Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Argentina, Day 3

Today I had a three-hour city tour scheduled, and was told to wait for a bus to come by at 9:30 a.m. about four blocks from my hotel. Wanting to get breakfast early, I headed to a café called Tea Connection, which is only a block away from where I’m staying.

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).

Tea Connection is located at the corner of Uriburu and Pacheco de Melo streets.

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.

The plaza is apparently a popular area for groups who want to stage protests, and for the last 33 years, every Thursday, people gather in a silent procession in memory of those who were killed or went missing under the military dictatorship of former President Jorge Rafael Videla. The plaza was also once the location of city hall as well as the president’s official residence. It’s a busy place, and has a busy history associated with it.

One end of the plaza is a building known as the Cabildo, the former city hall that I just mentioned, which is now a museum.

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.

I was let off in a part of town not terribly far from Recoleta, and I decided to walk back to my hotel rather than take a taxi. On the way I stopped for lunch at a tiny little Japanese restaurant called Maki Sushi.

There was a single table inside, and two small chairs at the sushi counter. Since nothing was available, I ordered a bento to go. It came with salmon sushi, salmon sashimi, a tuna fish roll, and a salmon roll. (The entire menu was completely dominated by salmon.)

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.

I worked and then unsuccessfully tried to catch up on some sleep this afternoon, and didn’t venture back outside until it was time for dinner. An old writing friend of mine, Mong-Lan, who lives part of the year in Buenos Aires (where she writes poetry, paints, is a stand-in for a touring tango show, and studies opera), asked if I wanted to meet up tonight, and I said sure. I was given two restaurant choices, and I opted for one called Oviedo, which specializes in seafood. I was a little worried that my clothes (i.e., my rags) would permit my entry here, as it’s supposed to be an upscale place, but a collared shirt (clean) and jeans (ehhh...mostly clean) worked. I was the worst-dressed person in the restaurant, but luckily no one so much as scowled at me.

I ordered a dish consisting of grilled stone-bass, spinach, and pureed potatoes. The portion was a perfect amount after too many nights of large dinners, and the fish (lanzarote in Spanish) was firm and mild in flavor. There wasn’t too much going on with the spinach or potatoes, but both went nicely together with the fish. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to my food, as I was engrossed in conversation. That’s also why I didn’t take more photos, and why the one I did turned out so blurry. Sorry! The service at Oveido was excellent, incidentally, and the prices, for such a fancy place, were reasonable. My dish cost 65 pesos (~$17).

Restaurant Oviedo is located at Beruti 2602. Tel: 4821-3741 / 4822-5415. Web:

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. Where is the food, dude? We need an update!

  2. Hi Dav !!!!!!!!!!!!
    Where are U now ?! still in Argentina ?!
    For last 3 days we can`t see U on your Blog ,
    Miss u so much .... !
    But MAKISUSHI , sounds good but looks ....
    Ha-Ha-Ha !!!

  3. Anonymous: Ah, the food. The food! Auurrghhl. I'm getting to it, but slowly. Work beckons...

    Hanoilife: Hey, M!! Hai, I'm still in Argentina, but I will return to the U.S. soon. I can't wait to have good sushi and VIetnamese food! :) Makisushi ga mazui da yo! All the new sushi places in Hanoi look great!! Are you futotta yet? Haha!

  4. When are u coming here , D ?!
    When are U going back to U.S ?!
    We do miss U so much and so much
    and just can`t wait for seeing U again !!!
    Your trip is so great and wondeful and we also
    can feel we are with U there , D !!!
    Keep going , D !!!