What I would have added….

Some weeks I appear on London Lives‘ breakfast show, Wake Up London. I’m on for about 5mins every hour talking about some of the stories that are in the papers and making the news in the capital. With only 5 minutes, I don’t really get a chance to stay everything I’d like to, so I thought I’d create a weekly post on my blog for some ‘added value’ lol. Enjoy and feel free to comment and share!

First up was this AMAZING story – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2734481/Woman-54-kills-leopard-spade-hour-long-fight-death-attacked-Indian-village.html Yes it’s in the Daily Mail… But put that aside for one moment and check this story out! A woman in her fifties fights off a leopard with a sickle and a small shovel! It’s one of those stories you hear and instantly wonder what you’d do in that situation. I’ve had a think and I’m not sure I would have lasted 10 minutes, let alone the hour that this woman fought for her life. I guess when you are in that ‘fight or flight’ situation and when flight really isn’t an option it can be amazing what the human body can overcome. Despite suffering some fractures and wounds that required 100+ witches it looks like this woman will make a good recovery! Not so lucky for the leopard though – it was found dead a short distance away.

Next was this wonderful use of technology – https://www.goodsamapp.org  – An app that could literally save your life! It was developed by a neurosurgeon and London Air Ambulance doctor, Mr Mark Wilson, (along with two techies, Ali Ghorbangholi and Ali Haddad). The app as two functions, Responder and Alerter. The Responder is for people that have some form or formal first aid qualification. They register and are notified of any emergencies in their local vicinity, which they can choose to respond to. The Alerter is for members of the public (like you and me). Signing up for the service means that should you be involved in an emergency or witness one, you simply press the button on the App and it will call the emergency services and also notify any Responders that might be close by and able to help. It’s one of those creations that make you think, why oh why do people keep sending me Candy Crush invites when they could be forwarding on this life saving app instead! I’m not one for promoting things (unless I’m getting paid), but I definitely think everyone should sign up as an Alerter – you never know who you might be able to help – it might even be yourself!

And finally this week – to recline or not to recline. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-28943131 This story’s been doing the rounds on the inter web for the last few days (Guardian Comment is Free) and although on one hand it’s the story of two people arguing over the position of a seat (#firstworldproblems), it does raise the question of airline seat etiquette. Is there a right time to recline your chair, should you inform your fellow passengers that you are about to violate their 4 inches of legroom, or whatever it is these days? I know that on long haul flights I used to be upset when the passenger in front instantly pushed their seat back, as if the seatbelt sign was some sort of formula one starting light. I’ve been on many an uncomfortable flight stuck in the position unable to watch the little telly or find any position of comfort, but in my old age (relative) I now don’t seem to care so much. With the every increasing cost of flights (taxes) just being on a plane is worthy of a celebration and if part of that celebration involves kicking my feet up and making the most of my economy ticket then I will. Maybe #firstworldproblem isn’t correct – it should be #economyclassproblem lol

 

Advertisements

One giant leap for Dekan part 12

So the trip from Cordoba slowly fades from my mind as I struggle to understand why my airline (Aerolineas) has changed my airports forcing me to get a 2 hour bus transfer across Buenos Aires to get my connecting flight to El Calafate…

Anyway the plane is old, the snack is a packet of mini cheddars, but soon I drop off to sleep (for all of 15mins) I’m woken by the fact that my tray table is still down because no-one’s collected the empty cardboard box that contained my scrumptious nuts and cereal bar! Lol

Anyway the three hour flight is over and we land in what appears to be a desert… No lie! I only just manage to see the Tarmac of the runaway literally seconds before we touch down. As is customary (so I’ve found) passengers clap on successful landings…and then immediately proceed to get out of there seats to retrieve their belongings from the overhead lockers well before the ‘plane has come to a complete stop at the airport gate’.

Stepping off the plane I’m greeted by the bluest sky I’ve ever seen – the landscape is truly amazing (but this is nothing) Soon I’ve collected my bags and instead of doing the backpackers ‘wait for the local bus’ I hop in a cab for the 20min break-neck speed ride into El Calafate town.

