Monthly Archives: December 2014

A day in Cordoba

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate bananas. To be more correct, they hate me. If I eat one, even if I do not know, I will be ill for two days. Strange it is then that I have become obsessed with finding them.
From Roger and Mirta’s apartment, we only have to go down some steps and it is a short walk into town. last night I had the best pizza ever in Argentina, now we intended to explore further this city.
Too early in the day to buy bananas, but we at least now had seen where we could buy some.
Our first stop was the Jesuit Chapel only $10 entrada, but there was not a lot to see for the money. Still it was a cool place to sit and contemplate.
We soon ended up in Plaza San Martin (it seems every town in Argentina has one).
There were more photo opportunities. San Martin, himself, The Cathedral, to name but two. It was hot and we needed Ice Cream, unfortunately there was not any to be found. In the end we found a freezer in the back of a kiosco. On our search though we found a very good food shop and promised ourselves lunch there.
We carried on exploring and as we walked down 25Mayo Viv spotted Gran Hotel Victoria. Well I took some photos and we simply had to go in. There were two girls on reception “Hola?” one said. So I thought why not “Puedemos verlo?” I asked. “Si” she answered. So I just wandered around taking photos. I have to admit, it was nothing like I imagined. The central area was more like a conventillo,, but now they had covered it with a steel roof. (Recently by the look of it).
There was no sign of the sweeping stairways or the Greek statues that I had imagined. Still I was overjoyed to have found myself in this famous place.
We wandered around finding more churches to photograph, then headed back to San Martin.
We bought two bread rolls, the girl took them to the cashier. Then we wanted some meat, the hot cerdo was just too tempting. We had to get a butcher man to cut us some, then that had to go to the cashier. Trouble is that this is not actually the cashier, he wraps it and gives us a bill. Then we had to find the actual cashier, who obviously was not at the cash desk, but the other end of the shop. Viv said ” It will be stone cold by the time we get it”.
Well nothing is ever what you expect here, our “thin” slices were about half an inch thick and they had bone in them. When the meat was ripped off the bone and put in the roll, it was manner. You can’t beat sitting in the sun eating hot dead pig.
While sitting there we were visited by some pigeons. One cheeky chappy sat on the top of the bench, right by my shoulder. I broke off a piece of bread and he quite happily fed right out of my hand. I have never seen feral pigeons quite so tame.
On our first visit here Viv noticed a guy acting suspiciously. Now he seemed to have targeted us, so we headed off down Calle San Martin.
Suddenly there were more Ice Cream parlours than rivets in the Titanic. Then there was that man again, he had passed us while we were looking at the Ice cream and now he was looking suspicious again.
Further down the street and he was still tailing us. He had stopped in a doorway, so I stood in the street and stared straight at him. He knew I was watching him, but he never turned to me. He got the message and we did not see him again. If I had seen him again I was going to take his picture and send it to the police, they are very hot on tourist crime here, I understand.
Anyway we carried on down San Martin until we came to Humberto 1. I realised we had come to far for Viv’s bananas. So we had to back track. We found the Verduria but they had sold out. Now we had to begin the search all over again.
This evening Mirta invited us for supper. In the days when I worked a normal day, it became something of a habit that whatever Viv prepared for supper, I had had the same thing for lunch. Tonight Mirta gave us pork.
Gran Hotel Victoria

