Saturday, November 04, 2006

Buenos Dias, Buenos Aires

Day 16
Morning all,

Plan today is:

1. Out to cafe for chocolate con churros
2. Wander up to Recoleta and Palermo areas to visit some of the galleries
3. Eat meat
4. Read books.

Buenos Aires means "good winds", in recognition of the trade winds that brought people here from across the oceans. From what I can tell, the main source of recreation here is to go to cafes and browse bookshops. Nice!

There also seems to be wifi everywhere, which is a very good thing. Although the signal in my room is tantalisingly weak.. it's there, it's tempting me, but it's not enough to be useful, dammit!

So I woke up after an enormous sleep again. After three days of this I'll be able to go for a week without bed! Last night I saw a ghost! Woke up, it was dark, but I could fairly clearly make out a figure standing across the room from me. I switched the light on, and he was gone. Scientific explanation is that he looked a bit like those blobs you get when you press your eyeball gently, so perhaps I was sleeping awkwardly. Unscientific explanation is that someone was murdered in this very room! Spooky fish! I may also have been imagining things due to the bed sloping at about 45 degrees from left to right. Anyone who rolls about will surely end up on the floor - I don't have this problem, though do still have the urge to grab on to something as I sleep!

Out and round the corner to Cafe Tortoni. Lots of history behind it, none of which I am privy to - google it! Think a French chap named it after a cafe back home. The cafe has wifi! Yay! My new home! I check the exchange rate. It's about 6 pesos to the pound, and about the same in Peru. Handy. Chile is about 1000 to the pound, and Brazil 4. Okay, so barring any major currency fluctuations we've got our currency rule of thumbs sorted. In the cafe I order chocolate con churros - churros are elongated donut-like things that are very popular down here. Sometimes they use a syringe to inject syrup or cream into them too. And of course they go very well with hot chocolate. I also order a coffee, which confuses the waiter. You drink the chocolate, and you want coffee? he queries. Yep. Gimme gimme!

It's an expensive place, relatively. In fact, something I find amazing about Argentina (okay I'm generalising from the capital), is that walking around, you'd think you were in Madrid or some European capital, but everything is so cheap. One usually associates prices with quality - cheap places tend to be dirty and horrible, expensive places clean and nice. Egypt was a good example of this - the most expensive one has to pay is what one would expect to fork out at home. In Argentina, it seems like everything is very cheap but also pleasant. The wide roads are lined with clean pavements, pedestrian crossings, disabled ramps, trees bursting with gorgeous purple flowers, and yet a 2 hour bus from the airport costs 1.35, i.e. 25p, and entry to the Malba, 10 pesos, i.e. £1.50. Tube is also super cheap, though perhaps they have to price it low to compensate for a system that literally alternates door sides! So muggins had to keep switching sides to get out of the way! Doh!

Malba, or Museo de Arte Latinoamericano (don't ask me where the "b" comes from), is a Tate Modern-like gallery up in Palermo or Recoleta (haven't worked out the boundary between these two yet). It has a small-is, yet good collection of art from 1900 onwards, and one can see the development of art in the continent, and also the influence of European art as local arts travelled back and forth and interpreted what they saw to suit local culture. No photos allowed, dammit.

Afterwards it's lunchtime. To be honest, I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, but as lunch is the main meal here, I thought i could give it a go. The plan.. eat Steak! I passed a restaurant that looked quite nice and genuine, so went in. Amusing non-conversation with the large waiter, which resulted in me completing my order without having a clue as to what I had ordered, except "lomo", i.e. loin, or beef. Was also hoping he wasn't going to stiff me on the wine. Vino de casa is fine thank you very much! Anyway, along came my food - an enormous slab of meat in the middle of creamy vegetables - artichokes, beans and mushrooms. He spoons it on to my plate, to the admiring glances of the old ladies on the adjacent table, then I tuck in. It's good. Cooked medium rare, nice and pink, and the vegetables are very tasty too. I polish the whole thing off reading next book (Heart of Darkness took ten minutes on flght from Cairo!), which is Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Haven't seen the film, but then I probably won't anyway.

Back home to safe zone near hotel. Food doesn't seem to linger long in my digestive tract at the moment, so after eating I always plan to be somewhere "safe". How this will work up in the mountains I don't know. Popped by Cafe Tortoni, lingering outside for a bit of wifi goodness, then back to hotel for reading time and .. bed time! Another shocking sleep coming up :)

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