The town appears from nowhere as we hurtle towards it…

And to be honest my first impression is as I’d been told. It’s a tourist town – catering for all your tourist needs – hiking, trekking, climbing, skiing, cycling – you name it, you can pretty much do it here!

My hostel is just off the main strip near the bus station. It’s clean, doesn’t smell, and has decent size dorms. As I’m escorted to my room by the helpful manager, she opens the door to reveal that I will be sharing the room. I’d been kinda praying that I’d be lucky enough to have my own space, but alas this is a hostel not the Hilton!

After unpacking the basics- which basically means nothing, I dump my bags into my locker and head towards the main strip, eager to book the adventure I’d travelled all the way down here for – glacier trekking!

As I walk through be hoards of travellers each more kitted out in outdoor year than the previous, I arrive at Hielo & Aventura – the only glacier adventure tour operator in town.

After 5 seconds of careful thinking I decide to book the ‘big trek’ – eight hours trekking and hiking around the Perito Moreno glacier. There’s just time to hire some ankle high trekking boots and gloves… Apparently the most important items I’d need. Before heading back to the hostel there’s jus enough time to stop a local restaurant to sample the famous local dish of Patagonian lamb. It’s a whole lamb that’s seasoned and left to cook over an open grill for hours until the meat is tender and the skin is crispy like pork crackling. The half portion I ordered ended up as a full one, and I tried my best; but I couldn’t finish it. It also might have something to do with the large portion of sweet potato fries I ordered too 🙂

Once back in hostel heaven, I find out my roomy is Japanese and although not speaking great English he tells me that the ‘big ice’ trek is the best! I fall asleep eagerly anticipating my adventurous day ahead.

6am and my internal alarm wakes me up. Still a little groggy I somehow manage to shower, dress and pack my bag of supplies – water and biscuits! (I’m sure I’ve seen Ray Mears pack something similar) 🙂

My tour guide, Mario arrives at 7am and I’m whisked away on the transfer bus to see some more hotels and hostels as he collects the seven other trekkers. (Is it just me or do you look at other peoples hotels/hostels and wonder whether you should have stayed there instead..lol)

No way

We make our way into the national park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares). and towards glacier Perito Moreno.

The approach is a scenic as ever… Beautiful rolling hills surround the road as we travel through barren roads. Then just as I think I can’t take anymore – I see the lake… So so blue! And then in the distance in the middle of the lake separating the mainland from a small island is a mass of white! That, we’re told is the glacier!

How can that be I think to myself? My head is trying to comprehend the sheer size of it (200 sq km).

We get closer and closer, and as you are fully aware, objects get bigger when they get closer… But this big?! I still can’t believe it… This mass of white is enormous! We drive with the glacier to our right and continue straight towards the viewing platform.

Did I say Wow before??? The noise created by the moving ice as it scraps against itself, is haunting, especially as we are the only people there. Then just out of the blue, interrupting our picture taking, we see a large chunk of ice break free and fall to its icy doom into the freezing water…

The sight is awesome, but the sound that follows is heart-stopping! We’re so lucky to have seen this. People come and wait for hours to get a glimpse at this, and in 15 minutes we’ve seen it all. Next stop is the glacier itself! (And I’m excited)

We drive back to a small port, that sits next to the glacier. Up close and personal now and I’m still in awe of its size!

We travel by boat to the small island and begin our hour long trek through the forest towards the glacier. We’re not doing the mini ice trek that takes you over the tip of the iceberg, we’re trekking for an hour through the forest before hopping on the ice in a more secluded spot and spending 3 hours covering it’s beautiful terrain.

At this point I would write more, but I won’t. I think the pictures say all I need to say about this truly magical place! Enjoy!

20130211-102147.jpg

20130211-102249.jpg

20130211-102305.jpg

20130211-102316.jpg

20130211-102329.jpg

20130211-102343.jpg

20130211-102436.jpg

20130211-102452.jpg

20130211-102525.jpg

One giant leap for Dekan part 11

As you’ve probably already imagined my time in Mendoza was taken up mostly with wine, and steak – the staple of any Argentinian diet!

