• Dec4

    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    December 4, 2019 in Argentina ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    Japanese Garden. Transfer to Pier to board Viking Jupiter. Opera, Tales of Hoffman

    We woke up at 6:00 had a relaxed breakfast and finished packing in preparation to boarding the Viking Jupiter later in the afternoon.

    We stored our luggage at the hotel and took a taxi to the Japanese gardens of Buenos Aires, located in the neighborhood of Palermo. It was built by the members of Japanese immigrants, and its inauguration was held on May 15, 1967, when the current Emperor of Japan, Akihito, visited the city with his wife, while he was still a prince. The garden was meant as a token of appreciation by the Japanese community to the country that gave them refuge. The garden is run by the Argentine-Japanese Cultural Foundation, with the aim of providing entertainment and culture expansion.

    The elements of this beautiful garden have strong symbolic meanings. All elements seek harmony and balance, essential building blocks in the Japanese culture. One of the first things we saw was the Japanese Wishing Tree. People make special origami notes and leave “wishing” messages in various ways, for hope for the future of the earth
    The bridges represent routes that embody the formation of ideals. One of them has a curved form to represent that it is a difficult journey. It is named Puente de Dios, which means Way to Paradise. The Bright and Beautiful Garden is one of the most peaceful and relaxing areas. It has a wide variety of plants and native trees like the Palo Borracho and Tipani. The Tipani is a beautiful rosewood tree and it was in full bloom with brilliant yellow flowers. The plants and vegetation include an extensive variety of Japanese plants like the Sakura or Cherry, Azalea and Acer Palmatum. Another main attraction is a lake with large carp and their golden colors draw a lot of attention. In the middle of the garden you can see figures of a man and a woman, dressed in samurai style, traditional of Japan.
    We then took a taxi to the Teatro Colon for our guided tour. When we were about 4 blocks away the cab driver said there was a demonstration and that he wouldn’t go any closer so we should get out and walk. I paid the driver, and all seemed fine and then he went a bit crazy. He told me that I had given him a fake 200 pesos. This was the same bill I had received as change from the driver who took us to the Gardens. I apologized and gave him two $100.00-peso bills and we departed. The walk was more like 6 blocks, but we were able to make it to the theatre in time for our tour

    Our guide’s name at the theatre was Collette and she was very good at giving us lots of history and taking us around the theatre and showing us the areas where they had left the walls as they were before the renovation. Both the plaster and the wood were almost black from the smoking of patrons. To strip everything back they had to use putty knives and scrape off layer by layer.
    We started our tour of the opera house and learned that the basement is way bigger than the main floor footprint and actually goes underneath some of the side roads. All of the materials were brought to Argentina from Europe and various countries and were represented in different ways, so they call the architecture eclectic. We went into a couple of the theatre boxes and wondered where we would be sitting when we came back to for the Opera that night. We learned about the widow’s boxes that were totally behind black curtains so they couldn’t be seen nor could they see, but they could hear the music. The Colón Opera Theatre operated for its first venues from 1857 until 1888, after which the building was closed for the construction of a new house. Finally, the new improved house opened on May 25th, 1908 with a performance of Aïda. In the beginning, the theatre recruited opera companies from other countries, but as of 1925 it had its own permanent companies (orchestra, ballet and choir) and its own production workshops, which have allowed the theatre to organise its own performances since the 1930s, funded by the city budget.

    In 2000, the theatre's decline became clear and plans were made for massive renovations. After the start of the restoration in 2005, the theatre had to be closed from October 2006 to May 24, 2010. Finally, the Teatro Colón boasted a building restored to all its original glory, complete with air-conditioning which cost dearly in order to maintain its perfect acoustics. Our guide pointed out how they were able to put all the air conditioning under the floors rather than the ceilings.

    We were so happy to have seen the inside before we went to the production. We took a taxi home and I paid the driver the 200 Pesos that we owed him, and it happened again. The driver said that the 200 pesos bill was counterfeit. I then gave him a 500-peso bill and he gave me back change. We went into the hotel and then the driver came running into the lobby of the hotel and went crazy, yelling at us. The director of customer care for the hotel was there and asked what the problem was. The driver told her that I hadn’t paid him. I said I gave him 500.00 pesos, but when I checked out my money, I realized that when he had given me change for the 500.00, he had not taken out the 200.00 that was owed to him. What a mess. Don tore up the fake 200.00 pesos and I gave him a good 200.00 and finally everyone settled down. We walked down to the bank and took out some more pesos and when we returned Hector was there to take us to the ship.

    When we arrived at the terminal there were hundreds of people lined up and we thought that we would be in line for hours. A Viking representative came up to us and for the next 15 minutes we felt like we were royalty. Our luggage was whisked away, and we were then led from one area to another through the masses of people inside the terminal until we finally reached the customs where again we were whisked through. The whole process took 15 minutes at the most. We were told that the masses were waiting to board the Costa Line ship, also in port. Were we ever glad we weren’t with them!

    We were shown to our room and we headed up to the 7th deck for a quick lunch. We did a quick tour of the ship and found out what we needed to do to go back into town for the Opera that night. at that point our luggage had not been delivered and we were worried that it might not show up in time for us to get properly dressed and more importantly, to get the tickets out of my bag! Well everything worked out, I had time to press some clothes and we headed out again to take the shuttle bus back to the terminal and then grab a taxi back to the theatre. We arrived in lots of time and walked to Café Colon, a block away, for a glass of wine and light supper.

    Back to the theatre, we found our box which was better than we could ever have hoped for. We were the first to arrive at the box and so we picked the best of the 6 seats that were in our box. Another couple arrived, he was from Los Angeles and she was from Chile. Finally, a 3rd couple arrived, and they were from England. Their seats really were not good at all, we felt badly but we were not about to give ours up.

    The Opera was the Tales of Hoffman a fantasy written by Jules Barbier and music written by Jacques Offenbach. It was Offenbach's final work; he died in October 1880, four months before the premiere.
    It is a story about Hoffman and his three fantasy loves. The first a mechanical doll, the second the daughter of a good friend and the third a madame of reputation. He feels these are the 3 sides of his girlfriend Stella. Quite a journey of make believe. There was one piece of music that runs through the story which was pleasing but the rest was not great. Don wanted to leave after 2 acts but stayed on my account and I was happy he did. We left the theatre around 12:00pm expecting to catch a cab right outside but any that were there were all taken. We walked about 4 blocks in a chilling breeze and finally found one, but he had no idea where we wanted to go. We ditched him and then finally, we found another who was able to understand us and returned us to Terminal 4. We took the shuttle back to the ship and then walked around the very quiet floors getting a feel for the location of things and finally returned to our room 5072 to finish unpacking. We were looking forward to having a sleep in.
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