29 October 2000 – Buenos Aires
This city never fails to surprise, even on a :cur rest dav and 2 Sunday, which our guide Helga had said was a day when nothing much happens. The one recommendation that had been given as something that must be done in BA was to visit the ‘flea market’ in San. Telmo. a mile or so from the city centre. It was a small residential district containing numerous antique and craft shops around a small square, which was covered in market stalls. These were selling a variety of old tat. ranging from jewelry to old walking sticks. Second hand soda siphons seemed to be a particular specialty. The area was. however, charming, with narrow streets lined with apartment buildings in which, one had the impression, real portenos lived – although this was presumably a trendy and therefore expensive pan of town.
I found an internet cafe and checked some emails and sent my first report and then met up with David Porcelijn, the Michaels & Doug Mackie to visit Recoleta. which is both the very well-heeled section of the city and one of the main cemeteries – one whose famous inhabitants include Evita. We found Eva’s family mausoleum without difficulty. So many years after her death it is still visited and covered in fresh flowers. The cemetery itself consists not of headstones in the ground as in Australia, but of individual family mausoleums, each like a small house. These sit above the ground and are generally highly ornate, with wrought iron or brass fittings and often with glass doors. Inside there are generally shelves holding (or waiting to hold) coffins in plain view, with more room below in the crypt, reached by a narrow stair or ladder. Some mausoleums have small seats inside and we saw one man sitting in the open doorway of his family tomb, visiting the relatives.
Back at the hotel, there was news of a minor disaster – Ivan James had had his wallet stolen in precisely the manner that guide Helga had warned us about. The scam is that someone comes up to you in the street and squirts mustard from a bottle over your clothes, apologises and then helps you clean up, meanwhile taking your wallet and anything else they can get. Often they are with an accomplice, and the pair that got Ivan’s wallet were clearly well-practised, as he didn’t even realise his wallet had gone until about five minutes after they had farewelled him and made their escape in a waiting taxi. Poor Ivan, while clearly shaken, was philosophical about the loss and spent the rest of the afternoon canceling credit cards.
Attempting an afternoon nap (the siesta is still taken in much of Argentina), I was awoken after just a few minutes by what sounded like a revolution taking place in the street directly outside the hotel. Thousands of portenos, most of them clearly descended from the ethnic Indians, crowded into the street for the procession of the virgin to celebrate All Saints Day. The hotel sits on one of the main streets leading to Plaza de Mayo, the city’s major square and home to the Cathedral, and these processions were taking place in most of them. The virgin herself was a gaudy affair in aluminium, paint and flowers, born on the shoulders of a couple of dozen men for her slow march down the street. Babies were blessed in front of her and her progress was accompanied by some really awful singing. Then it was suddenly over and the streets cleared as if nothing had happened.
Dinner was again meat-based, this time at a true Asado restaurant. I shared a ‘mixed grill’ with five others. It consisted of various cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork, along with the ‘lights’ and blood sausage, which some found distasteful but I quite enjoyed.
We depart this morning on the bus for Rosario and our first concert of the tour, but already the trip has proven that it will be a memorable one.