Because of this I’ll fast forward to my trip to Cordoba!

In the guide books Cordoba is described as the second city of Argentina! However when I arrived at 6pm from airport it felt like anything but a major city!

The streets were empty for the most part and few cars cruised the roads….but oh how little did I know….

After unpacking in hotel – when taking my wash bag out – I logged on to my trusted couch surfer account to check whether the message I’d posted the day before had been picked up by anyone. (I’d asked if anyone was in town to show me around). To my joy (relief) a few locals had replied offering to show me around the city.

So I showered, put on a t-shirt (it was still very hot) and went to meet my first guide, Vicky. We met in my hotel lobby and she told me we’d walk around for a bit.. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much as I hadn’t been blown away by the cab journey, but literally two minutes away from my hotel entrance I was in the middle of a bustling plaza… It was full of people sitting, chatting and enjoying the coolness of the evening. On the corner of the plaza was a cathedral (this country seems to be full of them) It was a magnificent building, but the outside only served to draw punters, believers and non believers in through its doors!

Once inside we had to dodge the cameras – alas they were not for me, but for the bride and groom who were walking down the isle! We’d walked in on a wedding! A quick look around and we realised that we weren’t intruding… The couple had simply paid to use the premises… So I’ve now been to my first wedding in Argentina!!!

Trying desperately to stay out of the eye line of the wedding camera proved difficult, but was well worth the trouble as we walked deeper into the church. The artwork that adorned the walls was amazing! The structures depicting various scenes from the bible looked like they took hundreds if not thousands of man-hours to create! The cathedral itself apparently took a century to construct (check out some of the pictures).

After witnessing the wedding, we stepped back out into the warm nights air and continued our stroll around the city!

We neared main roads and immediately the noise and vibe of the city picked up. We approached a building that was illuminated by various multicoloured flashing lights – I though it was a disco of sorts, but it’s just a refurbished women’s prison that has now home to art galleries, restaurants and bars… It also has the most amazing water fountain – where the water dances to whatever music is being emitted from the speakers.

Crowds gathered round, enjoying the music and taking pictures… But then something caught my eye… Was I at a prom? I had to double-take because looking around, all I could see were girls dressed in prom dresses posing in and around the building – maybe there was a special party on tonight?
But there was no party – these young women were taking pictures for their ‘sweet 15’ birthday parties! I didn’t know, but a sweet 15 party is a big deal over here.. Families spend lots and lots of money, putting on a massive party to welcome their daughters into…. Womanhood….I guess…

Not quite sure that wearing an eighties through back prom dress from Teen Wolf, and sporting a fire-tastic perm is really selling the idea that becoming a woman though…. I could be wrong…

Anyway after making our way through he endless photographers papping these young models, we made our way to a great little restaurant with mammoth size portions!

I don’t think I’d ever seen a Milanese that big before – it was literally 24 inches… No lie ladies….honest! Lol 🙂

After getting them to wrap half of my food to take home…. My guide decided it was late enough (2300) to first go and take a siesta and then meet up for a drink and to check out the club/bars!

A couple things I should point out- my guide is an English language exchange teacher ( very handy) and Cordoba is a student town! Which means that every night is. Party night lol!

So we head to a club… And what can I say.. Expect the music was very David Guetto and Rhianna, with a mix of Cumbia. What can I say, expect after a giant glass of Cuba libre the night seemed to go pretty quickly – which means it was good! 🙂

When I eventually woke up the next day (i say the next day, but it was actually the same day i left the club – make sense?) it was off to meet my second guide for the weekend – Martin!

Now before I rush into my day tour, I’ll tell you that Martin is a student studying (my mind has gone blank)…. It feels like I met him a year ago, but it was only last week! WTH is happening to me – my brain is finally switching off! It’s only taken 3 weeks of sun and about a bucket of red wine 🙂

Anyway, I’ll remember soon… Martin meets me outside the cathedral and we walk and talk about Cordoba as we head towards one of its parks for some mates! The park is full as is always the case it seems in Argentina. We drink mate and continue to chat about everything. For only 21, Martin is a well rounded young guy with plenty to say on a variety of issues.