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Carlos Paz

We spent the early part of the day packing and just sorting things out, ready to leave the place empty for ten days. By early afternoon we had everything ready more or less.
So we set out for Patio Almagro, to just sit relax and read a bit. Soon the sun was too strong and we had to seek shade. The shade did not last too long before we got bored, time to retreat for an Ice cream. For $30 ( about £2 ) we got a cone filled to a mountainous size and a choice of flavours.
Viv being boring just had chocolate, but I had rum and raisin and strawberry. The guy at the counter tried to talk to us in French, but we said “somos Ingles” Viv said ” do you think he was French” I said ” I doubt it, If he were he would have know that we were not” but his French did sound very good to me. (as if I am any sort of expert).
My attempts to call a taxi were absolutely fruitless. “Hola taxis Almagro” “quiero reserva una taxi por siete” “BRRRRRR”
And so it went every time. I think that they are so busy at this time that they do not want to risk going to somones house when they would be working anyway.
So at seven we went out onto the street to try and hail a cab. As we left we wished Sebastian “Feliz Año nuevo” and he waved us off. There was a taxi across the road, but we missed it. Then another switched off his light when he saw us, but within five minutes we had a taxi.
The journey to Retiro was hectic at this time of day. Most of the time we were just not moving. but the taxi meter was slowly edging up. It had reached $89 by the time we reached Retiro. I was not in the mood for the guy who came to help with the bag. “I can quite manage one bag, thank you” I suppose it was not his fault but he would be better helping some one who needed help and more likely to tip him.
We easily found the boleteria and getting our tickets was no problem at all. I think the expression on the guys face said “so you are the ones who have been causing all the trouble” or perhaps it was just my imagination.
Anyway things had gone so smoothly we were left with over an hour to kill. So while Viv sat on the stairs waiting I explored a bit.
Outside there were hundreds of people just milling about, many more thatn the large numbers inside. It was just chaos.
A little way along from us was a bank of seats each had their own TV screen . For a small fee you need never be away from the one eyed nursemaid.
Very soon we were ready to board the bus, and again we had to tip the guy who puts the cases on.
On the bus we were provided with a bible and a form to fill in. On the from all our details and on the back We should write a prayer we want said. As the bus left the station, instead of safety announcements we had a stream of prayers, that we thought would never end.
The TV was showing a video of a gospel concert, this was like no bus trip I had ever been on.
I suppose that to be fair we paid about £160, that is £40 each person each way. When you compare that to travelling in the UK it is very cheap, especially for a 12 hour journey. And we got a hot meal, prayers aside it was not all bad.
We even got breakfast in the morning before we stopped, so after a night passed in fully reclining seats with leg supports we were ready for the day ahead.
When we got off the bus I could see our case, but was not allowed to take it until I produced the ticket. Now where on earth did I put it. It was easier to find the case than the ticket, but we got there.
Hugs and greetings with Roger, who had not had breakfast. So we decamped to the bar for medialunas.
The drive to Carlos Paz was ok. We ribbed Roger about his driving but the real problem was the state of the roads, the speed humps and the drainage ditches that crossed them.
We spent the day settling in and sat around the pool. The water was a bit cold for swimming but I did go in just to cool down.
Later we walked into Carlos Paz and looked in the shops. While Roger enjoyed himself at the dentist. We returned to picada and beer, but by now we were so tired, we just needed our beds.
We slept the sleep of the innocent and awoke to find Roger had been up for hours. Having bought some avena in the local supermarket, I prepared the porridge.
We decided to again walk into Carlos Paz, but this time take the cameras. The views of the lake are quite stunning. We also managed to get some pictures of the local avian life. Woodpeckers on the ground, a heron in the water and various other birds. The one I really wanted to get though was the humming bird.
There is a problem with digital cameras, they are slow. Combine that with the fact that humming birds are very small, meaning I had the camera on full zoom, and they move very quickly. Well I was on a hiding to nothing.
It was a joy to watch them flit about, but I was never going to get that shot. Leave humming birds to the wildlife experts, I think.
There is a bridge over the last part of the river, just before it becomes a lake. The bridge has a gallery below the road that contains a sort of craft fair.
We walked through, not expecting to buy anything, but we had sample sweets thrust at us, samples of perfume you name it.
