Friday August 4, 2023
A discussion with the building concierge the previous night where Mr. Wafflehad understood him to say that the water might be off briefly overnight and I had understood him to say that we should fill every available receptacle with water because the water would be cut off the following morning, proved that my Italian was more useful for understanding these matters than Mr. Waffle’s Spanish. Never have I been so sad to be right.
Mr. Waffle and I went across the road for breakfast and shortly after we finished there was a message from the children that water had been restored. Much rejoicing.
This allowed us to shower before beginning our 17.6 km (the specificity is due to a tracking app that I am attached to) cycling tour of the the city. The weather was beautiful. We began in a little park and saw parrots. Very exciting although our guide was surprised by our enthusiasm.
We went to the Boca Juniors stadium. Big club which I had never heard of before coming to BA but as the kids would say, “That’s on me”. We went to San Telmo which is very touristy but I am a tourist, I like touristy places.
Messi is popular locally.
We went into a nature reserve with lovely views over what definitely looked like the sea but what porteños (what the locals are called, look at me integrating) are extremely adamant is a river.
We were met at the entrance to the park by one of the cycle shop employees with drinks for all of us. This was the Corinne (our travel agent) service we were already beginning to expect. I suspect that Corinne did not know that our cycle tour took us in part along a road that had very strong motorway vibes. We’re all very experienced cyclists but it definitely felt a bit edgy. Largely fine however and a great way to see the city. Honestly, we possibly could have done without the nature reserve. We have lots of nature at home.
We had an opportunity to verify that Calatrava builds the same bridge everywhere. Our guide said that it was supposed to be inspired by the tango. “If this is the case, then why is it identical to the one in the Dublin docklands?” I wondered. She said that she suspected as much all along.
We saw the Casa Rosada where the Argentinian president hangs out. Mr. Waffle offered the fantastic fact that it is made with ox blood, hence the pink colour. It is on the Plaza de Mayo which due to the weird distinct form of Spanish spoken locally is pronounced Plaza de “Masho”, calle is “casho” and so on. For those of us whose Spanish is based on Italian and a couple of duolingo lessons, this does not make things easier.
The Plaza is where the mothers of the disappeared used to march and the headscarf logo on the ground is in memory of that. During the time of the generals, left wing activists or anyone the regime didn’t like were “disappeared”, often dropped by helicopter into the middle of the river. I saw a big sign up announcing 40 years of democracy and that didn’t seem like a very long time to me. It’s not so long since these young people were taken away and killed in huge numbers.
After our busy morning we had an afternoon off. As we were to discover, this was a complete rarity in the Corinne schedule which we probably should have looked at in more detail before agreeing to everything. Herself and myself went back to the fleshpots of Palermo Soho for a more detailed look around. This wasn’t a complete success as I was exhausted from my three hour cycle in the morning. However, I did have a significant triumph. As you may be aware, there are Welsh speaking towns in Patagonia. “Who doesn’t know that?” you cry. In a shoe shop, the assistant was from Patagonia. “Do you know the Welsh speaking towns?” I asked. Herself cast her eyes heavenward. But he did, he knew all about them, he had grown up near one but, sadly, spoke no Welsh.
Our driver having abandoned us at our request, we had to make our own way home. I didn’t feel strong enough to try the metro so we hopped in a taxi which set us back 1,7000 pesos or, at the time, about €3.
Honestly, there was no real need to investigate the metro, the Subte to its friends, which, incidentally, I gather is very good though I am unable to speak from personal experience.
We had asked Corinne to book us a neighbourhood pizzeria for dinner. I regret to report that we did not enjoy Argentinian pizza. The fault lay not in the restaurant which had queues out the door and around the corner but we just did not like Argentinian pizza, – significantly more cheese than appeals to an Irish audience. As we were now becoming accustomed to, we were, yet again, whisked to the top of the queue and installed as honoured guests.
After dinner, a car came to take us to a tango show. A triumph for me as the driver had two Italian parents and I was able to chat away in Italian. Herself had opted out of pizza (a wise move in retrospect) and tango but the rest of us were if not exactly gung ho, certainly curious.
The Tango show was excellent in fairness (the theme was tango through the years) but as scantily clad women danced around our table, it felt a bit like watching films with sex in them with your children ( which is just as bad as watching them with your parents as a teenager, just a different kind of bad).
We emerged, impressed by the artistry and sheer athleticism of the dancers but pleased to see our driver (of course) who zoomed us home to bed across the city.
Saturday August 5, 2023
We went to the Pain Quotidien again. I’m not proud.
After breakfast we were picked up to go on a food tour. We were rapidly discovering that there was a certain danger in being cosseted beings whose every need was catered to by guides and drivers. Mr. Waffle expressed the mildest interest in the BA water system following our guide pointing out a pumping system and we very narrowly avoided a tour of the local water infrastructure.
Danger averted we went to our first stop on the food tour, We got choripán which is basically barbecued sausage in a bun. We went to a small corner café and sat outside. Delicious. It was in a suburban part of town and a lot of the buildings were single storey. It really reminded me of Brooklyn. This was not the first time I made this observation and it never failed to irritate the children.
Sadly, the choripán was only the beginning. Argentinians like a lot of food. We went to a restaurant which was very nice and everything but we were already kind of full from the choripán. Then we went to an ice cream place. Pretty good, I have to say, but we positively waddled away.
We were trying to get a feel for the Argentinian character and asked our guide what other South America countries might say about Argentina. “Well,” she said, “they might say that Argentines are snobbish because we are the most European country of South America.” I found that a bit weird but Mr. Waffle pointed out later that they kind of think of themselves as European. They’re always saying how far away from everywhere they are but of course they are actually surrounded by other countries although they are a long way from European countries. They cordially loath the Brasilians who they regard as very blingy but, of course, economically, they are doing far better than the Argentinians and they tend to visit and flash their cash in their white and gold outfits while being very loud (say the Argentinians anyhow). The Argentinians themselves are turned out like chic French people or Italians in dark well-cut clothes. The cliché is that an Argentinian is an Italian who thinks he’s Spanish and wishes to be British. Clichés are there for a reason, people.
After our enormous lunch, the driver dropped the guys home and Mr. Waffle, herself and I went to explore around San Telmo.
We found a very cool cafe called La Peurto Roico and, suitably fortified, we went on to the Plaza de Mayo for a more leisurely look around.
When we got ourselves home, the guys seem to have enjoyed a peaceful afternoon.
That evening (because we spit on exhaustion), Mr. Waffle and I went to El Ataneo, a very cool bookshop in a former theatre. There were very few English language books there – just some school textbooks, printed in Argentina – because of the absolutely prohibitive cost of importing goods. It was still nice to look around though.
Mr. Waffle was absolutely fascinated by security in the residential buildings we passed. Sometimes there was an actual security gurad but more often than not there was a live video feed of a very bored person looking out at you – presumably each guard looked after multiple buildings and you were to be intimidated/supervise their work as you went by. Very odd, I have never seen anything like this before.
People, this is only another two days. If you’re feeling strong, join us soon for our next adventure when our heroes fly North to Iguazu.