Day One and Two
From Montevideo Ben and I took the ferry. By boat is a lovely way to travel into the city.
On our first afternoon in the city, we visited the MALBA, a modern art museum. The museum’s collection on the first couple floors were a hap hazard collection of modern art from various artists and it didn’t really have an organization scheme.
There were some cool pieces, but the real treat occurred on the third floor, with Carlos Cruz Diez. You can’t really explain his art. They’re not paintings, yet they hang on a wall and fit in a traditional frame. They’re not sculptures, yet they vary depending on the angle you look at them. They’re not holograms, yet they seem to be holographic.
The best way to describe these works of art is how you experience them. Ben and I found the best way was to walk briskly, or run by them at about a foot distance and watch the colors and shapes pleasantly surprise you.
Our second day we attempted the north of downtown, called the Retiro. We thought this would provide a lot to see, and was easy access from the train station. However, we encountered a run down park, a slightly less run down park (see photo with palm and rubber trees), then a white avenue filled with tourist shops. From fur jackets to crystal unicorns they had all that was glitz and glam.
Tourist traps? Not exactly our crowd.
To add to our frustration, it was hot. I mean, REALLY hot. Clothes sticking to your skin with sweat and humidity hot. We visited a neat catholic church, and tried a museum to get out of the heat. They were closed until later.
We ducked into a cafe, got some coffee and collected our dehydrated thoughts. We decided our little local neighborhood where we were staying in Florida was way better than what this neighborhood. So we went back and ate a great meal at the local diner.
We decided to then take our new friends’ offer up to go kayaking in Tigre. Tigre is a town just north of Buenos Aires. Even though about 20 miles separate them, they pretty much merge together. We took the train there for 2 pesos, or about fifty cents US. There we met another traveller, Fred from Switzerland. We all bought some cuts of beef, wine and bread for a barbecue that we would have later.
A motorboat took us into the delta. The delta is the place where the river flattens out and the ocean’s cycles start to affect it. It creates a maze of islands, canals and streams. The Argentinians have decided to keep this area vehicle free, and you can only access it by boat.
We boated to the island that held the kayak rentals. AreMar had an excellent facility with a large collection of kayaks and the nicest bathrooms we’ve encountered yet (see photo). Unfortunately, and probably for good reason I’ll admit, no one can rent a single kayak except for guides. So, myself, Ben and Fred all hopped into a triple kayak. This was my first experience in a triple, and it was not easy to give up the control I like of a single kayak. We managed though.
The delta was a much needed escape from the city: cooler, quieter and filled with green. It was a bit of a surreal experience, paddling through low hanging trees and past numerous vacation homes.
Yes, that’s right, vacation homes. The delta’s islands are filled with very nice homes. Each with well manicured lawns and a little dock. All access was still by boat, but we were in a neighborhood with boats instead of cars and waterways instead of streets. It was really wonderful. There were even convenient stores on the islands!
We paddled about 8 miles to our destination, and took a couple swim and nap breaks along the way. Our destination was our guides’ friend’s place (boy I hope I got that punctuation right). His friend had built his own house out of material he found on the island. The walls were made of mud with a wooden frame. It was a very nice place and we had a barbecue in the yard.
Then we all took another nap. What a day!
This day would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the loss of my chacos. These were my first pair, and had lasted me through three river seasons. I had set them under the bungies on the top of the boat, and while I wasn’t looking, a wake from another boat swept them overboard. With a water visibility of about one inch (there’s a lot of silt in the delta water) and ravenous mosquitoes attacking me, there wasn’t any hope of finding them.
So, now I’m on the hunt for a new pair of sandals.
This day was dedicated to trying to find tickets for the train to Rosario. However, the ticket office was closed and would be closed for Sunday as well. We then headed over to the city center and visited the Pink House, Argentina’s equivalent of the White House. They were celebrating their bicentennial, and we got to learn about some important figures from 200 years ago who helped liberate South America from Europe.
We then browsed some antique shops, walked along the streets of the San Telmo neighborhood and finished our day off with a glass of cold white wine in a bar (which cost 6 pesos total, or fifty cents each).
Day five was a Sunday, and we started later because we now know that the entire continent of South America shuts down on this day. We started with coffee and empanadas at our favorite Florida coffee shop, then headed down to the antique and crafts fair in San Telemo.
I apologise, I don’t have any photos from day four or five. I decided that taking my camera into the crowded downtown was not a risk I wanted to take.
But I wish I had photos of the amazing leather work, silver work and jewelry that these artists produced! It was spectacular, like going to the renaissance fair every day!
Then came the frustrating part of the day. We decided to check out another fair that was happening across town. The guide book recommended this fair, which they said happened on Sundays. We took the bus, which the guide book failed to mention was a 30 minute ride, and arrived at a small local outdoor vendor fair, but nothing on the scale of what the guide book described. We searched the neighborhood, and found the location where the fair usually takes place, but the fair wasn’t there.
Hot, disappointed and frustrated with the guide book, we made our way back to the train, and got pizza at our favorite Florida neighborhood cafe.
Today we go to Rosario, but we are looking forward to visiting Buenos Aires again in April. Then, it will be cooler, with less tourists and cheaper.