Anyway talk moves to walking and we tour even more of the beautiful parks that are buzzing! We also head to the arts fair – which is full of people. Stalls sell everything from plants, to trinkets, the obligatory mate cups, and anything else you can think of!

Finally after a couple more hours braving the sun and heat we head to little bar to quench our thirst with an ice cold beer!

The day isn’t finished yet though.. Later that evening Martin takes me out with his friends to an impromptu house party.. Two memorable things… 1) the melon with wine! Delicious! I’ll be doing that when summer roles round in London, 2) Chiropan – it’s like the Argentinian equivalent of a kebab, expect its a heck of a lot tastier! It’s basically a chorizo sausage grilled and put between a chunk of freshly backed French bread. It’s tipped with Salad (no chilli sauce lol) and that’s about it! Delicious!!!!

Now that we can see the sun rising, it’s definitely time for bed!

20130130-141234.jpg

20130130-141243.jpg

20130130-141252.jpg

20130130-141301.jpg

20130130-141314.jpg

20130130-141324.jpg

20130130-141335.jpg

20130130-141344.jpg

20130130-141359.jpg

One giant leap for Dekan part 8

It’s described as the ‘Venice’ of Buenos Aires. Tigre is an hour north from Buenos Aires and although some of the locals weren’t overly keen on the town they encouraged me to go see it! At first I found this a little bit strange, but as soon a we arrived I could see why some locals had reservations…

Lets start with the journey – I’d arranged to meet some fellow CSers, all of whom were Argentinians at Retiro station. It’s the easiest and probably cheapest way to get to Tigre. As usual (as most of my friends can guess) I was late, but like true Argentinians the expected this and my guides had waited for me! Miguel and Luca were 33 and 24 respectively and although both had been to Tigre years before, they were keen to revisit the area and even more keen to show me around! I use an exclamation mark because I’m from London and I don’t think I’ve experienced this type of hospitality in all of my 34 years!

We formed a very civilised queue on the platform among with the other commuters – again something I hardly ever see in London.

On the train we talked about what we all did for work and then they both started telling me about all the places I should try and visit during my stay!

So the lady sitting next to us had joined in the conversation – obviously we were talking in English and she just happened to be an English teacher! She threw in some more sights I should see as well as a couple of restaurants! Could this place be anymore different to London?

We passed shanty towns, beautiful scenery and finally our 45min commute was over. Once we arrived at Tigre station the three of us (our English teacher had left us ages ago) we walked out of the station like a scene from the three amigos! Neither of knee where we were going or how to get there. The one thing I did recall was that the tourist office was near a Macdonalds (thanks to this website) We walked over and found a great high-tech tourist information office with loads of automated route planners. At this point I should probably explain that Tigre is made up of loads of rivers/ which divide it up into deltas. These can be traversed depending on how fit you are by speed boat, river bus; kayak or row boat!

We chose neither. We decided to do one of the walking tours… We collected a printout of the route map and went on our way… Tigre itself looked beautiful! Green trees, grease, clean streets, it was very much a tourist spot. Immediately I could see why some of the locals had not been overwhelmed by the thought of coming here a – basically it was their equivalent of Southend on sea – albeit a million times more beautiful and hot!

Mates with mates

The first stop was at the Mates museum! It’s the only one in the world! Mates is a traditional Argentinian drink – as well as Uruguay, southern Brazil and Iran and Syria! It’s like tea, but you drink it and share it with friends – a tea type shisha if you will. You can get different strengths/types and everyone makes their Mates differently.

After a walk around the small but interesting museum, the owner treated us to a cup of Mates- my very first! And who better to share it with than with new friends!

As the new liquid touches my tongue it tastes bitter, almost as though I’ve crunched up some cigarette butts and mixed them with water. But I persist… There’s a great tradition that goes with making and then drinking Mates and each person has their own style. Some people even add sugar, which I must say in my opinion makes it taste good!

After a whirlwind tour of the museum (as only three guys can do) we decided if was off to find some food and then to the supermarket to get a few beers! Perfecto!

After a second bottle, we strangely meet another couch surfer who somehow missed our train, but decided to head to Tigre anyway.

