Good shopping day

On our travels up and down we have seen a few things we need, so today we set out to get some purchases. First stop was the shop on Medrano where I had bought my new towel. They had some throws and on checking the size they would be ideal for our sofa. The old ones are all but worn through and this throw would cover it in one, not two pieces. $560ar not much more than a tenner, it would do fine.

We stopped of at the fruit shop and the chino on the way back for some provisions, then set off out again.

This time we would travel a bit further, taking the subte down to Uruguay. Viv has been after a new toaster since we arrived, but locally there was nothing that floated her boat and she really wanted a four slice toaster. Then on Tuesday we saw one in a window on our way to Nuevo Chique. It was quite attractive and no more expensive than a two slice toaster. In the shop window we saw again the toaster and a kettle to match. Our kettle, although functioning, had a lid that would not open, so filling was difficult. As we are now in a period when things are relatively cheap for us, we thought ” let’s go for it”.

In the shop I told the guy what we wanted, but he still insisted on us pointing them out in the window. Inside he had a ladder on a rail which he pulled around so that he could climb up to his stock. We could see both items within easy reach, but for some reason these were not suitable and he searched hard to find a toaster. He eventually found one and proceeded to unpack it for our inspection, once we were satisfied he set off in search of the kettle. Eventually though he had to give up and offer us the one we could see and were pointing to. This again he unpacked and when we were satisfied he struggled to repack both items.

Now the fun part. He took them over to the other counter and made out a docket. Still not allowed to pay for it, we had to take it to the back of the shop where he sat behind a grill and took our money. Then he gave us another ticket, this we took back to the other side of the shop again. I guess this was dispatches. The same guy who wrote out the ticket now checked it meticulously to make sure it was OK. You would think he would know, after all he wrote it. Then finally he put them in carrier bags and we could leave with our purchases.

Time for a coffee, well this place abounds with coffee shops, until you want one. There was non at this end of Uruguay and round the corner on Corrientes the whole street was dug up. Crossing was not possible, but after we passed the subte we found a Kentucky Pizza. We had a promo; coffee, agua con gas, juice and three medialunas $80ar each. Then it was back home to get ready for the milonga.

We seem to go up and down this B line quite a lot these days. So back again to Nuevo Chique. Again we never sat down for three and a half hours. I was exhausted but happy when we left. I don’t think Viv missed many tandas either so we did not even stop for a coffee on our way home.

The colectivos were running tonight, but still had a trick up their sleeve; as we got to Congreso both a 90 and a 151 were at the lights. They would not stop here to pick us up so we had to wait again until another turned up. When our colectivo finally crossed Corrientes the traffic was gridlocked, had we known we would have got of at Corrientes and walked, instead we were stuck until it finally reached our building.

Sleep was difficult, there is a “Cultural Event” in our street. That means people banging drums and generally shouting all night. I thank Kellogg’s for the fitted earplugs. Poor Viv, will have to suffer.

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Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me

We are now regulars at Nuevo chique again, and we know the crowd well, so when the lights all went out a six we were all in it together. We sat it out until about half past, Dany was making an attempt to get power from upstairs, but everyone was leaving. We could, of course have sat it out, but with few people left, what would be the point. So we headed out.

We had Maria and Fito in tow and stopped at our usual bar. I asked for black beer and they had non so we moved on to congress and found another bar that had it. We sat for a while telling stories as best we could. Maria speaks Spanish and I speak no Swedish so as the conversation carried on I had to relate it all to Viv. It may be good for me, but I found it hard work. That said we managed a few laughs.

When we came out onto the square, there was already a queue for the colectivo. I was going to miss the 151 and take the 90 so that Maria would get nearer her stop. We waited half an hour long, it was obvious that something was again amiss, so we set off along Uruguay to get the subte. At Corrientes the gate was locked. We tried the other gates, they too were shut.

Never have we failed on both the subte and the colectivo. So I suggested we head to Lavalle there we managed after a wait to get a number 28.

We left the bus at Mario Bravo and told Maria to get off at the next stop.

