The Day of 17,739 Steps

Some real “street art” in Palermo Soho

17,739 steps, or 6.7 miles, is the distance my phone said I walked this past Tuesday (which means I probably walked far more because my phone has always undercounted the number of steps and distance when I walk).

One of the things Brett and I very much wanted to see in Buenos Aires was some street art in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. Airbnb Experiences had a few affordable tours to choose from so we selected one that fit our budget and off we went on Tuesday morning, setting out from our apartment at 9:00 a.m.

Houses in Palermo Soho

The Palermo Soho neighborhood is far enough away that we decided we should take the subway, which meant our first stop of the day was the Recoleta Neighborhood Tourist Assistance booth to pick up cards as you can no longer pay cash for a ticket. The booth was just a few blocks away and easy to find, but from there it was almost a mile’s walk to the nearest subway station! We were able to stop at an ATM along the way though to withdraw some pesos because we wanted to eat pizza for lunch at a highly-rated and affordable restaurant near where the tour would be.

At the subway station we discovered we first had to pay 50 pesos each just to activate the card. After that we added pesos to the card to use for our trip, 50 pesos each. Mind you, we had no idea what was happening at the time, but a lovely woman visiting Buenos Aires from Columbia stepped up to help, speaking with the man in the station window and trying to explain what was going on. Between her limited English and my extremely limited Spanish we eventually figured it out, and 200 pesos ($5.15US) later we were ready to board the train to our destination.

Upon exiting the subway in Palermo, we found ourself with yet another walk of about a mile to the tour’s starting point! The weather was lovely though and beginning to warm up, to the point we had to stop along the way for a bottle of water as we found ourselves becoming a bit parched. The neighborhood was interesting but also a bit “rougher” than the Recoleta neighborhood, or other parts of the Palermo neighborhood we had visited. We arrived at our destination tired but on time at 10:30 a.m. and set off on our tour.

The “Love Is In the Air” mosaic was a collaborative work between several artists. It was created as part of a no smoking campaign.

This mural was my favorite of all the paintings we saw. Nasepop is the artist – he created it for his son, Theo using aerosol spray paint.

Our tour guide, Florencia, was an absolute delight. She’s a professional photographer who also works with various artists in the city, and sets up installations or exhibitions beyond her own work. Along the way she offered several tips and tricks for getting better photos from our phones or cameras (a couple from Austria took the tour with us).

This artist asked for and was granted permission to paint on this particular house. After he finished he was offered a commission to create another painting on a store down the road.

The artist of this commissioned work was inspired by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt.

Palermo Soho, Florencia explained, was a former working class neighborhood that had been ‘discovered’ by artists because of the cheap rents there, and had grown into a vibrant arts center in the city, much like the Soho areas of other cities. The street art that has flourished in the neighborhood is not graffiti (although that exists, mainly in the form of tagging) but either works commissioned by the owners of houses or businesses where the artist is paid, or where the artist or artists has/have asked for and been given permission to create a work on a building or home and the art work is done for free.

The artist of this mural was asked to paint over another artist’s work. However, she chose to leave the angels the previous artist had created in her work, and also left his signature on the mural.

The art we viewed was varied, colorful and exciting, and as tired as I was becoming I could have gone on viewing it for hours more. I was especially thrilled by the artists’ use of color – all the artwork we saw was so vibrant and thought provoking. It was also fascinating to see how the artists had used various spaces in the neighborhood, from the front of a small house to an entire side of a building.

Carlos Thays built and lived in this “castle” while he created the Botanical Gardens. It now contains offices and occasional exhibitions.

The tour did not end however with street art in Palermo Soho. We left the neighborhood and walked to the Botanical Gardens, which unfortunately was in the opposite direction of the restaurant where we had planned to have lunch. Sigh. After what seemed like a very long walk, about 30 minutes or more, we finally arrived at the Botanical Gardens, another stunning but calm space in the middle of bustling and busy Buenos Aires. The garden was designed by French architect and landscape designer Carlos Thays, and was dedicated in 1898. It covers over 17 acres, and contains eight separate geographical garden areas as well as five greenhouses and several sculptures and monuments. Some of the sculptures are copies of originals in Europe which were recreated by the original artists and sent to Buenos Aires for inclusion in the Botanical Gardens.

This greenhouse, built in the early 20th century, contained subtropical plants and only opened for an hour at 5:00 p.m. As you can see from the deep blue of the sky, we were blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather on Tuesday.

