Farewell, Buenos Aires

So we kicked off yesterday morning with Round Two of the Coat Disaster. The woman, due at 10, called at ten to say she would arrive at 11:30 – and it bought her no sympathy or good will to wait around the hotel for a couple of hours until she finally arrived just before noon. She was extremely apologetic for the problem but rather than recognizing the problems, she seemed to be trying to convince me that there weren’t any problems. IMG_0524She wanted me to trust her that they could fix it and I was trying to convey that I didn’t really have any reason to trust that and, besides, I’d spent enough time on the jacket. I just wanted my money back. Then began the tears. I wasn’t sure if it was a sales ploy or if her children would be eaten by goats if she didn’t make this sale right, but against my better judgment, I agreed to let them take one more stab at it. She told me she’d return tomorrow with my coat and my money in her pocket in case I still wasn’t happy.

It made for a grumpy start to what was Chris’ first day “off” in Buenos Aires. Still, we made the most of it by walking over to Recoleta and visiting the Cemeteria there. We don’t make a habit of visiting cemeteries. However, this one is an architectural marvel and a stunning homage to the dead. It’s a little walled city of mausoleums, complete with paved streets, trees, benches to sit on and street lights. Truly amazing. Then we headed to the Plaza de Mayo where I had wanted to see the Madres demonstration, which happens every Thursday. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the time for the other Madres and not the ones we’d visited earlier in the week. Apparently, this group is an offshoot, a faction formed when they split with the original group over their goals and approach. To say I don’t understand their differences is an understatement.

IMG_0585And what better than to follow such a somber occasion than yet more shopping? Although I swore I would never venture onto Florida again, I found myself doing just that – dodging dodgers waving cards and ads for leather shops under my nose. But we were in pursuit of suits for Chris and after passing at one shop that swore its suits were “120% wool” we found some at Zara and got away with two beautiful wool suits for about $280 US. For real!

That night, we met up with Lisa and Chuck at Olsen, a restaurant in Palermo that was on both our lists. None of us is an expert on modern Scandinavian cuisine, but we were sold by the bagel and fish dip appetizers and the sleek design of the place. It was a truly beautiful restaurant and the meal was just lovely – particularly a dessert sampler we all shared. Genius idea! A couple of bites of everything for everyone!

I should probably mention that before Thursday, we had gotten quite used to stepping out of the Dazzler and into a white van and being delivered to our final destination. Once the official trip ended Wednesday afternoon, we were on our own and discovered that a) I know more Spanish than I thought when it comes to taking taxis and b) that’ll do me no good when I die in a fiery wreck as a result of the absolutely terrifying life-gamble involved in getting from one point to another in a Buenos Aires taxi.

Good Lord! Lanes are nothing but mere suggestions and even if there are eight of them on a single street, all pointing in the same direction, people just add their own, edging between cars. The taxis drive at break neck speed and tailgate as though their font bumpers were magnetically attracted to the rear one of the car in front. Terrifying stuff!

But the good news is that risking your life is cheap. Our longest cross-town trip – on which we may have been snowed by a mile or so of unnecessary scenic detour – cost us about 13 pesos. That’s about four bucks to you and me, folks.

Friday began not well with the return of the leather jacket, which was in even worse shape than the day before. The insides were bunched together in an attempt to rectify the situation. I still couldn't raise my arms above my head and was as disappointed in the amount of time I'd wasted on it as I was in the jacket itself. Despite the woman's pleas to give them yet another chance, I had to decline. And although I initially insisted I wanted my money back, we wound up compromising and Chris came away from the deal with a gorgeous briefcase, two pairs of shoes and a belt. Turned out to be his trip for goodies!

Chris and I took a tour of the Teatro Colon, one of the most magnificent opera houses in the world. The place is absolutely amazing, like something out of a different time entirely and I wish only that its upkeep were a little more meticulous but I fear that it too has fallen victim to Argentina’s difficult economy.

IMG_0626My favorite part was probably our trip down five flights of stairs into the bowels of the theater – where we found rehearsal space, scenery workshops, metal shop, cabinetry, dress makers, wig makers and cobblers. One of the rehearsal spaces stretched far underneath the street, reaching out under Avenue 9 of July, one of the busiest streets in Buenos Aires. I was absolutely smitten with the romantic notion that a rehearsal of Don Giovanni was taken place right beneath the smog and city rush of the taxis, unbeknownst to most of the people above.

At the hotel, we met up with Graham, Rainey, Gerard and Kim, who had returned from their side trip to Colonia, Uruguay, which they said was just magical and relaxing. I regret not being able to see the place but don’t regret having to pack everything and move our luggage away for an overnight trip. The boys took us to lunch at La Bifteca, an amazing joint in Puerto Madera where they had eaten with the fellows earlier in the week. It was the most stunning buffet I’ve ever seen, especially with its offerings of vegetables and salad in a zillion different forms – something we simply haven’t had enough of and gorged on like we were starving for vitamins.

We met up with Gerard, Kim, Rainey & Graham at the hotel and headed out to La Bifteca, a buffet of unequal proportions. The boys had checked it out earlier in the week and it lived up to all expectations with a sea of food, including a wide selection of salads which we were eager to dig into after all the meat we’ve been ingesting. Late that afternoon, Chris and I returned to the massage place where he got an hour-long Shiatsu treat and I enjoyed the hot-stone therapy – which cost us a whopping $35 US total!

IMG_0666A gang of us joined up with Luis, Claudia and Gabriel that evening at a beautiful restaurant called Moreno. All atmosphere, with dim lights and beautiful views of the moon over the water, it was a lovely evening, although I carried with me that slightly melancholy feeling you have when you know things are drawing to a close.

And close they did the following day. In the morning, we packed and checked out of the Dazzler before heading back to Palermo to check out the markets. Due to our geographical confusion, we stumbled upon a much larger market than the one we’d been at the week before, in Palermo Soho. It was a gorgeous day and we wandered around, snagging a hat for me and gazing at the overwhelming selection of crafts. Then we jumped in a taxi and met up with Luis, Claudio, Bacon ‘n Butters, the Aussies and Grainey at the MALBA