Before I left on this journey, someone asked me, “Argentina? What made you decide on Argentina?”
I didn’t really have a response. Other than the famous beef, the wine, someone named Evita Peron, and the infamous and ill-conceived attempted invasion of the Falkland Islands (seriously, what were they thinking, taking on the British Navy like that?) I really had no idea what to expect. I speak no Spanish other than to order a beer, ask where the toilet is or get my face slapped. I know squat about the country or the culture.
So no matter what happened, it would be a surprise.
Well, my surprises were all positive. The airline and airport people were patient and helpful. The passport and customs personnel were efficient and friendly. And the woman and her driver who collected me at the airport, Sandra and Claudio, got me to my hotel with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of smiles.
Buenos Aries – it means “good air” – is a city of some 3 million divided into 48 neighbourhoods over it’s 77 square miles. Argentina as a country has 27 provinces, including some of the finest beef cattle pastureland in the world.
I learned all this from Sandra, my attractive and knowledgeable guide. She also told me that the first known European to land on Argentinian shores was one Pedro de Mendoza, who, in 1536, arrived looking for a kingdom of gold.
What he found were some irritated natives who didn’t appreciate their lifestyle being interrupted by some babbling white guy.
Needless to say, Mendoza didn’t stay long, but he did leave behind some cattle and horses which were to become no small part of South American history.
Sandra also showed me a place called Caminito Street, a funky area of town by the river that’s home to artists of every type. Including tango dancers. For a few pesos you can have your picture taken with a tango dancer.
I declined. For those who have seen me dance, you already know why.
Another stop on our tour was a visit to a cemetery where the rich and famous went after their expiration date passed.
There’s at least one legend of someone who was buried alive.
Truth? Could be. But nobody really knows.
Many of the crypts only have a wrought-iron gate at the entrance, and the cobweb-covered casket is exposed for all to see.
OK, I admit that the whole exposed-casket thing kinda wierded me out a little.
I used to know diddly about Buenos Aires and Argentina. Thanks to Sandra and our driver Claudio, that’s no longer the case.
I have some free time in Buenos Aires over the next few days, but before that I’m off to Iguazu Falls, a UN World Heritage site.