My last few days on this world trip

Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
Trip End Dec 04, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This round the world trip is slowly but surely nearing its end. I've been spending the last few days in Buenos Aires reflecting on what I've seen and done over the past four months. Gosh, it's been a lot! I'm happy to be going home. I have the feeling that I've done enough travelling... for now. Anyway, I'll save these reflections for my final blog.
I arrived back in Buenos Aires from Iguazu last Thursday to find the city in the middle of a meltdown: it was 40+ degrees Celsius, the hottest November day in more than fifty years! It certainly was sweltering. A heavy downpour that evening cooled things somewhat. The heat returned the next day. I didn't do much accept walk around San Telmo, exploring the many antique shops. In the evening, I went out for dinner with a few people who were staying at the same B&B. We chose a quaint-looking restaurant on Defensa St. called Sr. Telmo. The company was great but the food was pretty miserable. To top it off, the wine we'd ordered (the only white they had left on the list) turned out to be more of a dessert wine - it was that sweet! To make up for that experience, we headed to the main square after dinner and sipped on some pretty strong cocktails while enjoying the magical rhythms of the tango.
The weather changed drastically on Saturday. It rained continuously throughout the day, stopping briefly around lunch time and dinner time (very convenient!) while the temperature dropped to around 18 degrees - that's more than 20 degrees lower than two days earlier! Later that evening, the lights went out. When I woke up the next day, there was still no electricity.... and there was no water too! The B&B staff were very apologetic but there was not much they could do - large parts of BA had been plunged into darkness the previous evening (including Palermo and San Telmo) and localised flooding had affected the water supply. I was checking out of the B&B that day and the owner of the B&B asked me where I was heading off to. I said Recoleta (where I was spending my last three nights) ... and he replied that there should be no problem there. "There's never a problem in Recoleta". I got a taxi and 15 hair-raising minutes later (taxi drivers here are a scary bunch - they all seem to think they're Formula One drivers), I was at my new address: a swanky-looking apartment-hotel on Avenida Callao in Recoleta. I was given a spacious studio apartment complete with kitchenette and dining table for six (!!) with a view of the pool. The owner of the B&B was right. There was electricity and water. I went for a short walk around the neighbourhood and the contrast with the old-world charm of San Telmo couldn't have been bigger. Recoleta is sophisticated and very polished. The brass door entrances to the posh apartment buildings (that are manned by guards in suits) gleam while the sidewalks look pristine. The trees and shrubs in the parks are as manicured as the nails of the many men and ladies I watched sipping coffee at one of the trendy cafes! Halfway through my walk, I started to feel nauseous. It became worse as I quickly headed back to the hotel. It must've been something I ate in San Telmo that morning. Whatever it was, I became terribly ill and that kept me in bed for a full day.
I felt slightly better the following afternoon and decided to go for a walk. Recoleta is BA's posh neighbourhood that's flush with wealth, both old and new money: it certainly is a jumble of flash and understated elegance. The streets are full of trendy cafes (whose security systems are linked to the Federal Police!), (guarded) designer boutiques, sun-tanning and hair salons, banks, pilates gyms and gorgeous hotels and restaurants. I also passed various clinics specialised in plastic surgery (it's obvious who the clients are as you venture through the neighbourhood). It rained from time to time so I stopped several times for a cup of tea and I had a great time just watching the people here. Fascinating stuff.
This morning, I woke up and the sun was shining! I had some breakfast, then went for a walk through Recoleta to Retiro, the adjacent neighbourhood, and visited the gorgeous train station at Plaza San Martin. The interior is stunning. I stopped for a coffee at the Cafe Retiro inside the station, then continued on my walk. Had a rather harrowing experience as I crossed the Avenida 9 de Julio (the one with 16 lanes). I was the only one crossing and as I was halfway across the 8-lane road, the lights changed. I turned and there was a huge barrage of cars heading straight at me at full speed from the other side of the intersection. Argentines, both pedestrians and motorists, have a knack of beating the lights, i.e. making a move before the lights turn green, so when I turned, the cars were already closing in very fast - can you imagine 8 lanes of cars heading straight at you at full speed?! Within a split second, I had to decide if I was going to run across to the other side (four fast lanes to cross) or to run back (four slow lanes). I chose the latter and made it back to the sidewalk just in time - they stop for nothing here! I stopped for lunch at a small pizza place on Libertad Street, then headed back to the hotel.
I'm wondering where I'm going to have dinner tonight - my last night out on this world trip. Anyway, I leave BA tomorrow afternoon on a 17-hour journey via Sao Paulo and London. That should be fun! It'll be another new experience too as I'm booked on a seat that faces backwards - I wonder if anyone has ever fallen out of their seat as the plane takes off..... Probably not.
Take care and look out for my final blog from home!
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