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Tom’s Latin American Vacation (Part 2): Ura… no Rio – or ‘A run-in in a deserted town’

October 24, 2010 2 comments

038_38Forgive me if the details are a little sketchy – whether I went from Buenos Aires to Iguacu Falls first, or Rio or Uraguay, is all a bit confused. Ahhh, yes, I remember now – I spent Christmas in Rio, it felt like the thing to do; but then we (that being me and everyone else staying in the two main hostels in town) didn’t bargain on the fact that everywhere closes on Christmas Eve in Rio, apart from the restaurants which seemed to have been booked up since October (no doubt). A walk in Rio on Christmas Eve is a walk in a ghost town with the odd shady figure (not unlike myself) aimlessly looking for something to do and then, after five or six streets of darkness and solitude, being drawn to the next restaurant with bouncers on the door and smiling faces inside. I stood and scratched my nails down the food establishment’s window pane in a grand display of my anguish at being left alone on such a festive occasion.

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Tom’s Latin American Vacation (Part 1): Buenos Aires

October 23, 2010 Leave a comment

007_7It was time for another trip, I’d worked for a while in the UK and the unknown world, once again, beckoned. This time in the shape of a full blown trip around South America. It was a time and a half.

I’d booked my trip in an STA Travel shop in London, where else, and found that I was overcome with desire to fill my mind with all things Latin American. With a smattering of French it seemed reasonable to assume I might pick up a tad of Spanish if I put my mind to it – after all they both share a great deal of Latin as does English, so I hoped the learning curve would be shallow enough to make it worth while.

So, I set off in search of something new and arrived in Buenos Aires with a hostel booked just off the ‘Veinte Cinco de Mayo’ (25th of May), the main street 019_19running through the centre of the city which commemorates a city wide revolution (which did not find favour with the Argentine provinces). The place is BIG, and I don’t mean London City big – but simply, like all things that side of the ‘pond’, space is in abundance. As an example, the 25th of May street is about eight carriageways wide with pedestrian zones that add up to at least another six carriageways of width. The trek from one side to the other through the mid-day sun was never taken lightly.

Coffee shops, theatres, palaces (including the palace made famous by the story and film Evita, where Eva Perón stood waving at the crowds as we thought back to how she actually got there), shopping streets, restaurants galore and indoor/outdoor nightclubs (the last of which I left at about 6 in the morning wondering how on earth I should get back to the hostel). There’s artists at markets (one of whom I made a friend of, albeit mostly on Facebook – see her stuff here), tango lessons at the dead of night, tango displays in the street and whilst you eat (if you so desire your tango danced whilst you masticate) and plenty of people who are interested in getting to know you and anyone else that passes by.MargaFair

Buenos Aires is certainly a wonderful place. The hostel I stayed in had a wonderful roof terrace that caught the sun – and whilst supping a beer on this 5th of 6th floor heaven I per chanced on my perfect way of life: across the void of the street was a chalet style roof opening onto a very small terrace, perhaps only big enough for a couple of chairs and a small table. The owner of the apartment within had the wooden shutter doors thrown open along with the inner glass doors behind them, I could just see the blue tiled floor – nothing special, just functional. As the extent of my vision descended into darkness and mystery I could just make out the frayed edges of a rug and in the distance what could have been some old wooden furniture; I’m not certain now what musical instrument was being practiced through those doors, but the sun, the music and the beer combined and for a moment (possibly even more so now, if I could afford the time off work) I thought such a way of life would be damn good. Yes – I started to think I wanted to become a student again. …or at least a student of music.

The Tango nightlife was everywhere and when I wasn’t trying to find myself another good restaurant that would serve me a half bottle of good wine and good food (or sake and sushi) for around £12, I went with others to find restaurants that put on a show. These were fun – much fun, it’s got to be done is all I can say!015_15

I took time out to try to find a tango lesson – one where I could fade into the background. I found one through my artist friend Marga, who directed me to ‘Armenian Street’, or thereabouts, where for less than £2 I found myself surrounded by about 100 others that wanted to learn to dance. If you’re ‘of the female persuasion’ then you’ll get along fine – some young and, let us say, ‘robust’ (for the sake of argument) man would grab you and teach you all he knew – without needing you to speak Spanish. If, on the other hand, you are male you may find the going a little more confusing, especially as the instructors describe what is to be done in Spanish at the start of each 20 minute practice session. I quickly faded to the back after the ‘copy what I do’ start (I was always a reasonable mimic) and decided to simply try to comprehend as much Spanish as I could.

Yes – and what story of a lone man travelling would be complete without my near on obligatory misunderstood situation (all the better if it can be about something embarrassing, no?). Well, after a hard days exploring I decided to stop off in a cafe for a bit of light refreshment and to write (what became) a very unstructured diary of events. The cafe was packed with about 25 people, but I managed to find myself a table, order and start scribbling. Before long I noticed that one of the couple of women sitting on the table next to me was spending a fair amount of time watching me. I looked back and smiled (as one would – she was not an DSC01712unattractive ‘young thing’). More writing. To my left, as I had my head down concentrating on my script, I noticed a fishnetted leg waving for attention, it bounced from the knees of a companion leg with which it was crossed. The owner was rather bohemian-ly dressed with lace and bra straps on show, dark eye make-up and a very broad smile. She was laughing with her friend about something and, at my attention, immediately looked me in the eye and smiled.

‘How friendly the locals are in this neck of Buenos Aires’, I thought to myself – and so pretty. I continued writing and thinking back to times of flirtation at school, ‘twas a good moment. As I looked around to see what other ‘talent’ (as some might put it) was in the place to find that there were many young women – infact, besides me, an old couple (seemingly in argument), a couple of lovers (in a darkened corner) and two old men near the bar, everyone was a provocatively dressed, fairly attractive Latino ‘babe’. Once again, dear reader, I had found myself in the very heart of the town’s local pick up joint for ‘women of the night’. In this case, however, it was still the afternoon and the fresh faced girls chatted nineteen to the dozen as if they were gossip driven and enjoying life. A few brief negotiations between men who quickly arrived in the cafe and then left with a girl on their arm rather than a coffee confirmed my suspicions – and once my friend, by fishnets and proximity alone, had left I thought I had seen enough and went on my way.

 

I wonder if I will ever see my Dusky Fishnet Clad Mistress again – I do hope so…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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