So, we then set off to tackle the next task of the day – to pop into the central office for international post and pick up Sam’s Christmas present from Philly. It’s times like this that we are so very, VERY grateful that we live in a country like Australia. We have (for the moment, at least) a government-owned and run postal service, and it’s bloody brilliant! In Argentina, it is privatised, and what a dog’s breakfast with a bucket of sick thrown in, it is! EVERY single international package arriving in the country, comes to the one central sorting office (which is in a very dodgy part of town, by the way) and the recipient must collect it from there. None of this getting a little card in your letter box and popping up to Glenbrook post office and waiting all of 5 minutes for the parcel. No, siree! You take a number and wait for the privilege of presenting your paperwork, and are then issued with another number, while you wait for them to find your parcel. Now, remember, that it was a couple of days after Christmas….Sam began with number 273, and they were at 65! John and Nic were told to go and amuse themselves for an hour or so, and return. Done. Walked back into town (from the wrong side of the tracks), and found the Teatro Colón (well, we found the back of it, but it was so flash, we thought it was the front!). Weren’t allowed in, of course. Caught a cab back to Sam. Of course, we didn’t allow enough time for her to have been completely done, as, when we left, we didn’t actually know what the procedure was or how long it would take. We waited with her for nearly an hour, by which time she had disappeared into another area of the centre, and then she reappeared and released us, most adamantly. We didn’t argue, but offered to get her food, which she declined, and we left for lunch. We found Tancat for our midday meal (the salads were fine) then went home to read and relax.
After our tiring day full of Argentinian bureaucracy, dinner was a simple affair around the corner – pizza, salad and wine, followed by ice-cream from ‘Freddo,’ even though we were full!
Since our exploration of the history of Buenos Aires was far from complete, the following day we walked to Plaza de Mayo and checked out all the important buildings there. The Metropolitan Cathedral was our first stop. Didn’t actually look like a cathedral, more a law court, or bank, with its Grecian columns and imposing doors. It has been remodelled and renovated throughout the years, with a tacked on dome section towards the rear, which from the inside is very impressive, but from the exterior, looks like an after thought. There was political graffiti and paint that looked like blood spatter on the front, showing the objections of many to the Catholic Church and its anti-abortion stance, (among other things!). This type of graffiti is cleaned off regularly, and as quickly as it is removed, something similar takes its place. The Casa Rosada was also impressive. Much nicer now that the colour is due to actual paint rather than ox blood! It was from this building that Evita and Peron (and others in their time) made their speeches to ‘the people.’ The park in the centre of the plaza was a little unusual, not in its landscaping, or its monuments, but in the large, temporary, high fence that stretched completely across the breadth of the park (parallel to Casa Rosada) – almost like a blockade against any attempt to march on the building to make a political statement. While it appeared to be a temporary barricade, the grass was growing up through it as though it had been there for quite some time. Have they not heard of ‘whipper snippers?’
We caught the historic rickety old train in the metro with the wooden carriages for a couple of stops along Line A and back, just for the experience. Cost about 25 cents. We then walked a damned long way to Puerto Madero and had one of the worst meals of the trip. We had visions of a BA version of Darling Harbour, and it so wasn’t. It’s a very posh and exclusive area, but we decided to not to go to the hideously expensive restaurant recommended in the guide book, and, because it was getting late, and we were tired from walking a damned long way, we settled. It only took us 2 and half hours to get our crappy set menu of the day. We got out of there as quickly as we could (ha!), and caught a cab back to our haven.
Pre arvo nap, some further exploration of our local market ensued, and Nic found a backpack to replace, not the bag stolen, but her Hedgren, which had started to disintegrate! She is very happy with her new Samsonite. Returned, slept, and set out for our milonga in San Telmo (no dinner necessary after our catastrophic lunch). We had a tango lesson and watched REAL tango dancers in a lovely old time dance hall. Again, I ask – can EVERYONE dance in Buenos Aires? Bed at 1:30am (and we were nearly the first to leave!).
The next day we went to ‘Abasto’ – the biggest shopping centre/mall in Buenos Aires. It had an amazing array of kids entertainment options – there was even an indoor ferris wheel! For the gigantic kids hall, you had to show a passport if you were an adult unaccompanied by children. Safety first! Lots to look at in this mall, but not much bought – WANTED to, but they didn’t have the Merrells in Nic’s size, nothing bigger than a size 7! Argentinians must have tiny feet (maybe THAT’S why they can all dance!). Went to the food hall and found a semi-restaurant sushi experience that was most civilised, and MOST yum! Finished the mall experience with handmade chocolates and took a cab home. We grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge and some chips and took a taxi to the gardens to lie under the trees and read books (and eat chips and drink wine!). Most pleasant. However, the need for a lav brought us home early – that and the now compulsory nap (for Nic, 20 minutes, for Sam, 2 hours!). Got some blogging done, too (slowly catching up!).
We had another appointment this evening with a love dear to our hearts – the Park Hyatt Cheese Room. It was a superdooper indulgence again – beginning with a glass of champers, then a different 7 cheeses, with 3 wines to match – 3 ‘taster’ sizes of wine, followed by a full glass of our favourite. Sebastian, the Maitre D’ invited us to the New Year’s Eve party, even though we weren’t going there for dinner. He said to ask for him if we decided to come, and he would ‘get us in.’ Sweet!
New Year’s Eve was an eventful experience. We began the day searching for a place for pedicures, but there were no appointments to be had, as it seemed EVERYONE in BA was after one to dizzy up their tootsies for high-heeled strappy numbers, even the men. We abandoned that search and took a cab to La Boca to see Caminito (‘Little Street,’ with many colourfully painted corrugated iron style houses, that look like a mini art gallery on the street). There was more to see there than we expected (although many huge tourist buses creak in, unload, tourists shop and snap for 20 minutes, reload, choof off). Enjoyed pizza and beer (again in ice cold tankards) at an outdoor café, and watched the resident performance couple tango away in front of us. She was working it, and us, but he was phoning it in. More conviction, man!
Did a little bit of shopping at the markets and then headed home. We had only about 10 minutes before the cleaner appeared, so we quickly grabbed some supplies and headed out to the park near the cemetery for a repeat of yesterday’s agenda – wine, and reading (no chips today, all gone). On the way, succumbed to the temptation of ice-cream (piled high in these ridiculously tiny cones, which is a dangerous combo for Nic). Once in the park, we napped for a while under a tree, then John went for a wander to take photos, while Sam and Nic read books.
Once the maid had cleared, we went back to apartment for a proper nap and to make preparations for our special New Year’s Eve Tango show and dinner. Opened a bottle of Verve to get us in the mood. All dolled up, we went next door (to Loi Suites Hotel) for our 7:15pm pick up. Waiting…waiting…waiting. Our transfer didn’t show. Went to the concierge desk for help 3 times (first time, told not to worry, second, she tried to call number on flyer, third, the head concierge looked up another phone number on the net and rang. They gave him some bullshit story about how we were supposed to contact them to confirm transfer. Absolute rubbish.) They sent a car immediately…2 hours late!! We were all mighty pissed off. Got there about 9:30pm and were whisked through 3 courses in 24 minutes. The food was nice, but we were very uncomfortable afterwards! The tango show was great – the singing was very good, dancing excellent, musos fantastic. After the hour and a half show we moved to the ballroom next door where we danced the New Year in. Crusty can certainly shake her groove thing. By the end of the evening (we left at 1:45am), John and Nic felt a little old and tired.