It was time for more beer, so I got my deposit bottle and crossed the road getting almost flattened by a number 90. I suppose the highlight of all this was explaining to the girl in the chino why “no estoy buen”. It must have started running again not long after we left. I think that they actually do have it in for me.

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Some people are just too helpful

Off to Gricel today.

The subte is awash with beggars, but now they have expensive karaoke machines or fantastic keyboards. I just don’t feel in a giving mood somehow. As usual we come the wrong way out of the underground and head in the wrong direction. I just don’t know this end of the H line, but it takes me less time now to realize which way to go.

It is nice when you know the organizers, we were welcomed by Juan Carlos La Falce and by Mario Orlando (The DJ).There are not many people there when we arrive and we have to dance together for a couple of dances. Soon a few old friends arrive here and Viv is doing well. She seems to enjoy dancing with all the old men, she says that they have musicality. We stay through to the last hour, but I struggled for women, I try to make it a rule to dance with a different woman each tanda, but I had to dance twice with most women. Maybe that is why Viv enjoyed it so much. Still it was generally a good afternoon. The first milonga Viv was up with a local, so I had to find a woman to dance with. What a surprise, I could not faze her, it was one of my best, if not the best. A couple of locals sitting watching applauded us as we left the floor.

We stopped at the pizzeria on the corner of San Juan for a coffee. Viv was not for stopping for pizza, but we will have a cervesa negra when we get home.

When we got down into the subte I realize we are on the A line and I am confused for a short while. A couple who have just passed through are determined to help. I point out that I need the H line and the lady of the couple is trying to send me to the machine to get tickets, I kept telling her that we have Sube cards and do not need the machine, but she was just not listening. The guy fortunately had more nous and told use we could go through the platform onto the H line. He then dragged her off, I guess she just wanted to practice her English, but needs to practice her listening more. I remember last year having problems at this end of the line. If we do this each week, I should soon get used to it.

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A great wrong has been righted.

Not everything has doubled in price, the subte has, but the milongas only seem to have gone up by a half. That makes them cheaper to us.

On my shopping trips out, most groceries are still dirt cheap. I had a bag of fruit and veg this morning for $8ar, which by any measure is less than two pounds. My torch batteries are dead, new ones cost me again less than two pounds. The guy in the fereteria said “how many” I said “three” Viv did not think they would split the packet. I said “This is Argentina” and he did.

Our return to El Beso was greeted with muchos besos, but we still find it difficult here. We have now given them a Welsh Flag to go with all the other international flags on the bar, so a great wrong has now been righted.

A lot of my old favourites were missing, so I struggled sometimes for dances. Still it was only our second milonga, we will soon get known again. Viv got fed up though after jiggy jiggy. She left to go to the Coffee Store, so after another tanda, I left also, to join her.

It’s in a lovely spot on a wide junction of Corrientes and the pedestrian Discepolo. It catches the sun here and seems to hold little of the traffic pollution. You can never please Viv though, she says the new seats are too squishy and it feels like you are falling through. I thought that for outside seats they were very comfortable.

We walked back, hoping to find some things that we wanted. What makes life difficult here is that they put things in all the wrong shops. This can be made worse when you cannot ask for what you want. Last year we searched for days for those dental floss things with a tooth pick, I don’t even know what they are called in English, so I had no chance in Spanish, until I saw them hanging up in a Chinese gift shop.

Well I got most of what I wanted, but I only got a small bottle of the aromatadazor, the rest was easy.

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Back again and inflation bites

The less said about our return flights the better.  I think it is all about cost cutting these days and I shall have to look to a different carrier next year. We are getting twice the amount of pesos to the pound as last year, what that will mean to prices is slowly coming clear.

The airport taxi was the first shock, it was three times the price. Still at a little over £20, I cannot complain, it would cost as much if not more at home.

