Preparations – 20 March, 2016
It’s been a trying few days getting organised for the voyage from Buenos Aires to Rome and home again… As usual there always seem to be last minute tasks to take care of – including garden tidy ups and technology organisation.
For the first time I am not taking my large Canon 5D camera and I feel a sense of separation already. I’ve a new small compact camera – Panasonic that is inexpensive and of less value sentimentally if stolen. As I am visiting more cities than usual I feel a sense of needing to travel light rather than being able to emerge with a wild landscape where there is no feeling of personal invasion. We will see how I feel afterwards with the lack of high end camera gear. I’ve packed smaller sketch books and watercolours, gouache and watercolour pencils and plan on making lots of smaller works rather than attempting large paintings.
Today is Sunday 20 March and our flight is in two days – 22nd March. We have brought our trip forward to avoid the probable airport strikes intended over the easter break. First we fly to Buenos Aires Argentina via New Zealand and spend a few days in Buenos Aires before boarding a MSC ship for our cruise.
The Long Flight – 22 March 2016
Melbourne, Australia – Aukland, New Zealand – Buenos Aires, Argentina
March 22 has become one long blur of a day – we have in fact flown into tomorrow and while now here in Argentina can look back to Eltham at a time that has not yet taken place – my phone when searching for International times gives Melbourne as tomorrow. Which could be useful given we are sitting in a lovely hotel room overlooking the very famous Buenos Aires Cemetery having a bit of a discussion with the Dazzler Recoleta hotel as to our apparently cancelled room booking. If we are in a tomorrow time zone then perhaps this isn’t really happening and the Eltham Travel Agency can continue to try to sort it out on our behalf.
Diane Bullen kindly came to ours this morning at 6.30am (48 hours ago, or thereabouts) to drive us to the airport. It was pretty good flying from here – no real hiccups with BORDER FORCE or other immigration departments and on the Argentina arrival no one really bothering to look at our signed declaration forms or bags. We were relieved to be be on Argentinian earth and realised a little more Spanish language would be useful.
A lovely young man sat with us alone on the plane and offered to ‘share’ a taxi or a ride into town as he said he also lived in the town Recoleta where we have a room at the Dazzler Hotel. We thanked him but declined as we have already paid for a private car to collect us from the airport and take us to our hotel.
The flight to Argentina was pretty uneventful – though very full. We were flying economy and had window seats from Aukland to Buenos Aires. Three hours to Aukland and eleven to Argentina. Night came for most of the time flight across the Pacific ocean which was convenient as the dawn arrived as we crossed the Southern Andes and were able to glimpse down to the stunning high glacial peaks and long lakes and rivers. Cloud covered much of the vision leaving just enough wild landscape to think it would be wonderful to back trek and visit them at a later date. The plane flew quite south towards the Antarctic and at another time we may have been able to see the distant continent.
Relatively uneventful through immigration and customs and out into the thick of the humid air and smog of BA. We waited some time for our ride which them wove through all kinds of living towers. Mongolia came to mind, and then it seemed the tall high rise apartments were in even more disrepair than Mongolia. What I thought were apartments in various stages of demolition were in fact the living quarters for living residents.
After our seemingly long taxi ride to our Recoleta hotel, The Dazzler we checked in and found our beautiful room – overlooking the very famous cemetery. We showered and thought about something to eat. Then the phone rang and a very nice gentleman on the front desk told us our booking [for the room] had been cancelled. We had a serous issue on our hand as we knew we had paid for and booked our extra rooms and now were being asked to leave, or make a new booking.
Phone calls between our Eltham Travel and the front desk ensued with not much resolved – only that the Eltham agents will pay for now and sort it out with us at a later date.
Argentina, Buenos Aires – Wednesday 23 March 2016
After a restless sleep with lots of walking around we rose at 9.00am. No tea making service here. damn. We dressed quickly and went downstairs for the large hotel breakfast. There were very few people in to enjoy the quality breakfast meal.
I began to feel quite ill soon after the meal and retired to my room where I was quite ill and had to lay in for a while while the (mild food poisoning) took effect.
After I felt a little better we ventured out onto the streets and found a lovely place for some black coffee. Still feeling a little fragile but the walk seems to be good as I realise it’s been days since we have had a decent walk – all those airplane hours, taxi and strait to our room.
We talk a stroll through the amazing historic cemetery which houses in it’s resting places many religious and political people. The cemetery, right in the centre of town was created in 1872. Easy to get lost as the awe factor is strong. There are some 4,800 mausoleums in all kinds of styles from art deco, baroque, classical greek and neo gothic. I’ve never seen so many angles and wonderful sculptures in one place. It’s a museum of art in itself. There are bronze relief works, marble and cast angles, priests, oils paintings and cycad plants. Each mausoleum has a door and many of
them have full view of the coffins; some with whole families including small caskets for babies. The laneways would be a little creepy if here too late and one wonders if the larrik
ins who are supposed to be around to rob tourists find this a great place to work. Many of the laneways run into dark corners and at the time we were visiting the sun was bright in our eyes, rendering the lane in front blinding.
Buenos Aires comes alive after 8.00pm, there are cafe’s filling and people walking the streets. We found a great little outdoor cafe near the design centre for dinner and what I ordered was I thought a small steak – and was given a huge piece of tender meat I could not possibly ever eat on my own. Everyone these days makes serves far too large and it’s no wonder the western world is putting on weight. Strange to note there are not a lot of overweight Argentinians we have noticed. The flavour of the meat was quite different to what we are used to at home – it’s the distinct flavour we note all across the food and great. I wonder if the people in the tiny apartments and living on the streets ever get to taste this wonderful food. It all seems so unfair.
