Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Wyona spotted the Carrefour, an international chain grocery store on our way home from looking for tours. I have been having cravings for fruit and vegetables. There was only one small isle at the back which took care of both fruits and vegetables. The potatoes still had lots of dirt on them. That is a good way to know they are organic. There were only 8 mangoes for sale. No papayas. No fresh berries, though lots of grapes. I had imagined a steady diet of mangos and papayas in South America.  I was wrong.

We bought the standard oranges, apples and bananas. “We wouldn’t buy those at home,” Wyona said looking at the blemishes on all of the fruit. I reminded her that the oranges we buy at home are waxed and dyed. That makes look good to us but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy for us or any better than the blemished ones.

Then Wyona wanted to go up and down all of the isles of the stores to look, as though we were shopping at home. I liked that idea so I did the isles as well. That is where I saw lots of canned vegetables. And every home must be making lots of pizza and pasta for there were large cellophane packages of oregano, turmeric, and paprika, bigger amounts than I see at home in my own grocery store. I would have to go off to the speciality Indian spice store to get packages that large.

I am not used to seeing so many shelves of alcohol in the grocery stores. There are no isles of whole grain products – mostly refined white flour. And no specialty isles where you can pick up frozen or fresh ethnic entrees and take them home. 
...green label on coke to the left...

At the check-out we saw Green Coke Labels – now that was confusing. "What is going on with the labelling," we were asking one another. Someone with limited English, (which feels like a lot of English to us, since we haven't been hearing much lately)  overheard our conversation and popped into the discussion, explaining to us that in the Green Label Coke, the sugar is natural. We don’t know what that means so I goggled it. Regular Coke: 250 calories. Green Coke: 100 calories. Diet Coke: no calories. Apparently one of the Argentinian efforts to combat obesity. 

We were remarking that at this point in our trip, it doesn’t seem to matter than very few people we meet can speak English. I wonder how it is that we are getting along. Maybe the guide books that we brought with us. And commerce can go on in markets whether people can speak the same language or not. The people who stop to talk to us are so kind. No merchants are over-bearing. As we walk along the streets we hearcambio every few steps. I don’t think hearing that word from 10 people per block on the tourist walking street would be an exaggeration, men and women, maybe 8 out of 10 men. But some women along the side doing money changing.

Some salespeople are out on the streets selling tickets to dinner and dance shows – usually  a Tango Show. I saw a woman approach Wyona, who didn’t slow down for one step to hear her pitch. The girl walked along, sideways, trying to keep up with her, trying to get eye contact, get some word out of Wyona.

 “Oh, you don’t speak,” were the girl’s final words as she dropped behind to find another tourist.

I was not that tourist. 


Monday, 24 February 2014

Planning Tours

We don’t know exactly how to use up these days in Buenos Aires in the best way – we like the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus as a general rule, but the reviews for the buses here are so brutal that we are afraid to get on one. “The ear phones don’t work ... the incessant tango music will drive you crazy ... there is no substance to the description of what you are seeing ... you have to listen to the translation in so many languages ... just don't do it ... save your money. " 

Not giving up on getting a quick start into touring, Wyona found some good reviews of private tours, so we took the address of one such office and walked down Corvientes street, stopping along the way to take our own pictures beside statues on the street. “This street must be the Broadway of Buenos Aires,” Wyona said. Yes, we saw musicals advertized, we stopped in at the opera to find out if there were performances this week, we saw movie theatres, and we stopped at the grocery store and at La Pasta Frola, which is a blog post of its own.

... the realities of candids ... passers by obscure the original subjects
We began to see statues along the way.

A baker outside of a baker.

A barber at another store.

We sat in the barber's chair for our picture.

We got the idea from a 2 year old and a 4 year old who did the same thing. 
a small rest on a hot sunny day -- 28 degrees ... warm
There is a police presence wherever we walk.

There is always a security guard at the door of our hotel.

As we walk along the streets at night, every bank is guarded by someone at the door.

Greg is the mapper. 

He knows which way to turn and we finally found ourselves in front of the building, a locked building and no tour guide office there.

... getting posed for the shot ...
Greg hesitated in front of the door. 

 A distinguished gentleman was keying himself into the building, and offered to help. 

“That is my office number. Come up.” 

We entered the office of two lawyers, explained our plight and they both got on phones, looking for help for us. 

... now in fantastic comfort ...
Finally Wyona discovered – the lawyer who spoke only Spanish has a son who runs tours, but those tours are booked on the internet. 

Apparently tourists just don’t go to Buenos Aires and drop in at the office. 

