Hola from Buenos Aires  –

Hope this message finds you all enjoying the Christmas festivities.  All is good here in BA.  I am having a hotel night tonight so thought I would take a moment and write a few words about the start of my new adventure in South America.

DAY ONE
So – do I love Buenos Aires?  It’s hard to say.  I’m not sure I’ve quite connected to this city.  BA is a very large city – over 12 million people and a schizophrenic personality.  Every turn around a corner brings a different thought/comparison.  I am staying in Recoleta – considered the wealthiest part of town.  The avenues are very pretty with large trees shading high-end shops and homes.  Avenue Alvear is the main drag  and named for the wealthiest family in BA – they love their rich people!  This gentrified area is filled with mansions, embassies and the chic international boutique set from Louis Vuitton to Ralph Lauren, Armani to

Avenue Alvear Mansion

Avenue Alvear Mansion

Christian La Croix.  This area reminds me of Paris – or even Cannes.  There are a few stunningly charming streets with beautiful architecture surrounded by less interesting apartment buildings.  The plan was a good one and clearly inspired by the French.  Wide Avenues shaded by leafy trees, beautiful buildings with Mediterranean shutters and wrought iron details, surrounded by large parks and fountains.  However, the parks/green areas are so unkempt that it reminds me of Warsaw.  They have done much to keep the buildings and streets looking good but the parks look a little dirty and abandoned.  What a few flowers could do!

I arrived late morning Saturday the 22nd, and was much more worn out from the 20 hours of travel than I thought I would be.  I did rally after a quick shower and walked a pretty good chunk around the immediate area.  I’m not great at calculating distance information on maps and often worry that I will be off a great deal one way or the other.   At first this seemed overwhelming and I moved slowly.  However, I was able to quickly connect the main attractions and distances and found myself “in the know” of this neighborhood rather quickly.

I walked toward the “Cemetery” and the “Pilar Cathedral” as these are the crowning sites of the Recoleta.   There are dozens of cafes that line the street across from these two attractions.  Now I felt like I was in Avignon with the outdoor cafes running into each other.  I selected a lovely  spot under a beautiful

A Shady Spot for Lunch

A Shady Spot for Lunch

tree and had a small bite to eat.  I was far too tired to play tourist and check out the sites.  I just wanted a feel for the area.

So many people have raved about the shopping that I braved a wander though the shops of Avenue Alvear and the large mall Patio Bullrich.  Fascinating.  It was an America mall in a different country.  It was kind of weird.  There was nothing that I felt needed to be purchased from the same shops that we see in the States.  I have never shopped at Cacharel in the US and didn’t think I would start now just because it was cheaper.

I wandered in and out pretty quickly and decided to check out the side streets and see what “boutique” struck me.  I found it.  Humuwaca.  A divine and unique leather purse store.  The designer/owner makes beautiful handbags.  She is an architect by trade and her stuff is so amazingly crafted that two of her pieces are in the MOMA museum.  I bought two lovely bags!

I knew I was getting tired beyond a normal “first day” so I retreated back to my hotel and slept for 4 hours.  I woke up at 8pm and struggled through getting ready to go out when all I wanted to do was sleep.  But rally I did!  The energy of this city hits you as you head out the door.

I had dinner just down the street at a Parrilla (steak place).  I found out that restaurants here don’t have bars!!!!  As a single person I like to sit at the bear where you can at least talk to the bartender.  Here, you have to eat at a table.  How odd.  Oh well.  As I sat down a sweet Belgian couple were just finishing up next to me.  We chatted a bit – they were retired and clearly very rich.  All they do is travel, travel and travel.  They were pretty cool.  And now I know who I want to be when I grow up!!!

A new couple took their place and the night was off and running.  Neil and Eleanor are from Calgary and they were hysterical.  The three of us talked all night.  Neil’s family lives in Montecito (next to Oprah).  Beside being so much fun (meaning Eleanor and I each drank a bottle of wine) Neil and El want me to come visit the two of them and check out wine country.  It’s always nice to know someone who lives next to Oprah.

