I have been in Buenos Aires a little over a week. I am here with a large group of undergrad students from the United States for an eight week program. During the first two weeks of our program we provide a great deal of structure, which gives students an opportunity to adapt to their new environment....after a couple of weeks, they are expected to do more on their own...
I have done this same program for several years now, so I can compare present and past experiences. Our tours are all conducted by Eternauatas http://www.eternautas.com/ a self styled group of historians from UBA....actually, most guides are students at UBA, though a few are professors. Our transportation has been provided by Vasco Tours. We have also gone to Sr. Tango for a dinner show and visited estancia Cinacina, as well as several lectures at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
I have used Eternatuaus for four years. This agency is more expensive than most, but I have been willing to spend the extra money because of the quality of the tours. Many of the tours this year have maintained the level of excellence I have come to expect, with one disappointing exception.
Conducted by a new guide, this is the worst tour I have taken with Eternautaus. The tour was rushed, omitting many details that have been the highlights of this tour in years past. For example, we stopped at Plaza de Mayo, but did not go into the National Cathedral or receive any information about the Cathedral....We whizzed by the waiving girl walking bridge in Puerto Madero, whereas in previous years we have stopped and walked across. We saw San Telmo from the window of the bus, without stopping. The stop in La Boca was not preceeded by a lecture about the birth of tango or a warning not to wander away from la Camintia...just a wave of the hand, and a reminder that the bus would leave in twenty minutes. All in all, this tour was no better than a typical "city tour" by the BSAS version of Gray Line tours....whiz through the city with a guide pointing to variouis landmarks visible out the window.
We could have done the latter for a fraction of the cost.
Jewish Buenos Aires
Phenomenonal tour of Once neighborhood (described as an "open" ghetto") ,two Jewish synagogues and stops at the sites of two terrorists bombings of Jewish sites in the 90s in Buenos Aires. Jewish and non-Jewish people who enjoy learning about culture and variations within a culture, will enjoy this glimpse into Jewish life in a Latin American setting. In one of the synogogues the Rabbi provided us with a brief lecture and responded to questions about Jewish life in Argentina.
Walking Tour of Palermo Soho
Another excellent tour of the area, from a stop at the home of Borges to Plaza Serrano, to an overview of the restaurants and designer shops that are springing up everywhere in this trendy area.
San Telmo Market
The guide did a walking tour for about thirty minutes, pointing out various landmarks, and provided an overview of the Sunday Market, with a warning the some of the antiques for sale are "quite new." We were turned loose for 1.5 hours to shop anb explore, before meeting up for the ride home. Nicely done...and San Telmo was a hubub of activity! Jammed with people....I counted 7 sweatshirts or caps from various USA universities, so Americans are in evidence. Lots of street entertainers and street vendors and bars and restaurants make for a nice day.
Art and Architecture
Our guide was an art history student at UBA. She showed us various architectural styles in evidence in Buenos Aires, and took us to Teatro Colon for the English language tour and on to MALBA, where she served as our art guide...pointing out the different genres of art, the evolution of the work of serveral local artists....and noting the more famous artists displayed here. Very informative. I have done the back stage tour at Teatro Colon enough times that I found myself zoning out during the tour, but first timers will enjoy it....For me, the highlight of this tour was the knowledgeable explanation and interpretation of various works in the MALBA museum.....
Dinner show at Senor Tango. Always fun! We do dinner and the show here, because seating is better with dinner....And if you stick to the steak, the food is actually pretty good. And the wine is plentiful, which makes for a fun evening. The show itself is a blend of traditional folk music and Tango, including dancing, singing and music from the orchestra. Students love this show, which is a nicely done stage show.....(When my daughter and son-in-law visit, I plan to take them to Tacoeando, thanks to Veritas's tip....so I will let you know what I think of this venue later).
Estancia CinaCina...this is the fourth estancia I have visited.....this one is somewhere in the middle in my opinion...in terms of the quality of food and entertainment. Don Silvano, Santa Susana are about the same...all offer a day of food, displays of horsemanship, gaucho singing and dance, and an opportunity to ride horses or go for a buggy ride. Nice escape from the city......
More to come.....