We carried on with the honey sweet still stuck in my teeth, when we saw an artist displaying pictures. The size was about perfect for our electric cabinet. The only problem was that they were all in portrait format. They were only $100 so it seemed an opportunity too good to miss.
We cogitated for ages, this poor girl was working very hard for her $100. In the end we went for something abstract that could hang either way.
We stopped for a while and had some yogurt in the town. Then we carried on to the other side of the river, but there was not much there.
On the way back we kept to the shade, as we were getting rather hot. Resting under a tree and having a read, we were joined by a big dog. He seemed to recognise dog lovers, but we could not give him a home. Still he followed us for a while, but gave up and went into the lake to cool.
Time for some ice cream. There was an Italian ice cream parlour and we kept the girls amused for a good ten minutes.
Firstly there was deciding the size of the ice cream, then the flavour. Viv only wanted a two scoop, but I wanted to try a few flavours so went for a three. While the first gild did Viv’s a second girl approached me. I tried to get her to do mine, but what she wanted was the money.
Meanwhile my three scooper ended up with only two flavours. I wanted to run down all the alcohol flavours. The Bailey’s was gorgeous, but the whiskey had some strange fruit in it. Still I enjoyed it and we had another rest in the shade.
Now it is back to Mirta’s to rest then shower and get ready for Noche Buena.
We were joined for the evening by friends of Mirta’s. Who, because of training, and the drink driving law did not join Los Borachos.
They do Christmas here at midnight and we spent the evening eating picadas and drinking. There were presents all around, we had finally managed to find something for Roger and Mirta in Schipol airport.
We finally turned in at just after two, I have no idea what time the guests left and our hosts went to bed.
Midnight Christmas confused Viv somewhat. In the morning she tried to give me some birthday presents we had from dance friends. “Not until tomorrow” I said.
Even Christmas day the supermarkets are open. We bought a few provisions. They also have a strange way of taking money in different parts of the supermarket. At the back of this one you can pay for bread, but not milk. Anyway the list of things I could pay for at the back meant my bill came to $11. Of course I did not have a one peso coin, but the girl rifled through my change and was happy to accept around 75 centivos.
Now at the front of the supermarket the bill came to $21 so when I now only had a $50 note I now had a pocket full of change again and their till was emptied of change. It never ceases to amaze me that they will be so cavalier with their change but then they weigh the lettuces where it often makes less than a centivo difference.
We spent the afternoon by the pool, swimming and eating torta Galesa and Pan Dulce. Mirta’s daughter arrived with her husband Charlie and grand daughter Luli.
Later we returned to the apartment and Mirta made empanadas. There was more exchanging of gifts and again there was much alcohol consumed.
The amount of Spanish I am being subjected to is colossal. Serves me right for complaining , I think Viv is not happy at being left out of the conversation so much. I don’t think she realises how much I am also missing.
The following day is my Birthday, and we start with opening presents we have from home. To my surprise I also have a gift from Roger and Mirta. They have bought me a picture , which will help personalise our Buenos Aires Apartment. My thanks to the Barnes’s for the ties.
For the day Roger is driving us out to Villa General Belgrano. During the war, the crew from the Graf Spey were interned here. After the war was over many stayed and the Village has a real German feel. (If somewhat touristy ).
It is very green, and we soon find out why. After we had lunch, the heavens opened. We got soaked trying to get to the post office. The office was closed for siesta, we thought so we had a wander exploring the village between downpours.
We met Roger again where we had lunch and after a coffee we set off back to the car, where Mirta was asleep.
As we reached the car the heavens opened again, I grabbed the door to get in, but my way was blocked by Mirta who had her seat fully reclined. My day seems to be characterised by constant soakings. Even though it is not cold I was starting to feel it, so we asked for the aircon to be turned off. This did not help Rogers driving as now the windscreen was constantly misting.
There followed a search for the local Coreo, now that siesta is over. Roger’s attempt to turn left into town was blocked by an altercation with a bus. Poor Roger was having trouble being the driver with three people giving directions. I thought it best to shut up and leave the two women at it, one who really did not know her way around and one who could only give directions in extremely long stories. I just sat in the back amused.
To her credit the Coreo was exactly where Viv had said, but it was not open. It seems that the 26th is a public holiday, so Vivs letter will still not go.
I managed one milonga here, I was very popular with the sparkly tie. The ladies seemed to like tango gales style.
A few more days and we will be in Cordoba and have internet, maybe then the daily blogs will resume.

