Wednesday, January 25, 2006

When my baby smiles at me...

Been a while, but yo, I'm on holiday fuckers. Back in Chile with a nice little cerveza aresanal after a whirlwind tour of this continent.

After an exceptionally enjoyable week in BA, la embarazada and I headed up to Iguazu to spent some QT with the world's greatest waterfall. Exceptional Q it was too, thousands of megalitres of water rushing over this small gorge each second, covering everything within 100 yards in fine spray and hurling rainbow after rainbow into the sky. Staying on the Argentinian side of this monstrosity enabled me to continue my carne endulgence—in the form of metre-long swords of meat barbecued to perfection—and to finally get my groove back with the lingo—in the form of a longneck or two of Quilmes and a good solid hour of smalltalk in the black market backstreets of Puerto Iguazu.

And then on to Brazil. Ah Brazil! Such a big thing, the nation, the concept. Strangely orderly buses, an obscure language that sounds like Russians speaking French, no smoking indoors, comunist stylee docket systems, and, unfortunately, a race that looks as you´d expect a mixture of short hairy Portuguese, native South Americans and strapping negroids to look like—not anything to rival their southern neigbours, that´s for sure. I'll say it now: Sao Paolo is a dump. 20 million odd people in a metropolis not much more than 120 years old. No street life, ugly grey highrises, undeciferable language. But the point of our excursion lay in this city, and it was exceptionally fulfilled:
And then onto Rio. Not a city I had much expectation of after the disappointment of our other Brazilian destinos. But low expectations are the easiest to exceed, and exceed they did. This is where all the Brazilian hotties hang out. On the streets. In their togs. Whiling away their hours sucking down sucos and playing hands-free volleyball on the beach. Do these people have anything resembling a job? Do they need one, these lithe latte-coloured laydeez and buff brown blokes? None of the class of their Argentine brethren, but what they lack in class they make up for in brawn. Even if their language is undeciferable. They pronounce the name of their city "Hee-oh" for fuck's sake.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

So Buenos Aires eh? Awesome town. Shame about the location of my hotel, but hey, what can you do when all the really nice hotels you wanted to stay in are all booked out three months in advance? Downtown was where we were, a quaint little nod to our friends further north on the same landmass, I think; better than our own terminology, as an English mate of mine recently pointed out—CBD isn't really an appealling term. Nor is downtown. So I'll go for the actual district, which was called Monserrat. Whatever, we were 5 seconds from the Plaza de Mayo, which is probably the third biggest tourist site in BA, and its Casa Rosada, of Evita, or if you prefer Madonna fame (I am and always will be an Elaine Paige man myself), and that's smack bang in the middle of BA. Its focal point, if you like. Which, paticularly as far as bus routes and the underground system go, is quite important.
Now this town. This town. Initially, I was somewhat miffed by the place. Big. busy, high-rise, 35 degrees. Filled with buses and smog and hotties and ATMs and not much more.
So after running the gauntlet of the leather touts in Calle Florida ("Sir, our leather, direct from factory, very good prices"), I decided that if I was to enjoy this city at all, we had to go out on a limb and discover some suburbs. And discover we did.
A happening little area called Palermo Viejo, a suburb straight out of a wallpaper* magazine. And I'm serious when I say I reckon they started that magazine after a stay in Buenos Aires. This place is on the money. Spot on. Hardly a thing I can fault. Given that every fourth man or woman in BA is a dead-set head-turner—seriously Riza, forget Europe or a car, you gotta get yo' ass down here—they also dress well, they speak Spanish (which is dead sexy in my book, never mind that I don't understand them and it's at 100 miles an hour), they drink their beer outta 750ml bottles (a tres-cuatro, I picked that one up quickly), they smoke in their restaurants, they like their beef, they look you in the eye, they dine not before 10pm, they specialise in leather. Did I mention they are all hot? Palermo has that edgy-established feel to it: enticing cafes that double as restaurants and triple as bars, shady streets packed full of chouette shops, small designers charging Argentian pesos. Being a man who hasn't bought a stitch since April 2005, this was something akin to heaven. You know how it is when that inner fashion slave is let out? And when everything is half price, seriously half price? I mean the tag says something you think is a reasonable price, and the you convert it, and it's a pair of white leather shoes for 99 bucks? Or a cream suit for 230? Or hand-made leather wedges at 115? Particularly when travelling with someone who works in the fashion industry, it's hard to tear yourself away from all this.
And so we shopped. And ate. And shopped some more. Then, after a swim and a few more beers, we returned the next day to pick up the things we were still thinking about. Hard to think I'm only 600 bucks worse off for all the shit I'm now carrying.
But we didn't just shop. Asid from sweating our way around the bars and boutiques of Palermo, we actaully did get to tyake in some sights. The Cementaria de Recoleta and Evita's crypt. La Camiñita and the coloured houses of the docks area. General San Martin's monument. More admiring of 'historic' buildings. And so it goes.
Another bunch of observations, this time on BA:
Their legendary reputation as night owls is correct. These fuckers don't go out before 10. So for someone on an Australian timetable, and slave to another timetable (that of la embarazada), looking about for somewhere to have a drink near our hotel, round say eightish—before dinner, GnT time in the mother country—nothing is doing. They catch up for late lunch like 6ish, and then disappear from the streets for four hours. There's a lot I like about that, except that it doesn't do well with a) jetlag and b) pregnancy.
The right shops open at 11 and close for lunch at 1pm, to reopen at 3, and close at 8. the wrong shops open at 9 and close at 9.
The Porteños, as they are known, dress well, but they do dress conservatively. In Monserrat, it was fashionable suits made of unfashionable 80s materials. On women. Elsewhere, it was polo shirts wall-to-wall, much like home, only tucked in (and yes, I was succumbed after a while).
Smoking! The epitome of old style chic. On entering the country, the woman at customs, sitting there next to her big fuck-off baggage scanning machine, long painted nails with a fag between them. I punched the air.
These people love a rally. Almost every day we were in BA, there was a rally of some sort in the Plaza de Mayo. Drums a-banging, banners a-waving, peeps a-marching. The first one involved children dancing, the last one demanded Justicia for the victims of the Cromañon fire, a nightclub fire a year ago that killed 193. I don't know what sort of justice one can demand for victims of a terrible accident, or what a government who has since clamped down on nightclub facilities and capacities can do, but there were thousands of them outside our hotel demanding Justicia.
But then there was New Years Eve. And there was not a soul on the streets. I'd expected something like home, like most capital cities in most coutries around the world where some sort of public entertainment is laid on and there are people thronging the streets. But we left our hotel at nine, looking for trouble, and found none. It took us 45 minutes of walking to find one place serving alcohol open. Just one. The streets were empty, just people carrying food, getting into taxis, which were surprisingly easy to find. Not even the dodgiest kiosco was open, unless you wanted fireworks (which they call cienfuegos, reminding me of dear old Camilo). Noone. Niente. Nada. Thank god for the little place that we found. Heaven sent. And the best pizza BA has to offer. Pity I can't remember its name.
Time up. Hopefully you'll get photos next time.
Happy New Year y'all.