24th January 2013
Yay! I’m in Buenos Aires! Now I can wrap a black shawl around my head and belt out an emotional performance of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina!’ ….maybe not.
Stepping through the airport doors after my longest flight of my life, I was hit by something I was truly expecting and definitely appreciating. Warmth! It was at least 30 degrees Celsius that time of night and I just come from the UK where it was being snowed in. I did a happy dance. But also another thing hit me as well. Culture Shock. Seriously, the airport was pandemonium and trying to squeeze past people using quick fire Spanish had me searching for my wits. Finally finding an ATM to get some money out, I managed to find my way to the Remise Service, Manuel Tienda Leon, a private taxi service to take me to my hotel. This was after I couldn’t find my connection bus, which my airline KLM said there would be. (except an irate email from me!).
I didn’t realise that the Remise service also ran a roller coaster! Taking cue from the driver to strap in my seatbelt, this was also after when I panicked that he got in the wrong side of the car ultimately realising hat they drive on the other side of the road, he really pushed the pedal. And I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Ducking and weaving out of the traffic on the motorway, I did gulp when I saw 2 cars in front of me start to merge in our lane. Normally, I would have slowed down and beeped my horn…not this driver. He simply went faster and just scraped between these 2 cars! I also seemed to notice that car safety isn’t that important, there were plenty of cars that simply didn’t have the headlights on or even the backlights on. And I was totally bemused that no one wasn’t bothered about the flashing ambulance. The ambulance rip roaring blared its sirens behind us, bathing us in green lights and nobody moved to get out of the way on the motorway. Of this was back in the UK, people would freak and swerve out of the way but not this driver, he simply sighed with frustration and eventually turned round and gave the ambulance driver the finger. Oh yes he did. Getting off the motorway, we were now in the city centre of Buenos Aires. But that didn’t stop the driver from slowing down. To my puzzlement how the traffic worked, I couldn’t believe how everybody survived these crossroads which no body slowed down. Small bumps before the crossroads would have my head banging the roof of the car and a bike would whizz by close to us, inches from being clipped by a bonnet.
Getting to my hotel, the area was dark and thanks to the taxi driver who got out and pointed me to the hotel, I checked in and met up with Auston and David of Two Bad Tourists! Woop woop! These American guys would be my travel buddies for my time in South America!
After a bottle of Argentinan wine and catching up, it was already very late so bed time was needed in order to be fresh eyed and bushy tailed for the morning.
Then we woke up to the hottest day EVER! Check out the weather forecast! One step outside the air conditioned room would have be bathed in sweat already. It was that humid.
So what did we do during the day? Well, a wander round really. Was still a little tired from the flight and I just wanted to soak up the culture of it all.
Hopping on the Subtre (Subway) at Malabia, we took the subway downtown to Florida district. The subway, I thought, was pretty cool. Very wide and definitely has some fantastic entertainment. Sellers of very random stuff would come by and place the product on your lap and walk off doing the same to other people. You would either look at it and if you would like it, pay the seller when he comes back. But most of the time, people would simply leave it hanging on their lap and the seller wouldn’t be disappointed. Other entertainment would include disco dancing, a pair of cute boys badly juggling and the odd crazy guy condemning us to hell. And they would expect payment from their act. I liked it! Maybe the tube in London should take note.
Arriving in Florida, we took a stroll down what was meant to have been the most Glamourous and wealthy street in Buenos Aires. But over time, this street has morphed into a touristy street and the construction site down the middle didn’t help matters. But it was good to check out the culture there. Lots of musical acts that bop around happily would contend with dodgy looking men loitering in front of stores catching your eye to shout ‘cambio’ (money exchange). Don’t go with these guys, they will rip you off.
In the middle of the street, there’s a shopping centre that used to be an art gallery. Called, Galaerias Pacifico, this place has truly stunning ceilings. Check out the pics.
What’s even more beautiful is the European style buildings around. Look up when you are walking around, you will be blown away. Stemmed from the time when Argentina was the sixth most prosperous economy in the world, lots of people had nothing better to do than spend on commissioning of European buildings. Absolutely stunning.
My favourite building is probably the Pink Palace! Ooh, how butch! No one has any idea why it’s pink but I reckon seeing as the President lives there and she’s a woman, the place goes pink. So if the next president is a man, then blue it is. Or if we aren’t sure, maybe yellow or green. Who knows!
But interestingly, there has been a fence put up around it. To stop protestors graffitting the palace. They have good reason, there’s 3 protests a DAY. All in the name of democracy. I’ll tell you more about them in another post.
The sun by this point was truly beating down on us, and I could feel my skin cells being roasted with every step, so cool Ed, you forgot to bring the suncream with you. Gulping gallons of water, I tried to hide my face from the sun but it seemed to be everywhere! At last I could find some shade at the symbol of Buenos Aires, the Obliesk. I was dancing around because I found something that was bigger than my head!
Feeling pretty walked out, we took to a very nice Old style Argentinan cafe for a sandwich. This then, we played a game. Guess the menu. The menu is all in Spanish and I simply pointed and excruciatingly pronounced the words wrong. But the smiling old waiter simply took it all in and brought me a plate of beef? Burger on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes in very crumbly black bread. It tasted rather nice and I did pause at one point to think about what meat I’m eating…guinea pig? Deer? Human? Sometimes it’s worth not knowing…
As the afternoon rolled on, I really wanted to see Evita’s Grave. Auston and David had already been there the day before so they warned me it was a long walk. Posturing, I simply declared that I would be fine. But in this heat, it wasn’t until a few minutes in that I started griping. It was soooooo hot!
I got to the place in Recoleta Cemetery, and I went in alone and tried to find her grave. It’s a huge beautiful place but really really huge! Follow the crowds to find Evita, the guidebook said. I did, ony to find they didn’t know where she is and simply asking each other in a carcophony of languages punctuated with ‘Evita?’. But then came our saviour. A horde of Chinese tourists. They can always be found in every tourist destination so we followed and proved correct!
It was very surprising to see how low profile the grave/mausoleum is. It had been said that her body has been stolen and replaced with another dead key but I did hear her body was found again. Who knows. But it was a nice shrine to her with flowers and catholic rosaries hung up everywhere.
As I was too busy searching for her grave, there was no place to hide from the sun. I got truly and truly sunburnt on my face. Oh well. I needed a natural chemical peel.
But I couldn’t despair as I was so excited to be doing what I really wanted to do this evening…go to a tango show. But I needed to climb out of these sweat sodden clothes and really should have a shower first!
It’s tango time!