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Kissing fest

Off to Cordoba tomorrow, so I am not sure if and when there will be more posts. The excitement is in the not knowing.
Janis was to pay us a visit today, and as a surprise she arrived with John Morton. After the grand tour of the flat we set off to La Continental for some pizza and salad.
There was some confusion over the salad. The waiter said we should have four ingredients, as there were four of us, fair enough. When he arrived with the plates he had just three, and he said something to Viv about salad. As luck would have it the salad arrived with a plate under the bowl so we still had four plates. I think that he assumed the salad was all for Viv. (Why then did he mention that there were four of us in relation to the salad?).
Any how it divided up well as did the pizza ( eight slices, two each).
We kept the table for far too long for what we ate, but passed the afternoon, putting right everything from the Argentine economy to the price of paint.
When it was finally time to go, the bus stop for the 168 was just across the road. So we said our goodbyes (John is leaving for England tomorrow) and as we did we saw two 168s pass the bus stop. I guess they were in for a bit of a wait.
Clu Fulgor is always a kissing fest and tonight was no exception. Well actually it was, it seemed there were more than usual people coming to kiss us tonight. I wondered if it had anything to do with it being the last before Christmas.
Well at eleven we found out. Normally at this time people have started to drift off. But then, glasses of champagne were issued to everyone, and then they all started wishing Feliz Año Nuevo, to each other and to us. Cue more kissing.
Of course, before we could go home, we had to kiss everyone again. This is becoming positively unhygienic.

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How to fix your Comme il Faut’s

Technically they are two years old, but most of that time they have been sat in a box here. They have been worn for less than a month. The shop on the corner did a good job of repairing the buckle, but the straps are too thin and finding the holes in a dark milonga is impossible. So the strap was now also failing. It looked terminal, so I started thinking outside of the box. Is there any way to replace the strap? I told Viv what I was thinking and we joined our heads together, what about a lace? I went back to the shoe repairers and used my new Spanish word, agujero. I asked her to make two holes in the shoe, either side of the heal cage. I cut off the straps and the buckles, threaded the lace through and voila better than new Comme Il Faut’s. An added advantage is, the only detail on these shoes was the white strap. Now we can change the shoes with just a different coloured lace. We have always enjoyed El Arranque but with the demise of the Monday we have not been this trip. So we thought we would give the early Saturday milonga a try. We set off expecting to just hop off the subte at Callao. Big mistake, the subte is shut at weekends for improvements. When we got there, I was not now ready with a bus route. I did think of taking the 168 down to Entre Rios and walking from there, but in the end we just walked all the way. It was OK but we struggled to get through the crowds at Pueyrredon y Corrientes, so after that we turned off Corrientes and walked down Sarmiento. That was much quieter. At El Arranque the waiter remembered me, he gave me a good seat and even remembered what I drink. She sat quietly at the far wall, no longer in the flush of youth with mad red hair, nobody seemed to want to dance with her. I remembered her from before and when DiSarli was played she was my choice. Easily the best dance of the afternoon, coming very close to the Biagi tanda that I did with her later. I have a couple of favourite ladies here, chosen purely on their dancing abilities. Viv said she had some wonderful dances, as well. Mark this as one of our new regular milongas. I am getting the hang of these collectivos now. Instead of turning right out of Bartolome Mitre we turned Left and headed for Rivadavia. Once there we could pick up our old faithful 151. Best of it is it is not yet full here so we got a seat all the way to our front door.

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Traditional Pollo Entero

We have a free day, well sort of. There is a consorcio meeting tonight, which gets in the way of any milongas. They always end up a shouting match that I just cannot follow so I have asked Philippe if he will come and help me out.
Mean while there are things to be done. We finally found a unit for inside our wardrobe. It has been in the shop years and needs cleaning and painting. Then we went to buy some towels, simple things take an age here especially when you don’t know where to shop. The towel shop had a discount on today and working that out took the assistants another ten minutes each time. Then the bags were not at the till so they had to go and fetch one for each customer. Good job we paid cash, no telling how long it would take otherwise.
Walking around in this heat and negotiating The Argentine way of shopping was having its toll. Time for some ice cream, pure pleasure on a day like this.
When Concorcio time came, of course, they started late. Only Three owners turned up and it became a screaming match despite the few numbers. It was all a bit pointless as there were not enough owners there to reach a decision.
Afterwards we took Philippe off for our traditional Pollo Entero. They have a new trick here, A remote control for the waiter. Dammed fine idea I thought.
We had a whole chicken, a bowl of salad and a mountain of chips. Not forgetting beer, I think we had a litre each by the end.
Afterwards we went for a walk and Philippe showed us Lo de Roberto which we knew of, but had never seen, and Sanata Bar of which we did not know. Both of these entertained tango singers although there were non on when we stuck our heads in.
We then showed him where Almagro tango club was, there was a live band on when we looked in, but not tango and we could see no space for dancing either.
It was still hot when we got back and the air conditioning was doing sterling work. I never thought I would take to this aircon business, but I do try not to make too big a difference between the outside temperature and inside, it just upsets when you venture out.

