Monday, 29 August 2011

Welcome to Argentina

Well it only took 19 hours of travel but here I am in Argentina. So many months have passed since we booked our tickets, I had forgotten the name of the airline and indeed was almost convinced that we were due to fly from Heathrow so had a bit of a surprise when it turned out to be Gatwick. Thankfully the 5-year-old near-disaster of misremembering my New Zealand flights by 12 hours remained sufficiently strong in my head and I checked the tickets just far enough in advance to guarantee our arrival at the appropriate airport, on the correct day. Excellent start.

Air Europa is Spain´s third-biggest airline but they share more in common with their South American destinations. Our connecting flight to Madrid announced boarding an hour before we expected it to begin but took off half an hour after it was supposed to leave. This was perhaps a gentle introduction into a somewhat shaky approach to timekeeping and one which I haven´t experienced since India. It´s always a shock to the system for frenetic Londoners such as ourselves but provided us with a welcome excuse to chill out. Not wishing to disappoint those with a view of how Brits abroad should behave, we honed in upon the only screw-top wine in the entire terminal and proceeded to genteely sip directly from the bottle, accompanied by a mammoth bar of Toblerone. Thus the connecting time passed sufficiently quickly. The flight itself was helped enormously by our friendly check-in lady having seated Fizz and I by the emergency exit. Meanwhile Wheeze, the tallest of all three of us, folded her endless limbs into a regular seat but enjoyed the benefit of a proper table and no window seat, a choice position since it enabled her not to view the potential of certain death through triple-glazed glass.

After 13 hours we embarked amidst a cloud of Argentians and Spaniards . . . and were immediately sought out next to the baggage collection by the only Brit on the flight, sporting a university blazer, cut-glass accent, and spewing forth a stream of gap yah statements without a trace of irony. I judged him thoroughly before learning that he was a biology teacher and had spent five years at an inner-city London state school before coming out to Argentina. Despite his references to "tacos" (taxis), "studes" (students) and disappointment that his friends had not come out to visit thereby enabling them to "smash up the city", he was very sweet, and we shared a taxi directly to our hostel whereupon he left us with endless ecommendations for cafes, restaurants and nightlife spots and returned to the Argentinian family with whom he had been living for the last six months. Don´t judge a book by its cover. Well ok, do, but be prepared to feel just a little guilty (if not right on the money).

Although we had been travelling for what seemed like forever, it was too early to check in so we abandoned our bags at the hostel and headed for San Telmo market. A plethora of unexpected tango mixes, jewellery and dogs in clothes abounded. We sampled our first dulce du leche, leather goods and an empanada which Lonely Planet assures me is an Argentinian delicacy but looks like a bastardised version of that West Country classic, the pasty. Tasted pretty good. Still wrong though.

We are all ridiculously overtired but are now off for a steak with Emily with whom we´ve just met up since she is travelling in South America and happens to coincide with our visit by some 36 hours. So far it feels like we are in a Spanish city with touches of inaccuracies; like Cornish food and the marching band we stumbled across who sang the national anthem and then fired their muskets (?!) over the heads of a somewhat baffled crowd. I do love a bit of gunfire to welcome to me a foreign city. Makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.



  2. I look forward to more of your delightful ramblings Robyn, hope you have a wonderful time.