[D61 – 65] Buenos Aires

D61, Feb 15, 2014, BsAs

La Boca, the colorful neighborhood, and home of Boca Junior as I just learnt. Caminito is said to be the most photographed street in BsAs. It’s a street painted in rainbow colours, the richest ones : yellow, red, blue, green. It’s also a notorious neighborhood – outside the immediate tourist streets it’s an area of social crime, poverty and daylight robbery as I read. ‘it’s not a place for a casual stroll’ as LP put it. But when you arrived on a Saturday, right into its center, you would think it’s the most festive place on the earth: tango shows, music, street artists, bars, restaurants full of earnest tourists, all with the most colorful murals as background. I would have loved getting into a restaurant with tango shows as they advertised it on guide book but somehow we ended up in an open air bar, with arrogant waiter and miserable food, although the beer was abundant. It wasn’t such a bad idea to sit outside for people watching. It’s such a sunny weekend so the crowd was impressive. All street vendors and artists were out, tango dancers were ready to pose for a fancy photo for a fee. Drum players were marching the street. The tourists, oh the tourists, armed with cameras or phones, a backpack, a jacket, jeans and walking shoes. Sometimes they look quite a scene themselves, funny, naive, ridiculous. When I said ‘they’, I included myself. There were a Chinese looking group with professional filming gear and journalist liking cameras having fun with posing for fancy photos. The guy acted like someone. Maybe he was, but who cared. The bar was the only eating/drinking place I didn’t leave a tip so far – it simply didn’t deserve a tip. Then Nicolas told me he asked me to pay for a higher price already (no bill was given when I asked for la qanta). Oh mine.

Football fans obviously could visit the stadium where Maradona started his career, and Boca Junior’s home ground. Or even better watch a match. But we couldn’t care less and gave it a pass.

There was a missionary couple of Argentinian husband and French wife approached us to have a chat, and at the end gave us a brochure to invite us to ‘reflect on the origin of life’. It turned out to be a topic dear to Nicolas’ heart as he read it with great enthusiasm in the afternoon during our various breaks (one ice cream break, and one vino break).

We left La Boca in a hurry, hoping to come back in a week day with less crowd and hopefully see it in its better self.

We then discovered the puppet museum, to my greatest delight.  Museo Argentino del Titere is a tiny museum with a small strip of puppet show theatre, a reception room and display room full of puppets of their own creation and collected from all over the world. It’s the type of place you felt true love of this art and a desire to share the love. It’s not a typical popular tourist stop, even though it’s just a few small blocks away from the major attraction in San Telmo. We also learnt that at 5:30 there would be a show to delight the kids. I begged Nicolas to watch the show even though I had no idea what the show would be.

At 5:30pm,we returned with Nina who woke up just in time for the show. We found other few families, each child eagerly waiting for the show to start.

I couldn’t understand a word but Nina seemed fascinated. It turned out to be the Patita who became the swan. I figured out only at the end. It’s called Eras Una Vez un Patita.

There were no more than 10 adults there (fewer kids), with $70 per adult and free for kids, it’s a very small revenue for the museum. I guess it somehow explained the rather shabby facade, simple curation of the display, and very basic furniture on the stage and seating in the theatre. But the obvious love of the puppets cried out from every corner. They displayed a sculpture of the founding lady, called Sarah Bianchi, an all smiling lady. This website has a good read about this place.

It’s the experience like this little theatre and no-oscar-winning show that delighted me most. Thank goodness we’ve got the luxury of time. Nina may not remember much – well she most likely won’t remember a thing) – but it may leave a trace on her to appreciate the simple pleasure, a sense of curiosity, the notion of fascination by something that someone else loved, and humbled by all the talents.

D62, Feb 16, 2014, BsAs

It’s Sunday and we headed to Palermo Viejo to hopefully find a more lively neighborhood. It was, at least in the centre of it. Park for families – Nina of course played in the sandy playground and mounted on the carousel, twice. There were two smaller markets but one was unimpressive and the other marginally better. Perhaps I have seen enough markets by now to not to feel easily overwhelmed, although always excited.

Had a lunch in a most lovely restaurant, with an banal name though Sheldon. Its set up was eclectic and mix and match, turning the open space between two houses into a covered courtyard, filled with vintage chairs and lounges. One house was a disc house, selling mainly Spanish discs in jazz and tango.

The food, not cheap, turned out to be surprisingly good, not sth I expected in the middle of the tourist attractions. Nina had fun running around and exploring the big place.

We then walked over to the Palermo Hollywood, across the train line, through many furniture and home deco shops, and even more restaurants and bars. The enthusiasm of porteños over food was openly claimed.

D62, Feb 17, 2014, BsAs

Planned for the trip to El Calafate and Uruguay, talked to an agent. Domestic flights for residents and foreigners have different prices, very different in fact.

