Buenos Aires: A Vibrant City Built on a Grand Scale

Day 42, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Friday, Nov. 17, 2023; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Were I to describe Buenos Aires in one word, it would be “Grand.” Sure, other words apply – lively, colorful, bustling, eclectic, exciting, vibrant. But this is a city of grand boulevards, grand statues, grand monuments and grand buildings.

I broke one of my customary guidelines of booking tours no longer than five hours and spent yesterday on an eight-hour Best of Buenos Aires ship excursion. Perhaps I am getting into the rhythm but it didn’t seem too long to me. We drove (slowly – traffic is horrible) through many districts, from Retiro and San Nicolás in the center to La Boca in south Buenos Aires and then Palermo and Recoleta in the north.

Much of our sightseeing was through the bus window, but we stopped for photos at Plaza de Mayo (the balcony Eva Perón made famous) and the obelisk in the center of Avenida 9 de Julio.

In La Boca, near the original port, we had 45 minutes to walk the block or two of Caminito, a colorful – and now touristy — immigrant neighborhood. Nearby is the home stadium of the Boca Juniors, one of the most popular fútbol teams in Argentina – and one of 18 professional teams in the city.

We stopped for lunch in the nearby Puerto Madero, the site of the original port and now home to renovated brick warehouses and shiny new skyscrapers.

When I say lunch – I mean multiple courses, including a 10-ounce steak and plentiful wine. I dare say some of the group dozed as we drove north to admire the mansions in Palermo and sights such as the Floralis Genérica sculpture.

Our final stop was the famous Recoleta Cemetary, where all the graves are above ground, laid out in blocks connected by tree-lined walkways. Each mausoleum seems built to outdo the next. Of course, the most visited is that of Eva Perón, buried in the Duarte family vault. One of the most unusual is that of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, killed at age 26 by an avalanche in Innsbruck, Austria, and memorialized with her dog.

Again, I skipped dinner last night, settling for a small bowl of chicken noodle (really spaghetti) soup in the Lido. Many passengers left the ship for tango shows, but I knew that on the overnight stop local entertainers would perform on board. It was a lively modern show.

Just in case I wasn’t eating enough, I set off this morning on a food tour. We first spent an hour or so inching our way through traffic to see many of the central sights of yesterday, this time with no stops for photographs.

In the tree-lined streets of Palermo we left the bus to first have empanadas in one restaurant, and then walk a block or two to another for a huge lunch – this time with two different steaks and all the accoutrements. Finally, gelato to end the meal. And another evening with a light bite in the Lido.

As we left, Buenos Aires, Capt. Smit announced that unfortunately we will miss tomorrow’s scheduled port of Punta del Este, Uruguay. The port, which doesn’t have a cruise ship pier, will be closed to tender boats due to high winds. Instead we will have a sea day, but Holland America scrambled this afternoon to add a new port – Santos, Brazil – for Monday. It’s close to São Paulo, but not close enough for a day trip. We’ll see what last-minute tour and sightseeing options are available.