizio. There is a salad bar and side dishes, but the focus is on the wide variety of meats which are brought to you and carved table-side . You must come hungry. There are several restaurants like this in Houston now, but we loved the Argentine beef and wanted to take full advantage of it while we were still in port. Love meat? (I am raising my Texas-bred hand) There were nine meat offerings-I had to stop at 5. I did somehow find room for the dessert pancake with dulce de leche (a wonderful caramel filling my sister-in-law introduced me to) inside.
We were sailing from the new cruise terminal, still unfinished when we were there. You check in at one building and then are transported by bus to the ship. This is not such a big deal when you are getting on and then sailing shortly after. However if you are staying in port a couple of days, the transfer back and forth to the terminal takes up valuable touring time.
On day 5 in Buenos Aires, after the shuttle to the terminal we took a cab to the barrio of La Boca, passing the large soccer stadium. I grew up on Texas football, but soccer (football outside the USA) is extremely popular in South America and the stadium was listed as a tourist attraction. During my lifetime, I have seen the popularity of soccer grow exponentially in the United States. They are building a huge soccer stadium in Houston right now (78 days until the opening) and the Houston Dynamos are currently our most successful professional sports team.
La Boca is a rough area of the city and I recommend visiting during the day. We were there to see the painted houses on and around El Carninito (meaning little pathway). This traditional alley is a street museum. In the 1880s the Spanish and Italian immigrants who lived in this area used paint left over from the shipping barges to color their metal houses. Tourists and photographers flock here now. I took a lot of pictures and Boris enjoyed the shopping. It is tourist pricing, so you can certainly do better elsewhere. However, it was convenient. I bought a pair of short boots made from the skin of an animal that looked like a very large rat. They are trimmed in leather and are amazingly soft. Animal skin/leather of an infinite variety is found in Argentina. Budget accordingly.
We were there too early, but if you time it right La Boca is a wonderful place to have lunch at a sidewalk cafe, many featuring a free tango show. It is also a great stop to try the traditional Argentine bar-b-que.
Apparently Boris wanted to get his shopping in that day because after La Boca, we took a cab back to the central part of the city where Florida street begins. This is the main pedestrian shopping street in Buenos Aires and is closed to vehicles. People were still on holiday and the street was packed. I found it was wonderful shoe shopping, not surprising given the high quality leather available in the area. We stopped at had a light lunch in a historic Buenos Aires cafe, Cafe Richmond, on Florida. The traditional cafe was very large and had a glassed-in smoking area in the back. I had expected to find lots of smokers in Buenos Aires, but did not. We were glad we went while we had the chance. It was announced in September that the cafe was closing to make way for a Nike store.
At the end of Florida street is Galerias Pacifico, a beautiful building in the French style built in 1889. The economic crisis on the 1890’s meant part was sold for offices and the building was also later used as a train station. The cupola, with its mural paintings, was completed in 1945 and restored in 1992. Due to the season, a very tall Christmas tree was under the murals adding to the beauty of the setting.
Under the Christmas Tree, you could get your picture taken with the 3 wise men (much like the photos with Santa available in our American malls). I was impressed at how the country retains the religious meaning of the holiday. The decorations found throughout the city were simple and mostly based on a religious theme. Inspiring! The decorating had a much less commercial and secular feel than I find at home.
Oh did I mention that Galerias Pacifico is currently a mall? We were only here for the views; the shopping is very expensive.