Microcentro finally. Walked into an indescribable cafe/resto, having an indescribable lunch – arroz primevera was nothing like what I expected, it’s done ham, raw capsicum, carrots, beans on top of some hard rice.

Walking on ave Florida at 3pm was amazingly crowded. Were these well dressed people on their lunch break?

The national academy of tango had the most classic and amazing old style lift that’s still working. The tiny, iron cast box that made loud noise when in use, with dim light in the stairs around it. Oh I was in love already even before I visited. The museum had a very nostalgic feeling to it, with all the old posters and photos of the legends in tango history. There was a theatre with velvet seated chairs. Next door there was a tango class going on. It’s a place of amazing power to bring peole back in time.

Cafe Tortoni was so popular that you had to wait outside to wait for your turn in. The review online was mixed, LP bluntly put that the service was rude. Once inside you saw an beautiful old-time cafe that dated back 150yrs ago. It’s the equivalent of Cafe de Flore in Paris, where the writers, intellects of the time spent countless time there. The waiters were in black suit and wore ties, like in good old time.  The service was slow but no worse than some of the similar ones in Paris, and the price was surprisingly reasonable.

Then I saw the room for tango show … And the ticket selling for tonight at 8:30. I made  deal with Nicolas to watch the show tonight so that Nina Could watch it too (otherwise we needed to have babysitter as all shows in theatre or bigger places start from 10pm or later.

We then had 1h30 to kill. We walked to see the Teatre Colon, claimed to be one of the finest on this planet. The visit was already closed but the building itself was indeed quite impressive. I saw ads for Lang Lang show in June.

The plaza in front of teatre was a quite big and pleasantly empty one. With a big screen showing the photos of BsAs by a photographer (cannot remember the name).

At 8:30pm, the show back in cafe Tortoni started on time. It was a packed downstairs room, most people seemed to have dinner there. Nina sat there watching with great attention for an hour. She seems to really like dance and music.

I was very disappointed by the dance though. I couldn’t feel the passion, tension and rhythm of the dancers. They didn’t seem to enjoy themselves. Although the singer was quite good.

As disappointed as I was, I was happy that Nina could watch it with us.

BsAs certainly is a city living late into night. That’s what I was thinking on the way back home on the taxi.

D63, Feb 18, 2014, BsAs

The day started as functional: pick up laundry, go buy ferry ticket to Montevideo (via seacat, which charges only in USD or credit card, alas, they officially do not want their own currency).

Then we walked into Galaria Pacifico, the equivalent of QVB and Harrods. A magnificent colonial building, with fresco ceiling. Even better, the cultural center of Borges that I was looking for was just inside the last floor of the building. With its various exhibition (photographs, painting, multimedia, mostly free), tango class, and shows /concerts in the evening, this magnificent center was well worth a few hours. Even better, there were few people so Nina could run and play safely.

Then we decided to have a peek inside the church just on the opposite side. Oh an oasis inner courtyard garden! It used to be a Covent, now a chic resto (Como en casa) in the quiet location with tall trees and flowers. Love time like this.

Walked to St martin square/Santa Fe to take bus back.

D64, Feb 19, 2014, BsAs

National library. Oh what a unique building. Reminds me of the slaughter house in shanghai. Love the chairs, lounges etc – a series of classic design of mid century. Weirdly they destroyed an old building – used to be presidential residence so quite significant – and fot this industrial looking structure built. Visited a few floors but couldn’t go inside the library to read some books. Had lunch in cafe, again the purpose designed chairs just for the cafe probably.

Then fine art museum, just on the opposite side of the big avenue. On the lawn, two young dancers rehearsing their dance, with horse head. So powerful even Nina became a fan, watched for quite a while.

Fine art … Typical. A sculpture of Rodin, some paintings from Gauguin, van Gogh, Sisley, and Argentinian painters like Lopez, Puerrydon ??. A special expo of photographs of Madres, the mothers of ‘the disappeared’ more than 30 yrs ago. A hard piece of history in the country, worth reading. As we left, a huge crowd of elderly ladies walked in. They might be THE mothers who continued to march every Thursday on Plaza de Mayo, fighting for justice and recognition.

Nina has not had day nap for 5 days. Should I be worried.

Nicolas and I spent a lot of time searching good accommodation in Uruguay.., don’t want to have to do this all the time. Too frustrating.

D65, Feb 10, 2014, BsAs

My Spanish sucks. The progress , or rather the non-progress of it,  sucks more. Our daily routine of visiting and doing all things as a family together somehow didn’t allow us to meet other people. While it’s fine not to meet new people all the time, it’s not helping with my Spanish.

Belgrano today. Surprisingly developed and proper as I imagined it to be much more crowded and less organized. One of the nicest neighborhood playground, with full-chair swing, against a belle church. The metro station had escalator and lift!

Chinatown – there is always a Chinatown in every sizable city on this planet, even though I have seen surprisingly few Chinese here. Even in Chinatown I didn’t hear much mandarin nor Cantonese. There were plenty non-Asian looking population. Then around the corner, there was very chic resto and bars, of all kinds of cuisines. Not a typical Chinatown neighborhood.

