One aspect of the Bristol Hotel I never really got used to was conventional hinged lift (elevator) doors. They didn't open when the lift arrived so, several times, I pressed the call button and waited (absent-mindedly) for a lift which was already there.
The Hotel had a great international breakfast included with self serve cereals, fruit (fresh & stewed), pastries (sweet & savoury), ham & cold meats and the usual hotel cooked breakfast eggs, bacon, etc faire if that is your thing. I had a bigger breakfast than usual as (thought) had a full day of exercise ahead of me. It was stunning weather, a good thing because I was going to be out cycling all day.
I found BA Bikes on the web, but their base was only about 1.5km from the hotel. Visited them yesterday afternoon and booked both their B.A. North and South tours. Each takes about 4 hours, easy flat riding on quiet streets with cycle lanes, through parks or on dedicated cycle paths.
Loved the 'Life is a beautiful ride' art on the wall. They also do rental bikes if you want to do your own thing.
The South ride has two guides, in part as goes into some more 'sketchy' parts of the city and also because some of the route involves crossing major roads, so more potential for a group to split. Gaston (below) led with detailed, informative, passionate info on the sights (and sites) visited, the history of Argentina & B.A., places of local and national significance.
Beto (below) followed managing traffic (more on that later) and stragglers, as necessary.
We had about half an hour here to take in the atmosphere. Caminito ("little walkway" or "little path" in Spanish) is a street museum and a traditional alley celebrating the art and colour of the poorer port area of B.A.
Gaston gave us the local history, animated as ever, then a chance to wander.
The patchwork painted buildings are a homage to the days when buildings were painted with leftover, or 'borrowed', ship paint.
The street art was great.
There is also quite a bit of new development, gentrification, like this old port building repurposed as a modern art gallery with roof café.
Most of the restaurants had live music and a chance for the tourist participation Tango photo (no, I didn't). Although a bit touristy it is historical, as the area inspired the music for the famous tango "Caminito" (1926), composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto.
Nice riding along tree lined streets, bit of a relief from the Sun as it was quite warm, 30°c, especially after Antarctica!
At one intersection Beto had to encourage me to cross the path of a bus, something which would leave you dead in Auckland, as the driver was giving way to bikes irrespective of him having the green light.
The Rio de la Plata riverbank has food trucks and a Saturday Market.
The promenade was lined with statues honouring Argentinian athletes like Luciana Aymar. The Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve is in the background. It has walking and cycling trails but was not part of this tour.
Puerto Madero seems to be a place of historic and modern folly. Built in the 1880's it was obsolete within a decade as could not accommodate the larger cargo ships. From the 1920s-80s multiple attempts to redevelop it floundered, in the 90s a rather soulless rebuild added 'could be anywhere' expensive tower block apartments. To be fair this bike ride was the only time I got there so may have missed something a more thorough exploration might have revealed.
The bridge might seem familiar; the work of Santiago Calatrava but criticised for being a bit copy/paste of others by him.
The ARA Presidente Sarmiento is considered to be the last intact cruising training ship from the 1890s and is now a museum.
Former port buildings repurposed as apartments, offices & restaurants.
Plaza de Mayo
The Plaza de Mayo was an impressive mix of architecture and history. Those who've been there said it felt rather European, but Europe is still on my 'to visit' list. The Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires is an example of this, a mix of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese Architects work over a century of build/rebuild.
I think our stop here was longer than scheduled as Gaston was superb, resulting in many questions and lengthy discussions. His summary of Argentinian political and social history was not just a guide following a script. His passionate and honest approach did not gloss over the less savoury aspects of Argentinian history; from colonial to more recent events (dictatorships, conflicts, military rule, economic struggles).
They'd just had the 2019 General Election, Alberto Fernández was sworn in a few days later on December 10, 2019. It seemed there was hope the new Justicialist (Peronist socialist) government would be an improvement on the outgoing one for the working classes.
We returned to the store and found I was now the only person booked for the afternoon North tour. A largish group tour who had booked for it changed their mind and now wanted to do the South tour. Rather than make BA Bikes do it for one (which was offered but seemed a bit mean) I was happy to defer. I wasn't leaving until Monday so booked the North tour for tomorrow (Sunday) morning. It was more pleasant riding in the (slightly) cooler morning anyway and more interesting going with a group.
One feature I liked at BA Cycles was their recommendation wall. Local attractions, food and entertainment recommendations from the guides, even some (Gaston's folk/blues music) performed by them!
Back on two feet
It was a hot afternoon so wandered back to the hotel for a siesta before heading out for the evening. This store near BA Bikes got my attention. It was closed when I passed it in the morning and looked like a bank or currency exchange. In fact, it was a Gelato store, the ice cream and payments passed through a cashier type hole in the wall slot!
A VW Gol, the most popular car in Argentina, gets its name from the Portuguese word for goal in football due to its Brazilian origin. The large bin behind it is a public one; seen all over the city with small public rubbish bins on every corner. Was amazed how little street litter there was in B.A.
This impressive building is a public school: Escuela Presidente Roca
Teatro Colón Opera House, people waiting to enter for the evening performance
In the evening coolth the parks were full of dogs, but this photo was of the unusual public art in Plaza Lavalle; an array of stylised music stands.
The Torre Monumental (formerly Torre de los Ingleses) in Plaza Fuerza Aérea Argentina (formerly Plaza Británica) in the evening light. An example of colonial and more recent political influences in Buenos Aires.
An odd sight: this police surveillance room (screens showing city wide cameras) but fully on view from the street, mentioned in this FT article. I never had any problems, or even felt unsafe, in the central part of B.A. but was careful to stick to the busier main roads after dark.