After only completing half of one the suggested walks due to the fact that it was absolutely roasting, we decide to head to the slightly cooler shady climate of the local Casino and amusement park (now you kind of understand why I compared it to Southend-on-sea)

The amusement park is cheesy, one very tame roller-coaster, a Ferris wheel and a few candy floss stalls! We immediately head to the casino!

Are you feeling lucky punk?

We head to the roulette table, none of us really taking anything very seriously- the beer and sun have seen to that! We decide to each put in 50 Pesos, about £6, and begin placing chips of random numbers.

Before we even realise it we’re up! We’re doing pretty well on the numbers and more seasoned gamblers begin to join us… Things are going great while we try and figure out exactly how we manage to to keep winning! And just then, light a boot of lightening we begin to start loosing! It doesn’t seem to matter where we put our bets, our luck has definitely run out! So unlike the woman we saw continuously playing the slots and the hoards of people throwing their money away, we decide to cut our loses and head home!

A quick stop for a celebratory beer and we board the train back to Retiro. The train is packed and people sit on the floor while we wait for what seems like an eternity before the before the driver decides that he’s actually got to get home too!

Back in Buenos Aires we continue the celebrations with a trip to Plaza derogge in San Telmo. We watch some live music as people sit, eating and chatting.. Before long we’re all ready to to head home it’s been a long day! And tomorrow I have my ‘bus’ journey!

20130118-234037.jpg

20130118-234013.jpg

20130118-234048.jpg

20130118-234057.jpg

20130118-234117.jpg

20130118-234129.jpg

20130118-234151.jpg

20130118-234203.jpg

One giant leap for Dekan part 7

Tickets please, tickets please

Time to book my ticket for Mendoza – I told you I’m travelling right! Lol

After sitting in a cafe using their wifi all morning trying to figure out whether it’s cheaper to fly or get a bus and where to stay I decide that I’ll go to Mendoza on Friday and take the much talked about bus!

I pack my bag and now head to Retiro station!

Retiro is a bit of a strange place, filled with stall after stall of merchants attempting to sell you any little bit of tat you want. Interjected between these stalls are a number of food sellers, some cooking on the street, others who’ve prepared their sandwiches for sale. I pass one stall where they’re selling fresh chorizo grilled sandwiches – it spells and looks delicious. Just the place your mates tell you about when they bombard you with their holiday stories! Lol. But focus! Bus ticket first!

The area of Retiro where the station is, is not the most pleasant of places… It’s a bit grotty and come night time I’m not sure I’d like to be walking around alone. (Something to remember when I’m booking my ticket’s departure time)

Walking into he station doesn’t I still me with much confidence- it’s dated and could do with some real attention. This is an international bus station, but it feels more like a small local station. Having brushed up on my vocabulary for tickets I spot the sign and the bus company I’m going to book with (recommended on trip advisor) and try to play it cool as I approach the kiosk! (The del-boy falling through the bar scene quickly flashes through my head) I reach the front of the line, and ask for my ticket- as I expected the attendant doesn’t speak English and is struggling to understand my pronunciations, apart from the word ‘Mendoza’. But this is where my back up plane kicks in – I’ve written it all down – Last Boy Scout or what?!? Lol!

She understands!! Pen and paper are truly man’s greatest inventions! Paying proves slightly more difficult as my card takes an eternity to go through… But eventually it does and I’ve now got myself a one way ticket to Mendoza on a 15 hour bus ride! Yes 15 hours! Where is that far by bus? And shouldn’t it be illegal to be on a bus that long? Lol. Luckily I decided to book the ‘cama’ or bed seats for this trip. They were advised to me by friends. Slightly more expensive than normal tickets, they apparently offer a bit more comfort and a kind of in-flight service. I just wish they’d actually fly! Another few days and I’d find out!

Walking back towards town I see the chorizo guy.. Should I, shouldn’t I? I way the odds. If I eat one and it makes me feel sick, I’m still in a good place to chill at home and get better.. Go on Dek they look and spell so good! 30 seconds later and I’m biting into a soft baguette filled with juicy, full-of-flavour. With each bite I’m praying that I won’t get sick.