Had the first meal in a Chinese resro … A fine modern one, although no staff nor other customers were Chinese. Not even chopsticks unless you asked. Very good value for money set menu lunch, $55 for a few dumplings, a chau mian, desert and a drink (Nico had his chop).

A probably best helado we’ve had here (we had a lot) in a small corner heladeria. Yum.

Bought some fresh pasta in a pasteria …

We really started to know our neighborhood.

We have been playing the ‘find the number card’ game with Nina. There was a deck of cards in the drawer in the apartment, and Nina started to recognize 2, 8, and sometimes 3. I would ask her to find 8 among a few cards, and gave it to Nicolas. She loved the game and would happily run back and forth to deliver the cards. Now when we walked on the street or took a bus, we would spontaneously point out these numbers and the letter O, and sometimes A. Has been fun game.

[D60] El Ateneo – A Bookstore Of Grand Splendeur

D60 01D60 02D60 03D60 04D60 05


D60, Feb 14

We had a very late and very difficult start with Nina today. She woke up only at 11:15am, and winged for 2 hours before we could dress her and got ready to go out. We decided on visiting something nearby, easy and quick, just a few bus stops away.

El Ateneo,  located on Ave Santa Fe,  was claimed to be the 2nd most beautiful bookshop in the world. Although I personally was rather sceptical of such rating – isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? – it did trigger some sort of  curiosity in me.

D60 06Well, it certainly deserved its reputation. Through a rather humble entry, suddenly I saw a theatre, filled with books. Yes the building was originally designed and opened as a theatre, named Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919. Only in about a decade ago it was converted into a bookstore. It’s 4 floors high, with thick crimson theatre-style certain , ceiling frescos, roman columns, all in red and gold colour throughout. It reminded me of the Garnier opera house in Paris.

Now it’s a book store, filled with books in every corner of three of the floors. The private theatre boxes in the corners were now reading area, making it a very comfortable and quiet corner to browse through what you may want to buy. The stage area was converted into a cafe, making it a cafe of old time atmosphere. We of course spent most of our time in the junior section, browsing through the kids’ books, in Spanish.

Argentina is said to be one of the highest book-per-capita countries. It’s a lovely and comforting notion that people still read books.

P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group

[D56 – D60] Buenos Aires

D56, Feb 10, 2014, BsAs

As it’s not raining in the morning, we set out to the Cemeteria de Recoleta. We took bus 110 (we were becoming really good at this bus thing). A really impressive cemetery! There were real building-high tombs and statues. There were streets lined up. In front of Evita’s there was a constant flow of tourists. Her tomb (along with her husband’s) was definitely not the impressive one, rather more humble ones. The one next to it was up fir sales… If location location location matters, it’s a spot destined to be regularly visited.

We the pushed onto Panerai boutique, as Nicolas is a fan (although with the current spending rate he’s not going to buy another one any time soon). Very disappointing as there were only 6 watches on display.

We ran to an old-time charming resto/bar in the corner called El Sanjuanino. Like back in time. I had locro, a sort of stew with sausage, veggie, maize. Quite hearty. Love the deco and feeling of the place.

After lunch we crossed a few blocks and a massive road, wanting to visit the BsAs Fine art museum. But it was closed, alas! We walked to the paeque de nacions unidade seeing the giant sculpture of flower. It reminded me of the one in HK.

Took a  taxi home as it was going to rain. It did. We stayed inside mist of the day. A day for rest and think what’s next after BsAs.

P.s. Some national icons displayed in president office, Mafalta us one of them. I didn’t know much about this cartoon figure, let alone knowing that it’s an Argentina one. Looks like worthwhile reading to learn about social events and background in 60s, 70s.

P.s. 2, as a big city, BsAs is quite special, in the sense that it’s actually quite quiet – no honking of the car, no hassling of the street vendors. Even pollution seemed to be in control – I didn’t realize its existence. It’s naive to say that it’s all just beautiful – but the infrastructure was quite solid, the metro, the extensive bus, the city bike, the universities, the drainage system that drained all overflowing rain water within hours.

D57, Feb 11, 2014, BsAs

It’s raining again. We decided to discover the kids amusement park inside a shopping mall in Abasto – a neighborhood that no regular tourist would be interested in going.

The so called Museo de Los Ninos is in fact a playground of 2 floors in a big shopping mall, with all sorts of real-life size objects to simulate the play, such as a truck, bus, a supermarket, a bank the kids can go withdraw money from the cashier of another kid, the laboratory to make milk and yogurt, a basketball court, a library, a veggie patch. I was quite impressed and Nina was even more. Her favorite was driving the bus … Her dream coming true … It’s funny to see her little hands controlling the big wheel while trying to sit on the driver’s seat way too big for her and way too far away for her not to slide down. It’s a 40$ well spent for a rainy day. Kids are universally the same creature, curious, adventurous, thrive with the love from parents.

