Saturday 19 August, 2023
The kids refused to come on a tour of the suburbs of BA. Their loss as San Isidro is an absolutely beautiful suburb.
We then went on a boat ride on the delta which I loved. Mr. Waffle thought it was a bit like a tour for the elderly and was unconvinced, but I am clearly leaning in to what, I suppose, I will have to call late middle age. The only negative element was the loud commentary in English, Spanish and Portuguese (there was a large, blingy Brazilian group onboard clearly driving the Argentinians bananas).
The delta is enormous and very attractive with its own infrastructure including water boats which pick up from your own jetty on the side of the water by your house and a supermarket boat that delivers your groceries.
There were numerous rowing clubs including “the Jewish”. It turns out Argentina has a big Jewish population of about 250,000. Who knew? A lot of these clubs were built in the early 20th century when Argentina was really rich and the world was keen on very elaborate club houses.
There was a museum to Sarmiento who was a 19th century president. The whole house is preserved in a special glass case. You heard me.
This upmarket area is the political base of Massa the economy minister. I asked our guide why she thought people were voting for Massa as the economy is, well, in some difficulty. Until that moment she had seemed very like me: same kind of age, children in college, husband in nice professional job, cousin who was an engineer who had emigrated to the south side of Dublin (small world – she gave us some alfajores to bring back to Ireland for him), similar slightly wishy washy views, appalled by hearing that some of her children’s friends had voted for Milei. This question, however, unleashed her inner fascist. “All the people getting social welfare money vote for him,” she said indignantly. “I know that in Europe, these people can’t vote in elections, but here they can.” We hastened to clarify that absolutely, in Europe, people in receipt of benefits from the State can vote and Mr. Waffle began talking about economic versus social and political rights but she was having none of it. “I am sure that this is the case in Norway anyhow,” she said firmly. We were absolutely baffled. Why would she think this about Norway of all places?
And then, she told us, the universities, which are free and apparently very good are “overrun with foreigners”. “What percentage of students are foreigners?” I asked. 4% apparently. It all made me feel a bit nervous about Argentina’s squeezed middle.
I tried to draw her out a bit on the relationship with Spain. It was like I was speaking a third language that she was incapable of understanding. “We are Spanish,” she explained. “But you got independence from Spain, you had a revolution, how does this affect the relationship?” I asked. I tried to draw parallels with the complexity of the Irish-English relationship but she was having none of it. She explained that one of the Argentine revolutionaries was Spanish “from Spain” she clarified. Yes, I understood but that doesn’t mean that there would be no Argentine bad feeling towards Spain. She looked at me, nonplussed. I was pretty baffled myself. I gave up. They love the Spanish.
When we got back on shore we had a look at some local markets which specialised in wicker; very attractive but, sadly, nobody was going to be bringing baskets back to Ireland.
On the way back into town our guide pointed out thousands slum buildings right against the motorway built there, quite obviously, in breach of all regulations. A bit depressing.
We got back at lunch time to an empty apartment. Very alarming. Mr.Waffle reckoned the children had gone to lunch and we should too. We went around the corner to the Pain Quotidien and, to our amusement, herself and Michael were ensconced. But where was Daniel? There was a slightly Jesus in the temple moment (I thought he was with you). Then I sprinted back round to the apartment where he was, in fact, still in bed. The relief.
That afternoon, herself had expressed an interest in going to the Malba art gallery. I would totally recommend. We taxied there and back (living like oligarchs approximately €2 each way – little “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” posters on the back of the headrests).
It’s a modern art gallery which I thought I didn’t love but after here and the Met in New York, I am beginning to reconsider. I quite enjoyed pointing out to Michael that he and this character have similar eyebrow action.
I was quite taken with this large work.
Corinne had suggested booking us a nice dinner towards the end of our stay and this was the night. It was a steak restaurant called Don Julio. When we arrived there were queues round the block but, at this point, you will be as unsurprised as we were that we were speedily accommodated leaving those whose lives were not organised by Corinne to weep and gnash their teeth in the outer darkness. Dinner was, hands down, the nicest meal we had in Argentina. We mostly like our steak rare and had learnt the word “jugosa”. This was the first time it was really as desired. The chimichurri (arguably Argentina’s greatest food invention) was excellent but so, more surprisingly, were the vegetables. We reminisced a bit about our trip and just had a lovely time. We were under heaters outside. It was quite pleasant but there were blankets. Mr. Waffle drew a comparison between me and Queen Maeve on the old Irish pound note. He is still alive, you will be pleased to hear.
Sunday, 20 August, 2023
Up again at 6 am to get the ferry to Uruguay which is only across the river. The ferry port was like the airport with security, passport, immigration and, most excitingly, passport stamps. Speaking of stamps Mr. Waffle was muttering anxiously about stamps and said, “Uruguay is a functioning country, I’ll get stamps there.” On a Sunday? I think not.
Herself stayed behind and initially, I thought this was a huge mistake. Spoiler alert: it was not a huge mistake. On the ferry, a nice purser let me go and have a look around first class. It was a bit underwhelming but I remain surprised that Corinne countenanced coach class for her charges. It was quite a short ferry trip – only just over an hour.
When we arrived, there were many ads encouraging Argentinians to buy property in Uruguay which seems to be a thing.
Our guide and driver picked us up and gave us a tour of Colonia del Sacramento which is a cute small town fought over by the Spanish and Portuguese and with architecture from both. Observe the Spanish v Portuguese streets.
Its big business is entertaining tourists from BA. It has a bit of a seaside village feel.
Then we had a lovely lunch and a couple of hours to wander on our own. All very pleasant.
