Saturday, and we are off to see part of downtown BA. Just make a left out the front door and walk seven blocks to get to the Subway, here it’s called the Subte. A long walk, made even longer by not turning left, but first scouting out more of the artsy neighborhood around us. The name Palermo Soho seems appropriate since the stores, galleries, trendy boutiques; eateries are a reminder of a Bohemian lifestyle, of the Nouveaux Riche way to shop. We are in an area that seems to be trendy with the young folks. Parties on the weekend are de rigueur for the young. We are tourists, even look like tourists with our clothes carefully selected to hold up to travel usage. And since we are older now, not the typical party attendee and sure not dressed to stop a bus full of fashionable teens, we do stand out. I think we look the part of retired, North American tourists, walking slowly to absorb life around us and just people watch.
Taking detours to expand our understanding of our new home base, we finally come to a subway station and buy a 10 trip ticket that gives us some leeway in just hopping on/off when we need to without too much worry whether we have a ticket or not. We looked at the Subte line logically and I was sure we were on the correct track side but something told Carol we were wrong. She checked and sure enough, we had to cross over to the other track side. Out of the turnstiles and again faced with paying a full fare I just opened a gate and we walked in without paying (again). A police man stood right there said nothing. I guess we do look too much like tourists. I believe he could not be bothered with checking our tickets; the fare is only 2.50 pesos (abt. 65 cents) each.
So, we rumbled along below ground counting off the stops from our map. Hawkers came by, giving us scissors to buy but since we didn’t want them, retrieving them again after some moments. We were offered a map for the busses, but again we were not buying. Then a trio walked in with speakers and amplifiers tied to a hand cart fuelled by a car battery and for one stop, some rock and roll music filled the car. A sock was passed around and some people paid for the entertainment provided, most just sat bored, waiting for their stop.
After about 20 minutes of such entertainments we arrive at the Cathedral station, as far down town as the green D line will take us. End of the line station for us. We take the elevator up, just because we want to try anything different and do things we normally do not do. We pop up in the middle of the sidewalk, in the middle of a block with daylight all around us. It felt strange to pop up in a glass cage at the side of a Boulevard.
So, now where is the Metropolitan Cathedral? Being used to spires and towers attached to a cathedral we looked skyward but no bell towers are in sight. Mmmm!
So I asked a cab driver and with a look of surprise on his face, he pointed to a columned building that looks a bit like a fancy old fashioned bank front. No towers above it. The inside sure looks like a typical Catholic Church with all the holy Saints, pictures of Christ on the Cross, naves and pews and creaky wooden benches. People walked about, talking, taking pictures, being fascinated by the display of gilded silver decorated altars, cherubs and auras represented by halos.
After Carol took some pictures, we stepped outside and now where do we go? Downtown BA is huge, and spread out. On the map we had we saw a sign for an information stand and headed for that spot. Not easy to find but after asking a passerby, we do get there only to find it is more of a ticket booth for a touristy bus tour. We looked around and even asked a young woman in English about the particulars of this bus tour. We might take it at a later date but for now the day would be too short to spend all this money on a few hours tour on a hop off, hop on kind of system. So this young lady asked, “Did you see the pink house yet?” Not knowing anything about a ‘pink’ house we looked puzzled and were told that this is the answer to the U.S. ‘White’ house, but Argentinean style. Naturally we were off to give this a visit.
Casa Rosada, as it is called, is actually the office of the President of Argentina. The balcony of the house was made famous by Eva Perón giving her speeches to the masses of protestors or the proletariat standing below it in awe.
The inside tour we took gave me a view of some of the furnishings and offices and relayed some of the history. Yes, I walked into the official office of the President of Argentina,
guarded by two guards and roped off, but it was very formal and a bit showy. I felt like I was walking about in a museum rather than into a modern, 21st Century political office. I felt rather like being caught in a time warp and being pushed back to circa 1910. What happened to Argentina for the last 100 years? The tour we attended was given in Spanish only, and our guide spoke more of the history or the men of the past than of today’s new world. While interesting as a historical place it is not a copy of the White House, nor is it intended to be. Casa Rosada is a museum, certainly a place in the hearts of every Argentinean, even a symbol of the past, or an Icon of her politics but to me it looked worn, old, and not up to date with the computer age.
Having spent at least 2 hours waiting and then touring the ‘pink’ house, we had had it for the day and walked back to find our subtle line D again. The first entrance we found was closed, so was the 2nd one. How do we get below ground? I remembered the elevator we took coming in and we headed for this glass case. We pushed the button for the elevator and the doors opened up when I felt something wet hit my shoulders and the back of my shirt. I looked at Carol and she too, seemed to have been ‘rained’ on. We looked at each other and thought, well, some water and started to walk into the elevator car when a middle aged couple waved us back out. She was holding her nose and pointed in to the sky. Yes, it stank but why is she calling me back out? Not knowing what to do we did, never the less, step back out into the street when he lady said;” Agua!” and handed me her small bottle of water and a little piece of paper. I am puzzled, yes it stinks but …. Oh NO! We were bombed by a pigeons. Brown, runny, long tracks of excrement, ok, shit, hung all over Carols back. Her pants got the most of it. Her pink blouse was christened with dots and streaks of crap. That is what I saw, but all of that stuff is also all over me. Luckily Carol and I wore a broad brimmed Tilley hats; it caught a lot of goo that would have been like shampoo otherwise. And this stuff really stank. The couple was very good to us. He cleaned my backside the best he could using napkins and some water and I and the lady did a fair job on Carol. While they were cleaning us I thought, are they pick pocketing us, is this a scam? I am so conditioned but no, they truly were Samaritans. We thanked them for their help and supplies of water and paper tissues and after some time had to face the fact that we have to go back ‘home’ stinking still. We sat alone on the bench in the Subte, nobody wanted to sit next to us. We walked back our seven blocks from Plaza Italia to our apartment conscious of our odor. Man we stank! People gave us a wide berth. Finally we entered our place and after checking carefully, we noticed this brown mess, now dried, still sticking to us in places we missed before. That pigeon really did a job on us.
Standing in the tub, running hot water and soap all over me, stripping do the skin and washing and scrubbing hard, I finally felt clean enough. All the soiled clothes, the knapsacks, the fanny packs, Tilley hats had to be washed, even the camera case. Good thing it is summer here, the weather is mild and we have sunny days. Our balcony here was filled with everything we’d been wearing – all spread out to dry..
What a shitty day this turned out to be! Well, the end of it, anyway, but we learned a lot, too. We for sure learned to dodge pigeons.