Buenos Aires, Argentina

February 16 - 18, 2009


Casa Rosada - The Argentine President's office
East Side

Click here for additional Casa Rosada pictures

Casa Rosada Wikipedia Article

Do you know how Argentina was named?

Early explorers found silver in the land. They named the country Tierra Argentum. Remember your chemistry? The latin word for silver is argentum.

Buenos Aires Wikipedia article

We flew to Buenos Aires a day early. We did not want to take a chance of some travel problem delaying us and causing us to miss the ship. Even though the Splendor stayed overnight on Tuesday and we had until Wednesday to board, we wanted to leave as much contingency time as possible.

We flew overnight from Miami and arrived in Buenos Aires early on Monday morning. I was extremely thirsty after spending over 9 hours on the plane.

We arrived in Buenos Aires and went to the Immigration processing. We were on an Airbus 340 (large aircraft) and a 747 had arrived at about the same time, so there were lengthy lines at immigration. We cleared immigration easily and were glad that the proposed reciprocal entry fee ($131 for US citizens) had not yet been implemented.

After clearing immigration, we went downstairs to the baggage carousels to find our luggage. It was all there, but not on the same carousels! After collecting that we left the customs area and got in line for another baggage scanner. However, the officer directed us to the Cannal Verde - Green Channel - were we went directly out without any baggage inspection.

When we reached the terminal, there was a gentleman there with a Carnival sign. We approached him and he asked if we were Mr. and Mrs. West. We confirmed that we were and he led us outside the terminal where we waited while he went to get his car. Evidently we were the only arrival at that time.

The car was not very large, and one of our suitcases got to ride shotgun for the trip to the hotel. I believe the trip took about 30 minutes as we got our first look at Argentina. I tried to interpret the signs with my very limited Spanish.

We entered Buenos Aires along the Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest, if not the widest, streets in the world. We arrived at the Intercontental Hotel. Somewhere along the way, I lost my hat. I usually lose a hat somewhere on a trip - left on a plane, blown overboard, or something, so I had a spare.

Before the cruise, we had communciate with another couple who were also arriving Monday morning and staying at the Intercontinental Hotel. We were scheduled to arrive an hour before them, but we were late, they were early, so when we entered the hotel, we were greeted by Steve.

We checked in and waited until our baggage was taken to a secure storage area. Our rooms were not promised until 4:00, but they said they would probably be ready sooner. Pat was recovering from a cold and was pretty tired from the trip, so she settled on a couch to wait for the room.

We were told that Argintines are taught English and that in a large city like Buenos Aires, we would not have a problem with language.

Not exactly.

Most shops had someone who could communicate in English, but maybe not fluently. I had to smile when someone asked me to slow down because I find it so hard to follow someone speeking Spanish rapidly. I do much better reading signs where I can see the words and am not under a time pressure to figure out one word before the speaker has five more out. But between their limited English and my more limited Spanish, we were able to communicate - most of the time.

Steve, his wife, Marilyn, and I decided to do a little walking around Buenos Aires while the rooms were being readied. We headed for Calle Florida, a pedestrian shopping street, and after one wrong turn, found it and walked north along the street.

After a while, Steve and Marilyn decided to head back to the hotel. I countinued north to the end of the street. On the way back, I stopped in the Burger King that had been listed as one of the top 10 fast food places in the world. I ordered a medium Pepsi in Spanish. But when the girl asked me a question (probably if I wanted anything else), all I had to say was "No hablo espanol." I took my Pepsi up to the third floor. The Burger King is in a former mansion and the third floor ceilings are beautiful. Above the stairway is a stained glass dome. Over another eating area is a beautifully decorated wood ceiling, and others are decorated as well.

I walked back south along Calle Florida, browsing in several shops. One of my goals was to get a custom made leather jacket. I didn't find anything that day, but we had two more days in Buenos Aires.

Back at the south end of Calle Florida, I went east to the Casa Rosada - pink house. This building is the office of the President of Argentina, although it is not the presidential residence. I walked around the buidling - as close as the fences would allow - and took pictuers of the front and back. I wanted to get a picture of the balcony where Eva Peron addressed her followers and where Madonna sang "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" in the movie Evita (one of my favorites).

