Saturday, 26 April 2014


8th - 10th Apr 2014

Argentine Air Force post Falklands.
Back to Buenos Aires in the rain. In fact it cleared up by mid-morning and the remaining two days I spent there were warm and sunny with blue skies. I noticed (that evening)  the weather reports on BBC World TV were telling us that storms and heavy rain were occurring here and the foul weather was to continue. It wasn't and didn't. Not only are these weather 'experts' unable to forecast remotely accurately, they can't even get the present weather correct. It makes me entirely cynical when reading weather reports, past, present and future.

A relaxing couple of days spent wandering around Town. Left: A delightful 'Oirish Bear', one of several in the city, but this one, in Thames St, Palermo district, was a particularly hospitable watering hole.

It served a selection of 'home brewed' beer (right) and excellent food. Definitely recommended.

I couldn't resist a return visit to the Tango 'milonga', the Canning Salon, in Palermo (left). Quite an extraordinary, and popular, venue. Very old-fashioned but the clientele varies from old-age pensioners to youngsters who all thoroughly enjoy their tangoing, some very good at it including a few extravagantly dressed 'poseurs' showing off their dancing and chat-up techniques. As with most Argentine entertainment it doesn't get busy until about 2.00am which is normally well past my bedtime. The drink is cheap, despite which I remained firmly a spectator.

Another common sight on the streets is the dog-walker (right). This lady had 10 in tow. I would imagine the scope for a major fur-flying bust up is quite high.

There are several large grassy parks in the north and north-west of the city including a botanical gardens (infested by cats) and a large zoological park. Left: A statue in the botanical gardens.

......and an impressive monument outside.

Left: Horse-drawn carriages are available as per Central Park in New York.

Right and below: Modern art dotted around the parks. I was quite intrigued by the 'aeroplanes and aircrew' and the Don Quixote style horsemen, all made from scrap metal.

Right: The pilot...!

Right: "Don't Fry For Me Argentina"!

On the day I was due to get to the airport there was to be a full-scale General Strike in Buenos Aires. Typical! I had to hire a private car (no taxis, let alone metro or buses) and set off very early to avoid potential 'demos'. The streets at 6.00am were, understandably, remarkably empty. I got to the airport at 7.00am for a 12.15pm departure. Fortunately BA Intl. airport has a decent restaurant/cafe with free unlimited WiFi  so able to amuse myself adequately. I'm still a bit pissed-off that I had my Kindle nicked in Mendoza. I managed to spend my remaining pesos on a bottle of duty-free and pots of the rather disgusting sweet goo that is popular in Patagonia. They will make excellent Christmas presents.
Initially to Madrid, Barajos, airport. As explained at the beginning of this journal Barajos is one of the worst airports I have experienced. Bugger all facilities, no free WiFi, confusing signage and a rather bolshy lot of jobsworths to not help you (none of the information desks was manned). It put me in a bad mood. Of course, I had to re-check in my duty-free booze because it was not packed in an EU-compliant tamper-proof bag and also the 'dangerous' pots of potentially explosive Patagonian goo, and virtually strip-searched going through security. It involved lots of queuing. Actually it didn't really because I adopted my well tried and tested anti-queue  technique. This involves, quite simply, walking with great confidence up to the front of any queue and stepping in. I have yet to find anyone who objects; they either assume you have a right to be there or are just not prepared to 'make a scene'. It really works, believe me! Some call it 'queue barging'. I call it 'enterprising'.
So back to grotty Gatport Airwick at 8.00am the next morning. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the passport/immigration check. The staff were actually wearing smart(ish) uniforms and an unusually polite lady directed me to the 'electronic' check-in. This was queue-less and simply involved scanning my passport while looking into a camera. Magic; in and out in less than 5 minutes. 

My observations on Argentina:
1. Travel. Excellent, good value, comfortable and reliable buses with good roads (other than parts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego). No trains, even when advertised. Not ripped off by taxis (avoiding the obvious bandits). Flying as per Europe; expensive with tedious procedures and restrictions.
2. Food. Excellent steaks and 'empanadas' but not so hot on vegetables. A 'veggie' would find it challenging in Argentina. Monopoly of processed cheese and ham sandwiches at cafes (to the exclusion of all other). Cheese (processed) features largely on all menus. Although seemingly 'queso' obsessed they don't even appear to have a selection of other more exotic types. Poor breakfasts with a lack of hot food and, if anything other than tea/coffee with a sticky croissant, cold processed cheese and ham! Good cheap wine.
3. Accommodation. Generally excellent, lots available and great value at the lower end. Curiously, in the less than luxury places, no plugs in bathroom sinks! Always helpful and polite staff which are also apparent at bus stations, restaurants, information offices and just about everywhere else.
4. Comms. Free WiFi and often quick broadband at all hotels and many bars/cafes.
5. Money. Irritating necessity to hunt out 'blue market' exchange for your foreign currency. The rates varied inconsistently from around 12 pesos/USD in BA to 9 pesos/USD in El Calafate. The 'official' rate was 7.8 and thus ATMs were out of the question. I am not an economist so don't understand the complexities which underlie this system.
6. Things to see and do. Lots, with varied cultures, geography and climate. Slightly disappointed by the much acclaimed trout fishing down south!

In general a hassle-free (apart from losing my Kindle), safe, most enjoyable and educational journey. It was also great value for money, provided you got a good exchange rate!

That's it amigos! Hasta luego.........Where next?


  1. Indeed, where next? And how to let us all know you are on your travels. Picked this one up a bit late but, so enjoyed it - even the Kindle heist had me in stitches. Always happens when you least expect it - sorry I shouldn't laugh. I have been coy about my injuries Matt in order not to worry family in the UK, hence my response on your blog and not mine. Nothing too serious but did cut the end off one of my fingers on the table saw and the metal lid on a dumpster crashed down on my hands cracking bones in the other hand and causing some quite nasty lacerations. Funny thing, the splint on the other hand saved it from any serious injury. It has slowed me down a bit and I am currently having a couple of days rest as I had the stitches out on Saturday and within a couple of hours the wound had burst open. Oh well, could do with a break anyway. Other than that things are coming along quite well and at last now have music and books to amuse me.

    1. Wow!! Sounds remarkably painful (especially losing a bit of finger). Such are the hazards of being a builder I suppose. Perhaps you have been fortunate not to have had any other serious injuries up to now, i.e. falling off the roof. I once gashed my hand badly, wrecked the ceiling and ruined the carpet (blood everywhere) just putting up a simple smoke detector. Haven't ventured into DIY since. At least you haven't damaged your feet, so far. Keep up the good work. Everyone is most impressed!