Within minutes I’ve polished off my scrummy snack and now it’s time to walk back.

I’m tempted to go back, but I’ve got dinner plans tonight. I’m being taken to a local ‘Portana’ restaurant in Palermo!

Stomach or bowel

I’m not talking about the chorizo sandwich, I’m talking about the menu at Enfunda la Mendolina.

It’s a quirky place with load of trinkets on the walls, retro toys dotted all over the place and reclaimed wall tiles as plates.. Nice touch!

My host, Ale encourages me to be adventurous so I sit back and let her order some Molleja. She tells me what it is, and I take a breathe remembering that my friends back home had god me that in Argentina no part of the animal is wasted! I’m promised that it will be the best thing I’ve tasted so far, and when it arrives I must say that it looks pretty scrumptious! (Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture as I was too busy preparing to eat it)

The molleja is covered in a light breadcrumb batter and served on a bed of sweet sautéed onions and crisp lettuce.

When I finally did pluck up the courage to eat it I was genuinely surprised by how good it tasted – allowing my mind not to focus on what it actually was – and simply just going by taste and smell, I have to say it was very good! Honest! 😉 It’s on to my main meal now and something a little more normal – chicken! Again I have to say that it’s great- Enfunda del Mandolina do a great job of preparing local food in a stylish way and I recommend you drop by if you’re ever in the area!

After dinner – we take a trip to a doorway. This isn’t just any doorway; it’s home to 878 bar – a trendy night spot for true Portenas. The bar is brimming with alcohol from all over the world – the cocktails in here are supposed to be amazing. So for the taste test, I order an amaretto sour – my drink if choice at the moment! 🙂

After initially being told they don’t make them (I’m shocked) I convince the waitress to get the bartenders to live a little experiment a little – they’ve got all the ingredients.
20130112-164852.jpg20130112-164905.jpg20130112-171243.jpg

When it comes it’s good, and I sip away enjoying more great company…but tonight can’t be a late one – tomorrow I’ve organised a trip to Tigre…20130124-122334.jpg

One giant leap for Dekan part 6

Hola!!! Don’t get too excited I haven’t learnt to say much more than this, but I am starting to understand the language a lot better! That’s mainly thanks to the new friends I’m making!

So it’s been a couple of days since my last instalment – hope you haven’t missed me too much? Just thought I’d give you a break and also do a few more things.

Where did i leave you…. oh that’s right I left you after my evening of dancing and steak…

Waking up on Tuesday (Martes) morning again by the building work, but it’s cool – I’m in a big bustling city and there’s noise – so I’m over it! 🙂

What to do today?

I woke up, stretched and started my routine – carefully remove my toothbrush from my wash- bag. Right now dropping my toothbrush on the floor is a concern, a big concern. You may laugh, or be thinking WTH?!? But really I don’t care… My toothbrush is mine.. Dropping it on the floor anywhere would be a small trauma! Lol. I’m not saying the place where I’m staying is dirty, but it’s not my place… It’s someone else’s… And that odd route hair you might see on a bathroom floor occasionally (and don’t pretend you’ve never seen one), well I know that it’s got nothing to do with me…

So after I’ve brushed my teeth, carefully replaced my toothbrush and had a shower – love that it’s powerful and hot – it’s back to my room to decide what clothes I want to wear, or what clothes do I want to sweat in today. I grab some shorts, and a t-shirt, pack my little rucksack with my essentials – map, water, guide book, pen, notebook, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and a packet of tissues I’m good to go.

(I’m not OCD, but according to a lot of the guide books, finding a loo and then a loo with toilet paper is difficult – and I’d never like to get caught out… But so far everything has been fine – no nasty experiences to report)

So I step out in the blistering heat and it is blistering. After two blocks I’m starting to feel my body heat up like its on fire.. Sweat beads drip from my brow like I’ve just been doing another series of ‘Dekan Does’ lmao!

