Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fiestas, Festas, and Manifestations

3 April 2016

When we book a hotel in a new country or city, we've learned that we like to be right in the middle of the city.  Preferably in the old part of the city, because the buildings tend to be more interesting.  This way, things are busy during the week, and there are plenty of shops, cafés, and restaurants.  On weekends, there tend to be markets and sometimes street fairs.  Just makes it more fun for us, more interesting, and more things to do.

Our hotel is perfectly situated.  Two short blocks down the road is Avenida de Mayo, which seems to be the center of events in Buenos Aires.  We've seen a couple of demonstrations and strikes (called "manifestaciones" here, or manifestations in English).  Today, there was an Italian festival, or festa, in the couple of blocks before Casa Rosada.  It seemed to be hosted by the Calibrian Society or something - Calibrese being the front of the foot section of the boot that makes up Italy.  

There were red and white tents up and down the streets.  Italian flags, banners in the red-white-green, throngs of people feasting on Italian food.  Dancers on stage doing various versions of the tarantella, other dancers waiting their turn by wandering through the crowd.  Salames and cheeses hanging from the food stalls, the scent of sausages in the air, special breads and cookies and chocolates.  And mixed in with an Argentinian flair - the best example being the alfajores, the cookies that are two biscuits with dulce de leche in the middle, and then smothered in chocolate - and decorated with the colors of the Italian flag.  (Not to our taste, but we're not big fans of dulce de leche.)

And of course there were various princesses or beauty queens or something.  Three young ladies posed with a woman while her husband took photos, so I ran over and got a shot in as well.  No idea what they were princesses or queens of, but I really liked the traditional Calibrian clothes.

It was great fun, though the lines were long and we skipped having lunch there.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Falklands War with Great Britain; there are still signs saying "The Falklands are Argentinian."  (Las Malvinas Son Argentinas.  Las Malvinas is the Argentinian name for the Falkland Islands.  I have no idea how the British turned an M into an F!!!)  Some shops were closed, and there was a small demo in the streets.

Small because there were more demos earlier in the week.  Argentina's economy is, well, faltering.  The new president is making cuts, increasing prices on certain services that have been subsidized, and of course salaries aren't increasing.  So people are in the streets protesting.  It seems to be commonplace, and no one really bats an eye, unless they're participating in the manifestacion.

Autumn has definitely come to Argentina.  Buenos Aires doesn't get terribly cold, but it isn't as hot as it was a month or two ago.  We've had more rain and wind than previously, and the trees are losing their leaves.  We even need a jacket or sweater in the evening, and occasionally during the day.  (Gasp!)  I know, 70 F (20 C) doesn't seem very cold, but the wind carries a crisp chill with it.  Someone explained that Patagonia in winter is like Siberia, except the wind is blowing up from Antarctica, instead of coming down from the Arctic.  So Patagonia is freezing and desolate and like the frozen tundra all winter.  And that makes the winds in Buenos Aires a bit cold as well.

With all that chilliness, we're drinking more hot beverages.  My latte from the posh café, London City, came with a tiny sweet - basically a chocolate shell filled with half a tablespoon of whipped cream, and half a slice of kiwi.  Basically just a single bite, though I managed to nibble it slowly.

There's an Argentinian warm drink that seems to be designed just for children.  It's called a "submarino" - and yes, that means a submarine.  I've been rather intrigued by the name.  Turns out a submarino is a cup of steamed milk, with a chocolate bar (or two) on the side.  One is supposed to put the chocolate bar into the steamed milk, and let it melt - then stir it up to make hot chocolate.  I finally, on a cold and stormy night, decided to order un submarino.  Although I ordered mine con leche descremada - with nonfat milk.  (I can even ask for sugar-free sweetener:  endulzante.  Makes me feel so brilliant!)  Anyway, the submarino.  It was okay, but not very chocolatey.  Probably would have been much better with two bars of very dark chocolate.  But I imagine it would be just perfect for a child who need encouragement to drink their milk, and would have fun sinking their submarine bar of chocolate.  (Of course, if the children were like my brothers, they'd probably torpedo that submarine with, oh, crackers or cookies or sugar cubes.)

We visited one of the casinos in the city today, and had a fun couple of hours.  I found Koala Kash, which was similar to Koala Mint in Australia, but not as friendly.  Then I found an old friend, the Pirate Queen, and she was quite friendly to me.  Let's just say I broke even and walked away with a some profit.  (I know the numbers look huge - but keep in mind that the figures are in Argentinian pesos, and the current exchange rate is nearly 15 pesos to $1 US.)  I had some free games, hit a huge win, and the screen started throwing coins and jewels all over the place!  

The older woman next to me was cheering for me - she was very cute.  So after I cashed in the tickets for my winnings, the machine gave me a ticket for a tiny bit of change.  I went back and gave it to her (I didn't know what to do with 3.9 pesos!) and wished her luck.  She was thrilled.

We head to a new country on Tuesday - we're taking the ferry across the river to Montevideo, Uruguay.  It seems incredible that one can go from country to country via a ferry.  Although we can certainly take a ferry from Seattle to Victoria, BC.  And I'm sure there are similar modes of travel on the east coast of the US.  As well as other places around the world.  It just seems more exciting to be ferrying to Uruguay!

We'll spend some time there, and decide how long we think we'd like to stay.

I feel shy about taking photos in tango class.  But I found a video of my two tango instructors, Grisel and Victor.  So here they are, direct from the National Academy of Tango, on youtube.  (The pose at the end is the slinky step we learned last Monday.) 


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