The chef who made our Japanese lunch (udon, rice, bento) perhaps never saw a real Japanese dish in his entire life … It’s like frying spaghetti with some veggies. Anyway Nina seemed to enjoy the udon.

We were getting better with buses, taking two more lines, 188 and 64.

Went to the nearby playground before dinner. It’s becoming our routine. Nina always claimed 沙子, and dug deep. Some local kids came to talk to us. Alas what a shame I couldn’t understand and talk much. My Spanish is not coming back. We today even went to have a look inside the church around the plaza Güeme, at 7:30ish there was a mass. In front of the church a group of kids were playing football, with some quite impressive kicks. People were walking their dogs. Having a coffee in the bars around the plaza. At 8pm, it’s still very day like, lively, and we were part of it. Mundane it may be, it’s the moments like this life really came into being.

Our dinner time was now officially pushed to 8pm or later.

A street in Abasto was named after Boulogne Sur Mer!!

Suddenly I thought about where the name of Buenos Aires came from.

D58, Feb 12, 2014, BsAs.

We have been here for a week. With our own apartment of all normal facilities, it feels a bit like home, although the days were filled with visits and new things and frustration of not knowing enough Spanish. It suddenly occurred to me, while I was waiting in the pharmacy that it’s the normality of such travel that is not so normal. Does it mean that life as we know it can be established everywhere? I shouldn’t be too surprised by this, yet I was a bit taken back by this revelation/question. The existence, and choice of geographic existence, is nothing but a state of mind, plus a bit of material familiarity and comfort.

A sunny day, wanted to do a bit of nature in the park/ecological deserve in Puerto Modena. We got off the subte (getting really good at this public transportation thing) of Cathedral/plaza de Mayo, and started walking towards the direction.

Nina showed great interest in Ministeria de Defensa, as they had a few tanks in display in their big garden and everyone could enter freely – no question asked.

Puerto Midena was a renovated/refurbished old port, now a trendy/modern office/bar/high rising residential area. It immediately reminded me of Pudong in Shanghai, with its broad, neat, and artificial waterfront walks with fancy overpriced restaurant and cafes, with trees still not quite big enough to provide shade in a sunny day like today. One interesting fact was that this area paid homage to the women in the Argentinian history, hence even the fancy bridge was called women bridge, Puente de la Mujer.

The real delight was running into the navy museum hosted on a tall ship, the tall ship who did 37 trips to as far as Europe (Boulogne Sur Mer was on the list again!) and Australia. This massive ship was served as a training boat for navy officers, and it’s very well equipped. A visit down into the basement through a narrow steep ladder (Nina managed it) was interesting to see the dog that was brought on the trip, and the diving equipment of the day. The ship became the museum in 60s, today it charged a symbolic ar$2 for a visit. An under-valued visit! I had been onto 2 tall ships in Sydney before, none could compare with this one in terms of size, authenticity, and the historical educational value.

After a lunch at central market cafe, we made a mandatory stop in the playground before finally arriving at the ecological park. Ah the sort of park where you won’t see any man made sign except the dirt road. Nicolas would have loved it more if there weren’t so many mosquitoes hovering around him (none around me surprisingly). It’s still a delight to have such a big natural land right inside the city.

Massive ICBC building.

We took yet another bus 162 this time going through the train station and Santa Fe, a long shopping road.

Got laundry back.

Nina’s day is now synchronized with Latino time: wake up at 10am, lunch at 2pm, nap at 4pm, snack at 6 and dinner at nearly 9!

D59, Feb 13, 2014, BsAs

By the time we left home, it’s already 12 … Today was the zoo day, and a relatively cool day, hooray!

If you ask me, zoo was perhaps among the last things I would plan on visiting in a new city. But I shouldn’t deprive Nina from the pleasure of animals. Seeing lions, giraffes, bears, monkeys on the picture book coming to life must be quite something for Nina. I could see her eyes lighting up, and attention totally drawn when I pointed out the animals she’s ‘familiar’ with. Oh, wow, lions ARE big, giraffes ARE tall.

Never, I mean NEVER, buy lunch in the zoo. The worst and most expensive fast food ever, for more than 200$, we had 2 miserable (both in size and taste) hamburgers, one horrible pizza ever, 2 bottles of water, and 2 chips. That’s on top of $90/pp entry ticket.

Japanese garden? Nothing Japanese of it from the outset garden so we decided not to spare another $35/pp from us to enter. It’s perhaps as Japanese as the udon the other day.

We were finally psychologically and physically ready to tackle the late dine out. After playground and bath, at 9pm we walked into the lovely ambianced but deserted next-door restaurant La Paña de Colatado. We decided on diner only instead of diner+show as the show would start only at 10pm we were told, and we did not know how Nina would react any time from now.

