Monday, 10 August 2009

Free Entry Days, 24 July 2009

I always hate looking through the LP and finding out that certain places have free entry on certain days. Normally my trip never coincides with the free entry days, but knowing that i had ample time to explore BA i decided to make the most of these Free Entry days for once.

On a Friday there is free entry into the Cabildo and the Casa Rosada! The two are opposite each other across the Plaza de Mayo and the Cathedral is right by them too so I figured I could spend the day exploring all three sights! Woo!

I had seen all these buildings from the outside on my walking tour the day before and i was excited to get inside and have a look around.

I was hesitant about the Free Entry at El Cabildo, I didn´t want to seem like a greedy tourist eager for free stuff, and so as I entered I asked how much entry was. The lady waved me in and told me it was gratis. Awesome.

I have to say, I am very glad that entry was free... I first of all looked at paintings of El Cabildo (the Town Hall) throughout the ages. At various points of Buenos Aires´ history it had changed from being really big, to smaller, to bigger, to taller and then to it´s current statte. It was interesting to see the changes and I managed to understand the Spanish which explained why these changes occured - although I can´t remember the reasons now. The next room was an exhibiton on lights... and the history of lights in Buenos Aires. Again it was all in Spanish, but I persevered and learnt all about the town criers who would announce the time and the progression from candles, to gas lamps, to electric street lights. It was rivetting stuff and was great for expanding my Spanish vocabulary. (Note... I am still waiting for the perfect opportunity to throw into conversation the vocabulary that i learnt at the Cabildo, but funnily enough the occasion has not yet arisen). The next room documented the history of El Cabildo as the prison of Buenos Aires. More great stuff. Like I said, I´m glad I chose a free day for this one!

Next up was the Cathedral. I never like going into Cathedaral´s and churches by myself as a tourist. I prefer safety in numbers when I go into churches. Not that churches and cathedral´s are particularly scary, i just don´t feel comfortable being a tourist inside them, it feels a bit wrong. But saying that, i love churches, they are just so pretty. From the outside, you wouldn´t know that this was a cathedral, it looks like a greek style temple with pillars and a triangular plinth at the top! Inside it was simply stunning. I wandered around and saw the crypt of San Martin and some other beautiful statues of saints. I then pulled up a pew and sat admiring the stunning arches and paintings. Incredible!

Next up the Casa Rosada. As I crossed the plaza, I realised that I was running early, I had expected the Cabildo might take all morning to explore, but i had only been in there an hour (and i was only in there for such a long time because I was translating all the information boxes). It was only 11am I had already seen the Cathedral and the Cabildo. I rocked up at the gates of the Casa Rosada and set off to find the museum entrance. I found the museum entrance... the guard told me that the Casa Rosada was closed for refurbishment! WHAT! I was outraged! I really wanted to see inside Argentina´s Presidential Palace, and most importantly, I wanted to stand on Evita´s balcony!

I was at a loss... what next? My plan for the whole day had come to a close in less than two hours.

I looked at my map and realised I was close to Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires´ newest Barrio (neighbourhood). I headed down to Puerto Madero. It was a beautiful day and as I arrived at Puerto Madero I had an instant craving for sushi... Puerto Madero is a lovely little Cardiff Bay type area, swanky bars, nice restaurants, plush apartments... the perfect place to find sushi take away!!! I wandered along the riverside, past Hooters and TGI Fridays and took a look at some old ships that were moored in the docks. It was very nice indeed. Then I found a sushi restaurant, but I was mightily disappointed when I saw they didn´t have any take out sushi. But I still had a feeling that there was more sushi to be found so I wasn´t too disheartened. I crossed at the Woman´s Bridge, a very modern looking nice bridge to the restaurants at the other side. There it was... a take out sushi bar! Oh yes. I picked some pieces and found a nice sunny spot where i could sit to enjoy my sushi and watch the riverside. It was lovely. The area was nice, but it had the same vibe as Cardiff Bay in that it had no real soul. There were a lot of business milling about on their lunch hour, but by the end of lunch there was no one around and it was a bit of a ghost town.

I then decided that I was going to get myself lost in the city. I ended up wandering all over and seeing some great areas. I love getting lost and finding new things. Of course I wasn´t really lost, my trusty map meant i knew where i was, but i just kept wandering around. I then happened across a big crowd of people and a sign saying tour at 4pm. Porque no? I went inside and started reading the english explanations on the walls (the cabildo experience had tired me from reading the spanish). I was in the Block of Enlightenment and somehow without paying I got caught up in the tour and taken round the Block of Enlightenment. The tour was all in Spanish, and the tour guide spoke Spanish so incredibly fast that it was impossible to keep up. It was cool to look around the old hub of intellect in Buenos Aires, the Jesuits had established a school on the site and a church and it was revered highly amongst the people to this day. The highlight of the tour was being taken down to the tunnels. Apparently there is a network of old tunnels under BA that run between the docks, the churches and other important places. The Jesuits used them to move important people around the city, of course they have also been used for smuggling. Now they are closed off and shown off as a tourist attraction. It was kind of cool and showed me more of the history of BA that I hadn´t seen as I wandered around.

I had seen a lot of BA already, but I didn´t really know a great deal about all the things I had seen. There was a free walkng tour from the hostel on Monday so I booked that into my diary so that I could learn about this great city and appreciate it more fully.

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