Saturday was the first real day of our Antarctica tour, and it consisted of a day trip around BA. Some of the stops duplicated things we had seen with the Patagonia tour, but there were some new things we hadn’t seen so we climbed aboard the bus and took off.
The one thing that is quite different about this tour group, is that it is very large: about 120 people. So they broke us into three groups designated by color (we are in the yellow group), and each group gets a bus. We also have three tour directors, Rob, Alyson, and Melisa, who mix around so they all work with all the groups. Once we get on the ship, I anticipate this will be less important, but it seems to work well.
We started off by returning to Plaza de Mayo. This time, however, we were able to get in to see the daily changing of the guard and the opening of the mausoleum area for the tomb of San Martín. Then we had some time for more photos of Plaza de Mayo.
Our tour took us back to old port neighborhood of La Boca. My opinion of this tourist trap hasn’t really changed. It’s pretty much the Olvera Street of BA. However, there is a really cool old iron bridge here that Stacy wanted to photograph, so mission accomplished.
We did get a chance to walk around the other historic suburb of San Telmo. This old area is gentrifying, but it is still a bit rough around the edges which also adds to its charm. The bus then took us through the ultra modern Puerto Madera neighborhood to see the contrast. Puerto Madera has some of the most expensive real estate in BA and some really great restaurants. It’s a little too sterile for my tastes, though.
After the tour we had lunch at a nice Italian restaurant called Piegare just down the block from the hotel. During the morning’s tour we got the details for the next day’s departure for Ushuaia. Breakfast would open at 3:00 am ( yes, that’s AM–as in the middle of the night!) and the buses would leave for the airport at 4:25am! Our luggage had to out in the hall by 10:00pm for pick up.
We were also assured the weight limit of 44 lbs per checked bag would be strictly enforced and we risked having our bags left behind if we violated. The good news is that we were also allowed a 17 lb carry-on in addition to an unweighed “personal item”. With these parameters in mind, Stacy and I spent the afternoon packing our duffle bag with stuff we would leave behind and check with the hotel, and rearranging everything else (especially heavy camera gear) to fit into the various weight-restricted bags. And we made it work!!!! We were pretty pleased with ourselves. The reason given for the weight restrictions was that the runway in Ushuaia is limited in length and the plane can’t be fully loaded—hmmmmm.
With the early wake-up call in mind, we decided an early and light dinner at a sidewalk cafe sounded good so we headed over to the Recoleta Cemetery and sat outside at cafe drinking wine and eating calamari and carpaccio while listening to a street musician playing American blues. Kind of weird, but also kind of nice. One of the amazing things about this city is that music breaks out wherever you go. Mostly, it’s tango, and usually to solicit donations, but it lends a very festive air to BA!