Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our last day in Buenos Aires; strolling from the Retiro Train Station through Puerto Madero

For our final day's touring, we planned to take the subway from Avenida San Juan to the Retiro train station, planning to see various sightys as we walked southward.  I knew there was to be a flea market in Plaza Dorrego, and a milonga in the evening but I figured we would hit those when we got back.

Nancy suggested, though, that we visit the old Mercado de San Telmo first, so we wandered through this old building and looked at the various food and tchotchke stands. 

Inside the Mercado San Telmo
My mind was already wandering toward buying things.  I came close at a stand that had some books  displaying old bills from Cuba, Iraq and other countries.  From there, we wandered into Plaza Dorrego to look at the antiques market, stopping as well to admire a couple who were performing the tango to recroded music (the schtick being to sell CD's of the music), their age looking quite suited to the market at which they were performing. 

Tango dancers at the Feria San Pedro Telmo
 I was tempted by many things that were much too heavy to carry back, such as a collection of old seltzer bottles and some lovely cut crystal bowls with colored glass.  There were old signs from torn-down buildings, and I was sorely tempted by some old maps that looked for all the world as if they had been ripped out of library books )their prices saved me from further temptation to buy stolen pages)In the end, I picked up a couple of  original hand-painted signs using the filete script typical of Buenos Aires

We dropped off these goodies in our hotel room and headed off to the subway, stopping for a snack of empanadas and an alfajore on the way.  We took the nearby line all the way to its northern end at the Retiro train station.  This is a huge old-fashioned early-20th century building with cavernous  ceilings and nice architectural finishes.

Interior of Estacion Retiro
 We left the station and admired the Torre de las Ingleses, donated by England to honor the Argentine centennial but officially renamed Torre Monumental in the early 1980's because of outrage over England's defense of the separate status of the Falkland Islands.  Consistent with the love-hate relationship between the two countries, we were told that nobody actually refers to the structure by its new official name.

Torre de los Ingleses

From the Torre de las Ingleses, we set off the find the Museo de Imigraciones, but after following the street map carefully for half an hour and asking directions on the street, we learned that it is closed until further notice.  Next we headed into Puerto Madero, a newly constructed barrio full of modern office building and residences and a multitude of restaurants.  The barrio is long and skinny, running north-south along a waterway spanned by the occasional road or, in one case, by a nifty pedestrian-only bridge.
Pedestrian bridge in Puerto Madero

We stopped for lunch at Restaurant de Campo, where we were able to sit outside and look at the water as well as the passing parade.   We were especially impressed by an excellent blood sausage, which was one of the appetizers available  on the prix-fixe menu that I ordered, and an exceptional platter of grilled vegetables that Nancy ordered a la carte.  I also had a pollo relleno stuffed with vegetables; it was an interesting idea but the chicken breast itself was a bit dry.

Pollo Relleno

Grilled Vegetables

Then we headed off for our final destinaton for the day's touring -- the Reserva Ecologico that separates the eastern edge of Puerto Madero from the Rio de la Plata.  To get to the main entrance, we had to head to the southern end of Puerto Madero, so we headed over to the long boardwalk-type structure that runs along the swampy "lagunas" at the eastern edge of the neighborhood.  It was lined with portable parillas with chairs set out plus a poor-man's version of the Feria San Pedro Telmo, with such things as socks, underwear and cellphone cases for sale.

Finally we reached the Ecological Reserve, and headed out along a paved path lined with trees, raised slightly above the marshland with pampas grass.  After about a mile's walk, we reached the Rio de la Plata, where many families sat on fallen tree trunks or rocks, or at picnic tables or grass further from the shore.  We enoyed looking at the sailboats and freighters out on the water, then headed back on the "pampas grass trail" that took us closer to the marshland.  We could see the office buildings of Puerto Madero in the distance.

By the time we left the Ecological Reserve, we whad walked so far south from the train station that we were close to our hotel in San Telmo.  The market was still going strong; in fact, there were more vendors with their wares spread out on blankets in streets even further from the Plaza Dorrego, and the streets were truly jammed with people.

Streets of San Telmo during the Sunday feria
 We had a nice snack and the Bar el Federal, and decided to have dinner on the neighborhood so that we could catch the milonga, an open, public dance that occurs in the Plaza Dorrego after the antiques market closes.

Following a recommendation of the Lonely Planet Buenos Aires, we chose La Brigada for our final dinner in Buenos Aires, and on walking in I was prepared to love the place because the walls and even ceilings were crowded with soccer paraphernalia -- signed jerseys, scarves, posters and photos.  But this was one occasion where this trusty guidebook failed us.  The meat was OK, but the two salads were drowning in dressing, and, from Nancy's perspective, way oversalted.   Even worse, the waiter was too busy to stop by to see how we were doing (which would have allowed us to ask for new salads with the dressing on the side).   The wine list was pricey as well.  So this is one restaurant in Buenos Aires that I would definitely not recommend.

In fact, it took so long to get our check and get it paid, even though the restaurant was emptying out by the end of our meal, that we go to the Plaza Dorrego just as the last dance was being played; the flooring was then rolled up and the crowd dispersed.  A bummer!  So we decided to find some live music for our last nightr in Buenos Aires. We walked into Akwaba  Club  a few doors down from Plaza Dorrego on the strength of what we heard from two lively young rock musicians wh were holding forth.  We stayed for the rest of their set, several songs worth, drinking an interesting "artesanal ale" called Pawe negra.  It was apparently open mike night at this venue because the rock fellows were succeeded by a rather dull "cool jazz" group with a piano, two electric guitars and a drummer.   We paid our bill and headed back to the hotel.  The streets were nearly empty, as Argentina prepared for a working Monday with holy week having come to a close.

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