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