As I finished going around Casa Rosada, I noticed that the sky was darkening and I thought I saw some flashes of lightening in the distance. So I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.

The room wasn't ready, so Pat and I had a couple of drinks in the bar (Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Light) while we waited. Steve and Marilyn were told their room was ready, so they went to the room. We figured that we had arrived shortly after they did, so ours would be ready soon.

Wrong!

We got in our room at 4:00, the normal check-in time. The room was a very nice doom, even had a doorbell.

We got ready and met Steve and Marilyn to go to dinner. We had originally connected on Cruise Critic discussing about where to get a good Argentine beef dinner. I had kind of settled on La Cabrara, but decided to ask the hotel Concierge. He recommended a restaurant called "Happening" located in the Puerto Madero part of the city. we decided to take his recommendation and had the doorman get us a cab.

After a short cab ride costing just a few dollars, we arrived at Happening. It was about 7:00 pm, which is very early for dinner in Buenos Aires. The restaurant was nearly empty and we were quickly seated.

The Menu had English subtitles, and with a name like "Happening", we figured that there wouldn't be much of a language problem.

Not exactly.

We ordered and it was brought pretty much correctly. Pat did not get a dinner, but when we pointed that out, it didn't take long. I didn't get my Patas Pure - mashed potatoes - but again, it didn't take long to correct that. I ordered Bife de Lomo - Eye Fillet.

I had heard of how outstanding Argentine beef was and wanted to try some while we were there. Monday night was the only night that we would not have our dinner already paid for on the ship. I don't know if I would say that this was the best piece of beef that I ever had, but it was definately in the running. I had hoped that it would be far and away the best I ever had.

The restaurant was excellent, but it was very mich like a fine resturant that would be found in the United States (except for the language). I had expected something a bit different.

Pat asked where the restroom was. Blank expression. I said "baños." The waiter pointed to the restrooms. So "Baños" is a very important word to know in Spanish.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel and settled in for the night.

Tuesday morning we got up and got ready to transfer to the ship. Our luggage was picked up and about 11:30 we started to board the bus. The bus had just delivered passengers who were leaving the ship in Buenos Aires and staying at the Intercontinental before heading home. We identified our luggage to be loaded on the bus and got on the bus. As we were about to leave, I noticed two of our bags were still on the sidewalk. I got off the bus and identified the bags - again - and they were loaded on the bus.

The bus trip to the port was only about 15-20 minutes. We identified our luggage and hauled it 10 yards to the baggage handlers for transfer to the ship. We then went to check-in.

A passenger on a cruise on another line had described the check-in process as a "Three Stooges movie, but twice as long." Actually, that turned out to be a pretty accurate description, except that Three Stooges movies are funnier.

I have to cut Carnival some slack because this is not a normal port-of-call for them. In fact, this was the first time. However, Costa and Holland America do sail out of Buenos Aires, and they are Carnival brands, so I thought they could have done a little better.

There were two problems - lack of accurate communication, and no computers. Well, everybody has some communication problems, and this would not be the only one. Check-in was being done manually. We lined up (not knowing for sure if we were in the right line) in front of a table (not check-in counters) where some young ladies were handing us forms to fill in and taking our passports. They would give the forms and passports to another girl who would take them somewhere else (to the ship?) and return later with our room key-cards. The ship was some distance away and required a shuttle bus to get there and back, so the process was not exactly speedy. We found that we had been assigned to the late dinner seating although we had requested early sitting. Since we were joining the cruise on the second leg, the people who had been on the first leg and were staying on were assigned before we were.

Finally, at 1:30, they started letting us line up to get on the ship. They started lining up by zones. By the time they got to our zone, 6, they just told everyone to get in line.