Among a long list of parrillada with all parts/meats to be ordered separately, we choose the set menu for two to avoid embarrassment of ordering funny parts. It’s not the Brazilian BBQ but more like Korean BBQ, where they brought a tray  with all neat sizzling in it still. A huge tray that was! Some ribs, some steak, some sausage, some liver, some tripe. Way more that we three could handle. Nina loved the ribs the most – a bone sucking child. She showed amazing capability to handle late night meat dinner with just some tomato and salads. With a bottle of wine disappeared, at 10:30pm, other diners just started to walk in, and the show was nowhere near to start.  oh we were not that Latino yet, after all.

As usual we were presented with a bill (surprisingly reasonable at $310, esp after the lunch at zoo) marked ‘10% tip is not included’. Should I feel insulted that they thought we might escape tipping or should I feel grateful that they just wanted to help us avoiding being ridiculous?

D60, Feb 14, 2014, BsAs

We had a very late and very difficult start with Nina today. She woke up only at 11:15, and winged for 2 hours before we could dress her and got ready to go out. We decided on something nearby, just a few bus stops away.

El Ateneo,  located on Ave Santa Fe,  was claimed to be the 2nd most beautiful bookshop in the world. Although I personally was rather skeptical of such rating – isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? – it did trigger some sort of  curiosity in me.

Well, it certainly deserved its reputation. Through a rather humble entry, suddenly I saw a theatre, filled with books. Yes the building was originally designed and opened as a theatre, named Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919. Only in about a decade ago it was converted into a bookstore. It’s 4 floors high, with thick crimson theatre-style certain , ceiling frescos, roman columns, all in red and gold colour throughout. It reminded me of the Garnier opera house in Paris.

Now it’s a book store, filled with books in every corner of three of the floors. The private theatre boxes in the corners were now reading area, making it a very comfortable and quiet corner to browse through what you may want to buy. The stage area was converted into a cafe, making it a cafe of old time atmosphere. We of course spent most of our time in the junior section, browsing through the kids’ books, in Spanish.

Argentina is said to be one of the highest book-per-capita countries. It’s a lovely and comforting notion that people still read books.

For lunch we finally tried the bar/cafe just down the street. It looked like having been around for decades if not longer and had an old-time vibe in it. It looked like a place where everyone in the neighborhood knew since kids and an still met for a chat.  We always wanted to give it a try. Its simple menu provided some family-like choices, like empanada, tortilla and a fish like we ordered. Nina was still in her grumpy mood unfortunately-  was she actually disturbed by the late night out last night, even if she got her 12+ hour sleep? Or was it something to do with the little red rash on her face and neck since 2 days ago? We wouldn’t know and we tried to remain calm yet alert.

It’s st valentine’s day  – Dia de los Anamorados as they call it in Spanish. I think the day was for singles or non-parent couples, as we were destined to have a night in and early bed time as parents. So not fair.

[D59] A Feast of Argentinian Grill

D59 BsAs

D59, Feb 13, BA

One week into Argentina, we  were finally psychologically and physically ready to tackle the late dine out. Nina has auto-adjusted somehow into a quite Latino schedule now for the last few days: wake up at 10am, breakfast at 10:30, lunch at 2pm, nap at 4pm, snack at 6pm and dinner at nearly 9pm.

Buenos Aires is certainly a night life city. At 8pm when I sometimes walked back with Nina from the nearby playground, I saw people just having their afternoon tea or coffee in the bars. It’s only logical – you need something to get the stomach to wait for the dinner that won’t start till 9pm the earliest.

After playground and bath, at 9pm tonight, we walked into the lovely ambianced but deserted restaurant La Peña del Colorado just around the corner. The only other table had three ladies obviously just having their pre-diner drinks. Our landlord and Lonely Planet both recommended the restaurant so it seems to be a safe option. And the walking distance to home also gave us peace of mind that we could quickly retreat if it turned out to be too much for Nina at the late hour. It’s restaurant plus show stage (a quite common set up apparently in this city) with live show option. We decided, with much hesitation, on diner only instead of diner+show as the show would start only at 10pm we were told, and we did not know how Nina would react any time from now.

Among a long list of parrilladas with all parts/meats to be ordered separately on the menu, we choose the set menu for two to avoid embarrassment of ordering funny parts, plus an empanadas and salad for Nina to eat as soon as possible. A bottle of Argentinian wine? Yes please. They didn’t have any option to have a glass only anyway. The order, of course, was all done with lots of trying Spanish, hand gesture, and guess from both sides. I took photos of the menu to enrich my Spanish vocabulary, which has been increasing since our arrival in a painfully slow pace.

Parrilladas turned out not to be like the Brazilian grill (which was, innocently, as south American as I got to know in terms of grill), but more like Korean BBQ, at least in terms of the presentation. The waiter brought a tray with all kinds of meat part sizzling in it still, and put on a high stool next to our table. A huge tray that was! Some ribs, some steak, some sausage, some liver, and some tripe as we discovered. It’s a volume way more that we three could handle. Nina loved the ribs the most – a bone sucking child she was. It certainly was a feast of meat.