But at least I’ve got my tissues and wet-wipes!! 🙂

It’s lunchtime and I’d arranged to meet another new CS friend for something to eat. Arriving at the restaurant – I’m very happy – it’s full of locals…and more importantly it’s busy, very busy. It’s time for my first Argentinian Empanadas. My lunch mate isn’t that hungry, and to be honest neither am I (not after last night’s steak anyway). But I force myself (lol) to try a slice of pizza – thick with cheese, gooey mozerella and spinach and meat (carne) empanadas! I tear through the pizza with ease, it’s only a small slice (honest), but it’s tasty! Next the Empanadas. If you’ve never had one, it’s like a pasty. But this one wasn’t the type of thing you get at a London train station on a drunken night home, this was crispy and yet soft with really well favoured chicken and chunks of garlic – delicious!

After lunch I consider getting the subte but despite the heat walking around the city admiring the architecture, people watching, and eyeing up potential eating spots is much more appealing, so I continue. By the time I get to the Obelisco it’s time for me to take a seat and play a game I’ve made up – spot the tourist. So far I’m absolutely pants at this game and that’s mainly because Buenos Aires is so multicultural… You could stand 10 people in a line and I would not have a clue whether they were local or not!

20130111-153905.jpg

I give up on my game and take my hot self (temperature not looks..lol) onwards to the heart of theatre land. For a moment I have to double take as it looks and feels as though I could be back in London or New York! Glowing neon lights, gigantic billboards… Loads of cabs.. Wow – not really what I expected at all, but it’s cool. The noise and hustle instantly reassures me – it must be because it reminds me so much of being home.

Street performers and people selling bits of tat litter the pavements – every so often I walk past a giant bin and I have to hold my breath! The smell is nauseous! But I pass and continue onwards to my unknown destination!

By the time I’m ready to check my phone and get some wifi so I can also double check my plans for tonight I look up and I don’t really have a clue where I am! (Don’t worry mum, I’m safe lol). I’ve just been so caught up in looking around at the buildings and trying to remember any phrases I’ve heard that will allow me to communicate better with everyone.

So out comes the now very worn map… It’s falling apart like you wouldn’t believe! Right here I am, no here I am….wait… No, yep… I’m here! WTH! I’m miles away! I better start making my way back to my homestay… I’ve only got an hour or so before I meet yet another CSer, Mariel, who’s taking me to a language exchange night that’s held in a local pub (don’t get any ideas I’m going to do this idea when I get back!) It’s a great way to meet more locals, exchange language skills and have a cold beer! And this pub couldn’t be better for that! I’m no beer drinker, but they looked like they pretty much had everything that would make a beer drinkers wet dream! (No pun intended- seriously).

On the way to Temple bar – where this weekly language exchange takes place Mariel takes me on a bit of a tour walking past this place – London city cafe. Really in Buenos Aires? C’mon portenas it don’t even serve English breakfast tea… And I didn’t travel all this way to go to a cafe trying to link itself back to London. I must say though that the scaffolding was a good London building site touch! Lol!

We arrive at Temple bar and its a throw back to my university days. Dark, with loads of corners and a bar stacked with bottles! I get talking to an Argentinian guy who speaks English, Russian and Portuguese. And another Argentinian guy that has the strangest Australian/cockney accent I’ve ever heard! But they’re great – as I’m new they mainly talk in English – apparently I’m now helping them learn, but very welcoming cool guys! The night’s going great, so when my hosts tell me they’re off I stay to continue talking – after all having walked around most of the city today I know I won’t be getting lost! After a few more conversations, I decide to leave and head to another CS meeting. It’s still early (12am) for Argentinians even if it is a Tuesday! I catch up with the CSers and am immediately spotted and welcomed by some CSers I’d met on the Friday – it’s like meeting long lost friends! We chat and joke and just as I’m now expecting we head to Palermo Soho for a pizza and to chat some more. The place is buzzing as usual and we eat and chat well into the morning!

20130112-165127.jpg20130111-195450.jpg20130111-200833.jpg20130112-154831.jpg20130111-195427.jpg20130111-161224.jpg20130111-155814.jpg

One giant leap for Dekan part 5

Monday was another day dominated by sight-seeing. After a lay-in I awoke to some drilling and banging – it seems the apartment block I’m staying in is currently undergoing some refurbishment, which is great for the residents, not so great for someone that got in after 2am!

