Thursday, January 20, 2011

Part 1 - Buenos Aires

Part 4 - South Georgia (Coming soon)
Part 5 (To be continued)


We awoke at 3:00 this morning to begin our journey to Argentina and Antarctica. SFO-->IAD-->EZE. That probably sounds like a brutal time to get up, but it wasn't so bad. We've known that Argentina is five time zones ahead of California, so we've been getting up an hour earlier each day for the last week. Getting up today wasn't so tough - the whole week was the tough part. :-)

Some of you have asked why we stopped in Argentina on the way to Antarctica. The simple answer is that the bulk of the ships that travel to/from Antarctica go through two cities: Christchurch, New Zealand and Ushuaia, Argentina

This trip to Antarctica began in Ushuaia, but my inspiration to go to Antarctica originated fifteen years ago in Christchurch. At the time I was on a seven month round-the-world trip. I had never really given any thought to travelling to Antarctica. I wasn't aware of anyone except scientists travelling there. Part way through my stay in Christchurch, I was fascinated by a newspaper article that I read. It talked about a ship carrying local university students that was heading to Antarctica.

It was then that I got the (some would say foolish) notion of travelling to Antarctica. I naively thought I might somehow be able to go on that ship (rather unlikely given that the ship had already left port by the time the article ran), but missing that particular ship didn't dampen my enthusiasm.

That round-the-world trip took me to five different contenents. Since then, I've been to each of those contents again - some numerous times. But South America and Antarctica have thus far eluded me. This trip will complete my goal of stepping foot on all seven contenents.


I wrote previously about our first day in Argentina, so I won't rehash too much of that day here. My main recollections:
  • As usual, our first day in this new time zone was kept purposely low-key
  • 100F weather made for an unusually hot Christmas
  • Packing for weather like that and a trip to Antarctica is a challenge


Our original plans included more time in Argentina, but that got derailed when our November itinerary was cancelled. Alicia helped us to maximize the time we had by setting up a guided tour by Carlos, a friend of a friend who lives in Buenos Aires.

Our 6+ mile walking tour started at the hotel. With frequent rest stops and an ankle brace, Alicia was able to limp along. From there we walked past Casa Rosada. If I remember my history correctly, Madonna sang a song on the balcony. Something like that.

We then walked across Plaza de Mayo, the sight of many protests over the years, including the peaceful protests over the desaparecidos by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
We then toured Catedral Metropolitana. Here are a few highlights...

[ Note: Many of you have praised the initial photos that I presented in the previous post. Thank you for your kind words. The photos in this post were taken on my point-n-shoot camera, not the DSLR. Consequently the quality of these photos leaves a bit to be desired, but I think you'll still enjoy them. The indoor shots are a bit grainy because I was (intentionally and respectfully) not using the flash. A minor fiddling with the ISO setting helps, but it can't perform a miracle. So why was I using the point-n-shoot outside? The reason is simple and pragmatic. Theft on the street is not uncommon in B.A. and there was no way I was going to chance having my DSLR stolen and then be left with a silly point-n-shoot for the Antarctica portion of the trip!]

This is the tomb of José de San Martín. Carlos told us a bit about this national hero of Argentina. The main take away for me: José was a busy guy.

This is the dome above the tomb. One of the amusing anecdotes that Carlos shared with us involves the location of the tomb. José was not Catholic, but the cathedral is. The guy's not Catholic, but he is a national hero. What to do? What to do?

No problem. His tomb is in a chapel in the south western portion of the cathedral. He's buried in a chapel, not the cathedral.

This is a view of the north transept.

This is part of the statuary in one of the chapels in the north eastern portion of the cathedral.

We also walked through San Telmo. Perhaps it was watching Exit Through the Gift Shop (I love Bansky's work) on the flight to B.A. that heightened my awareness, but I saw a lot of street art throughout the city. There was a lot of politically motivated graffiti everywhere. While I could translate some of it on the fly, much of it I could not. But I definitely walked away with an inkling of how much distrust of the government still exists in Argentina.

Some highlights of the street art...

 Before lunch, we killed a little time at the Mercado de San Telmo.

Then we headed to La Brigada, a local parrilla, for an off the menu order of lomo. The beef was so tender, the server cut it tableside with a spoon.

After touring the city with Carlos, we headed back to the hotel. Then we set out to visit La Recoleta Cemetery, but as you'll find out from the next travel log entry, that attempt met with less than success.


We had a limited amount of time today, so we hopped on the subway and headed to Recoleta. We tried to visit La Recoleta Cemetery last night, but it was closed by the time we arrived.

The subway (and the busses) are only $.27 each way, so you can't beat the fare. We (i.e. the husband) underestimated how long the walk would take between the subway and the cemetery, so we didn't have a lot of time there. But the time we spent was definitely worth the journey.

The cemetery is quite large. Several previous presidents of Argentina are buried there, as is Eva Peron.

Here are a few highlights...

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