The flight to Buenos Aires is 4 1/2 hours from Ushuaia with Aerolineas Argentinas, pretty piss poor after efficient Lan Chile. Buenos Aires was 25C and unlike Santiago which has a dry heat, it was humid.
I had a lot of problems understanding the Argentineans. They have a strong ‘zh’ sound for the ‘ll’ , so they say “zhama” for llama for instance. They also have a second person singular all their own. In all Spanish “you are” = “tu eres” , In Argentinean it is “vos sos”. See what I mean ? I must say I found the Argentineans a bit on the patronising side. There have a certain meanness in making your life difficult with silly rules. Like when I was shopping and paid them with a $100 bill – they did not like the touch of it and wanted a new one. Like when the Swiss girls asked for three months on the border in Tierra del Fuego and they gave them one month only (the rest of us all got what they asked for). Like when I sat at a table which the waiter did not want me to occupy and I had to wait fifty minutes for my first course.
At the end of the day you sort of forgive them for three reasons:
- They look good – tall, stylish and dignified.
- They drink proper coffee not the Chilean instant stuff.
- Their beef is superb.
I had tons of beef in Argentina. It is cooked perfectly, it is tender, the cows do not have BSE and the portions are enormous. In the end it becomes a macho thing to finish your meal with sweat dripping off your forehead, and your belt looser than ever. Pity about the wine, though. Although the Mendoza region has some decent wines, they don’s seem to offeryou good plonk in the restaurants. And Chilean wine (these being closed economies) is surprisingly difficult to find.
Buenos Aires has a Harrods and what they consider a replica of Big Ben on old Plaza Inglesa (which is now named Plaza de la Aerofuerza Argentina). It has wide avenues where drivers drive like madmen. Every taxi I took involved a hair-raising moment or two. Buenos Aires is the first – and I hope the last – place where I saw a car hit a pedestrian in front of me, by the Congress Building. The pedestrian ended up on his feet, but it put the fear of God in me.
Things I did in Buenos Aires :
I went to San Telmo (the Montmartre of BA) and observed the local porteños tango their way. I loved the area, full of antique shops selling the oddest Belle Époque stuff I have seen. It gets a namecheck in my later book Rainbow Diary.
I went to pay my respects to Evita in the Recoleta cemetery. Sadly, it is not possible to get a good picture of Evita’s tomb sandwiched, as it is, an obscure narrow alleyway.
I went to La Boca, the working class suburb of Italian immigrants with wonderfully coloured houses. It is a working class area where the football team, Boca Juniors is the centre of fanaticism verging on the religious. Maradona himself rose through Boca Juniors. Emerging footballers can now receive the blessing of the statue of the Jesus of the Footballers in the main cathedral of Buenos Aires.
And at night I discovered a new cocktail : Champagne and Tia Maria. You don’t need many of those before you crash out. Unfortunately, the locals do not go out before 1am at the earliest, which mean that I slept until 9:30pm, ate at 11:00pm and by the time I went out, I was already drunk. I had a good time, though.
This is a city with cojones.