Objects in photo are more tired than they appear.

Following a leisurely walk through the cool, lush gardens Brett and I had to beg off one more garden visit as we were hungry and frankly more than a bit tired and needed to sit down for a while. Also, we were only a very few blocks from the Eva Perón museum which we both very much wanted to see and wanted to save our remaining energy for that. We said our good-byes to Florencia and headed to the museum, with a brief stop along the way for coffee and juice.

The interior of the building that holds the Eva Peron museum was almost as interesting as the exhibits it holds.

Eva Perón died the year I was born, but for some reason I feel like I have always known her story in spite of knowing very little else about Argentina. She is still a somewhat-revered figure here, so I was eagerly anticipating the visit to the museum to learn more about her and her life and accomplishments, and the museum did not disappoint. The displays and artifacts were fascinating, and the exhibits provided enough English translation to allow us to understand what we were looking at or viewing (there were several videos shown throughout the museum, all with English subtitles). Especially interesting to me were the many of Evita’s outfits on display which also often included the accompanying shoes, hats, gloves, etc. Seeing the photos of her and being able to look at the actual outfit she had been wearing brought a surprising depth to both the photos and the stories. Beyond her many accomplishments, Evita was an extremely vibrant, beautiful and stylish woman.

This is perhaps the most famous image of Eva Peron and we were able to view the actual dress she is wearing in the painting. It was elegant but simple, made of navy blue patterned velvet with the large pink rose made of silk.

I have told Brett that if I ever again say at the end of a day like Tuesday, “I think it will be OK to walk back” he is to immediately stop and hail a taxi. Yes, for some crazy reason I decided it would be fine to walk back the two plus miles to our apartment through busy city streets after we had finished at the museum. To give a small idea of how exhausting that walk was, by the time we neared our street I could no longer focus my eyes! Our apartment is blessed with a jetted tub though, and after a long soak, a couple of Aleve and a big glass of wine I was feeling good enough to fix us a simple dinner of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. We both slept soundly, and it appears I have finally gotten myself on somewhat of a normal sleep schedule again.

“Mona Pink,” a mash-up of the Mona Lisa with Munch’s “The Scream,” appeared at the end of our art tour and I knew just how she felt.

One of the joys of slow travel we are discovering is that we don’t feel like we have to go out every day and do something. Yesterday our only activities were a walk over to the ferry office to book our tickets for Sunday’s trip to Montevideo and to go out for a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant in the late evening. We’re not sure yet what we’re going to do today or even if we’re going to do anything. We may head over and walk through the old San Telmo neighborhood but we might also just stick closer to the apartment and do some more exploration in our neighborhood. Whatever we decide, we won’t be walking any six and a half miles again, that’s for sure. Tuesday’s exercise was really was too much for us, too soon. 10,000 steps a day is more than enough right now.

14 thoughts on “The Day of 17,739 Steps

  1. Kay says:

    Yes, don’t “take one for the team” just because. You are too early in your adventure for injuries! But I will say it sounds like a great day. And I love that you are able to come back at the end of the day and have a home like feel, with soaking in a tub, wine, fixing your own dinner and sleep!!

    And with all of that walking, how have the shoes performed?

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    • Laura says:

      It was just too much walking too soon. The Skechers I brought along have been wonderful so far, but this was spent walking over hard city sidewalks and I think that was a factor too. It didn’t help that it was cool when we set out, but kept getting warmer and warmer so that we had ended up having to carry our coats as well.

      Still, the art walk and the art was more than we imagined, and the Evita museum was fascinating. After we left the museum we debated getting a taxi but I was the one who suggested we walk back so I have no one to blame but myself. Distances have proven to be longer than they appear on our maps!

      After my soak, etc. and a good night’s sleep me and my feet were fine the next day.

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  2. Vivian says:

    Ouch! That’s one way to get a good night’s sleep.
    Sounds like a great tour. Thought the pictures were interesting but none are to my taste.

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    • Laura says:

      I was really surprised by the variety of art we saw, and also that so many of the artists had done these works for free. Neither Brett nor I was expecting the extra garden tours at the end, or the amount of walking we would have to do to get to them. By the end of the day it all added up and we were exhausted! It was still a worthwhile day, and we were back out into the city the next day!