My evening at Siga la Vaca – a traditional all you can eat buffet Barbecue – had been lovely, meeting more locals through CS and enjoying a bottle of red wine (to myself) all for the price of 139 Pesos (about £17) For the quality of the meat and wine this was a BARGIN!

As the night drew in – my fellow diners, from Venezuela, Columbia and Argentina took leave, as they’d been out to Tigre..(When I go, I’ll let you know)

So an early-ish night beckoned.

Horsing around

Next day and I’d arranged to meet (you’ve guessed it) another CS. Like me she was new and because she was free in the day time had offered along with her friend to take me and a couple other CSers around town. So we met in Macdonalds (I can’t believe how many there are in Buenos Aires city) and took the train to Plaza de italia in Palermo. Although I’d stayed briefly in Palermo I hadn’t realised the full size of the area and many things it offered the wandering traveller away from it’s ares rank if drinking establishments!

I was taken to the beautiful parks and Palermo lake which in 30+ heat was only just tolerable. The views were nice, the parks full of families on day outs and women wearing tiny shorts and roller blading their way to toned thighs. A quick detour to the observatory and then a slow walk (did I mention how hot it was) back towards the station.

But what is this I spy…. A race track! And not that but an open race track with a race about to start. This was all as much of a surprise to me as it was to my guides- they’d never been to a horse race and hasn’t even realised that Palermo track was actually there! Another great thing about sharing a day with new friends – it always leads to new experiences for everyone.

With a race about to begin I convinced my guides that it was no point just watching, we should pick a horse and see if we get lucky… I’m not a gambler, but it did seem a shame not to put a little bet on. By little I mean £1.20 or 10Pesos 🙂

We grabbed some seats in the share and waited for the race to begin… Finally the bell and the riders as horses were underway! As the horses nearer the line, the crowd began to become very animated – screaming and cheering away. Unfortunately we stopped cheering, as our horse not only didn’t win, but came last! Never mind. For those few moments we and the millionaires around us were all sharing in the same experience… Even if we’d only lost £1.20. 🙂

After being safely escorted to the subway by my guides and positioned almost on the track so I’d know which train to get, I left to go home.. I’d planned to meet more friends and that evening at Bomba del Tiempo!

Can you feel the music

A shower, a change of clothes, a quick check on FB to make sure plans hadn’t changed and I was ready to dance the night (some of it) away with locals and tourists alike at one of the most popular joints in town! Bomba del Teimpo takes place in an old oil processing factory – hundreds of young things gather to listen to hip swinging beats produced by a energetic band of drummers.

When I arrived, I walked towards the entrance and noted that most of the people were drinking quite heavily outside the venue, before venturing inside. I assumed that it was just expensive inside, what I didn’t account for was the 45 minute queue to get to the bar! But alas I was stressed – I’d met some new friends, was slowly allowing my hips to become acquainted with the beats and feeling the cool no-trouble-vibe! After being given the largest beer I’d seen my friends, and my hips made their way through the crowds to find a spot to really let go… And let go the people around us did.. Sweat was a necessity. People moved as though they were possessed! Always smiling, always cheering, allowing themselves to be take I a wonderful musical journey!

By the time my sweat glands and hips had gotten into the swing if things the night was over – only two hours of dancing, but it felt like l’d done a 10km run, without any of the pain or breathlessness!

So where to next? As I’d already discovered buenos Aires is the town that doesn’t sleep, so we made our way to one of the best steak restaurants around, [la Cabrera] (Where else was I going to go? Lol)

At midnight, the steak, service and atmosphere was as exceptional as if we’d been the very first customers… I’m sitting there eating thinking this is the life!

So after more conversation, jokes, laughter and country comparisons I’m off back to my apartment courtesy of a lift home from my new friends… Great day, great night!

20130108-155142.jpg

20130108-155132.jpg

20130108-155113.jpg

20130108-155048.jpg

20130108-155059.jpg

20130108-155039.jpg

20130108-155031.jpg

20130108-155024.jpg