While we were waiting, some people were going through another line very quickly. Speculation was that they were the people in suites. After one couple ahead of us moved over to that line, Pat asked the Carnival representative when we would get our passports back, since the other group had their passports. The representative asked if we had our passports. We said no, that we had already handed them in. She asked if we had our room keys. We showed her we did. She immediately took us out of line and straight through to the security checkpoint. It turns out that the line was for all the people who had not yet filled out their forms, surrendered their passports, and received their room keys. Oh, by the way, the lines that opened up at 1:30 had computers.

So we went througth the security screening and got on the shuttle bus to get to the ship. We found our room and the luggage was already there or arrived shortly. Off we went to lunch.

We decided not to attempt going back into Buenos Aires since we still had another day in port and we were signed up for a Tango dinner and show that night.

That evening we went to the La Ventana (the Wnidow) Tango show in Buenos Aires. There were two bus loads from the ship. Usually they only pick up at hotels, but since there were so many of us, they made an exception.

The show was excellent. There were two violinists, one accordionist, a pianist, and a cello player. There were four tango couples, one male singer, one female singer and a gaucho. There was another man who played an instrument that looked like a Thumbnails violin. Sometimes all 8 tango dancers were on stage, and other times each couple had the stage to themselves.

After the show, dinner was served. I didn't order the right meal, so the meat was not very tender and had a good deal of fat. Pat's dinner looked a lot better.

After dinner, we were bussed back to the ship and settled into the cabin.

The next morning, Pat didn't feel like going back to Buenos Aires and we both knwo that I could cover much more ground by myself. I wanted to find a leather shop where I could get a jacket made and do some more sightseeing.

I waited for the free bus to Galerias Pacifico, a shopping mall in a beautiful old building. But nobody showed up. I gave up waiting and shared a cab to get into town.

I want to Calle Lavelle where I had heard that there were other leather stores. I didn't find anything as I went along one direction, but as I headed back, I found a little store - L & M Leather Factory. I went in and found a jacket off the shelf that was a good fit. The cost was $148 US. I went out intending to look some more, but it didn't take long to decide that this jacket met my objectives as far as style, material (Argentine leather), and cost (under $150). I decided that I would probably get the jacket, but I didn't want to carry it around as I continued my walking tour.

I went back south along Calle Florida, then east to Casa Rosada again. I had found out that Eva and Madona used the balcony on the north side, but I wasn't sure which side was north. I didn't know if I had a picture of the right balcony. Maps of Buenos Aires did not follow the custom in the US of having North at the top. Well, we were south of the equator now. But the top wasn't south either.

I went to the side of Casa Rosada where there were two security men. I pointed in one direction and said "Norte?", then in another direction and said "Norte?". One officer pointed in the second direction and said "Norte." I had not taken a picture of the right balcony two days earlier.

I went across the street and took pictures of the North facade of Casa Rosada.

You may notice in the pictures of Buenos Aires that some have dark cloudy skies while others have bright blue skies. The cloudy sky pictures were taken Monday. The bright blue sky pictures were taken Wednesday.

After taking pictures of the North face of Casa Rosada, I headed west toward the Congress.

Along the way, I passed Cafe Tortino, a famous coffee shop, and crossed Avenida 9 de Julio. Fortunately, there are several medians and traffic signals, so you don't have to cross all the lanes (16 or more) at one time. I also passed a casting of Rodin's "The Thinker". This is one of about 20 original castings. Unfortunately, someone had written graffiti on the base.

After taking pictures of the outside of the Congress building, I returned to Avenida 9 de Julio and headed north to the Obelisk. The Obelisk is similar to the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., but is Thumbnailser. The Obelisk is 222 ft. high, the Washington Monument is 555 feet high. You cannot go up the Obelisk.

When I reached the Obelisk, there was a demonstration taking place at the base of the Obelisk. I went past the monument to take pictures and by the time I got back, the demonstration had moved on. From the Obelisk, I headed east along Corrientes to get back to Calle Florida and to find the leather shop to pick up the jacket. As I walked along Corrientes, I realized that I had caught up with the demonstrators. They stopped at an intersection, so I quickly walked ahead of them to get to Calle Florida. I went back to Calle Lavelle and bought the leather jacket.

