Debarkation from the Celebrity Infinity was orderly. We were headed down the ridiculously steep gangway by 7:30 AM. Knowing that our flight home did not depart until 9 PM, Traci and I had booked the ship's Best of Buenos Aires 9-hour shore excursion. It would give us a tour of Buenos Aires, take us to an estancia (ranch) in the countryside, and then drop us off at the airport.
The shore excursion began with the city tour. We were driven through the various barrios (neighborhoods) of Buenos Aires. I found Buenos Aires to be a fascinating place. It has a large population of immigrants of Italian descent and of Spanish descent. The city's wealthy used to spend part of the year in Europe and the other part in Buenos Aires. As a result, it is not uncommon to see European-style buildings. At the same time, the warm climate allows palm trees to grow.
We rode through the Obelisk section where there are large flashy billboards and the world's widest avenue. It runs seven lanes in each direction. I regretted not strolling through this area during our pre-cruise Buenos Aires stay. It looked like a fun place to spend some time.
We visited La Recoleta Cemetery. It is where the rich and famous are laid to rest. This is not a cemetery of tombstones. Instead, it consists of ornate tombs that could be considered works of art. They look like cathedrals with elaborate statues. We visited the grave of one of Argentina's most famous citizens - Eva Peron. She was Argentina's First Lady during the presidency of Juan Peron and an advocate for the working class. However, I suspect most non-Argentines like myself first heard of Eva Peron from the musical Evita which was written about her life. Many people have at least heard the major song of the musical - Don't Cry for Me Argentina.
tombs at La Recoleta Cemetery
We were given time to walk through the La Boca barrio where there are colorful buildings, street tango dancers, and plenty of souvenir shops. The people were so friendly there. Even though there was a language barrier, they used what little English they knew to find out about us. Many seemed curious about the U.S..
Riding towards the outskirts of downtown was the first time I saw any poverty during our visit. Under the maze of highway interchanges, there are a bunch of dilapidated buildings (some with no roof) in which it was obvious that people were living.
As we were driven on the highway out to the countryside, I got comfortable and dozed off. I woke up occasionally and caught a glimpse of the large soccer stadium. Another time, I saw a Walmart but mostly I saw highway. During our ride, our guide explained the rituals of drinking the national drink called mate (pronounced ma-tay). It is a tea-like drink that is sipped through a straw. People share mate as a social activity. When I say share - I mean share. Everyone passes it around and drinks from the same straw. It is considered bad manners to wipe the straw off or to use a different one. Our guide mixed up a batch of mate and offered it to our tour group. I guess I was not the only germaphobe on the bus. Only one lady tasted it. I would have liked to have taken a sip but I could not get over the whole sharing a straw thing. Anyway, a lady we met on the cruise told Traci and me that she tried it during her pre-cruise excursion. She described it as tasting like grass and dirt. I guess it is an acquired taste.
We eventually turned off the highway and were driven down a dirt road to the estancia. We were greeted by a gaucho (South American equivalent to a cowboy) on horseback with an Argentine flag. As we entered the grounds of the estancia, we were offered empanadas, wine, and soft drinks. We were given free time to check out some of the farm animals, the old house, and antiques.
We eventually made our way to the pavilion where we were seated for an asado (barbeque) lunch with cruise passengers from our ship and passengers from a Princess cruise that did an Around Cape Horn itinerary. It was fun to share our cruise experiences. Lunch was delicious. The first course was salad which I skipped because I don't like salad. But then, the servers came to each table with grilled meat. Argentina is known for its beef. I was looking forward to trying an Argentine steak. I was finally able to have a very good grilled one at this asado. The meal did not end there. The servers came around with beef ribs, sausage, and then grilled chicken. I was in grilled meat heaven! Ice cream was served for dessert but I skipped it because I did not want to take a chance with my sensitive stomach and our upcoming 10-hour flight. In addition to a great lunch, we were able to witness a demonstration of some of Argentina's traditional dances by some very skilled dancers. Afterwards, we were invited to a field where we watched a horsemanship competition. The estancia visit was a very nice way to pass the time before our evening flight.
enjoying an Argentine steak
traditional Argentine dancing
dog joining the dance
Our tour ended at the airport where we were reunited with our luggage that we set outside our ship cabin the night before disembarkment. With at least two cruise ships in port in Buenos Aires that day, the airport was packed. In addition to our fellow cruise passengers, we ran into some of the crew members who worked on the ship. They had completed their 6-month contracts and were heading home for a few months - some permanently. They seemed to be the happiest people in the airport.
Traci and I found a bench where we could reorganize the contents of our luggage to get our check-in bags under the 50-lb weight limit. We managed but this turned out to be an unnecessary exercise. Had I read our trip documentation more closely, I would have seen that American Airlines allowed each passenger to check up to two 50-lb bags on their South American flight itineraries.
Anyway, while we were arranging our luggage, we suddenly heard a lot of screaming! We looked up and saw at least 100 teenage girls running with mobile phones and selfie sticks towards a door in the airport. We soon realized a celebrity was coming through. I caught a glimpse of the young man who was wearing sunglasses and surrounded by bodyguards who were trying to shield him from the crush of teenage girls. I had no idea who this celebrity was. I was just amazed at how efficient the bodyguards were at moving him through the crowd of excited fans to the airport exit without anyone getting hurt.
The check-in lines at the airport were crazy long and confusing. There were self check-in kiosks but they were useless because you still had to stand in line to check your luggage at the ticket counter. It took us over two hours to make it through the process and through security. But alas, we boarded our 10-hour red-eye flight from Buenos Aires to Dallas. We arrived in Dallas a little after 5 AM on Monday and waited there for our 10:30 AM flight back to Washington Dulles where our friend Tasha was generous enough to give us a ride home. I was thankful for the opportunity to check off another destination from my vacation wish list. Main Page...
Magnets Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)Entire fridge magnet collection...