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  3. Tamara R / My Retirement Project says:

    Walking is my favorite way to explore any new location. I love the ability to take in the sights and sounds in a way doing so by auto, train or bus doesn’t allow. Plus, you get to use all those burned calories enjoying local cuisine!

    It looks like Buenos Aires is a photographers dream!

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    • Laura says:

      We love to walk, but this one day we just did a bit too much, especially with the weather warming up so much during the day. All our walking that day was done on pavement which was hard on our feet and legs after a while – walking through the Botanical Gardens was a nice break during the day because the paths weren’t paved, more like natural trails.

      Walking seems to be how most people get around their neighborhoods here, at least for certain distances. There are cars and buses, but traffic is all one-way on the streets, so they’re easy to cross because you always know the direction the cars and buses are coming from. There are traffic lights at almost every corner too to help pedestrians. The sidewalks are very uneven though, so you have to pay careful attention as you walk so you don’t trip or twist your ankle. Plus there are always dogs being walked – lots and lots of dogs! We’ve enjoyed seeing the professional walkers out – sometimes they’re wrangling up to a dozen different dogs of all shapes and sizes. It’s quite the sight.

      We were fine the day after that one exhausting day, and walked over a mile and back to get our ferry tickets and go out to eat and today we’re taking a walking tour in another part of the city. We’ve figured out though how far is too far on the map so we’re taking a taxi to the starting point – they’re inexpensive and will save our feet and legs for the tour which will probably be around 3-4 miles of walking.

      We have fallen in love with this city and almost can’t believe we’ll be leaving in a couple of days.

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  4. Laurel Hill says:

    Love the art and the tour highlights. And I get how exhausted you must have been. We walked all over in Italy (Venice, Florence, Assisi – hills! – and Rome) and slept REALLY well at the end of our days. But I loved having a more restful day, too. The jetted tub and a nice glass of wine sound like the perfect end to that long hike. Agree completely with hailing a cab next time. 🙂

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    • Laura says:

      I really, really enjoyed the art part of the tour, but by the time we got to the parks I was going downhill fast. Brett and I were thinking today that it would have been nice to have done the parks first and then finish up with the art.

      We did a free walking tour today in Central Buenos Aires – about 3.7 or so miles and just a little over 10,000 steps. It was just the right amount. We thought about taking a cab, but decided to walk in the end. We were tired when we got back to the apartment, but not completely exhausted or in pain. The other day was crazy though.

      As I see it, we are getting ourselves in shape for France and Italy!

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  5. Tommy says:

    Hi Laura – it was a pleasure meeting you and Brett at dinner the other evening! I’ve been enjoying reading your blog and look forward to reading your ongoing adventure.

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    • Laura says:

      Tommy! Both Brett and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and Jonathan at dinner the other night. We took your advice and did the Central Buenos Aires free walking tour today and had a great experience. We are already plotting when we can return to BA – we’re in love!

      I’ve already been pouring over your blog and have added it to my daily read list. You guys sure do get around!

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  6. Debbie says:

    When I first read “street art” I was thinking of chalk drawings on the sidewalks (which we’ve seen in Italy). I had no idea that you were referring to murals — so beautiful!

    Thank you for taking the time to narrate your story and share it. I love traveling, but I admit to not venturing to new places very often — I go to the same places over and over. Your trip makes me want to head to new destinations.

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    • Laura says:

      My pictures certainly did not do the art justice – it was beautiful. I was fascinated by not only the color, but the placement of the art and the fact that some of it was done by artists for free (they always request permission first to paint) while other pieces were commissioned and the artists were paid.

      We fell in love with Buenos Aires and already want to go back. It’s a very cosmopolitan city with heavy Italian and Spanish influences, and an interesting history. It’s also extremely affordable. It’s also very easy to get around and very walkable. When we go back we want to explore more of Argentina – it claims to have “every country in the world” within its borders.

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  7. anexactinglife says:

    When we travel, we do a mix of public transit and lots of walking, but somehow I can never bring myself to get a taxi even if I’m exhausted – I guess I equate taxis with “luxury” – and so far I am a little wary of Uber and Lyft – for safety reasons. Maybe someday I will “evolve”!

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    • Laura says:

      We sparingly use taxis – there has to be a very good reason for the expense (exhaustion and dehydration count). The one place we’re a little looser with their use is in Tokyo. They’re fairly cheap there if you’re not going too far, and very clean and efficient.

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