Purchasing the jacket depleted my cash and I thought about going back to the ship for more money. But I realized that if I went back, I probably wouldn't come back out again and I still wanted to go to Recoleta. So I took a taxi to the Buenos Aires Design shopping center. I have started to collect Hard Rock Cafe bottle opener magnets and I wanted to pick one up in Buenos Aires. The Hard Rock Cafe is in the Buenos Aires Design shopping center and that is right next to the Recoleta Cemetery which I also wanted to visit.

I got my magnet at Hard Rock Cafe and walked around to the Recoleta Cemetery. The cemetery has hundreds of above ground masoleums with the graves of many prominent people. I found the Duarte Family tomb where Eva Peron (Evita) is buried. Her maiden name was Duarte. I also visited the tomb of President Sarimento before heading back.

I had neglected to bring a hat when I left the ship in the morning, and I have very little sun protection from my hair - or lack of it. I could tell I was beginning to burn. The skin on my head doesn't hurt when it burns, but a couple of days later I have flakes that look like terminal dandruff. Between the sun, being tired, and almost out of cash, it was time to head back to the ship. I got in a taxi in front of the Buenos Aires Design shopping center, but was unable to make the driver understand that I wanted to go to the cruise ship port, or the driver did not know how to get there. So I got back out of the cab and found another. This time, I remembered the Spanish words for cruise port - Puerto Cruisero - and the driver seemed to know where it was located. I was a bit worried when we approached Avenida 9 de Julio and he went to the right hand lane. I knew the port was off to the left. The light turned green for the left lanes and they all went straight into Avenida 9 de Julio. The light turned red, the the light for our land went green - a left turn arrow green. So we turned left out of the right hand lane and were soon at the port. I'm glad I wasn't driving in Buenos Aires.

When I arrived at the port, passengers who had just arrived were going through the embarkation process. It did not appear to be going any better than the day before. Fortunately, I could bypass all that and go directly to the security check.

Back on the ship, we prepared to leave Buenos Aires. We had the lifeboat drill before sailing and then met with other cruisers we had conversed with on the Cruise Critic message board for the past several weeks.

We sailed from Buenos Aires out to the Rio de la Plata - River of Silver. The river carries tons of silt and is a muddy brown color until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. The shipping channel is very narrow. At dinner, we looked up and saw a cargo ship heading the other direction just a stone's throw away - literally.

So we were finally sailing and headed to our next port - Montevideo, Uruguay.

May Pyramid and Casa Rosada

May Pyramid Wikipedia article
May Pyramid and Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo Wikipedia article
Plaza del Mayo
Buenos Aires City Hall
Buenos Aires City Hall
Banco de la Nation Argentina - Argentina National Bank

Banco de la Nation Argentina Wikipedia article
Argentina Congress building

Argentine National Congress Wikipedia article
Argentina Congress building
"The Thinker" in front of Argentina Congress building.
One of the original castings.

The Thinker Wikipedia article
The Obelisk

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Buenos Aires Obleisk Wikipedia article
Plaza de la Republica
The Aveneda 9 de Julio

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Avenida 9 de Julio Wikipedia Article
Centro Naval - Naval Building on Calle Florida at Cordoba - across from Galerias Pacifico
Centro Naval
Recoleta Cemetery

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La Recoleta Wikipedia article
Recoleta Cemetery - President Sarmiento
Recoleta Cemetery - Evita Duarte de Peron
Galerias Pacifico.

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A former railroad company headquarters converted to an upscale shopping mall.

Galerias Pacifico Wikipedia article
Galerias Pacifico interior
Burger King on Calle Florida.
Listed in the top 10 Fast Food places on the Travel Channel.
Not because of the food, but because it is located in a former mansion.
Go to the third floor and check out the ceilings.

Travel Channel - Burger King
Burger King interior

The works of art are gone, but the structure remains.

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Buenos Aires Hard Rock Cafe
La Ventana Tango Show

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Port of Buenos Aires

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Port of Buenos Aires panorama

Rio de la Plata

The river was named Rio de la Plata - river of silver in Spanish.
The river carries a tons of silt and is a muddy brown color until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.

Boy! That was close!

The shipping channel is very narrow.