Claire has a rule about taxis in foreign cities – if the driver is happy with the situation, then she’s happy. Well, when I asked for Gallerias Pacifico our driver was not happy! Much tutting and shaking of heads. I have no idea what he was worried about, and he crossed himself at least three times on the way, but he seemed much happier when we arrived. Perhaps it was just because it was Thursday.
In ersatz Paris, Gallerias Pacifico plays the role of Galleries Lafayette. Several malls of small shops on three levels meet in a central plaza with a grand domed ceiling covered with murals.
Microcentro is the shopping district of the city and is largely pedestrianised, so it was a pleasant amble down Avenida Florida, towards Plaza de Mayo. Pleasant, though punctuated by regular offers of black market currency exchange (“cambiocambiocambio”) or invitations to Tango shows.
Approaching the La Catedral Metropolitana we saw that one of the diocesan seals near the door had been daubed with red paint. Clearly not everyone in this Catholic country is a fan of The Church. Inside the church was as ornate and decorated as you might expect, with a magnificent altar screen. In a side-chapel guarded by two young soldiers in ceremonial uniform, is a monument to the dead of the wars of Independence.
Leaving the cathedral we crossed into Plaza de Mayo, which is an open square with some small trees, a monument currently undergoing renovation and a bloomin’ great anti riot fence straight across the middle!
Thursday is, apparently, the favoured day for protest and Plaza de Mayo is the best place to do it. The Mothers of the Disappeared gather here regularly and other protests too. To ensure the protesters can’t get too close to La Casa Rosada, the police can close the roads and fill in the gaps with the mobile fencing that we saw earlier in the week. Well this was Thursday, there were a lot of police on the streets and an air of tension and expectation.
We crossed through one of the gaps in the fence to get a decent view of the Casa Rosada and Evita’s balcony to the left of the arch. We passed the Ministerio de Economica, which has fabulous metal used doors, and the Ministry of Defence. At this point a community patrol officer warned Claire to keep a hand on her camera. We walked a little further along Puerto Moreno but it was a lot less inviting on a windy grey morning than it had been in the sun earlier in the week.
After a more leisurely return to Cementerio de la Recoletta it was time to put on our glad rags and hit the town for a Tango show. We went to the Esquina Carlos Gardel at Chanta Cuatro. Dinner wasn’t great – we actually had poor steak – but the wine was good and kept flowing which made up for a lot.
The show was great though. The curtains opened to reveal a balcony with a small orchestra of piano, two accordions, two violins, a cello and a double bass. As they played their opening number, four couples filled the stage with artful dancing full of fast spins, lifts and intertwined legs. We were then treated to some singing as a man, clearly made up to look like Gardel, sang “Buenos Aires mi Querido” and tried gamely to get some audience participation going but with little success. There were more dances including a particularly spectacular one involving a large glass of wine. The glass was carried throughout the dance by one or other of the dancers, and was finally dashed over the prostrate body of his partner by the male dancer having flung her across the stage in a final act of defiance and rejection!
Returning to the hotel at around midnight we saw on the news that the Avenida 9 de Julio had been shut at the Obelisco due to a protest. Well it was Thursday after all!