Buenos Aires; a touch of Europe in South America
A recent cruise on Sydney Harbour to enjoy the vibrancy and colour of Jacarandas in full bloom reminded Graham & Sandra Ross of their trip to Buenos Aires, researching a new tour itinerary. Here they share some of the discoveries to be found in this exciting South American metropolis.
By Graham Ross
There are many things about Argentina’s capital that will surprise you. For me a big surprise was the brilliant landscape design of Carlos (Charles) Thays (1849-1934), whom I had never heard of. Thays arrived from his native Paris and fell in love with the fledgling, vibrant city. He stayed in Argentina for the rest of his life and designed BA’s parks and broad boulevards. Being a graduate of French architecture and landscape design he brought a strong European influence to the design of the city for which, incredibly, he was given carte blanche approval, by the city fathers, to do as he wished.
The result is kilometres of tree-lined plazas, flower-filled parklands and broad, jacaranda-lined city avenues. It is possibly the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens for which he is best known as it is all that has been left substantially intact. His English Gothic Revival-style mansion (1881) is used today as the administration building and houses the Herbarium. The garden was laid out with Roman, French and Oriental Gardens and filled with plants from those countries. Also remaining are five glasshouses, the largest and grandest, designed in Art Nouveau style, is filled with 2,500 tropical plants and is considered to be the only one of its kind in the world.
In downtown Palermo, Thays was given square kilometres to design and he filled the space with thousands of trees, formal flower and rose beds, fountains and monuments in a grand style. The metropolis has overtaken his designs today and tall buildings and retail centres now sadly occupy his well-planned open spaces. But his legacy can still be seen in several large, mature tree-filled parks and pocket-handkerchief plantings around the city. Sandra and I greatly enjoyed strolling through both the Botanical Gardens and the inner city parks; cool and welcoming and still greatly appreciated by the citizenry over a hundred years after their creation.
Argentina’s soul is music, or to be more accurate dance, and not just any dance, it has to be the tango. We enjoyed an incredible night out at the Carlos Gardel theatre restaurant. Carlos Gardel was one of Argentina’s tango masters and this evening celebrated his tango skills and prowess. It is impossible in a paragraph to describe the excitement and fun these dancers generated. Needless to say we have included such a classic night in our South American tour for 2010.
The tango is all-pervasive in the life of Buenos Aires. We visited the Caminito, an area in the La Boca neighbourhood, famous for its pedestrian streets and houses made from sheet metal with tiny balconies all painted in vibrant colours, inspired by the artist, Jaun Quinquela Benito. As we walked around we encountered a complete orchestra moving through the street playing tango music. Dancers whirled around in between the art and craft vendors. It was a thrilling experience.
There are many ‘must-sees’ in Buenos Aires. The city centre is called Plaza De Mayo and has a fascinating Spanish feel. A white, marked pavement where mothers still mourn their children ‘lost’ in the so-called ‘Dirty War’ surrounds a central fountain. Ironically the government administration buildings, the ‘Pink House’ or Casa Rosada, which includes the veranda where Evita Peron performed her famous speech to millions, overlook this sorrowful site. Opposite are the old Cabildo, Buenos Aries’ first city building (1580), and the newer, 18th Century Metropolitan Cathedral.
Another area not to be missed is the elite Recoleta neighbourhood with its restaurants, churches and incredible cemetery. Yes, a cemetery you shouldn’t miss! It is here that Evita is buried, along with Presidents, dictators, Argentinean legends, war heroes and scoundrels all buried side by side. It is parkland of unusual proportions and even rarer architecture.
Come with us in 2016!
We’re heading back to Argentina in November 2016. Our adventure takes in all the superstars – Roberto Burle Marx, Christ the Redeemer, Iguassu Falls, Rio De Janiero. Enjoy a relaxed pace in cities such as Buenos Aires and Bariloche. Cross the Andes, cruise lakes, and finish up in Santiago. Join us for a trip of a lifetime. To find out more about the tour call Ross Garden Tours in 1800 809 348 or visit www.rosstours.com