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Published: February 11th 2007
La Boca Man
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1999……….6wks SOUTH AMERICA-ARGENTINA, PERU
17th August, 1999 Buenos Aires
I can’t sleep. I hadn’t realized Buenos Aires was so far from OZ and that I would get so jet-lagged. It’s confusing to know or feel what day it is. What I still can’t work out is that I was going ahead in time and yet when I get to Buenos Aires having travelled about 15 hrs from Sydney with transit in New Zealand, it’s still the same day. No wonder my body feels weird with feeling tired but not wanting to sleep and a bit of a headache.
The international airport is 35km from the centre and the shuttle bus costs US$14 one way. The city was remarkably quiet because of siesta time but the peatonales (pedestrian malls) which go for whole blocks were busy with buskers, one cuple doing the tango to loud recorded music. The city is quite polluted in the streets with much of the sidewalks broken up quite badly.
“ A city that once prided itself on its European sophistication and liveability now shares the same problems as other Latin American mega cities- pollution, noise, decaying infrastructure and declining public services, unemployment and underemployment
and spreading shanty towns” (Lonely Planet) And yet while the city is all this the architecture in parts is very grand still and I think the common aphorism applies that “ an Argentinean is an Italian who speaks Spanish, wishes he were English and behaves as if he were French” (L.P.)
The revamped Galerias Pacifico shopping centre is spectacular with its old architecture mixed with designer shops under a ‘Michelangelo’ domed roof.
Surprise, Surprise. I finally went back to sleep at 5am, not sure whether I would sleep only to wake at 10am. I still feel very disorientated and my vision is blurry. I don’t have the energy to much and I am finding the language difficult as I don’t speak any Spanish and very few people (eg hotel, cafes) speak English. I am staying at the Hotel Maipu (US $20) which has seen past its day when it would have been somewhat grand with its tiled floors, marble entrance stairs etc. It appears French in design with touches of art deco. My room has the highest ceiling in a bedroom I have ever encountered. I have a balcony overlooking the street. It’s kind of nice but grotty with
Street art work at the port
age and the shower is in with the toilet which makes for a wet floor. The water is far from hot.
There doesn’t seem to be many tourists here, and as the Argentineans look European, I’m not obviously a tourist- So when I can’t speak Spanish they think I’m a bit strange. I spent the day wandering around the Plaza de Mayo and the Colon theatre, which I visited on a tour. I am starting to make sense of the city. I have enjoyed the European architecture, especially since it has been so long since I was in Europe. The ‘Casa Rosada’- the pink house- is the grand presidential palace with an interesting history. There are so many grand buildings here, but it was the Teatro Colon which really appealed. It is a world class theatre for ballet, opera and classical music. It was built in 1908, taking 18yrs to build, and occupies an entire block. The ‘golden room’ with its gold leaf ornamentation is imposing. The main composers adorn the doors and the floor is a fan shaped pattern of small white tiles. The theatre itself seats 2,500 people and has standing room for another 1.000 in the
‘heavens’ The building is on seven levels, counting the orchestra pit, and so the ‘heavens’ are pretty high. The curtain weighs 3 tons and there is an iron curtain that seals the theatre off in case of fire. The fact that it is off season and so not many European tourists meant that there was only 2 other people on the English tour. The Spanish tour had 30 or more. We were fortunate that the orchestra, with a visiting German conductor, were rehearsing and we sat up in the presidential seats and were able to get the real flavour of a performance.
Back to my room for a bit of a rest and then out for something to eat. Promo No.5- Salad, roll, ¼ chicken, glass wine & coffee for $6. I wish I didn’t have the coffee though as I didn’t sleep well most of the night and so I still feel jet-lagged.
18th August, 1999 Buenos Aires
I got some organisational things out of the way and then went to the Café Tortoni for some turn of the century ambience. Built in 1893 Café Tortoni is like something out of Vienna with its old carved woodwork
paintings and stained glass skylights. I’m sure Evita must have many a Café Cortado here at some stage. I caught the bus down to the old port at La Boca known for its colourful historical buildings. I could imagine things getting moving here with tango in the streets and markets on the weekends. It was bit quiet which was lovely as it gave time to reflect on the turn of the century architecture, now brightly painted in many colours. There was a famous artist who lived here in the 1920s who used the paint from the ships and started painting portraits of the workmen and then moved on to doing the buildings.
I returned to the centre feeling very tired and had a solid sleep sitting on the steps of the Teatro Colon in the sun for 50 minutes! I had gone back to the theatre to attend a free concert in the gold room- some 20 musicians with solo harp. I only had time to hear the first Debussy piece, which really suited the setting, before having to head off to get the bus to the airport for a 4hr flight to Lima. Arriving at the airport at
Street art 1
Back streets of Beunos Aires
12.30am, I spent the 3 ½ hr wait for my flight in comfortable lounges alongside 3 sleeping security guards at the Customs exit. It was very noisy & bright but I settled down with my eye patch and neck cushion and got some sleep. Flights started being called at 4am and we went out, from our now quiet area, to discover an amazingly crowded terminal with lines of people everywhere.
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