We returned to Imaginario, again loaded up with money, having no idea what it would cost. We had an omelette each and a bowl of potatoes to share. These are a bit of a speciality here, I wanted the “papas imaginario” but Viv said we should have them with rosemary as there would be less of it. She was, of course, right, we could not finish them, despite being delicious. A bottle of cream stout helped it all go down. We still don’t eat like the locals, I think we were in there less than an hour, but left fully sated. The bill here was a surprise cost me less than $400ar, which if you are paying attention is less than a tenner. Not at all bad to feed and water two people.

Having not slept for nearly 32 hours we crawled off to bed, at the ridiculous time of 9:00 and slept the sleep of the innocent.

I have a pile of bills to pay, so the next morning I am out down to the pagofacil. All the bills are more than last year, but not fully in line with inflation. The city tax is going to be a problem though; there is no annual bill. So I will have to add “paying the city tax each month” to my conditions of rental.

I had a few more things to buy and “Nuevo Escocia” was next on my list. Nuevo Escocia has been my favourite almacen. I had regular banter with the Butcher, the cheese range awesome and the best sliced loaves in these parts. Today I only wanted bread, but all the shutters were down and there is a for sale sign on the building. Odd the way they do things here, because the blackboards are still outside with offers on them. I hold no hope although there is no afterlife for shops here.

My money was again safely delivered by Azimo. I had let myself get worried by stories I had heard, but the office was empty and no  one accosted us. I brought Viv along for security, although what she could do if I was attacked, I don’t know, but I think sometimes you look more vulnerable on your own. I may have been carrying twice as much money as last year, but in truth, it was worth no more. Anyway, as I said, I was worried unnecessarily. No one takes any notice of us here, we are just locals.

Our return to Nuevo Chique gave us some trepidation, again, I don’t know why. It must be something to do with getting older, you just worry more. Marcella welcomed us most warmly, Viv had her usual seat, and I was moved up higher in the pecking order. All afternoon people were hugging and kissing us. At home we started to think, maybe, this is not worth the effort, but when we get here, to this, it makes all the travel and worry, worthwhile. Again, apart from Pugliese, I never sat out a tanda. Never so for the ladies, but Viv had a great time. A slight lull in the middle but she had great dances all afternoon.

I never expected to stay long, it was our first milonga after all. It was 7:30 when we left, three and a half hours is a good start.

We stopped for a coffee on the corner of Alsina and Saenz Peña, nice coffee here but no medilunas and the facturas are a bit bland, still, again the price was good, so no room to complain. The streets were packed though with picateros, this did not look good. Although I sympathise with their complaints, I don’t agree with their methods. They block off the city and stop it functioning, they damage infrastructure and all this adds to the costs to the government that is already struggling to balance an impossible budget. And worse for me (yes I know, it is always about me) they stop the busses. So my personal taxi, the 151 colectivo, was not running. So we had to brave the crowds and walk the ten blocks back to Corrientes and get the Subte home.

So, in conclusion; although inflation has hit hard, for us, despite the money I already have being worthless, it is actually no more expensive. At first sight, it appears to be no more insecure. The people are lovely, but the system is broken. I can do nothing apart from spend my money here and help the odd beggar and hope the place just holds together.

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Ian and Linda

Up early this morning and off to town. We are meeting Ian and Linda who are here joining a cruise.  I met Ian on Wrexham walkabout and had mentioned I would be in Buenos Aires from January, as he was joining his ship here I said we should meet up. He failed to Join us at La Viruta, but I was not entirely surprised. His first day and not the easiest place to get to. We arranged to meet in the same place where we met Alex last year as I knew that was where the cruise ship busses dropped off.

Viv had never met Ian and neither of us had met Linda, combine that with my bad facial recognition and memory and there was some doubt we would ever meet.  There was a bit of mutual stalking before we tried “Ian?” “Bob?” well at least we managed to meet. Most people on one day here would not get to do the subte, but we took them along the “C” line to San Telmo where Ian wanted to do the Feria. I think he soon got bored with it though, if you are not in the market to buy antiques or rubbish, there is not a lot of point to it.

