We followed the directions that we'd read on a few websites, which told us to take the Buenos Aires subway to the end of the blue line, and then to buy very cheap tickets onto a train (part of the public transportation network) that would then lead us to the city of Tigre. In Tigre, our plan was to take a boat ride around the river, have lunch on the boat or an island, and then visit the big open air market that everyone talked about on the blogs.
Everyone raved about the train ride, how it was fun and cheap. Well. It was cheap, yes, because it's a government-supported train. The 40-minute ride was only 2 Argentinian pesos, round trip. And I think it was also cheap because it passes through all the poorest parts of greater Buenos Aires. So I'm not sure who decided that it was a nice ride... on a dirty, graffiti-ridden train with destroyed seats passing through Argentine ghettos. Some very suspicious characters got on and off, one crazy guy was smoking on the train and pacing, and the soundtrack to our ride was the constant stream of men yelling and trying to sell useless things like knock-off "name-brand" purses and measuring tape. Not the most enjoyable excursion.
So then we got into Tigre. The view outside the train station was nice enough, so our hopes were higher.
There was a sign that said "tourist's circuit" with an arrow pointing to a bridge and then a road that lend along the river bank. So we followed it.
That's when the smell hit us. What smell, you ask? The smell of polluted water and rotting fish:
The glorious Rio Tigre, full of trash and dead fish
Kristin's face in the next picture says it all. I think the whole day was worth it, just to have gotten this picture:
We talked to a few of the boat companies to see about the rides along the river. (I mean, maybe it was cleaner upstream?) But the cheapest one we found was 50 pesos for an hour-long ride with lunch on the boat. Not so bad, except the boat didn't make any stops, just circled around some tiny islands, and the lady just would NOT tell us what the lunch was. "Really good lunch for you!! Don't worry! Don't worry! We take care of all the lunch!" She said in English. Kristin's a vegetarian, so that just wouldn't do. But even if she wasn't, I refuse to pay for something if someone won't tell me what it is, especially if that something is food. For all we know, it could've been the dead fish from the river.
So we ended up giving up on the boat ride idea. I mean, if I have 50 pesos to spend, I'd much rather spend it on a nice bottle of Argentinian wine than on a kitschy boat ride along a small contaminated river with a bunch of American retirees and a mystery meat lunch. I was getting hungry, which always puts me in a bad mood, especially when that hunger is accompanied by the smell of sewage and annoying-ass people trying to take advantage of me because I am a tourist. So I was pretty grouchy, but I was trying to be patient.
We walked up and down the streets that ran parallel to the river, but didn't see any restaurants that tickled our fancy. We did, however, see a little city office of information and tourism. We decided to pop in and see if the girl knew something that we didn't, if there was some reason that we were missing that people seemed to like this place so much. She told us that we could find lots of restaurants on the street that we had just walked up (really??), and then she recommended the casino and the kiddie amusement park (yes, because Kristin must be my 60-year-old grandma and I, her 12-year old granddaughter). Kristin asked her about the open-air market, and she gave us directions. She really was a very nice woman... just a little too optimistic about her city's sights, I guess.
So we walked toward the market. On the way there, we passed a little restaurant that said that its profits went to a women's shelter in town, so we decided to eat there. It was pretty good, actually. I got a salad, a ground beef empanada, and a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate style is called submarino, which is hot milk and a chocolate bar that you add in yourself. Yum.
Please excuse my hair. It was sooooo humid.
Then we found the open air market. 90% of the booths were selling housewares (furniture, decorations, cushions, fake plants...) imported from Asia. Think Pier 1. It's probably great for families living in Buenos Aires who'd like something a little different for their house, but not so necessary for an American (or even a Brazilian) tourist. I got my hopes up when I saw a stand selling masks, because Alexandre collects them. But when I saw 15 of the same mask, I got suspicious. I asked the lady where they were from, and she said "Indonesia." Not exactly quality Argentine art.
The market DID have some pretty fruit stands, though:
I mean, markets are always fun to walk around, even if you don't buy anything. But I guess my point is that you could find nice markets in Buenos Aires proper, too.
So... we tried. After walking around the market, we walked around the city some more. We saw this very helpful sign:
No fishing. Ya know, just in case you were thinking about it.
Mid-afternoon, we threw in the towel on Tigre and headed back to Buenos Aires.
My final word on the Tigre River? Don't go, even if you're swayed by the cheap transportation prices. Buenos Aires has way cooler things to offer.