Day 99: On Yer Bike

Tue. 20th November 2012

Painted houses in La Boca districtWe are not sure what to expect today as we have heard that there is to be a massive strike, including transport, services and fuel, today in Buenos Aires (and throughout Argentina), protesting against the economic conditions. Luckily, we are not flying out until Thursday and we had already decided to take a cycling tour in the city. The tour we wanted is not being run so we opt for the one of the docks, centre and La Boca even though we had walked part of this yesterday on our own.

There should have been five of us on the tour but two never showed up – we  found out later that due to the strike those who had booked in advance were told the tour was cancelled. The other tourist was Chilean but spoke good English and it was good to have such a small group. There is so much English spoken that our Spanish is only improving slowly.

Malvinas MemorialThe first stop was a parking garage nearby to collect our bikes and after a quick ride around we realise there are no gears to worry about. It is then back to other end of San Martin Plaza where we originally meet up. Here there is a memorial to those who died in the Falkland Islands, known as Islas Malvinas by the Argentinians. About 600 died and half of those were on the Belgrano, this was a dark period of Argentinian history as many people just disappeared and it is still not known what happened to them.

Fake Big Ben - The English TowerAcross the road from the memorial is the Torre de los Ingleses, which was a gift from the UK in honour of the centenary of the Independence of Argentina. The close proximity of the two sights did not sit well, so the government changed its name but the locals still know it as The English Tower.

The roads are very quiet as the truck drivers who are usually going passed/to the docks are on strike. It is therefore very serene cycling on the flat in the sunshine. A good way to cover a reasonable distance and see sights close up.

Next stop is Puerto Madero where we walked around yesterday but today we had the history too which Dave cribbed for his  Day 98 post! All the streets are named after famous women but no one  knows why they are famous as history taught in schools only mention the famous men. I will not get into the ethics of this here! However is it coincidence that this area is now full of very expensive apartment blocks? Many are empty but they are still building more and the latest ones are close to La Boca, one of the poorest areas (more political undertones here).

Touring on bikes does not give the comfort or security of an air conditioned bus to get between locations so we stayed close to our guide as we headed for La Boca. We keep peddling as we go along streets you certainly would not walk along at night, and the guide books did not recommend walking them in daytime either.

Corner of CaminitoImmigrants moved into La Boca by the old port and as they had little money they made houses out of any available materials including corrugated metal and any leftover paint from the ships that docked. The houses are now brightly coloured  as a legacy to Benita Quinquela Martin a local painter. We stopped in the tourist area and had time to walk around but were advised not to stray too far and to watch our belongings. The streets are full of outdoor cafes with Tango dancers and shops selling the usual tourist tat, as well as life size models of Maradonna and Evita.There were shoes on power cables, which we were told was a common sign around the world that drug dealers worked on that corner.

Boca StadiumWe stopped by the Boca Juniors stadium with the training ground next door. This is the only place you will see the Coca Cola logo in black instead of red. The club would not allow red as it is the colour of one of their rivals. Usually you can see the team training and people watching over the wall waiting for autographs but not today, due to the strike.

After leaving La Boca we went to San Telmo with large mansions of European style built before 1870  when there were a number of epidemics killing numerous residents and causing the rich to move away. The poorer residents moved in and subdivided the huge mansions into smaller dwellings. In the park is a monument of Romulus and Remus, a gift from Italy in honour of the centenary of the Independence of Argentina.

Don't cry for us - outside the Casa Rosada in Plaza de MayoThe final stop is the Plaza de Mayo, which we enter cautiously in case there are protests. There are barriers across part of the road and a police presence but no large crowds and much less traffic than yesterday. Our guide started his talk and said “over there outside the cathedral is the eternal flame which isn’t” – for some reason it has been switched off! We must have walked past it yesterday but did not see it. On our cycle back and feel we have had our moneys worth and also some much needed  exercise.

Tonight, to tick another item off the To Do list we went to a wine tasting by Anuva Wines which had excellent reviews on Trip Adviser. We thought it would be 5 minutes walk away but it turned out to be in Palermo Soho, a 15 minute taxi ride away. With the strike it took longer to find a cab than the actual ride. We were dropped off in a residential street just off a main shopping area and the location was an unmarked black door. However inside the upstairs was a modern looking dining room set for about 20 people.

Ready to get tastingThe business had been set up by an American who had spotted an opening to get Boutique Argentinian wine more well known. The tasting comprised of a sparking, a white and three red wines each paired with different foods to bring out hidden flavours in the wines. The sparking was delicious and I could have bought a case load but they only ship to America and we certainly cannot carry any. The white smelt like it should be sweet and so potentially another favourite, but was not. It was served with two sorbets, one strawberry and banana, the other orange and passion fruit, which was an interesting combination.

Taster food and wineThe first red was served with salamis and cheeses which removed the tannin taste from the wine, the second a cabernet sauvignon with yummy empanadas and the third with Venezuelan 60% chocolate and Ecuadorian 70% chocolate. I could not get my head around that combination at all. However it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening shared with two Americans, an Australian and a Columbian at our table.

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