After the three ladies of the next table left, we were the only customers in the restaurant for a long while. While we waited for our order to arrive, Nina drew (the drawing equipment has been our life saver in the long wait in restaurants), we made sure the bottle descend. The tango lesson (offered from 8:30pm, which again seemed to be a common set up in some restaurants) finished but the much expected show was nowhere to be seen. At 10pm, a few other diners just started to walk in. Now I finally started to appreciate where my Mexican apartment-mates in France got her later-dinner habit from. But I wonder, for the families with young children, how did it work? Did they simply keep the kids up late, or did they actually have to cut themselves from social life once a child was born (well parents all over the world seemed to do this anyway)?

At 10:30pm, Nina was still showing amazing capability to handle late night meat dinner. With the bottle now empty, we decided it’s only reasonable to call it a night and not to test Nina’s limit (she might explode any time). The show would be for next time. Alas, we were after all not yet Latinos.

We were presented with a bill (surprisingly reasonable at $310 – about US$30, esp after the ridiculous expensive and horrible tasting fast food lunch at zoo earlier today), as usual marked ‘10% tip is not included’. Should I feel insulted that they thought we might escape tipping or should I feel grateful that they just wanted to help us avoiding being ridiculous?  This was not the first time, nor would be the last time.

P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group

[D50 – D55] Buenos Aires

D51, Feb 5, 2014, Paris – Buenos Aires through Madrid

At D51, our ‘real’ adventure just got started! Today we were flying from Paris to Buenos Aires via Madrid. It’s a flying from winter to summer, from northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere, from the known to the unknown.

We woke up at 5:30 to get ready for the 8:45 flight. Woke Nina up at 6. She was coping quite well for the whole journey. At 6:15am there was already traffic on the highway from Orly to the city, quite mad. Nina started to say a lot of ayi, shushu, she seemed to get an idea that one was for female another male. Orly airport was quite small, we had our last French made croissants at Paul. 2+hr flight to Madrid with Iberia, a really basic company, with all food and drink including water additional payment.  Nina nevertheless got a drawing kit. Out of nowhere, Nina celebrated the arrival by throwing up in the arms of her father, twice!! Was it the cherry tomatoes she gulfed down on the plane? Anyway the vomit bags including the ones from our next row were all well used.

Madrid airport was modern, design yellow, with beautiful looking elevators. 2hrs waiting, we were on another Iberia Plane for Buenos Aires with all Spanish speaking passengers. I suddenly got panic, oh I didn’t understand a thing!

It was another full on flight, Nina being awake and active most of time. Only slept for 1.5hrs. I now learnt, in hard way, that day flight for long haul flight was a bad choice, as she naturally had hard time to rest and sleep. Anyway she behaved quite well, watched some cartoons and allowed both of us to watch 2-3 films each. Food was below average. Anyway not the best flight experience I had had.

At 9:30pm we landed. It was 1:30am in Paris. Nina was still wide awake, and didn’t give us any trouble while going through the customs and waiting for the never arriving luggage. The Latinos clapped while the plane touched down. It’s a custom that I noticed when I first flew to Ecuador and all following flights to Latin America. It’s indeed an uplifting thing to do, very Latino.

We took the official taxi in the airport, paid on arrival (300ars) by our host landlord, whose apartment we rented on airbnb. She was waiting for us at 11pm, explaining to us the WiFi code, where are the laundry and supermarkets. We exchanged 200euros with her, at the rate of  12. Apparently in Argentina there is currently a big variance in exchange rate, pesos is depreciating daily, -25%over the last 6mth. Official rate this day was 11, blue rate (black market) is 14.

Nina felt sound asleep in the taxi, we put her directly to our bed on arrival, it has been a long day for her. After Victoria left, we did not have courage to make a second bed, hence we all slept in the same bed. Oh what a mistake! Nina kicked around all night, taking over the bed, pushing us around. At one point I found myself losing my pillow and barely had enough space to not fall off the bed. I wonder how people co-sleeping with their child survived?

D52, Feb 6, 2014 BsAs.

We woke up at wee hours of local time, 7am (although from 5ish Nina already made enough noise to not allow to really sleep anymore) and 11am France time. I took the challenge of going out to find food for the family. In shirt and short and under rain it felt a bit chilly in fact. I walked across a few blocks and found the only bakery (confectionery??) open. I had hard time remembering any Spanish at all <3 how sad for my 6mth of Saturdays in 2011! Worse, I asked ‘como se dice’ many times, but did not retain any:S I bought mini croissants, and super mini croissants, palmier, and the bread that sells by weight. Coming from France I have to say I was not impressed by the choices here. I also bought the milk in a bag!! And water. All these costed me less than 80asp.

