We’ve been in Buenos Aires almost two weeks, but it seems ages since we set off from High Wycombe. The flight was fine, but when we arrived at the flat we’d booked on the Net, it was ghastly: dark and poky, with hardly any natural light and no view of the outside world. We should have refused to stay, but it was very late and we were tired. We indicated to the agent that we were not happy, and he told us to contact the agency the next day.
On Friday morning we visited the agency, and told them we could not stay in the flat. Ian did not like it, and for Sandie, who is claustrophobic, it was impossible! Unfortunately, we’d already paid, but they managed to negotiate for us to get some of the money back from the owners, and helped us to find another flat. On our way back to the first place, to pack our belongings, disaster struck again: a young man snatched Sandie’s ruby pendant (given by Ian for our anniversary last October) from her neck, and ran away. Ian shouted and gave chase, but could not catch him (probably just as well!). As well as losing the pendant, it was a shock to realise that theft could happen that way, especially in a busy street in broad daylight.
The new flat turned out to be a vast improvement on the old one. It is light, airy and spacious, with a balcony overlooking a park. It is also in a better area of the city. The only problem to begin with was that the promised Internet connection did not work, but after both Ian and the woman from the agency failed to get it going, a technician came to make the necessary adjustments. After he’d gone, we had to go to the police to report the theft. There was no time for anything else that day!
We’re glad to say that things then improved greatly. The following day we started to explore the city, and it felt that our South American tour had really begun. We’ve had a couple of rainy days, but mostly it’s been glorious sunshine, and delightfully warm all the time. It is great to go out in just shorts and Tshirts!
We had decided to take intensive Spanish lessons while here, and began these on Monday 14th. Ian had only a few words of Spanish and was therefore in Level 1, which he will complete by the time we leave (each level takes two weeks). Sandie did Spanish A-level a few years ago, and had done well in the placement tests, but still struggled with the spoken Spanish. After trying Levels 2 and 3, she ended up with private lessons, which are much more useful for her, as they are entirely conversation and she does not need to do elementary exercises!
When not in language classes, we’ve spent a lot of our time exploring different parts of the city, which we’ve got to know pretty well. Travelling around is cheap. The Subte (underground) costs 18p for a single trip, although it is not as extensive as its London counterpart, and does not reach all of the barrios (neighbourhoods) which make up the city of Buenos Aires. Travelling by bus is slightly more expensive (20p per journey). But most of our travelling has been done on foot. The avenidas (avenues) in Buenos Aires are wider than the calles (streets), and there is one avenida which is particularly wide – almost like three parallel streets. It is called Nuevo de Julio (ninth of July) and crossing it on foot is a real challenge. As our flat is on one side and our language school on the other, we’ve had to cross the ninth of July at least once (often twice) every day.
One early excursion took us to the Plaza de Mayo, where we visited the Casa Rosada and stood on the balcony where Eva Peron made her famous speech (immortalised by Rice and Lloyd-Webber as ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’). Another day we explored the Recoleta area, including the cemetery where the great and good of Buenos Aires are buried. The streets of mausoleums have to be seen to be believed.
Of course, on all our expeditions we need regular refuelling with food and drink. One local delicacy we’ve discovered is ‘mediolunas’, rather sweet and sticky croissants. Although often eaten for breakfast, they can be obtained at any time of the day, and lots of cafés offer a special ‘coffee and mediolunas’ deal which can provide a cheap lunch.
We’ve done a couple of trips out of the city. On Sunday 13th we went by train to Tigre, at the mouth of the River Plate. We then took a ferry to one of the islands, and enjoyed lunch at a café while watching the busy river traffic, before going for a walk along the peaceful backwaters. Back in Tigre we followed the promenade along the river bank; it’s where people from the city go on summer weekends, and it was fascinating to see all the deckchairs, ice boxes etc. It was more crowded than Brighton beach on August bank holiday!
The following Sunday (20th) we took the catamaran across the river from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The old part of that town has been declared a World Heritage Site, and is extremely photogenic (picturesque painted houses in tree-lined cobbled streets). The beaches outside the town are also pleasant; we enjoyed strolling and sitting in the shade of a tree. We paddled in the river but did not actually swim!
Buenos Aires is of course famous for tango; you can’t go far without being offered tickets for a tango show, or tango lessons, or even seeing tango dancers in the open air. We went to two shows, and saw some fantastic dancing. We also felt that while here we must have a try ourselves, and enjoyed a couple of lessons with some very patient teachers. It was good fun, though I don’t think the experts have anything to fear from us – we’re more the Ann Widdecombe level of dance.
After two weeks in Buenos Aires, we’re feeling quite at home here. According to our original plan, we would have stayed a month, but our departure from England was delayed by Ian’s broken arm. We’re glad to report that it’s been getting steadily better since we arrived. He rarely wears the splint now, although he does not yet have full use of his right hand and wrist, which is still slightly swollen. He is doing the exercises recommended by the physiotherapist – sometimes when we are waiting in a café, to the amusement or bafflement of onlookers!
While here, we’ve had exciting news from home. Claire phoned to tell us she is expecting another baby in October. We trust all goes well, and look forward to the arrival of our fourth grandchild!
We can’t stay longer in Buenos Aires because we have to be in Rio in time for the carnival. So we head off on Friday 25th, and we’ve devoted some time to planning the next stage of our travels. Making some of the arrangements seems incredibly complicated! Having our flat, and the internet connection, has been useful, and we’ve tried to make the most of it. Apart from Day 1, we’ve enjoyed our time in Buenos Aires, but we are happy to move on and ready for the next adventure!