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Last Man Standing

A busy day, we had decided to finish the bathroom in one go. After Christmas we will be busy so the main salon and kitchen will be enough of a challenge.
The area outside the bathroom and bedroom we could do as well. It would save me on rollers by doing the two together. Anyway when the ceilings were done and I was just painting the walls, when the phone rang. It was Janis, wanting to talk castillano. It was my own fault I said I needed to practice. Well Philippe talks castillano like a Porteño, I never understand him. Janis talks castillano like an American, this is no bad thing, it means I can actually understand her.
We had quite a long conversation, with the odd break to consult Viv, who actually understood quite a bit as well. Trouble was I needed to cut in (Paint the edges) and for that I needed two hands. So I could no longer hold the phone to my ear. Still it was good while it lasted and we arranged to meet up on Sunday, for pizza and some more castillano.
When we arrived at Fulgor Norma was standing out side having a cigarette. She said that there was no one in there, she was right, and there was no music yet. Ruben started the music for us, but it was lacking somewhat. Gradually more people arrive, but it never got to more than a couple of dozen.
We got Ruben to turn the music up a little, and after a DeAngelis Vals tanda the music did improve. We even, at one point had everyone up dancing.
Several times some younger people arrived and then left. At Ten thirty I thought that the late milonga would not be on, and I was right. The DJ never arrived and by eleven there was only us and Elsa and Bob left. A case of last man standing.
I love this club, but like all the places we go that have an older crowd, I wonder how long can it go on?

Finally a link to another blogger who was at the Gran milonga with Janis and me, enjoy http://www.millenniumdragon.blogspot.com.ar/2014/12/tango-ever-alive-in-buenos-aires.html

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Canning time

We decided that as we are going to be so busy in the new year, then we had best get started on the bathroom now. There is not that much to do, clean, paint the ceiling, and paint the window frame. Trouble is I had to use the paint up while I still had the brush. Have you ever tried cleaning Hammerite out of a brush?
So I actually spent the day painting the balcony rails. They needed doing as the people upstairs are always letting their aircon overflow, and there is nothing quite as corrosive as distilled water.
Still that’s done now and the paint went further than I thought it would. Now though I have to sit without touching anything as I have Smoothrite all over my hands and non of my patent hand cleaner to get it off.
I took some scrubbing but most of the paint is off, so it is Canning time.
We tried going later to the early milonga last week and quite enjoyed it, so this week we thought we would try seperado.
I don’t think the waiter was listening when I said “seperado” because I followed him all around the room after Viv had sat down. It was only when he got back to the bar and realised I was still with him that he found me a seat.
We were not seated in the best spots, Viv was far out in the corner and I was looking at all the ladies backs.
I think we did OK though, I noticed Viv had a barren period, and I missed one or two tandas, but in general they seemed a friendly bunch. I think once we are known there we should be quite successful.