Then we set out yo walk to Palermo Viejo, through backstreets as you know me now. We tried to navigated the names of the streets, which are interestingly named after country names and city names, such as Honduras, costs Rica.

The Palmer Viejo `is a trendy neighborhood, with the old colonial buildings as its backdrop, many resto, bars, design shops as its forefront. It’s so hengshan Lu, so Saigon. Every upcoming city had to have such a neighborhood to claim its place. As much ad I was enchanted by the design of many bars I wasn’t far away from being excited. At 12, there wasn’t many resto open – it’s simply too early I guess. The dinner in this city, I was told, started only at 9pm and ho on till 3am.

We went into one of these nice looking, less nice tasting and not so nicely looking resto. The risotto was ok. The chicken (turned out to be fried chicken, not at all what I expected nor wisged) salad was ok ( I totally forgot people said to me not to eat raw food unless it’s prepared by myself at the safety of ho.e.  They offred Nina sone toys to u with nevertheless which was nice.

We then walked back slowly and decided we were going to explore the neighborhood supermarkets to stock up the fridge. Chinese supermarcado was a little less attricive than Carrefour market.  Bought the whole market and used up 713. Nicolas cooked up a beautiful dinner despite lack of materials and ingredients to his satisfaction.

Nina went to her own bed in her own room, and we moved ourselves to next door, slightly smaller but much less noisy from the street whole night.

D53, Feb 7, 2014, BsAs.

We woke up to thunderstorm and impossible rain!! Looking out the window, the water had already raised to the footpath. No way to get out!!

The whole morning ended up being  waiting for the rain to stop. I ran to the laundry next street but was soaked after the 10min walk.

Still went out to have pizza to get some fresh air. No more thunderstorm thank goodness. The pizza place was quiet , not a good sign. Leant a few words.

Took a taxi to Malba, the Museo de arte latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (the Latin America Museum of BsAs). A very interesting collection of arts across three floors. Sleek building and staff. Some works were really nice. We had an afternoon tea in the cafe. Walked back to our place – 30-45 mins – not so bad. Walked by the ice cream shop for a gota piccolo (an ear-shaped cone with ice cream in it). Fetched the laundry: for 34 ars, you got your laundry done (washed and dried and folded) and ready by 5pm on the same day!

At 7pm, I went out with Nina to play at the local park for kids. Nina had fun with sand. We are becoming Latino in terms of timing, at 8pm we just went back home to have dinner.

I tried to work on one blog but was nearly falling asleep, so gave up. At 11pm, the neighbor’s playing a movie very loudly and I could nearly hear all dialogues from my bed. Luckily I was tired enough to fall asleep quite quickly.

D54, Feb 8, 2014, BsAs

Nina work up only at 10:30!! A record. So we are officially into Latino schedule. I set out to buy the breakfast from another panaderia/confecturia, where the shopkeeper immediately switched to English after hearing my struggling Spanish. Very encouraging for my language skill … There are two types of croissants here, the one that looks like the ‘normal’ but smaller croissant you get in France is with butter, and the other one called ‘medialunas’ is sweet and even thinner. Baguette tasted quite different from the ones in France, it’s softer. Nicolas couldn’t figure out why people outside of France couldn’t figure out how to make good baguette – why is it so difficult? I had to remind him that his ‘good’ is based on French standard, and people outside of France had their own standard. He didn’t look convinced ‘but baguette is French!’. Anyway I will leave our argument there.

Then we went for adventure. Took metro for the first time! We learnt, only after descending to the station with painful long stairs, that the opposite direction had station on the other side of the street. It meant that we had to climb up the stairs, cross a busy street, descend into station again.

Then of course they didn’t sell the rechargeable metro card, only in journey ticket. The card, they said, was only sold in post office or some big kiosks. Oh well. A single metro ticket coat 3.5ars.

Had lunch at a typical old day ‘brasserie’ type of restaurant near Parque Lezama. By accident I ordered ‘bife de chorizo’, thinking it’s  beef sausage, but presented with a huge beef steak (sirloin). Oh mine! No veggie or any other sides – I learnt that all sides/veggies had to be ordered separately, same went to the sauce for pastas.

Our first destination today was to get some euro cash changed into pesos, in a trusted black market fashion, through a friend’s friend, L. There was a big difference in the official exchange rate and the so called blue rate, which basically meant black market. For example today 1€=11ars, blue rate is 1€=14ars. Before the crisis in early 2000 the exchange rate between USD and ASR was almost one to one, and today it’s dropped down to 10. According to an article I read, in the last 6 months or so, pesos has depreciated about 25%, and dropped about 11% in one single day about the time when we were in Paris. Hence the volatile market. I was yet to discover what might be the change to people’s life in real term.

Played in the playground. We just had to stop virtually every single playground we happen to pass by.

Then walked up north through San Telmo along Defensa. Oh, soon stooped by heraldo (ice cream) shop – 3 scoops for 34ars. Nina and Nicolas had a blast. It’s fast transforming from a treat to a daily routine.

