Putting on the Ritz in Recoleta

Believe it or not, six weeks is kind of a long time to be in Buenos Aires.

Not too long – we were still enjoying ourselves, but running out of ideas that didn’t involve food, alcohol, or unnecessary amounts of money.

Iguana Beer
Let me clarify: I am not sick of doing this, but in the interest of health and finance I can’t do it every day.

“Hey,” Jared said, one sparkling afternoon, when the sun was practically begging us to come outside. “How about that free walking tour?”

Genius. The free walking tour is an idea that was spawned in Europe. Knowledgeable English-speaking guides wait at a designated spot every day, and if you want to join the tour all you need to do is turn up. The guides work for tips.

We’d already done a morning walking tour of the city center with BA Free Tours, which was OK. We weren’t blown away, but it was a better way to spend the morning than sitting in the apartment. With this in mind, we joined the 5PM Aristocratic walking tour.

Recoleta is one of the city’s ritziest neighborhoods, and a cultural hotspot. It’s where you can find posh Buenos Aires hotels, European architecture, Recoleta cemetery, and lions.

More about those later.

We met the tour group in Plaza San Martin and our guide, Camilla. Her Argentinian accent kept me hanging on every word.

Camilla of BA Free Tours

Flag Me Down

She took us to the Falkland Islands Islas Malvinas Memorial, where we watched the six o’clock flag-lowering ceremony.

“Watch,” Camilla said. “They do not fold the flag.” She shrugged. “I do not know why. When the flag is dirty, instead of cleaning it, they burn it and put up a new one.”

Sure enough, the soldier bunched it into a ball like he was stripping the sheets from his bed. He held the bundle close to his chest, straight-faced throughout the whole ceremony.

Honor Guard Recoleta
Play me something pretty.
Bunching up the flag, Recoleta, Buenos Aires
Applying the ‘crumple it into a ball’ technique.
Lowering the flag ceremony, Buenos Aires
I’ll just drop off my laundry on the way back, boys. Meet you at the pub.

Israeli Embassy

I’m always embarrassed when I hear about past acts of terrorism that I knew nothing about; one such example happened here in Buenos Aires in 1992 when a suicide bomber attacked the Israeli Embassy. 28 people were killed; 242 were injured. The site is now a memorial, with two rows of trees and benches that represent the victims.

Plaza Embajada de Israel, Buenos Aires
And, of course, it’s on facebook.
Israeli Embassy Memorial
On the wall to the left you can see the remnants of the original embassy.

Plaza de Cataluña

This plaza is tiny, but has a couple of interesting features. First, a small drinking fountain that is a replica of a larger one in Barcelona, Spain. Makes sense because it was a gift from Spain.

Plaza de Cataluna, Buenos Aires
Legend says that if you drink out of the fountain, you’ll return to Buenos Aires.

Second is this hilarious building, which I’ll let you figure out for yourself:

Fake windows in Recoleta
Ten points if you can tell me what’s funny about it.

Avenida Alvear

Apparently, in Argentina, plastic surgery is covered by health insurance. Once every two years, Argentinians are entitled to a procedure. The theory is that people might need reconstructive surgery due to accidents, so it’s written into private policies. So if two years pass and there’s no accident…hello boob job!

Or something like that.

Camilla came up with a code word – lions – to refer to women who have had obvious work done. She then sent us on ‘safari’ to hunt for lions on Avenida Alvear – the 5th Avenue of Buenos Aires.

Although I spotted a few potential lions (sorry, no photographs), I was more taken aback by the enormous mansions, most of which are now hotels.

Haunted House Avenida Alvear, Buenos Aires
You can say it’s not haunted, but I won’t believe you.

And then there was the guy who bought one of those cows from the Cow Parade. And he put it…on his balcony. Because obviously, cows are outside pets.

Cow on the balcony in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery

The tour wraps up at the cemetery. By that time the cemetery is closed and you can’t go in, but we’d been before. Camilla gave us the history of Evita as we shivered in front of the gates. Adding to my infinite list of things I don’t know, I learned that Evita died of cancer when she was 33. Am I the only person who didn’t know that? Disclaimer: I never watched the movie.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires
This should say “Requiescant in Pace in the COOLEST CEMETERY EVER.” Yes, in capital letters just like that.
BA Free Tours Aristocracy Tour
The group: Aussies, Irish, English, French & me. Photo courtesy of the BA Free Tours Facebook page.


I enjoyed this tour much more than the morning one. The subject matter was more interesting and Recoleta was just plain prettier than the center of town. All in all, a good way to spend a few hours exploring a new part of the city.

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    1. Thanks! The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I enjoyed the tour. The plastic surgery thing explained so much, especially when it came to the permanently-surprised looking older women.

  1. Wow, another great post. You do realize that most of us are in awe of your travels. Looking forward to seeing you and Jared in December.

  2. When Amanda and I were in Uruguay, we saw them take down the flag in a similar manner. But then they shoved it in this wooden tresure chest-looking box. We both just looked at each other confused.

  3. Wow, that flag thing is so different. Crumpled then burned…also, plastic surgery written into health insurance?! Could you imagine what the US would look like if that applied to us?

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