I sat down and ordered a scone and double espresso, and then read some fiction while waiting for my order to come out. It didn’t take long, and the scone and coffee (i.e., sugar and caffeine) were what I needed to start the day. It wasn’t much, but it’s nice not to stuff myself every meal, much like I did last night. Tea Connection is a nice little cafe, though, as often happens, it was nearly impossible to get my check. When I did get it, I was pleased that my breakfast only cost 12 pesos (~$3.15).
After returning to my hotel and checking email, I started walking to the intersection where the tour bus was supposed to get me. I waited and waited, and the bus didn’t come. At 9:59 I started pacing around the side of the building that I’d been leaning against, and told myself that if the bus didn’t come in one more minute…when suddenly I saw a white tourist bus veer across two lanes and stop before me.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” I was told. “Traffic this morning is really bad.”
Traffic didn’t seem all that bad to me, but I accepted the excuse and got on board. I sat down and looked out the window as the bus went around Buenos Aires for another half hour to pick up passengers at two other hotels, the last of whom had apparently grown tired of waiting because they weren’t there when the tour guide went to collect them. It was now 10:30, and our bus headed over to the Floralis Generica, in Plaza Naciones Unidas, where we were told to disembark so we could get put on different buses. Half an hour later I was being corralled inside another bus, and by the time it left it was already 11:05.
I wasn’t very pleased, but I was basically game for whatever came my way. A new tour guide was on this bus, and she went through her introduction and asked where we were from. I didn’t really pay attention to her, but looked instead out the window at what we were passing.
The first place we were taken to was the Plaza de Mayo. We weren’t given any description of what the Plaza’s significance was, but the guide pointed to a few different buildings and told us what to take photos of. Great. She left to make some calls on her cell phone and we had 15 minutes to wander around the plaza. There were a ton of tourists here, but it was interesting. Luckily I had my guidebook with me and could consult it to see exactly why the plaza was important.
On the other end of the plaza is Casa Rosada, or The Pink House. This used to be the residence of Argentina’s presidents, and it is also where Eva Peron addressed thousands of Argentines who had gathered to hear her speak.
The Catedral Metropolitana is nearby, as is the Argentine National Bank. In the middle of the plaza is an obelisk called the Piramide de Mayo, which marks the country’s independence from Spain in 1816.
Once we were all on the bus again, we were taken through downtown and into an area that was markedly poorer than any place else I’ve seen so far in Buenos Aires. The area was called Boca, and is known internationally for its fantastically successful soccer team, Boca Juniors, and its best-known player, Diego Maradona.
It was interesting to see the stadium and the neighborhood where it’s located, but I wasn’t going to pay 20 extra pesos (~$5.20) for the chance to spend 15 minutes inside the stadium. So, we were told to stay in the stadium store, which was filled with Boca Juniors merchandise, though I went out and bought water from a place across the street.
As I was walking around I couldn’t help noticing how everything around the stadium was painted in Boca’s blue and yellow colors, and also how many of the shops and restaurants had statues of players – mostly Maradona – standing outside their doors. It was a fun place, and I’m sure it’s really exciting on nights when games there are played – especially against perennial rival River Plate.
After this we were bused four blocks away to a tourist area filled with stores. We were given half an hour to shop, basically. The area itself was vaguely interesting, but it was obviously just there for tourists and didn’t seem very authentic.
Anyway, it was a long half hour, and I started to reflect on how our city tour had quickly become a shopping tour.
Back on the bus, the tour guide approached me, as if she had something on her mind that she just couldn’t keep to herself any longer, and asked me where I was from. I told her the United States, and then she began to scold me.
“Why didn’t you raise your hand when I asked if anyone from the United States was on the bus? Why didn’t you make eye contact with me? Everyone else did this but you. It’s my way of saying hello to people and if you won’t raise your hand or look at me then how can I say hello? I was trying to say hi. So…hi.” And then she walked away.
Granted, I could have raised my hand, and I could have made eye contact with her, but I did say I was here when she called out people’s names, and besides, the tour was 90 minutes late and…oh, what’s the point of making excuses? It was just an odd moment, and I felt like I’d been a bad little boy on a school field trip.
I’d like to think she was only joking around, but I didn’t get that feeling at all. Sometimes, though, feelings are hard to decipher when someone isn’t speaking their native language. Even so, the tour was really bad. The company was called TravelLine Tours, if any one out there cares enough to try to avoid them.
My bento cost 50 pesos (~$13.10) and probably wasn’t worth it. Especially the tuna salad roll, which just seems a little cheap to me. It would have been nice if the woman who took my order would have smiled once, or simply not glowered at me as if she, too, thought I should have raised my hand and made eye contact when my tour guide asked if anyone was from the United States. The other people working here smiled at me, though, which was a relief. I’d been starting to wonder what dark forces I was attracting.Maki Sushi is at Ayacucho 1208. Tel: 4823-3900.