South America Day 1: to Argentina – virgin territory
I’ve never set foot in South America. The nearest I’ve been is Tijuana in 1980, the day John Lennon died. So on landing after 13 hours of flying it felt very far from home, that well-off-my-manor feeling I get in South London.
On the way in to Buenos Aires in the taxi I spoke to the driver in a mix of my little Italian, my even less Spanish, and a bit of extrapolation from French – it just about worked. We passed two trucks full of live cows.
Most of the journey in was heavy traffic on big boulevards. I could see the European thing everyone talks about but mainly in areas punctuated with boxy modern architecture. It was only on Day 2 I saw the real charming McCoy.
I’m writing this on Day 2 in El Rosedal, a beautiful sun-dappled formal garden with a bust of Shakespeare a few yards away (a gift from the British community in 1964 to mark Shakey’s 400th birthday, which seems to have survived the little unpleasantness around the Malvinas unscathed). There are fountains gushing, a couple of pretty girls drawing, pink gravel paths and fresh verdant grass – what more could one want?
On arrival at the Plaza Hotel, pulling up into a classic arcade worthy of the classic name, I had the thousand yard stare of overnight travel and was therefore relieved to find the room ready at 10:30 in the morning. I did some typical modern free overtime for work before heading out for a bite to eat with my full tourist kit – small shoulder bag, camera, trashy novel and a free map of the city.
Put a toe in the water of the ciudad, enough to find a homely Italian cafe where I sat reading a book about Nazis over a plate of papas (I’m not sure if that is a quaint nickname for potatoes or their official designation – or is it the pope? [who is of course Argentine]). After a much craved for coffee I went to visit the British Council offices opposite the hotel on Plaza San Martin. Beautifully decked out in wood and curves I got to meet all the staff from Receptionist to Director and hear about the work of the greatest diplomatic institution in Britain alongside the BBC World Service.
A bit more flaneur-type wandering with camera (I rarely use it these says due to phone handiness), then coffee and cake at the Florida Garden, an old school cafe where I sat at the mirrored bar under the solicitous eye of a smartly liveried waiter. The weather was London drizzle – while London enjoyed the tail-end of its Indian summer. Today is officially the first day of Autumn in GB. Here in BA it’s Spring.
I hit the luxurious sack early to reduce the stare by 998 yards. It worked.