Oh I love San Telmo. Call me cliché, but it’s so old school feeling, cobble stoned street, lined up by colonial buildings. Cafe, resto with a touch of something. Lots of antique shops. Design shops. Loved the mid-century furniture shop, lots of treasure there!

Took bus 29 (glad I asked our host about bus this morning when she called). Bought SUBE the public transport card. Love taking bus, taking us through the city.

Home, dinner. Nina went to bed at 9ish. I went out to get supply for tomorrow’s breakfast. The street was still most lively. And I felt really safe walking on my own, because there were so many people of all ages walking around me. It’s a weird feeling as if I was back in shanghai.

D55, Feb 9, 2014, BsAs

It’s Sunday, it’s market day at San Telmo. As a market junkie, I’m definitely not going to miss it! Now that we knew which bus to take (29, or 152), I was more than happy to take bus over metro, as it allowed us to see more of the city, when not in a hurry. We were not in a hurry.

The open air market around Plaza Dorrego was enormous, almost endless. The stands of antique, design, crafts were everywhere nearby, and the fair continued through La Denfensa till Plaza de Mayo. Inevitably there were shows, tango, small orchestra going on everywhere on the streets. The low buildings, the narrow streets, the street arts, the cobble stone, the colours. These were all elements that made my heart beat faster. Buildings with history, not too grandeur, crammed with personality. That’s what I like. The same reason why I liked Lisbon, Bretagne, Glebe.

We came up the Mercado de San Telmo. It’s a covered old time fresh food market and today it’s housing still a bit of fresh food but mainly antique and bazaar, design and a few bars/cafe/eateries. We stopped for our lunch, and ordered empanada that we knew, and also zapallita (stuffed veggie perhaps zucchini with meat such as chicken and a white sauce).

The pram and the cobble stones  were not the best friends but Nina managed to fall asleep nevertheless. We when arrived big main Plaza Mayor, we realized that the imposing Casa Rosada (pink house, which is literally all pink), the presidential office is open for public visit during weekends, and for free! We liked the idea of being able to visit when the president works (although we doubted that we could actually visit the actual room where the president works) – imagine visiting zhongnangai (equivalent in Beijing) and Holland’s office and 10 Downing Street, just like that! What’s more interesting was how casual it felt once you passed the security check and stepped inside the hall. The fully-costumed guards were accepting every single request to take photo with and would even move to where you wanted him to pose. People were sitting and resting on the ground waiting for the free guided tour. It was more like a casual laid back museum than a presidential office. We waited the next available bilingual tour (Spanish and English, although it turned out to be really hard to distinguish the friendly guide’s two languages with his cute Spanish accent), and were even offered to take the backdoor cargo lift because of Nina and the pram.

We visited the official reception room where the president would welcome other country’s head of state during the official visit, saw many artworks (modern and traditional), many traces of Evita Peron (a room named after her, her portraits in several rooms, her wedding photos, one of her red dresses in display), the press room, the room where new president delivered the inaugural speech, the inner garden with high palm trees.

And guess what!! We were going to visit THE office of the president although no photo was allowed for this part. It’s quite cute to see the kids drawings on the side table (kids’ or grandkids’?), two large piles of books in the side of the table, some family photos. I also noticed that all phones and fax machines were covered – a matter of state security I suppose? Nina woke up in the middle of the visit. Nina ran quite happily around the office, and we became the last ones to leave the office.

Only after the visit I did a bit of reading on the current president, who is actually the wife of a former president, who was apparently a well-respected politician by its people! She’s current in her second turn (shaky though it seems) and won her second election while she was mourning for the loss of her husband.

After the one-hour tour was over, we changed Nina on a shaded area outside of the casa, then marched to the cathedral next door before going home.

The cathedral was big, well after all it’s a country where current pope was from (is he actually from his very cathedral??). There was a side room guarded by two guards in the same costume as in Casa Rosada … Weird  …  And I was curious … So we need to have a look. Ah it’s actually the tomb of Martin the president who won the independence of Argentina, as well as the one of Chile and Peru. And then sth weird caught by eyes: he did in Boulogne Sur Mer, Nicolas’ hometown in France! How bizarre! What a coincidence!

Metro back home was uneventful, except two gates were closed next to cathedral and it was confusing about the signs inside the metro.

As i promised in the morning, i brought Nina to the near y playground at Plaza Guemes to play in the sand. She really was practicing the word 沙子shazi (sand) every day. There I met another Chinese lady with two kids. We had a lovely chat – although she was complaining about life in BsAs. She siad there were people robbing goods from supermarket before Christmas as the economy was becoming catastrophic. Would it go back to financial crisis again like 10 yes ago ?

I bought a white wine in the Chinese supermarket on way back home. Nicolas already cooked dinner waiting for us. It has been a really good day, not even raining for a forecasted wet day