A Travellerspoint blog

TRANSPORTATION STRIKE HITS ARGENTINA

AN ENTRY DEDICATED TO OUR COMPANIONS STUCK IN BRAZIL

sunny 28 °C

So as planned, the transportation strike went ahead. Did it transpire as expected? Well maybe for some but for us, there were some things that worked out better than others. As it happens, some taxis were running so I may have been able to do my course had it not been cancelled, and it made it possible to do a few things today. Completely unexpected was that all flights were cancelled including that of our travel companions, the Gabriels, who were traveling via Sao Paulo, Brazil. If nothing else, their adventure gave me something to write about since our day, like the city of Buenos Aires, was pretty sleepy.

But let’s start at the beginning. After a really great sleep, I got up and checked the internet for the Gabriel’s flight status. I learned right away that their flight was cancelled and spent some time pondering about the right thing to do. Text Sherry and have here completely stressed on landing but with hope of getting ahead of the other 100 in the same boat? or let her find out when she got to the gate? I opted to tell her and arm her with anything that might help including phone numbers. I started emailing our travel company to see what they could do. Really though, I think we all knew today was out. The strike had the airport shut down.

Isaac and I had a leisurely breakfast. Another of Marcelo’s interesting facts is that Argentinians don’t eat what we eat for breakfast. Instead he tells us sweets are more common, like pastries, and he likes croissants. This would explain the breakfast spread at our hotel which includes cookies, brownies and lots of pastries. This morning, Isaac decided to try an unknown that came in a mini mason jar and was there each morning. He tastes, he smiles, I taste and proclaim, “it’s freakin’ caramel!” with brownie crumble on top no less. The dulce de leche is seriously everywhere. This was straight up rich creamy caramel. What can ya do? I had one too as a chaser to my oatmeal and flax. What I don’t get is that everyone is thin and beautiful yet the meal regime has them taking high tea at 4pm (with sweets) and dinner at 8pm or later.

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From there it was back to our room til noon corresponding with our company and Sherry trying to get them sorted out. Through text, and I am sure I am missing a lot of really “interesting” moments with the Gabriels, I learned first that they had no new flight, and that it might be 2-3 days. Then, that they had a flight at 4 am tomorrow but no boarding passes. That they could not leave the airport because they did not have a visa for Brazil. Then, that the airline (GOL) was providing a hotel. Only to later learn, after 2-3 hours, they finally got boarding passes and hotel voucher but the hotel would not check them in. The staff did not believe that Ellen was their daughter. There was nothing they could do to convince them. I was thinking that Ellen does look like a gorgeous Brazilian girl and well, Sherry and Tony, do not. But kept that to myself figuring I best not test their humor at this point.

We decided to head out for a walk and get some fresh air considering there was nothing else for us to do. We visited a nearby park with a beautiful photography exhibit for Down’s Syndrome Awareness. You do find treasures when you are a little stranded (as opposed to a lot stranded like our friends). We walked up the famous pedestrian street Calle Florida where we stumbled upon this gorgeous bookstore preserved from 1939 with sections of original books. We also went to the Opera House in hopes of a tour but this too, was closed. At this point, Isaac wasn’t feeling the best. Just a little off. Gees what a bunch I got for travel companions!! Marcelo to the rescue, I texted him and he called the Evita Museum to confirm it was open and assured us we should be safe to get a taxi home if we got one there. It would be a really long walk back. So I dragged Isaac and we did a short visit there. The best part was her dresses and the live footage playing in the rooms. People just loved her. I really had to get there because my niece Katie absolutely loves her and would love to see it. We signed her name in the guest book too cause she was there in spirit. From there we took a taxi home so I could give Isaac some advil, pepto and put him to bed. He is starting to come around two hours later.

The exhbit

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Around town

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The bookstore and Isaac checked out McDs to see what was on the menu.

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The Evita Museum

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Meanwhile, back in Brazil, a lovely English speaking agent allowed the Gabriels into the lounge and proceeded to get the police involved to confirm that Sherry and Tony were not pedophiles and alas, sometime later, they got their rooms. In between all that, there was a text saying that their meals were dropped and spilled over an x-ray machine somewhere along the way. You just can’t make this shit up.

Here is the one of Sherry's facebook posts that followed all this:

Sherry Collins Gabriel This is our "hotel room". Omg! Took the key to get a shower. Opened the first door to find a very hairy guy on the toilet brushing his teeth. Behind door #2 was a Japanese guy doing his pee!! What an adventure so far!

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We all hoping for better things tomorrow. Hopefully when I wake Isaac's tummy will be settled and there will be 3 more of us on this adventure.

