Today we had such high hopes. After not falling asleep till after 3 am the night before, we had foolishly planned on waking up at 9.30 to make our free walking tour. Thanks to the single pane windows and some very loud traffic outside, we did wake up, but were way to groggy and out of it to do anything other than lay in bed. We decided that we were more 3 pm walking tour people and fell back asleep after a while. When we woke up again it was 1.50 in the afternoon – oops. We quickly showered, dressed, and headed out the door to walk the 40 minutes to our walking tour meet up.
We didn’t really have time for lunch, but we managed to find an empanada house on the way and each had a jamon y queso, both managing to drip some on our shorts in all the excitement. We got to the meet up at exactly 3.00 and were surprised at the lack of crowd. We met our guides and were then ushered into the shade around the side of the building where 50+ other people were waiting. That made a lot more sense.
After another 15 minutes of waiting (Argentinians are late for everything we would learn) we met Fernando and began our tour. We have both become big fans of the free walking tours many places offer and this one was no exception. Over the next three hours we learned about Argentinean and Buenos Aires’s history from our excellent guide. Fernando is a porteño (someone from Buenos Aires) and human rights lawyer at an NGO in his grown up life and does tour guiding part time because he likes to meet people and, in his words, “NGO’s don’t pay very well.”
Starting at the National Congress, he guided us down Avenue de Mayo and towards the pink house. Along the way we learned about Buenos Aires’s aspirations to be the European capital of the south. They modeled their whole city after Paris, Venice, Florence, London, and New York, but intentionally made everything bigger and so, of course, better. They even imported and bred pigeons to give the feel of being in a European city. We also learned about their history of military dictatorships and the Dirty War, in which 30,000 Argentinians were “disappeared.” Learning about this is one of the reasons we love these tours, you get a chance to hear from a local about their own history and why things are the way they are today.
After concluding the tour with the story of Evita in front of the presidential palace, we said goodbye to our tour group walked down to find an old church and college but found you needed to pay just to see them. We decided that wasn’t worth it and made our way back home via the Teatro Colon hoping to catch a tour before they closed, but were a little too late. We headed home and unwound before hitting the streets again to catch dinner. Argentina, like most Spanish countries, eats dinner at around 9 pm at the earliest. The best way we have found to cope with this is just pretend we are on Austin time and do everything three hours later than the clock says.
We arrived at El Cuartito at 9.15 and just barely beat the line as we were shown to a table. We managed to order in Spanish and even modified our order a little (go us!). We had barely eaten all day because we woke up so late and had to rush to our tour so when the giant pizza arrived (There were three sizes available: by the slice, giant, and “the little girl.”) we both jumped right in. Argentinian pizza is very thick and has a ton of cheese on it (not quite Chicago level, but close) but we managed to eat the whole thing. After sorting the check out we headed home for our nightly Duolingo lessons and stretching before bed.
Daily Walking Mileage: 12.0 miles
- Buenos Aires was the largest port in the Southern hemisphere up through the 1900s and accepted about as many immigrants as New York City. A giant wave of 3 million Italians migrated in the 1890s and has had a huge effect on Argentinian life.
- Capitalising on the chaos created by the French Revolution, the British conquered Buenos Aires briefly for nine months before it was retaken by local militias.
- The Subte, Buenos Aires subway system, is the oldest in the Southern hemisphere and third oldest in the world.
- Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires and everyone is very excited to show off that they are somehow related to him. There was a barber shop, for example, with a poster in the window advertising that they have cut his hair for the past 30 years.