There is a sense of art everywhere – on the streets, in the parks and even the cobblestones are ornate. There are wonderful ironwork doors, windows and railings and one wonders about the good old days here when metal foundries must have been pumping out cast work. The architecture makes the city exceptional and a contrast to the neat and orderly clean cut high rise building apartments we noted on trip from airport. I think if we were to spend more time here the poverty would be extreme and this trip I don’t plan and putting myself out there and exploring the ‘real’ Argentina – feel to fragile.
Argentina, Buenos Aires Recoleta – Wednesday 24 March 2016
Museo National de Bellas Artes
After a filling breakfast at the hotel we walked through the streets and across the park to the Museo National de Bellas Artes. Nothing opens early in Buenos Aires – the gallery no exception opened at 12.30 and probably stayed open until around 8 or 9 in the evening – just when the city comes out to play.
What an impressive collection they have – all manner of classical paintings, modern, French Impressionist, contemporary and the number of Rodin sculptures alone is impressive. It’s been a while since I’ve been amongst so many of the worlds greatest pieces of art and so many classical artists I’ve not heard. There were the usual such as Morandi, Tintoretto, Rubens, Monet, Courbet, Chagall, de Chirico, Rothko, Corot, Picasso, Magritte, oh it just goes on and on. And thick amongst the hundreds of fine works are the marvellous sculptures.
Photography is allowed – as long as there is no flash. In so many ways Buenos Aires is a generous; the gallery has not yet forced people to buy the catalogues to record the work; though we did purchase a small one.
There is a contemporary gallery space with an exhibition of work by an artist using the micro images of painting, blown up into large macro works.
A small Van Gough
As I write there is another siren frenetically heading to somewhere. There has been a myriad sirens since our arrival and with the visitation of President Obama in town I expect the police exposure has risen considerably. There is not the threat with the police you can experience in other world cities – they are just there on motor bikes doing their job.
This stunning pink tree is a native to Argentina – we have at least one in the Botanical gardens in Melbourne.
Buenos Aires 25 March, 2016
We are fortunate in that one of my students was born in Argentina and has a sister living here – Yanko. Yanks rang the hotel this morning and is going to come and pick us up at 12.00 for a day out around Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, being Easter Sunday most places will be closed so we will have a look from her car.
Yanko picked us up around noon and had a plan to show us in one day her beautiful city; Buenos Aires. She was wonderful and drove us East, West, North and South. She showed us her river – saying Buenos Aires is a river city but you do not see it from the streets – all along the river’s borders are industries relying on the river for ferrying goods. We looked at the swanky suburbs and the poor areas now famous for the origins of Tango. We saw brutalist architecture, modern and poor housing made bright with walls of corrugated iron painted. We took in the antique sections, had lunch in an upstairs Italian restaurant and perused local artisan markets.
And what a better way to celebrate Good Friday but a visit to a church – there were several churches of exquisite glory with congregations, priests in robes, music, and religious sculptures in all their glory.
One of the more unusual customs I am finding here is when you put your car on the kerb or street side parking there is always an ‘attendant’ who promises to ‘look after your car’. This is so that it is not broken into or bumped or anything ‘untoward’ happens to your parked car while you are away. Apparently the authorities discourage the behaviour – as on your return the made asks for his reward. It’s a form of useful begging… And Yanko says it’s best to smile and be good to these people because yes, they will look after your car and make sure the lights are not broken or you have a smashed windscreen.
Here are some photographs from today.
Our first stop was the national Rose Garden – a large French Provincial formal garden of great beauty. That’s Yanko on the left.
La Boca – where Tango dancing began in the streets.
Buenos Aires – 26 March 2016
We walked the streets of Recoleta today and found the special art supply shop – one of only four art supply shops in Buenos Aires which is surprising considering how much art this city appears to support. The weather is softer – mild with light showers though still warm enough to continually put jacket on and off again.
There are many lovely cafe bars for resting in for coffee and snack and parts of this town are light walking through Carlton and other sections Toorak Road. This is the exclusive area with high rise apartment buildings of brick with often art deco balconies. Again it’s impressive to see the amount of wrought iron work. Every now and then a bigger will ask for donations though not so much in this area. Like everywhere the contrast is quite extreme and the sight of a mattress stashed under stairs on high on stone windowsills a give away.
After lunch we strolled down through the soft rain to the artist’s market and sat across the way outside Art Gallery to sketch the pink trees. It was a quiet day, dinner in a small Italian restaurant and home to prepare for the embarkment of MS Poesia tomorrow.
We leave Argentina tomorrow and I am left with a tiny understanding of Buenos Aires and Argentina. It’s generally a polite city; we have not encountered any negativity towards us being both foreign and having no language. The people in the street and stores are helpful and mostly trying to assist. The women are extremely thin and I wonder how this is possible by the size of the serves of food – and the menu. Perhaps instead of three meals a day they prefer one? The general custom appears to be to sleep late, rise late and dine late. Everything is open until 8, 9 or 10pm; and not open in the day until midday. There is a visible level of poverty in the streets with beggars, car attendants, cardboard collectors and stowed mattresses. It is raining now I wonder how these people fare. The beggars are not just young men – we saw old women and clearly some very desperate and sad people of all ages. The contrast between the wealthy suburbs and the poor is strong – the wealthy are new and shining while the poor more colourful and raw. That’s I suppose usual.
The new modern high rise towers are impressive. very modern. There are wide avenues to drive contrasted with the old cobblestone narrow lanes where once trams ran and you wonder where the horse and cart and people would fit.
Below are a few typical Buenos Aires images.