Posted by curlygirl 14:50 Archived in Argentina Tagged museum buenos aires eva evita peron Comments (5)

A DAY IN URUGUAY

BAILEY FEET NAVIGATE THE COBBLESTONE STREETS OF COLONIA

sunny 28 °C

Our day started with an early rise in order to catch our 8:15 ferry to the town of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It wouldn’t have been bad except we were exhausted last night and I stayed up blogging. In any case, the ferry was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel so it was pretty simple unlike the process of purchasing tickets online from home which took about two weeks.

The ferry or the Busquebus is no rinky dink operation. The terminal is huge and the boat was beautiful. Both the Argentinian Immigration officer and the Uruguay one sit side by side in the same booth so as quickly as you are stamped out of Argentina, you are welcomed into Uruguay. The ferry ride is only an hour and we both had a little nap.

Our boat....

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Shortly after arriving we opted to do a tour with Beatriz and hopped in a van with her and 3 Argentinians and 3 Brazilians. For two straight hours we walked and listened as Beatriz would holler ArgenTINa and ramble in Spanish then BRAzil, with a repeat performance in Portuguese and finally a third time in English. There was no break except with the Argentinians and Brazilians debated the political states of their countries. We did learn, however, that Colonia is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay with a population of 27,000 people. It was recently named a world UNESCO site and its’ beauty and history is preserved in the old city. The city changed hands between the Portuguese and the Spanish many times in its history. The streets are all cobblestone and can be distinguished as Portuguese or Spanish based on the existence of a sidewalk or not.

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It was a pretty quiet day really. We simply wandered the streets. Had lunch at the restaurant El Drugstrore and even lay down in the middle of the square under the trees watching the parrots fly about. I enjoyed taking pictures here, it was so quaint and peaceful.

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These trees drop leaves that look like Maple Leaves

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The walls by the river in the new part of the city. I loved these. Hence a million pictures.

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Lots of expensive homes overlooking the river Plata

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We returned at 6pm after a short ferry delay on an even bigger boat and opted to just grab some empanadas and bring them back to the room for dinner. Food is quite expensive and restaurants don’t open til 8pm which is approaching bed time on a busy day so this was the easy and economic choice.

Cruise ship? nope, our ride home.

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So now we are relaxing and trying to make a plan for tomorrow. Sadly the transportation unions have announced a full strike tomorrow and so my photography course has been cancelled as there will be no way to navigate the city, including taxis. All we know is that the strike is in protest of the minimum rate at which income tax must be paid. This also means all our plans for tomorrow are a bust since they were taking place on the other side of the city. So for now, we plan to sleep in, enjoy breakfast and see what is open and closed. Our hotel says by 10, it should be known what will be opened and then we will plan to walk more in the area around the hotel. I think a tour of the opera house is in order but Isaac is less enthused.

A few more from today.

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Our buddy who escorted us today.

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And last but not least, a selfie of me and Isaac. We had quite a laugh because I suck at taking selfies. I tell Isaac I want a picture of us and I am going to take a selfie. After 3 attempts, I finally got a good one, or that's what I thought until Isaac says, "mom, I am not even in it!” I give him the phone to take over. He got this one.

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Posted by curlygirl 17:01 Archived in Uruguay Tagged uruguay colonia Comments (3)

WHAT’S NEW BUENOS AIRES?

"I'm new, I wanna say I'm just a little stuck on you"

sunny 27 °C

Hola from beautiful Buenos Aires

We are just back at our hotel resting our feet before dinner after a wonderful start to our holiday.

We arrived at our hotel around 5pm yesterday after 26 hours of straight forward travel. The worst part was the 6 hour wait in Toronto but even that wasn't too bad since we were in the lounge. Isaac was asleep immediately upon sitting on the airplane and despite his insistence that he doesn't sleep on planes, he slept almost the entire flight. I slept well too. It was great that we had an empty seat between us. We had an incredible view of the Andes as we approached Santiago, Chile. We had about an hour there to stretch our legs before continuing on to Buenos Aires.

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After an eleven hour sleep we woke at 8:30, grabbed some breakfast and met our amazing guide, Marcelo. We spent some time in the lobby planning our day and asking questions before heading out to our first stop in the downtown area, and the Plaza de Mayo where we were introduced to some Argentinian history. Marcelo is a wealth of information and I hope I get most, or some of this right since I promised to send him copy of this. We saw a beautiful church (Metropolitan Cathedral) that looks like any government building, and could easily be missed. It is the main church where many officials speak and holds the mausoleum of San Martan, who liberated Argentina from being a Spanish Colony. Ok, here is one of Marcelo’s interesting facts. Guess where most of the people of Argentina emigrated/originate from? It would explain the all the pizza and pasta shops around. You got it! Italy. Marcelo says we must eat pizza, pasta and ice cream here. Two down already. The architecture in the square looks very European and was in fact build in the early 1900s influenced by the country’s booming economy and European background. I found this street to look like the Champs de Elysee in Paris.