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Marking territory

Another fine sunny day and so we set off to do some errands before the milonga. First job was to get rid of some old clothes, so we headed off towards the ferria Americana on Lavalle. Funny how the mid plays tricks, I thought it was behind the Abasto, but in fact it was a block past.
All my negotiating skills were wasted as Viv found a pair of Havianas outside. We ended up swapping the clothes for a pair of flip flops. Well it was OK in a way havianas are about £20 at home and these clothes had cost only about £10 in a charity shop.
When we got back, we saw we had been caught in a marketing ploy. Not Havianas, but Hawaianas. You have to laugh though.
Our foraging continued, although it is hard to stay focussed when I have to drag Viv out of every clothes and shoe shop. It’s like walking a dog on a street full of lamp posts.
We were hoping to find a couple of pieces for the flat, but we are quite specific and it was not happening today. There is a carpenter around the corner, I may well commission him to make me something later.
On our way down Palestini we came across a crowd of youngsters in various states of undress and covered with paint, obviously having a good time, but we had no idea why. I asked a guy in a shop we stopped at, apparently they had just graduated as doctors.
So we set out to buy a shoe cupboard and extra storage for the wardrobe and came back with a pair of imitation flip flops, some baby oil and face pads. Oh! and some food, which is important. Viv has marked her territory though (If she reads this dog analogy, she may well kill me).

Another evening at Nuevo Chique and we are both now getting more successful. Not many missed tandas for either of us, so we caught our 151 home very tired and hungry. We were not amused when it did nit stop at our apartment and we had to walk back from Cordoba.
Too late and too hungry we decided to visit Guarda la vieja again. Tonight though there was live music in the street and they were queuing outside. There was no chance of us waiting here, I would probably eat Viv before we got any food. So we walked back towards our apartment.
Now it is very unlike us to be in the right place at the right time, but our property purchase has hit the mark. This area is definitely on the up. There are now bars and restaurants all along the road, so we stopped at one on the next block.
We had empanadas and nachos with cheddar. You would expect melted cheddar on the nachos but TIA what we got was a bowl of melted cheese to dip into, a sort of nacho fondue. Plus of course a litre bottle of Quilmes stout for $50. ( I am not going to mention Gratto again honest).

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Hablas castillano?

We (I) have been having quite a bit of trouble with my castillano since we have been here. I think the time away has not helped, but the speed with which they talk and the way they use the language are my biggest problems.
So we have decided to try and enrol in some classes. We were given some recommendations, but as is often the way they led to dead ends. Nothing is permanent here.
So we found a school, not too far away and I made a web enquiry. They said we could come and have a word on Monday morning, so on this sunny day we headed off down to Uruguay on the subte.
We arrived at the orange door and rang the buzzer. We got a tour of the school and a price list. It is one of those places that run residential intensive courses. Obviously we will not be staying with them, but there is a whole list of other activities we can take part in. OK it was expensive, but nowhere near as much as I thought it would be. so we are now enrolled for the beginning of January.

With the demise of Aranque on Mondays we are short of somewhere to go, so today we tried Obalisco. When we arrived there were more men than women, a highly unusual situation here. This is good for Viv as it meant she got plenty of dances. She does find that as the dance gets busier she is less successful, but all the old Aranque crowd were here so that helped considerably.
I danced with one lady who asked if this was my first time here, she was surprised when I told her we had danced in Aranque last year.`
The new parquet floor in Obalisco is considerably better than the old laminate, but it is not well laid and has a few ridges. Well I suppose you can’t have everything.
When we finally left it was back to our faithful collective 151.It is more or less empty at this end so we managed to get a seat as well.

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Bailerines mas famosa

It was a nice sunny day again so we thought we would have our lunch out in Patio Almagro (See https://tangogales.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/good-news/ from last year)
Funny but it was all but deserted on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Just one couple with a child and poodle and a guy sitting playing guitar. It was all quite idyllic.
After a rest it is back to Sunday night at Fulgor.
Tonight we had a new greeting. The miserable old guy who used to try and stop us coming in is no longer here and there is a new, very pleasant lady on the door. She welcomed us with “Los Bailerines mas famosa en el mundo”. Well we have been “Princes of Wales” so why not “The most famous dancers in the world”?
Then begins the usual round of kissing and even a present for Viv. This place is unique, nowhere else do we get this treatment.
A word about the prices as well, two bottles of water and a litre of beer $90. That is $16 less than it cost me in Gratto for two small beers. Is it any wonder we keep coming back?
Roberto is still announcing between tracks, so now not only do we get the title of the orquesta, but also a welcome to Los Galeses.

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