Hola from Buenos Aires,
Sometimes one gets a bit exasperated with late flights. Aerolíneas Argentinas is famously a bit lax on timetables and punctuality. But sometimes a traveller can be supremely thankful for their tardiness. This happened on exit from Caracas.
Not in possession of the exit tax, I had great tribulation extracting sufficient money from the machines (until helped by a very friendly extortionist) and started to panic about missing the flight to Buenos Aires. After eventually clearing security, sprinting towards the gate (Why does it have to be no. 24!!!), I was mightily relieved to see the plane was still on the ground. Not only did it mean I made the flight but the connection in Buenos Aires was missed and the airline put me up in a nice hotel in the city and booked me on the next flight, two days hence: a chance to see the city!
more European than Latin
The Argentinians see themselves as more European than Latin. They say they have the passion of the Spanish, the emotion of the Italians and the architecture of the French. They also have a laidback, slow attitude to life, which was very handy at the airport in Caracas.
The Argentinian beef is also famous – rightly or wrongly. I decided to try the local beef and took up the offer of a beckoning waiter at an outdoor restaurant on the main street, 9 de Julio Avenue. Slowly sipping on the vino, digesting the big steak (“straight from the pampas, for you”), I could hear a gathering cacophony in the vicinity. Soon a large group emerged from the side street, with percussion and megaphones. On first glance, they appeared to be a bit on the unorganised side. They were a motley group, bearing flags and placards and the entire group was enclosed by a police entourage.
The waiter answered my quizzical look, vouchsafing that this was a weekly event – a political protest – and that the street (very busy thoroughfare through the centrum) was closed off to allow the citizenry to exercise their democratic freedoms. The protest group – perhaps 200 – was very noisy and many of them wanted me to join them but there was absolutely no audience for their ventilations – not even a camera. Had I joined in, their audience would have been removed altogether.
9 de Julio Avenue
9 de Julio Avenue was widened into this enormous boulevarde under the orders of Juan Perón in the 1940s, presumably to modernise the city. It went from a congested street to eight lanes each way. As you can imagine, many buildings from the existing streetscape had to be demolished. At one end, the ornate French Embassy was in the way. And the French (remember the appreciation of French architecture here) refused to demolish the building. The French won the argument and the road bends at that end.
There was enough time to attend a tango performance, which turns out to be more than just being a spectator. There’s a lesson beforehand, a meal and then a grand performance of dancing and singing for quite a few hours. There was no going through the motions for these people. It was a brilliant show. I think it’s in song that Spanish speakers enjoy their language the most. Having learned eight steps in the lesson, I soon forgot them when the performance was on. These dancers are supremely fit and there’s apparently a lot more than eight steps.
I have to thank the Aerolíneas Argentinas people. This was a great stop. Sometimes, poor punctuality has a silver lining.