At 1am.  Yes, that’s right.  I managed until 1am!!! I stumbled up the hill to the hotel and zonked out cold…

DAY TWO
It was supposed to start at 8am but it was closer to 10:30am.  Oh well, when in Buenos Aires…

I managed to sort of crawl out of my fog and stroll down to La Recoleta Cemetery.  It’s pretty cool/creepy.  I walked around for a couple of hours.  It’s designed like a

Avenue of La Recoleta Cemetery

Avenue of La Recoleta Cemetery

small village of houses for the dead.  Families build these “houses” and all are buried in or below.  Some continue to be beautifully taken care of.  Others have fallen to time.  No one but the family is allowed to touch these places so if there is no family the windows remain broken, the flowers are dried, the cobwebs cover the wall and the caskets are falling apart.  It’s pretty wild.  Evita is buried here.  Lots of flowers – she is still widely adored!!!!

A Family Crypt

A Family Crypt

I checked out the Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church for 30 seconds.  I’ve seen a lot of churches – it looks like an old church.

I went to lunch at the Alvear Palace Hotel. Everybody raves about and it is definitely over the top!!!  Elegant, lots of money and very pretty holiday decorations.  Enormous jewelry seems to be the theme amongst the guests.  I had some salmon and white wine.  Thought that might clear the fog – or something.

Neil and Eleanor had invited me to a 3 hour tour of the city so I met up with them at 3pm.  It was worthwhile.  Like I said, it’s a big city and there are many interesting things to see but, they are far from each other.  You are also never sure if it’s a great neighborhood so walking long distances through unknown territory

Tango in the Streets

Tango in the Streets

did not seem a wise move.  This worked fine.  I saw the government buildings and the place Eva Peron did all the “talking” to the people.  Saw the port area that they are developing – very cool – it reminds me of Amsterdam.  We drove through the Tango area – looked really cool but I will have to check that out with Ricardo and Stephen – it’s not a safe area at night.

We drove through some shanty towns.  It’s definitely a city of haves and have

A Cafe in La Boca

A Cafe in La Boca

nots.  There is some serious poverty around this city.  We also stopped at a crazy neighborhood called La Boca.  Very touristy and very colorful – literally.  People tango in the streets, artists abound and chachki stores are everywhere.

Neil and El had to hit the airport so I came back to the hotel and a long hot shower.  For dinner I headed off to the port and a famous Parrilla called Las Lillas (Michelle and Bridget – this is the place that guy at Rockin’ told me about).  It kind of sucked.  Service was terrible (I later heard that’s what they are known for!).  The food was OK and the wine was a bad recommendation.  The sommelier was nowhere in sight.  Sad that almost 3/4 of a bottle was left on the table – sadder that I payed the bill!  Oh well, not every night is a winner so I left at 10pm and went to bed!!!

DAY THREE
There is only so much you can do X-mas Eve but I scrambled out of bed early (9am) and hit Palermo.  Now we’re talking.  This is more like hanging out in the 5th and 6th in Paris.  Much better!!!!!!  Many boutiques with cool stuff, great little cafes and cool looking restaurant/bars.  Cobbled streets and little alley ways. Granted, some of the buildings look a little worse for wear but there seems to be a really cool turn-around happening in the area.  I did a little more credit card damage and even have my eye on a few things to return for.  I mostly look forward to running around the area at night with Stephen and Ricardo. Maybe Ricardo will do the Tango with me!!!!

It was a short day as things were closing for X-mas Eve.  I returned to the hotel and lay by the luxurious pool for an hour and then had a fab massage from Oscar.  MMMMMMMMMMMMM…Oscar.  No attraction but, his hands were divine.  I dressed for dinner and now I am sitting at the bar sipping a glass of champagne.  A little busier than I expected.  It’s all families and couples which was to be expected.  I’m waiting to see where they tuck a single chick for dinner.  I am a bit of an oddity.  Oh, well. What else is new.

A few things I have learned about BA:

No – they do not dress up.  Flip flops and sweats during the day (No they are not the tourists!).  Jeans at night.  Already being an oddity I now look even odder all dressed up!!!!

Yes – the men are relentless.  I nodded and said Buenos Dias to a police officer on the street as I passed by.  He followed me for two blocks.  Another man stopped in his Ferrari (stopping the traffic) to say something with his hands and a lot of kisses.  A man at the café winked – I think he was 70 and with his wife.

Yes – the people are warm and welcoming.  They are a very kind group.

Yes – I do plan to give it my best to go to dinner at 10pm – the bars at 1am and a disco at 3am.  I’ll keep you posted!!!

Anyway…

I need to make it an early night as I must leave for the airport at 6am.  Chile – here I come.  Looking forward to something a little more structured.  Shopping as my sole purpose does get a tad old.  Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well.

I am wishing you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.  I drink my glass of champagne as a Christmas toast to you all…

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