A charming encounter in BA antiquarian bookshop.
The traffic in Buenos Aires is unrelentingly busy (except, apparently on Saturday and Sunday mornings), but it is not chaotic. All of the hundreds of intersections on the grid layout are controlled by traffic lights and everyone seems to obey
the rules. There's a bit of honking and hooting but not too much. Pedestrians wait for the green man, which gives you a generous time to walk - which you need when crossing the extremely wide avenues. Crossing the road is actually safer than
walking on the pavement, given that the road surfaces are in much better condition! The only thing I wonder is what happens in a major power cut....?
It's a well known fact that Latin people love children. We went on a crowded train the
other day, the journey was about an hour and opposite us was a man with a three year old boy who spent the entire time jumping up and down on the seat and climbing up the window. Dad's solution to this was to pull him down playfully and give him a kiss.
The little lad, rewarded for his behaviour, did it again. And again. As you may imagine, Martin was slightly disapproving of these disciplinary methods and was inclined to recommend stronger methods. And it's true that to our cold northern
eyes, it was just a touch irritating - but the child was happy, laughing and not noisy and he was clearly adored. Who is right? Discuss. Write on one side of the paper only.
We now know what BA people do on Sundays. We thought it would
be nice to get out of the city and our book recommended a town about 12 miles north - Tigre - which is a favourite getaway spot. It also suggested a jolly tourist train that runs along the coast, but Martin's research (which really does sometimes come
in useful - and what did we do before the Internet?) told us that it's overpriced and over-rated, so we opted for the slow local train which cost us the grand sum of 60p for a return ticket. We thought that Tigre might be a bit tacky - there was much
emphasis on amusement parks and casinos, but what a pleasant surprise! Those things are there, but mainly it's a centre for water sports and activities, being on the edge of the delta which leads into the mouth of the River Plate. First we took
an interesting bus tour, then explored a really good craft market. Fortunately, we didn't have too much time, or we might have been tempted to buy something - and we really do not need anything else to carry! I did manage to buy a nice scarf to
replace the one I lost on the plane, and cost about the same (the one I lost having been bought at the Strawberry Fair - yes, Carole - that one!). The whole place was seething with people having a good time - on the water, in the water, beside the water,
in the market,in the numerous restaurants, eating Big Meat, or just strolling, like us. Then we boarded a comfortable covered boat for a cruise back to the city. It seemed a shame to waste the return half of our train tickets, but what's 30p between
The cruise turned out to be another surprise. we had expected that the delta would be a bit like the Sepik in PNG. Perhaps a bit less jungly but mainly greenery and some wildlife but, in fact, the islands and rivers which form the
delta are home to a thriving community and a haven for all kinds of water sports. So we cruised past houses ranging from ramshackle sheds to splendid mansions, the occasional school (health, police and supermarket services come by boat), all the while
avoiding hundreds of canoes, rowing boats, speedboats and jetskis. Then, in the more open water of the River Plate, hundreds of parasails, windsurfers and sailing boats - and I mean hundreds. So, as I said, we now know what BA people do on Sundays!
On Monday we did the tour of Teatro Colon, the magnificent Opera House. It really is very fine indeed, with European marble, gold leaf, statuary and wide, stately spaces to show off your wealth in. And that's before you enter the auditorium,
which really is breathtaking and apparently possessed of some of the best acoustics in the world. High in the dome, more than 20 metres above ground, is a great chandelier and hidden within is a facility for singers to stand and deliver heavenly music
as if from angels, or the voice of God. Gives the audience a surprise every time! As our enthusiastic guide said, "You have to be quite brave". Wonderful place, but at the end of the day, it's still opera, or as we like to call it, shrieking
and carrying on. Sorry - I now some of you out there love opera!
We also visited the memorial to the Argentine soldiers killed in the Falklands War, which was a bit sobering. 649 names are engraved on the plain wall and we know that most of them
were young conscripts. All sacrificed to the pride and power games of politicians - and I'm not taking sides. The memorial is constantly guarded by two soldiers, standing stock still in the blazing sun in their elaborate dress uniforms. There
was a medic on hand, presumably in case they fainted, but he was fast asleep on a bench in the shade!
We had planned to return to La Boca at night for a meal and more tango, but were warned by one of the brilliantly friendly and helpful receptionists
in our hotel not to go to the area after dark. There is a seedy and unsafe side to Buenos Aires and that's where it is. He said that while all day it's a tourist haven, there are no police or taxis there after about 17:00. So we've stuck to the
restaurants near to our hotel - certainly no shortage of choice!
So many bookshops in Buenos Aires. Walking along any street, you come across them everywhere, some big, some no more than stalls, but all presumably making a living. It must
tell you something about Argentine society. Today (Tuesday), while walking the length of the Avenida de Mayo, we went into a second-hand bookshop where the old gentleman in charge looked like someone out of Dickens. He greeted us with great charm
and we had a great conversation before he invited us to sign his visitors' book. Like everyone else we've spoken to, he was delighted to learn that we are English - no reference to the paragraph above!
Our last visit today was to the Evita Museum,
which we found very interesting. It's situated in a rather grand old house which she turned into a temporary home for women and single mothers in difficult circumstances, so had a real sense of place. Very comprehensive audio-guide, so you got
your money's worth. She was a fascinating character. Say what you like about Andrew Lloyd Webber, he got the story pretty much right - and if you don't like the melodramatic and sentimental tone of the musical, that's tough, because that's exactly what
she was like!
Earlier we had seen the Casa Rosada at the end of the Avenida de Mayo, complete with the balcony from which Evita made her last emotional address to the crowds in the plaza. All quiet today in the spring sunshine, but parked on one
side was a line of police vehicles and a water cannon. Clearly, the president isn't that sure of herself!
Now I have to repack for the journey to Ushuaia tomorrow. We're bracing ourselves for excess baggage charges, because the next three
legs of our journey have no business class facilities and although we tried not to bring too much, six months in varied weather conditions is a long time. Speaking of varied weather conditions, we're also bracing ourselves for a drop in temperatures
from 30 degrees to single digits. With rain. Martin has just tried to check-in online - booking confirmed, but no check-in possible. However, panic stations - our original reservation was for a flight from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery but they
not only changed the time and flight number, but the airport too! So we're due at Ezeiza International at 07:50!! We rushed down to reception to rearrange our taxi, only to find a woman in the same situation, so we're sharing a taxi in the morning.
This may be the last post for some time .... or not. Argentina is a surprising country, so we may be back to you sooner than we expect.