Finding things — preferably cheap things — to do on Sundays in Buenos Aires is a bit of a challenge, as most everything is closed and the people seem to disappear. But, as my friend and I discovered last weekend, la Casa Rosada — the Argentine equivalent of the U.S. White House — has free guided tours every day, including Sundays. Just as the U.S. “Casa Blanca” is actually white, la Casa Rosada (“the pink house”) is actually pink (and is lit up with pink lights at night!).
While I did visit the White House maybe ten years ago, the only thing I remember is that we had to stand in a very long line outside in the middle of winter, and I have no memories whatsoever of the actual tour (that’s how adolescents’ brains are supposed to work, right?). While tours of the White House are available today, according to the official website, they are only offered during very specific hours, and “requests must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress…up to six months in advance and no less than 21 days in advance.” At least these “self-guided” tours are “free of charge.” I’d imagine that upon arriving for your tour at the White House, you would not be allowed to enter with anything larger than a purse, would be required to present at least one form of government ID, and would be subject to various and lengthy security measures.
Things work a bit differently at la Casa Rosada. We walked right up (there is a gate, but it was open, and the guards didn’t seem to be paying much attention to who came in or out), got in line, and 15 minutes later, after passing through one security point with an x-ray machine, we were inside with a ticket for a free guided tour in our hands. We didn’t even have to show our ID.
Both inside and out, la Casa Rosada is modern and well-decorated, with some surprisingly ornate rooms. We saw, among other things, the press room, some sort of hall of heroes, and Cristina’s (that is, Cristina Fernández Kirchner, the President of Argentina, who is often called by her first name) office — at which point we were instructed to stay in a single file line and to not stop walking as we made our way through. We had people from all over Latin America on our tour, and a few from the U.S. as well. As such, our guide said everything in both English and Spanish, although I couldn’t say which was easier to understand. There were various guards scattered throughout the building, dressed in formal outfits not unlike those worn by London’s famous guards. Regrettably, their Argentine counterparts lacked both their infamous head apparatus, as well as their stoic mien.
The whole thing was surprisingly laid back, and made for a very nice Sunday afternoon.