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The square also tells an amazing story of a darker time in history during the late 1970s and early 1980s under a dictatorship rule (known as the dirty war) when many of the educated and outspoken simply disappeared. Two mothers, later joined by thousands, began to march one afternoon a week for many years trying to bring attention to their missing children. Eventually when the marches ended, symbols of their cause were painted in circles where they walked in the form of their handkerchiefs.

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Next we saw the famous Casa Rosada where Eva Peron stood on the balcony speaking to the people of Buenos Aires. Of course I sang a little here. For some reason, they wouldn't let me on the balcony to do my wave so I had to stand below. Seriously, they must not have realized I was here. They let Madonna do it, after much controversy, during the scene in the movie. Anyway, I did the next best thing and went inside and did my pee.

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From there, as per Isaac’s request, we hit the San Telmo Sunday market. San Telmo is the oldest barrio (neighborhood) of Buenos Aires. It is a well-preserved area of the Argentine metropolis and is characterized by its colonial buildings. Cafes, tango parlors and antique shops line the streets. At one point the Jewish population lived here but during the yellow fever outbreak moved to another barrio, Recoleta. We walked the market for quite a while poking at the shops and getting some money exchanged at the blue market rate. The blue market rate is widely quoted here in prices. The official rate is about 8.5 pesos in a US dollar, the rate I got today was 12 pesos so it makes quite a difference. The economy is in bad shape and so the demand for US dollars is high as their purchase is restricted and government controlled here. We also visited a fruit and vegetable market.

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I wanted to buy one of these old soda bottles.

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One of the oldest pharmacies in BA preserved but filled with modern products.

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Next we jumped in a taxi and went towards Recoleta. Our first stop was at a restaurant for lunch. We elected to eat at a local joint that served only pizza and empanadas. My first memory of empanadas are the ones Marina Hilario would make and as I was telling Marcelo about the Filipino empanadas, he told me that the Philippines were also a Spanish Colony at one time. Any way, he also recommended a slice of the most popular pizza in the restaurant. It was an onion pizza with cream cheese. Although Isaac was reluctant he went for it and it has become his mission to find one of these again before we leave. I had the empanadas and they did not disappoint. I feel bad for my celiac friend who will be joining us in a few days. Yummy flour products.

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Recoleta is the most affluent of the neighborhoods which was immediately obvious. The atmosphere was completely different. After viewing some of the local mansions we made our way to the very famous Recoleta cemetery. There is no way to describe the beauty, elegance and incredible architecture of this place. In this working cemetery there are 14 acres of above ground tombs. Each tomb is purchased by a family and the head of the family gets the main floor but each tomb is built with 2 stories below for family members. The tomb is the responsibility of the family which means they must clean and maintain it. If they run out of room, any family besides the mother and father on the main floor may be cremated and put in smaller boxes to make room. It the town taxes are not paid after 40 years (1% of the tomb’s value), you are kicked out and the tomb can be sold. I found one I liked that is for sale for $250,000 usd. It isn't a big one which explains the deal. I am taking collections. I told Isaac if that doesn't work out, he has to cremate me and take my ashes to all 7 continents. I figure that is a good deal for both of us. Marcelo figures I need to leave him enough money to do it flying business class. Cost of the tomb is determined not only by size but also by whether or not you have a main alley or a side street. It is seriously like a city. We visited the most famous tomb here, but one of the least spectacular, the tomb of first lady Eva Peron who ironically is buried in the Duarte tomb (her family’s). Did you know her body went missing for 12 years and was found in Italy? That’s another amazing story. We loved having a guide today. So much interesting information.

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My life motto represented on many tombs. A word from the dead.....Time Flies, enjoy life now!

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After saying good bye to our guide, we wandered the Recoleta market, where tons of people were enjoying their Sunday. Since today was Palm Sunday there were lots of people carrying and selling leaves. Not palm leaves but what seems to be the local representation of the palm leaf. We then stopped at the recommended ice cream place for a rest and a snack. Yum. Everything comes with Dulce de leche, even my coconut ice cream.
From there it was back to the hotel for a rest and finally supper nearby.

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As you can tell we had a very busy day. We would never have covered so much or learned as much without Marcelo. It was a great investment. I am sure I have forgotten many other wonderful things but he told us that was ok as long as we remember and understand the whys of this magnificent city.

One of the biggest surprises was just how gorgeous and clean this city is (besides seeing all the Italian food) Sigh. Looking forward to sharing this with the Gabriel’s when they arrive on Tuesday.

Pizza

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By the way, if you don’t get today’s blog title, you may need to brush upon your Evita lyrics ‘cause they may show up again. These are from the song, “Buenos Aires” which I have been humming and singing all day.

