Friday, November 11, 2011

Bike Tour through Buenos Aires

Gen. San Martin
Day One in Buenos Aires, was thus far a success. After a small debate on what to do in Buenos Aires which we knew very little about, we decided that the best way to see the city might be to jump on a bus and see the city. But then we decided that perhaps a $45 bike tour might be a good idea and something fun. So, today Time Irado took a bike tour through the historic areas of Buenos Aires. The tour departed from the Plaza San Martin at the monument of the General San Martin. The monument and the plaza are named after a a formal Spanish Army General (Argentina born) who helped free South American from Spanish control. He is regarded as a hero of Argentina and his name is used in the highest decoration or honor that one can earn in Argentina. The plaza is very well kept and the monument is very cool to see in person. The bike company that we used had two versions of the bike tour, one that went through the northern part of the city through parks and rich area and one that went throught he southern portion of the city where much of the city's historical and character are maintained. We chose to go with the history route and we headed to the historica sites of Puerto Madero, Ecologic Reserve, 'Costanera Sur', La Boca, San Telmo and Plaza de Mayo Square. 

Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is the historic port of Buenos Aires that was famous for shipping and recieving goods for centuries. The area is now more of a modern cityscape including high rise hotels, residential buildings and many retail spaces. Shops and restaurants have taken over for the warehouses and make this part of the city one of the key attractions to the rich and famous.

Ecological Reserve, aka 'Costanera Sur', is nearly 900 acres of nature right at the edge of the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Argentina. The reserve includes bike trails (hence the bike tour), hiking paths, as well as many joggers. The views of the city from the reserve were amazing, and hard to believe that this reserve was kept in tact so close to the city and the rivers. We found out that the reserve was actually created from construction materials and other liter that was discarded into the River. Over time, sand and other setiment collected create the grounds where grasses began to grow and now is home to one of the most unique parks in the world. Despite being near the water no one swims here due to the debris and pollution in the river however many people do come to get a suntan! Our guide also mentioned that with housing property values of around $15k per square meter for high rise towers, that many have tried to burn the vegetation to make way for new construction but the Ecological Park now has its own fire department to combat errant blazes.

La Boca, was another stop on our fantastic bike tour. La Boca is an Italian influenced neighborhood in Buenos Aires that is very much a resemblance of Italian cities. Brightly painted houses and great architecture lined the streets of La Boca. We learned that this neighborhood even tried to seceded from the country in the 1800's which was somewhat funny since it is right on the edge of the capital city. La Boca is also home to a huge soccer fanbase, cheering for the hometown heros, La Boca Juniors. The most famous street in La Boca is called Caminito(little path), and is the center of tourist activity in the area. The street is commonly shown on postcards for its multi-colored houses. Many artists also show off their work on the sides of the main street. We did not venture off of Caminito, because the rest of the neighborhood is not considered safe.

We also headaed to  the oldest part of Buenos Aires, San Telmo. Similar to other parts of the city, San Telmo has a very European feel to it with more of a Spanish influence than La Boca. There are many shops and restuarants that line the neighborhood. We were also told that on Sunday's here in San Telmo, there is a huge market and crafts fair. The area is well known for artists and dancers who come from all over Buenos Aires to sell their goods and perform. Time Irado may just have to make a trip back on Sunday to check out the action!

Plaza de Mayo Square is the most famous place in Buenos Aires, as it is home to the Casa Rosada.  Thats right, Americans have "The White House" and Argentinians have "The Pink House. It was rather strange to see the most famous political building of the South American continents second largest country. But it also had a rather aestetic feel to it with the artchitecture and the plaza as a whole. There is also a monument to Christopher Columbus that sits outside the focus point of Argentina's politics. The history and influence of the Spanish can be felt throughout the city, but most clearly right here at this point.

Another thing we learned today is that with the increase in high rise towers, air pollution is starting to be an issues. A city that traditionally has good air quality, afterall Buenos Aires translates to "Good Air", is starting to see increased smog. Up next for Time Irado, Argentina vs Bolivia soccer, a World Cup Qualifying match. Luckily I brought a powder blue tee shirt with me to wear to the game. After the game, we will likely try out some of the Argentine Red Meat and Wine!

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