samedi 15 juin 2013

Buenos Aires - 1. The Prize at the End

15 hours is a long time for any one travel leg, and after conversing many airport gate and terminal changes, moving walkways and layovers (Houston, of which, had the best shopping), we arrived in Buenos Aires with all its glorious horns blowing and exhaust fumes rising.
Buenos Aires had the first customs in the world we had seen with photo and fingerprint, or biological data entry through passport control. That made me very uneasy for some reason – too many American conspiracy theory films where they use the bio-data you’ve entered into their system for some other purpose I guess. The countries in Argentina also have a $95USD six-month entry visa for visitors to each country. For a family of four, $380 entry into each country, we would think twice about ‘popping over to Uruguay for a day’. The entry visa charge would keep us on this side of the Delta.

Our driver was superb. He negotiated the clot of traffic sieving into the city streets calmly and effortlessly, giving us ample time to adjust to the air full of noise. He pointed out the new Pope’s church, “Buenos Aires’ Pope”, where he says mass, and the best local pizzerias. “B.A.”, as locals call it, not to be confused with British Airways at all, has a strong Italian European influence from its earlier colonial days. In fact, the first comment from the boys was, “this looks exactly like Paris!”

Unlike Paris, however, your money will go a great deal farther in BA. For half the price of a Parisian hotel room, we rented a grand old apartimento in the centro of Buenos Aires. The two elderly caretakers of the apartimento diligently walked us through the historic rooms with Italian pillars and French balconies, through a central courtyard, or parilla, complete with water fountain. The rooms had all of their original century-old tile work, Persian rungs and local weaving on the walls. We were stunned. We expected a small, cramped city apartment. What we got was a Landmark Trust. For a group of weary travellers, it was the prize at the end of the aeroport tunnel.

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