Drop-in’s aren’t that easy to do, even in the best of buildings. 

For example, we are finding that there are no more than 3 people allowed in an elevator, and 3 doesn’t work in our building if you are carrying groceries. The elevator just won’t go if the load is too heavy (that would be 4 2.25 litres of Coke and 3 bananas, apples and oranges).

In the case of the elevator in the prestigious building, the elevator just wouldn’t stop at the landing. Wyona and Greg had to climb up a couple of feet to get out of the elevator and onto the 5th floor. “Shades of Lagos,” ... those words might have come quietly from Greg’s mouth.

We did get hold of the tour guide. He couldn’t offer more than our tour guide books and our local guide (Greg) could deliver.

Tomorrow we are going down for a dock tour – at the very least. And a lot of fun, at the very most.


Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Flight

Wyona says that it has been 28 hours between when we left home and when we got to the Hotel Sarmiento in Buenos Aires. I was wondering where the night went, but that is hard to tell because on the plane the windows go down and the passengers cover over their eyes with black-out glasses, or they plug themselves into non-stop movies. The stewardesses go up and down the isles giving drinks of water to those who are still awake. I saw movies on screens one that was either inches away from my face, on the back of Wyona’s seat in front of me, or so far away that I had to unbuckle my seat belt and move forward to touch the screen since I was right in the bulkhead. A large reach for such a small screen.

There was one small toddler on the plane. His mother let him walk up and down the isles. Many passengers were like me, noticing the single child stretch his legs on the flight to Toronto. That was in contrast to the connecting flight to Buenos Aires. Children in the arms of many of the young couples. My guess was that there were over 300 passengers on the plane. Well over. The connecting corridor through which we walked after our showing our boarding pass was lined with 2 wheelchairs and then so many strollers and baby carriers that I burst out laughing. Not just the old and the very young need special wheels. I couldn’t help but notice the even the very fit on the plane use special equipment. Thick socks and sturdy hiking boots made them stand out, as well as their elaborately designed backpacks buckling securely at the hips. With a single flourish of one arm, I watched a slight middle aged woman grab her backpack off the luggage carousel and buckle on her travelling pack. I wondered how many hours of training she had done before being able to do that.

I stood in the isles at the front of our section of the plane, looking down at the ground before landing in Santiago – my first glimpse of the Andes: small sections of farm land, green at the bottom of valleys where rivers run; winding switchback brown roads crawling to the top of some of the dry, yellow peaks. Just as I have seen in books, so why such a surprise to see that in real life, to want to stand there for long minutes as we flew over the mountains. 

Calgary was cold when I left. Plus Wyona had warned me there would be some cold days going around Cape Horn. I brought mitts, hats and coats for sub zero weather. The temperature on the plane was cool and I covered up with a sweater, a scarf, the airplane blanket and wondered when I would warm up. I was peeling off layers by time we got in the taxi for the ride down the causeway into Buenos Aires, a lovely 28 degrees above, such a surprising burst of heat. 

I pressed my nose to taxi window on the way into the city, watching the buildings of the suburbs, never really able to stop watching how families in apartments take care of their wash by hanging it in so many different styles on their balconies. The weathering of the cement buildings was noticeable – Greg said it is the climate that gets at the cement.

This evening, he took a walk around the streets of our hotel. Wyona stayed behind and asked the clerk at the desk where tomorrow’s market would be held. He gave her a map, drew some lines a few blocks over and then said, “Somewhere around here – if not this street then one over, but in this vicinity, somewhere. You will find it.”

Departure from Calgary

Leaving Calgary Friday February 21. Bon Voyage.

Arta, Greg, Wyona
"Let's check this luggage and start our holiday at the Air Canada Lounge."

Note the extra large zip lock bag on Wyona's trolley. It is housing our pillows for the trip. That is not counted as one of our eight pieces of luggage. Marcia commented to Wyona that if she can afford a cruise, then she can pay fifty dollars for a taxi to the airport. Marcia also queried Wyona as to why she needed all that luggage. "Oh well", Marcia said, "It is none of my business". We are too exhausted right now to have fun. Tomorrow is another day.

There is a reciprocity fee to enter Argentina. All three of us knew to get this registered and pay the fee well before we left. We printed out a copy showing that we had paid the reciprocity fee. That is what we showed Air Canada in Calgary. It worked. Then in Toronto we took out the same piece of paper and the Air Canada Checker showed us that we did not have the right print out. We had to go to two other places in order to get these passes printed out. It was a relief to Wyona when she typed in what she thought might be the username and password to renter the Reciprocity web sight. Always use the same user name and password.