Known for its brightly painted houses, street artists and tango dancers, Caminito is one of Buenos Aires’ touristic “must sees.” Caminito is located in the Boca neighborhood, which is also home to the Boca Juniors, one of Buenos Aires’ premier soccer teams. Boca is an impoverished, run down area that wouldn’t see any tourists apart from Caminito and the Boca Juniors. In fact, tourists are warned to stay within the Caminito area, which includes the Boca Juniors’ stadium, the Bombonera, and to skedaddle before dusk.
Matt and I headed to Caminito one Wednesday and proudly navigated the bus system to get there. While that may not seem like a big deal, understanding public transportation in a foreign culture and language is always an adventure. Subways are pretty straightforward and once you have been on one the rest are fairly easy to understand. Buses are different. When you don’t know how much to pay or how to pay (cash, tickets, passes), it is difficult to try to understand with limited language skills, while a line of people queue up behind you. For this reason, most tourists stick with cabs, but we were armed with a transportation pass that we were determined to use on more than just the subway. We learned from our Peruvian friend Jocelyn, who lives in Buenos Aires, that when you get on the bus you tell the driver your final destination and he determines your fare, which you then pay by holding your transportation pass up to the scanner or paying cash. So we set out for Caminito on the bus and managed to get off at the right stop (okay, that part was pretty easy as it was the last stop before the bus turned around), but still, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves for our bus-taking sense of adventure.
And then our hearts sank: what kind of tourist hell were we in? Despite my popener quest, I typically am not a shopper. I shop when I have something I need to buy, not as its own form of entertainment. And Caminito, as far as the eye could see, was a several block area of street vendors and knick-knack shops, interspersed with tourist restaurants, generally featuring a tango show, guacho show or some other show. UGH. It reminded me of the lowest point on our Alaskan cruise, Skagway, Alaska, that was little more than a fake Wild West town geared for tourists. Matt and I assured each other that we didn’t have to stay long and started walking around. Despite the pushy vendors and tacky souvenirs, the bright colors and art work created a lively ambiance and we began to enjoy the experience for what it was: tacky and hokey, but fun and with some neat street art. We even fully embraced the tacky shopping experience via the popener quest. (If you missed that post, you can find it here: https://kerryedwyer.com/2014/01/21/the-quest-for-a-popener/)
We intended to visit two museums in Caminito, but the Museum of Decorative Arts of Benito Quinquela Martín (the creator of Caminito) was closed in January, a common occurrence in Buenos Aires, where residents leave for the month to escape the heat. We went to Fundación Proa and were not disappointed in the Ron Mueck exhibit. We had never heard of Mueck, a contemporary Australian artist, but his work was unique and great to see. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Mueck
We also sucked it up and ate at an outside cafe where we saw tango dancers and then two guys play guitars. The tango dancers were okay, but the guitarists were really great and we enjoyed the show. And my inexpensive steak sandwich with chimichurri sauce was one of my best steaks in the city thus far. All in all, an enjoyable experience although one I do not feel the need to repeat, unless we decide to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts as it is now February and open again.
I liked Caminito so well that I bought a watercolor of it from a vendor. Loved the garishness of the place! Definitely a life experience!
We knew you, our classy friend, liked it so we kept trying to figure out why! Then we realized we needed to embrace Caminito for what it is. And I did buy a refrigerator magnet depicting the colorful houses. 🙂
I just cuaght up on your posts. They’re always so interesting (a bit scary too as I’ve mentioned before).
I really had to laugh at the popener story. My mom still has the original popener that you and your Dad bought, or, more likely, she has one of the second generation that you picked up for him after he returned to the States. Believe it or not, she has it on her refrigerator to this day. I think it reminds her of your Dad who she still misses. If you can find another Pope Francis one get one for me to give to her to compliment the Pope John Paul one she like so much.
Also, I share your hatred of the e-reader experience. The only way to appreciate a book is with the real, physical presence of a book you can feel, smell, touch. I do buy all the books I can and plan to read them a second, third or X time after I retire. I figure I won’t remember the earlier reading(s) by then so I’ll enjoy them all over again.
Lastly, I want to make a comment about the first post wherein you wondered about flashing the neighbors but I don’t know what to say. Those lucky Argentines.
Thanks, Ray, you are too kind! I can’t tell you how pleased I am to know that your mom has a popener. I will certainly make sure she gets another one (I would have picked up a Benedict for her had I known). Tommy has requested we send them north sooner rather than later, but I don’t trust the Peruvian mail so they likely won’t arrive until we are home this summer. And, I totally agree with you on re-reading books. When I still lived in WI, I finally had to send a book to goodwill because I read it THREE times and didn’t even like it the first time!!! Each subsequent time I would get halfway through before I realized that I had already read it and then I would have to skim to the ending because I couldn’t remember it. UGH. So probably at some point in my life I could just reread one or two books and be happy. 🙂