We were dropped back to the ferry port for 3.30 and then to our absolute horror, our ferry was delayed by two hours. Honestly we had seen absolutely everything Colonia had to offer. We went for a desultory look at a local market but our hearts weren’t in it. We had tea and looked at the internet a bit. Inter alia, I logged on to the library app to see if the book I’d ordered had arrived. It had. The library app also managed to tell me that I was very far from home.
It was hours before we got back and then there were very long passport queues. Our driver was dutifully waiting for us in BA but it was 9.30 before we got home. Our saintly firstborn had dinner ready for the weary voyagers which was a highlight.
Monday, August 21, 2023
It was our last day. To celebrate, nobody got up before 10 am. In a signature move, we went to the Pain Quotidien for breakfast.
While Mr. Waffle snorted in disdain, on the way home I asked the man in the kiosk selling papers whether he had stamps. He only had the ones we had from the private courier company. “Where on earth do you post those?” I asked. He indicated a small discreet cardboard box at knee height. So, we posted our postcards, and if you got one, you’d better be grateful because it wasn’t easy.
We went to La Biela for lunch which was nearby and was a famous spot where all of the motor racing greats hung out back in the day (Argentina is big in the motor racing world). Crucially, from our point of view, we were all able to get something we liked for lunch.
That afternoon, Corinne came to our Airbnb to meet us. I was a bit dubious but, in person, I found her very warm and really lovely; and also the person most likely to be interested in our Argentinian adventures. She had only that morning flown in from Yerevan (but of course) where she and her son had been participating in the world Armenian games (who knew?), but was not to be deterred in her plan to see us. She presented us with a cactus and silver framed family photo of us up in the mountains near Salta. I was genuinely thrilled. What a nice gift. What a service! If you or someone you know is going to Argentina, let me know, I will pass on her details, you will not be disappointed but possibly plan for more downtime.
Then it was time for the airbnb checkout which was very thorough. I felt our host (who did not come himself but sent two young women to inspect) was not really psychologically ready to let out on Airbnb; he loved his (admittedly beautiful) apartment too much. I had thought he must be an architect because there were loads of architectural books about but the young women said no, he was a footballers’ agent. Honestly, he seemed much too sensitive and worried to be anyone’s agent for anything.
And then, our driver picked us up for the last time and we arrived at the airport. Daniel was very excited to see a Hard Rock Café but herself couldn’t face it and he said, quite bitterly, “I suppose it will be Ron’s Kale again.” They have different tastes, though herself introduced us to her airport motto “Always be Grazing” and stocked up to ensure that she could live that particular dream. Unrelated, but she had spent the summer unsuccessfully trying to read a tome on Spinoza and was disturbed to recognise his face on the front of some Spanish book in the airport; a sign, she felt, that they had spent too much time together.
We left BA to fly to Miami at about 9 in the evening BA time. It’s a nine-hour flight to Miami, yes nine hours, you read that right; you will remember Argentina is very far away. Mr. Waffle had sprung for seats together (let us not speak of the cost) which was a considerable improvement on the way out but still it was grim.
Tuesday August 22, 2023
We arrived in Miami at the crack of dawn US time, maybe 6 in the morning. My concerns about US immigration were misplaced and we flew through in about 45 minutes. Some profiling occurred as people took one look at us and tried to put us through the US citizens’ channel but we were steadfast in refusing and they shook their heads at our idiocy.
Breakfast in Miami was pretty grim. I mean actual breakfast was fine but we were all flattened and the kids dozed in their seats. We left for Philadelphia at about 8.30. You have questions? Do you know how much it costs to fly five people half way around the world? Well, anyway, this was the cheapest route but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was really regretting it.
We got into Philadelphia about midday. We booked ourselves into one of those airport shower things and all came out cleaner and marginally more cheerful.
I had a Philadelphia cheesesteak for lunch and, I’ll tell you what, nicer than you might think but I noticed that all the people pictured on the walls enjoying their cheesesteaks were pretty large. I have to say that dinner in BA breakfast in Miami and lunch in Philadelphia is not at all as glamorous as I would have thought. In fairness to Philadelphia, it’s a nice airport but it’s not somewhere I would necessarily choose to spend six hours.
We got on our six hour hop to Ireland that evening. There was a time, late July, when I would have thought six hours was a very long flight but not anymore.
I was sitting beside some nice older Americans who were going to Ireland for a week. Their first stop was Cork. “When are you going to Cork?” I asked innocently. “Oh,” said the enthusiastic Texan lady, we’ve got a car booked and we’re going to drive there when we arrive in Dublin. It’s only three hours. Maybe we will go to this Kinsale place you were recommending this afternoon. Honest to God, it’s no wonder they’re a superpower.
Wednesday August 23, 2023
We got home at 5am. As we were in the taxi from the airport, Dan got a message inviting him to a GAA match that very evening. Incredibly, he was keen.
We had a quiet day, we slept, we unpacked. I had some mate at home – still revolting.
That evening Dan cycled up to his match. I got a call from one of the trainers about an hour later. “We think Dan has dislocated his shoulder.” The GAA continues in its mission to ruin our lives. We brought him to the clinic, he was sore but not too bad and he was also starving. I went to a burger place across the road called the “Hog and Heifer” to ask if they did take away. Their gimmick as you cross the threshold is that an alarming moo sounds. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I think anyone would concede that I was fragile and not up to being loudly mooed at. However, they did do takeaway. I told the man that I was in the clinic across the road and would come back but shortly afterwards he turned up at the door of the clinic, burger in hand. A very gratifying touch. Dan had his x-ray. Not dislocated but not quite right either – endless physio to follow but at least we could go home.
My sister called, “I didn’t want to tell you before but you are Aunty Pat’s executor.” My cup runneth over.