Saturday, February 13, 2016

Arriving in Buenos Aires

13 February 2016

On Wednesday, we headed to the airport to fly to Argentina.  Richard was wheeling his new suitcase (because after three and a half years on the road, his old one finally gave out), and I had my trusty Big Wheelie.  We were flying KLM because they had a great price on the flight.

Turned out Richard's bag was just a bit over the limit.  But there was a special deal to pay for an upgrade, which included more luggage weight, and was nearly the same price as he'd need to pay for the extra luggage weight.  A no brainer, right?  Plus I had all this leftover Chilean cash, so I figured I'd upgrade as well.

So we flew KLM's business class, and each had a window seat!  It was delightful, and I got some great photos of the Andes as we flew across the continent!

KLM is the airline of the Netherlands - and their flight safety feature film was, well, Dutch.  And incredibly silly.  It was animation, but mimicking the blue on white painting of Delftware, the famous ceramic art of the city of Delft.  I sat there laughing, though no one else seemed to find it amusing whatsoever.  Art teacher humor, maybe.

At the end of the flight, the attendants walked around handing out little ceramic houses, the kind of knickknack that is found all over Amsterdam.  Cute, but not for the life of a rolling luggager.  I thanked the attendant and explained I didn't have a home, so I was better off without it.  (Though I did consider stealing the lovely blue and white dish our fruit tartlet was served in during lunch.)

Okay, so, Buenos Aires!!!!!  As we usually do, we booked a hotel in the old part of the city, right in the center of town.  Things are busy during the week, though now on Saturday many of the shops and cafés are closed and there isn't the crowd we saw during the weekdays.

The buildings are incredible!  Vaguely French in style, decidedly European influenced from the 1700-1800s, and on into the Art Nouveau period, these buildings are ornate, decorative, and still in use.   

Many of these old buildings have little towers on the roof, very ornate, but not large enough to qualify as a penthouse apartment.  I have no idea what these are used for, but will try to find out.  They almost look like dollhouses on the top of the buildings!  I would think they most likely have something to do with either the building's mechanics or water, but I really don't know for sure.

We haven't done much of anything yet.  Our first few days we just walked around, getting a little lost and figuring out our neighborhood.  Finding places to eat, a pharmacy, a grocery store.  Locating the place to change our Chilean pesos for Argentinian pesos.  Important things like that.

We're near the obelisk - and yes, it looks like the Washington Monument.  That's pretty much what an obelisk is, a tall four-sided monument ending in a point at the top.  This obelisk, or obelisco in Spanish, was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires.  (And yes, you can go inside, walk up some 200 stairs, and look out the top.  We'll skip that part.)

The Obelisco dominates the skyline from certain angles, and can be seen at the end of several major boulevards.  It's the center of the nightlife district, something like Times Square in New York.

This time of year in Buenos Aires is HOT.  I mean, HOT!  Other than the western part of Argentina, in the Andes, the rest of the country seems to be flat.  Buenos Aires, the capital, is on the coast, though we haven't found the beaches yet.  It's humid, and 90-something degrees (30+ C).  The hottest part of the day seems to be mid-to-late afternoon, so we're trying to stay inside at that point.  

Last night we had a taste of the summer rains, with spectacular lightning and thunder, storming much of the night.  Which of course made today even more humid, but at least the temperature is down a bit.  

We're still trying to figure out where we want to go and what we'd like to see in this large country.  The passenger trains don't seem to cover much of the country.  I was hoping we could get to Iguazu Falls in the north, and maybe as far south as Ushuaia - this is the southernmost city in the world, and a great place to see penguins.  

We'll figure things out, and enjoy the city until then.

Oh, it turns out my camera was collecting lint when I put it in my pocket.  So I had to find a pouch or bag made of a lint-free fabric.  I finally found a great little pouch, which probably is made for a mobile phone.  But it's made out of neoprene, so it may also be waterproof, and will float in case I drop it in the water.  Best of all is the design on it - Beatles crossing Abbey Road in the style of Peter Max.  How could I resist?

I'll end with some photos of buildings, and will keep you posted as we explore this country.

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