We took them then to El Federal, they enjoyed the olde world atmosphere of the place. After that we walked some more towards Plaza de Mayo, but when he said he had been I though there was not much point in going again. So we headed back to the subte. We debated Caminito, but decided that the subte was too far away and I had no colectivo information. The area around Boca is not a place to be wandering lost, so we decided on Gardel.

Here I failed, I’m afraid as a tour guide it was the “C” line we wanted and this was the “A”, I had to ask a policeman, then when we did get on the “C” line again I had to be rescued as I went the wrong way. A very nice policeman let us through the emergency exits onto the right side of the line. At least Ian was impressed that I could ask and understand the answers, and it gave him some entertainment. Now once on home turf, I switched easily to the “B” line and we were at Gardel in no time.

We stopped to admire all the tango statues and take some photos, then Linda wanted to stop for a drink. Too rich here, so we walked a little way down Jean Juares and found a bar with a group of locals outside. Well it seems just a beer was in order, so we went for Quilmes Cristal. A litre only $80, bargain, I do keep finding these cheap places.

Linda was getting nervous about the time so we took them back, showing them Harrods on the way. They had passed it and never noticed. I wanted to show them Galerias Pacificas, but Linda was worrying, I suppose she does not know the city like I do, but there was no sense in getting her upset. We arrived back at the pick up point with 20 minutes to spare. We said our goodbyes and set off again along the subte for home.

We have had a series of late nights and last night did not sleep well. Beer in the afternoon did not help, so by the time we had eaten, we were just too tired for the walk to Fulgor. We did not think we would dance much anyway, so a night off it is then. G&T anyone?

 

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Last days in Bilbao

I’m in heaven here. At the bar where we ate last night, we got a full English this morning, what a change from a bit of pastry and coffee. It was decent bacon as well.

We walked up towards The Guggenheim and passed a fountain with a lady playing a lyre. It had an inner pool and a shallower outer ring with a rounded top wall. Well it was just too tempting. Boots off and we sat there with our feet in the cold water. The Camino South route out of town passes this way and we called to many pilgrims to join us, but non did. They really do not know what they are missing.

We walked later to the Guggenheim. It was closed today apparently, but I had no real desire to go inside. Now the open air café, that was another matter. Time for our new favourite, café con leche con hielo again. It was nice here with just enough shade.

For lunch we again stopped at Eroski. We bought some drinks and pasties. I rather liked the look of the tuna, but Viv wanted the triangular ones, so we ended up with Jamon y Queso again. We explored the big space nearby, that was formally a market but now an arts centre. It was cool inside here without any air conditioning, just the way it was designed. They had a cinema in here as well as galleries and some unusual sculptures that you could sit on and rest.

Time for another beer so we walked over to the old town again. There was a shortage of tables outside and we were joined by a Scottish couple who were touring in their VW campervan. He looked just like Billy Connelly names of Martin and Janice. There were off to Santoña next and like us were finding it hard to find places to stay. We liked it here so we stopped for another café con leche con hielo.

The temperature on the bridge as we crossed was 43degrees glad we are not walking today. So we went for a siesta.

As everyone here says “ocho” when we ask for food, I thought we would try Telepizza again. I could not find it so I went for hope over experience and tried the tourist info. The girl there did not seem happy. Perhaps she was thinking “All the things to see and do here, and I get asked for Telepizza” still she came across and we found it on the other side of the river. We had the place to ourselves at this time. So when we finished we went over to the bar in our street. The temperature on the bridge was still 28degrees at 9:00.

The morning was much cooler the temperature had dropped ten degrees and we went back for our English breakfast again. The Carrefour in the station always has a queue for some reason but it was a handy place to stop for some drinks. We called in the local bar again but they had no Tourino so we left disappointed.

We had stopped in a place called Gallofa in Santander for some pizza slices, but on our return trip we were surprised at the price. There was one here as well so we called in just to check. Well two small pieces for 9.25e, I just can’t believe we paid that much first time. A local panaderia just up the road supplied us with some cheesy sticks and cold coffees that kept us sustained until we caught our taxi to the airport.

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