Buenos Aires – necesito aprender castellano

7 Jun

My journey commenced in Buenos Aires.  I stayed at the Hostel Suites Florida, in Avenue Florida which confirmed my first fears on modern travel.  When I entered the hostel just about everyone was on their laptops (it is, of note, that at this point in the journey I did not have a laptop) speaking to their virtual friends and updating their facebook status.  Maybe I will soon become like this as well!

I organised a language course with a language school in San Telmo.  Four hours of Spanish for one week.  Enough to maybe get a grip of the basics before the viaje empieza?  The teacher was lovely though spoke only Spanish which was very difficult for myself and the others (a Dutch couple, and a Swedish and Danish couple).  It is funny how difficult people find it to understand my language.  I have taken to saying that I speak Scottish rather than English as it explains the lack of comprehension!  The Swedish girl almost died laughing when I said “outfit” for some reason!!!! Need to try hard to improve my English before I can even start learning Spanish.  By the end of the language course have learned a few words but there are some problems: – we learn only the present tense and a bit of the future which means that I can only ever speak about what I am doing just now or what I will do in the future. Maybe this is a good thing rather than dwelling on the past! Also we learn a few questions to ask people but since my comprehension is so very poor this means that I cannot understand the reply.  This makes asking questions a rather hilarious but utterly pointless occupation!

My first attempt at practising involved me asking a passerby where the post office was.  The reply was lengthy and complicated but, of course, totally and utterly incomprehensible.  Still I can nod and say “Si” so that is my approach meantime until my Spanish improves!

Spanish class drinking wine which is reputed to help learn the language

Did a cool walking tour of the city which was free and really fun.  Also went to Recoleta with Liz, who I was sitting next to on the plane and who managed to get in touch with through my mobile which miraculously works over here. Recoleta is beautiful.  The cemetery, although very famous, felt quiet and peaceful.  It was even difficult to find the grave of Eva Peron.  Find out later at the museum that her body was moved various times before finally being interred here.  Seems very sad to me (or trista in Spanish).

Argentina personified - she was standing next to a Maradona lookalike who offered me a photo with him for a fee

Argentina personified

Other highlight of Buenos Aires was La Boca Area and in particular the Museo de Belles Artes de la Boca de Artistas Argentinos “Benito Quinquela Martin”.  The museum is amazing.  It was where Quinquela Martin lived and one of the rooms was his studio.  It also has the most wonderful roof garden with sculptures and a view for many miles.  His paintings are vivid and almost alive with activity.  They show the port life of La Boca and seem to be full of fire and life! Wikipedia tells us that Quinquela Martin is the “port painter par excellence” –  a rather unusual definition!

See some tango at La Tortoni which is cool.  Bit bizarre as they put at a table with an American family as I am on my own. Family are pretty cool though.  Their daughter is on a high school rotary trip exchange to a school here. The mum did one when she was young and said it was wild! She travelled the whole length of Brazil in buses without a chaperone!!!! Those were the days it seems.  Tango show was cool but not so cool as wandering down Avenida Florida in the evening and seeing some live (and of course free) tango!

La Boca - Perons on the Balcony with Maradona

La Boca

Also met a Mexican family from Guadalajara.  Their whole family worked for Mexican airlines and they got the flight from Guadalajara to Buenos Aires for a fraction of the cost.  So funny as the dad, mum, brother and uncle all work for the airlines.  We exchange details and become facebook friends.  Modern travel does, of course, have the advantage of quick contact with the people you meet!!! I tell Ruby, the daughter, to listen to Snow Patrol.  She loves it!

I make one great discovery in Buenos Aires.  As you will see from the first post as I am late to blog I am doing this post my time there.  However, it is clear to me now that there is nothing quite like Dulce de Leche.  At the time at breakfast in the hostel I did not realise how important this sweet caramel like substance would become to me.  I saw others eating it and wondered what it was all about.  Then I took it one day.  And, to be honest, I have never looked back.  Time for a wikipedia definition I think.  Wikipedia defines dulce de leche as a sweet traditional to Latin America.  I am going to stick to the Argentinian recipe meantime as that is where I first encountered heaven on earth. Wikipedia says that the Argentinian recipe is made from cow’s milk, sugar, some vanilla and a pinch of baking soda.  Wikipedia suggests a quick fix to make dulce de leche when the withdrawal symptoms get too much – basically the same as making caramel for caramel slice at home, that is, boil a can of condensed milk for many hours.  At least I know I can re-create this heaven quite easily back home at my wee flat in Leith.

Time to move on out of the city after about 8 days in Buenos Aires.  So it is onto the internet in the hostel (man modern technology is useful) to book a flight to Ushuaia.  Since the start of planning my trip I had an unusual obsession with going to Ushuaia, the end of the earth, though it is not really but more of that later.  Technology proves to let me down almost instantly.  Try to book on Aerolinas Argentinas website and do all the steps. Then it sends me a nice email saying my place is reserved and all I need to do now is to pay.  Try to pay about 100 times on the website but it won’t let me do it.  As I want to fly to Ushuaia the next day go back onto amazon website and book a flight through there instead. Have to pay 20 quid more which is a bit annoying.  Someone tells me later that you can’t book on their site with foreign cards. Whole way to the airport am worried that have 2 seats booked rather than one.  Still at least my bag can have a seatbelt to itself.

Meet the American family at the airport who are flying on El Calafate to see the glacier. It is, as they say, a small world.

Time to get out of the city and into the wilds….Ushuaia next…

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