Believe it or not, one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires, which is one of the best things to do to get to know Buenos Aires, is one of only free things in Buenos Aires! A company actually offers free tours, one offered in the morning [11 am] which takes you on a more political/historical experience, and one offered in the evening [5 pm] which takes you on a more cultural experience. Realizing I still have a lot of BA to live through, I figured I'd give the evening tour - also known as the Aristocratic Tour - a shot.
I apologize for the lack of details I remember. Names, places, dates, and actual locations defeat me. So I've taken the liberty to cheat a bit, look up other websites/blogs online, and give you an idea of what I should have learned in two and a half hours.
Go figure I never was able to enjoy history.
Our tour guide, Sol.
The starting point, el Monumento de San Martin.
According to a random blog, one of the statues had gone missing off of its plinth overnight. Apparently, it's common for people to dress up as the police/officials and steal things that belong to the city.
Here's a terribly fancy house, el Palacio San Martin, which was built to house 25 children.
Once translated, you can learn more about its political purposes here.
Tourist shot in front of Torre Monumental!
Considered the "Big Ben" of South America, this clock tower is actually a gift from the UK.
According to Sol, I could've taken a picture with them [similar to the Queen's Guard], but I wouldn't be allowed to hug them. Fundamentally against not being able to hug military personnel in my photos, I opted out of taking said picture.
Like many statues in BA, I had no idea what this one represents, who it depicts, or who made it.
Either I was too far from Sol to hear it explained, or she just never talked about it in passing.
According to Sol, the buildings/apartments don't look French in Retiro/Recoleta. They are French.
The materials and furnishings were imported from France [and I guess the designers were too], which would explain why these apartments are going for about $4-6 million USD.
Oh, and Argentine people speak of property in USD because the peso is so unreliable because of inflation. Everything else is spoken of in pesos.
I had to take a picture of a man who was airing out his jacket in this particular apartment.
Why? Because this man can afford a $4-6 million USD apartment.
There is a Plaza Cataluna in Barcelona, Spain. Therefore, Buenos Aires must have one too.
What's wrong with this picture?
The windows are painted on.
It is said that if you drink from this fountain, you will come back to Buenos Aires.
The Four Seasons Hotel.
For $25,000 USD/night, you can rent this entire building where the Rolling Stones, Madonna, and the Jonas Brothers stayed.
Not a particular part of the tour, Sol took a moment to let everyone take a picture of him walking down Avenida Alvear.
Another random statue that Sol did not talk about, or I did not listen to her talk about.
Blurry! Taken from a distance!
Here is where Sol decided to tell us that this particular street is where the upper upper class decide to shop. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry... Whatever's big and expensive, you can find it here. Additionally, this is where we had the chance to see some real plastic surgery results.
Supposedly, plastic surgery is kind of a benefit on the health care, and you're allowed a certain procedure every so many years. So it's normal to ask a person, "You haven't gotten implants yet? Why not?" There are about 100 breast implants/day.
Interestingly, people openly talk about these appointments, or other appointments, like therapy. The Argentine people love therapy, and would rather work other appointments [lunches, dates, meetings] around their therapy schedules.
Former mansion, now the Hyatt Hotel.
Another former mansion, now the Vatican Embassy.
THE LAST former mansion that has stayed a mansion. Actually just looks like a haunted house.
This is truly a terrible quality photo.
Here's the point: people here don't want to show off on the outside of their house that they can afford things they don't need. Why bother painting or fixing the outside of your house? Instead, they spend money on clothes and art. This person, in particular, could not fit the large ceramic bull inside their one-floor apartment, so they decided to leave it outside on the balcony for everyone to see.
It's like we're in Merry Ol' England!
Sol said that it's commonly believed that the Argentine people truly believe in becoming one culture:
"We speak Spanish, we look Italian, we want French things, and we want to be British."
The most important element of the evening: having dinner and wine, then sharing Quilmes Stout [my favorite!] with a cancer research pHD student from London, an economics pHD student from Germany, a physics pHD student from Switzerland, and a gastronomist/chef from Ecuador, most of whom I met on the tour.