“What ya gonna get in me? Just a little bit of star quality”…….

Posted by curlygirl 19:22 Archived in Argentina Tagged san buenos aires recoleta eva evita peron telmo Comments (11)

THINGS THAT DON’T SOUND ANY BETTER IN FRENCH

I AM JUST WAITING FOR A SAUSAGE MONSIEUR

overcast 11 °C

I wasn’t really planning to post today but I did find a few amusing things to share on my after work walk today.

In reality, work trips are not all that glamourous. I did leave the hotel at 7:45 this morning and return at 6:30 this evening in the dark. I was really feeling the jet lag after a full day in a warm crowded room but decided it was much too early to retire to my room. Besides, my pre-Christmas diet hasn’t been going that well with that heavy supper last night, petit pain au chocolate for breakfast, and a smoked salmon baguette for lunch. You get the idea. So I skipped the social meal this evening and decided to walk and explore the downtown area. I have determined that there is no Christmas shopping to be done here unless you want Christmas chocolate (not cheap)

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I wandered streets full of shops and only found clothes, perfume shops, pharmacies and the usual range of sweets described last night. There are no Christmas decorations to buy although the city is full of lights and Christmas is in full swing.

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One of the neatest things was this square that had a large building filled with Christmas trees full of paper tree ornaments. On closer inspection, I could see that this is where people write their Christmas wishes to Santa. I saw young and old filling the 20 or more trees with their wishes and lots of kids waiting nearby to meet Pere Noel. There was even a kids Christmas movie playing on the big screen outside.

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I only read a handful and had elected to take a picture of this one before I even read it. For those that don’t speak French, this person wants weed to be legalized. Perhaps they should meet the dope smoking Santa that was on the cover of the German newspaper.

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It also appears to be duck season. Or maybe they just eat a lot of duck here. Duck fois gras, duck parts, duck pate and so I decide to join the obsession and have a duck sausage for supper (ok...so much for the healthy walk). I had paid and was waiting patiently when one of the gentlemen asked if I wanted to order, to which I replied, “Non, J’attend un saucisse monsieur”. I got a few chuckles.

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Just a few pictures to share as I wandered the market, sausage and bags in one hand, while trying to grab a couple semi blurry shots in low light with one hand…but you get the idea.

Vin Chaud (Mulled wine)

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My dessert, one of my favorites, meringue... and I know I don't need that either. When I paid for it (2 euros), I had given her a combination of euro, Canadian, and a Belize dollar. Time to clean out my wallet.

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Market fun. It is unlikely I will see the city in the daylight

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Posted by curlygirl 12:19 Archived in France Tagged market christmas toulouse airbus Comments (4)

JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE

VISITING AIRBUS AND THE TOULOUSE CHRISTMAS MARKET

overcast 10 °C

Bonjour mes amis

I think it goes without saying that sometimes my job is really great. Not only because it occasionally brings me to beautiful places in foreign countries but also because it allows an aviation geek like me to have access to things that I would never see any other way.

I spent my day today at Airbus. Yup, the place where they manufacture the airplanes.
During our lunch break we had the opportunity to visit three of their aircraft, the A320, the new A350 and the enormous A380. I was surprised to learn that I was the only really enthusiastic one about this tour. It is probably because I am with a bunch of aviation experts who live this stuff every day. Nevertheless, I dragged them all along and will be willing to bet most would admit we had a lot of fun running around and under the A380.

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After work Kim and I eagerly hit the Christmas market and I hate to say it was a disappointment. It was simply lovely, but I am a little shocked to be empty handed in the Christmas shopping department. It was certainly more manageable without the crowds and the lights and people were spectacular, looking even more so as I sipped my hot mulled wine. Sigh. Most of the market was just “stuff” as my good friend Tom puts it and there is little evidence of anything Christmas. Then again, everything pales in magnitude to the excessive North American traditions and show. After searching for a few Christmas ornaments for gifts, I found one for about $35. Sorry friends. The food booths, both fresh and preserved looked amazing. I somehow managed to spend about $75 on 4 pieces of really pretty nougat. Obviously I didn’t check the cost first. My luck did not improve when I popped into some shops so I am afraid, I am without my final few gifts.

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This evening I just relaxed and enjoyed a lovely walk through the empty streets of Toulouse and enjoyed a fantastic meal which included fois gras and a scallop and shrimp risotto. You just have to enjoy the French food while you are here. I am still amazed that every third shop is somehow related to food, either a boulangerie, a patisserie, a chocolate shop or a restaurant, yet the people are tiny.

Hopefully I will time to explore some more tomorrow evening. I think there is lots to see in this quaint city.

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Posted by curlygirl 14:58 Archived in France Tagged market christmas toulouse airbus Comments (6)

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