Arrival in Buenos Aires
Arrival was smooth. The flight included a landing in Santiago. Initially, I was told that those of us going on the Buenos Aires would get to remain on the plane – however this is not what happened. We all had to exit and go through a security check – then line-up again to get on the plane. The security check was very quick, though, and the guys were the friendliest ones I’ve met. Also ran into my Chilean friend I met in Toronto as we boarded the plane. He lives in Calgary and plays in a rock-a-billy band. He was going to see his daughters – one of which is a surfer at 10 years old (and the picture he showed me indicated that she has the surfer attitude down). From that, I started him humming “Wipe Out” which he carried throughout the flight and standing in the immigration line! Ah yes, my work here is done!
Immigration in Argentina is an exercise in extreme patience. If you are from the US, Canada or Argentina, you first have to stand in the line to pay a “Recipricol Fee” which for Canadians is $75 US (US and Ausssies pay $140). Once you pay, you stand in the immigration line. There are two forms to fill out – one for entering the country and one for customs (and they want to know what electronics you are carrying, including Cell phone type). It took me an hour to get through both lines (fortunately, my cell phone worked and I could call Nico, my taxi driver, to let him know I was there, just trying to get through customs). The Immigration officer did not look at the custom form, but stamped my passport so I could get my luggage. Before I could leave the luggage area, I had to show the form to a customs agent and put all my stuff through the scanner again. He never even checked my form or what I wrote, so I hope it was ok.
Nico was waiting for me and helped me with my luggage (he liked how it linked together). I got some cash and we headed into the city. At first, the roads reminded me of Germany, but the buildings reminded me of Athens – at least until we got downtown – then I knew there is nothing like Buenos Aires.
Maggie’s B&B is located in the Central area of BA in an old building. The elevator is ~100 years old. It reminds me of the one in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, although I do not think I will try tap dancing in it to make it work. The apartment is very nice – and my room has a seating area and a loft bed. I also have an incredible view of the Palacio Barolo building – one of BA’s highlights. So yes, expect lots of pictures. The building is a Neo-Gothic wonder built in 1923, designed by Mario Palanti, an Italian architect, who was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Maggie got me settled in, gave me some suggestions for things to do and where to go. Then she headed out and I spent a few minutes just organizing things before I headed out to get familiar with the neighbourhood and possibly get something to eat. I found my way to Ave. de Mayo (pronounced “ma-jo”) and from there to Ave. Julio de 9 – the widest street in the world. I passed a few places to eat and thought it might be nice to eat outside – it is about 31 C. Whenever I decided I would try one, the outside area was full. One place is “famous’ as in it’s been around a long time – 36 Billiards. As the names suggests, it does have a billiard room downstairs, but upstairs is a café.
I finally settled on a place called Alameda and got a nice table facing the street and a very nice waiter. Italian food is supposed to be as good here as it is in Italy – and I have to see that is true, at least for what I had tonight: a Calabrese pizza. Of course, I ended it with coffee (espresso) and was treated with a nice pastry.
During dinner, there was a protest that marched down Ave. de Mayo – probably associated with Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, especially since a former dictator was sentenced for torture committed in the 80s. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have been coming to Plaza de Mayo on Thursdays to protest the government’s lack of support in finding out what happened to ~30,000 Argentinians who were arrested and disappeared in the 1970s and 80s. The also run a café and bookstore close to where I am staying that may be a place to visit. I know this may sound weird, but seeing a protest on the first night I was here reminded me of the last time I saw a protest – this one in Barcelona and it occurred on the first night I was ever there. Interesting coincidence?
I made my way back to the B&B and figured out how all the keys work – never used skeleton keys before! And just taking it easy now until I decide if I have the energy to go to a milonga!