Global Odyssey: Blog https://globalodyssey.ca/blog en-us (C) Global Odyssey [email protected] (Global Odyssey) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:01:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:01:00 GMT https://globalodyssey.ca/img/s/v-12/u782460119-o42227401-50.jpg Global Odyssey: Blog https://globalodyssey.ca/blog 120 80 Las Cruces Natural History museum https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/las-cruces-natural-history-museum We went to the Natural History museum in town today. It was so windy that golfing was not an option, so we filled the time with other more esoteric pursuits. 

The museums in Las Cruces remind me of London, England. They're free, no admission fee and stay as long as you want. This museum is rather modest in size but I was really intrigued by it. You have to understand the history behind this valley we live in to fully appreciate what you see. 

About 280 million years ago, this valley was the home to a variety of wildlife that were classed as being "Permian" life forms because of their age. It was also the location of a huge inland lake (small ocean really) that hosted this early wildlife. About 250 million years ago there was an event called the "Permian Extinction" that resulted in virtually 98% of all life on Earth dying out. All the life forms from the previous age were gone, which opened up the way for the oceans to produce amphibian life forms, which eventually became land dwellers and evolved into the "Jurassic Park" animal life we see in the movies. 

The flat plates of shale that are in these photos are close to 280 million years old. There are tracks of the life forms that inhabited this area way back then impressed on those pieces of shale. The T-Rex in the photos came after the "P-Extinction" and lived here until about 65 million years ago, when a meteor hit the Earth around the southern end of the "Gulf Of Mexico" and wiped out all the dinosaurs (as well as sundry other life forms). At this museum you can actually touch the displays that are that old. I was in awe of the age factors involved.

As I said, its not a big museum but it has artifacts that were discovered here, as recently as 1980 and since. It makes a person feel real humble. The T-Rex head is mounted so you can stand right beside it. Again, makes you feel pretty small and insignificant. 

I have also included a couple of pics of the local wildlife as it exists now. Thought you might like something to compare with...not necessarily in order.

Enjoy.

 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) LasCruces https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/las-cruces-natural-history-museum Tue, 22 Mar 2016 23:01:01 GMT
Chloride https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/chloride Toward the latter part of March last year (2015) we did a day trip to the small ghost town of Chloride. You go north from Las Cruces for about an hour and a bit, and just past the town of Truth or Consequences you turn west off the interstate and drive on narrow (but paved) country roads into the hill country for about 25 miles. Eventually you'll come to this small grouping of old buildings, one of which is an old General store. 

There is a fellow and his wife that live there and own the entire town (buildings and all) and have restored a lot of it to original condition. They have done a really nice job and are hoping to have more regular tourist type clientele to keep the program going. There is a restaurant as well that serves a great lunch at a cheap price. The General Store is also a museum and well worth the trip on it's own. 

The town was settled because of a silver mine nearby ...but the rest you can read on the signs that are part of the gallery.

Enjoy the scenery. 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) NewMexico https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/chloride Tue, 22 Mar 2016 21:49:22 GMT
Petroglyphs https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/petroglyphs As we spend more and more time here in the deep south west of New Mexico, we are discovering more and more about the history of this area. When humans started arriving in North America several thousand years ago I would suppose (like we "snowbirds") they found the winters in the north rather uncomfortable and continued their migration to this area of the south. 

There have been many recent findings here by archeologists, that date back a couple of thousand years at least. Our valley, the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico, was the home of a number of tribal peoples but predating them was a society of people designated the "Jornada Mogolon" culture. Some 600-900 years ago they populated the valley and surrounding area.

At a place called Three Rivers, they had a fairly sizeable village that has been the subject of great investigation. There are a couple of reclaimed living quarters on view in the village and some of the artifacts they left behind are in the local university museum. This discovery occurred mainly because of the petroglyphs these people left behind after their society died out. There are hundreds of them ... so many in fact that this place has the most of any area in North America.

We visited the site for a day and I've included the photos that we came home with. No one seems to know what these diagrams mean, or whether they tell a story. In spite of the look of some of the petroglyphs they are the real thing according to the science folks. If you're interested, please see some of the photos below via the slide show. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open the slide show by clicking on the panel below.

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/petroglyphs Sat, 19 Mar 2016 16:47:24 GMT
Cowboy Days https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/cowboy-days Every year, at the Farm and Ranch museum in Las Cruces NM, they have a weekend event called "Cowboy Days".

We should remember that this part of the United States was the last vestige of the true "wild west" that we've all read about and seen in the movies. The history of this area goes back to the earliest of human habitation in North America and has remained a solidly remote area of the U.S. right through until the early 1900's. 

The weekend of the cowboy reveres the times between the Spanish incursion from Mexico and the assimilation of the area and peoples by the U.S.. It does very well to explain what the local folks went through just to survive in this relatively hostile environment. One of the highlights (in my opinion) is the "Parade of Breeds". It is a lecture given by a long time rancher from the Mesilla Valley (my area) who has been in the ranching business for over three generations. We have been to every one of his lectures over the past three years and he is a font of information. He talks to the audience and answers questions at any time. 

He does the lectures from horse back, in a riding pen on the museum grounds. The cattle he "wheels in" are breeding stock for show and most had their beginning in the agricultural area of the New Mexico State University on the outskirts of town. Prime examples of the breeds of beef cattle over the last 200 years. I have never failed to learn something new every time I hear him speak. 

Back in the day, when the Spanish were the prime explorers of this area they imported the Corrientes breed from southern Spain. The heat of the summer in southern New Mexico is similar to that in Spain and the Corrientes are the "survivor supreme" of cattle of that era. The saying is "they can survive quite well living on a parking lot". 

They are not the largest cattle you've seen I'm sure, and the calves are not that big when they are born either. However the mothers have the reputation of being the most protective of any of the cattle breeds and in the high desert environment of New Mexico they fend off the mountain lions and other predators with great gusto. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta love the calves though. They do like to be like children.

At the Ranch everyone comes to see the Texas Longhorns. These guys are the ones that the movies made famous as being the main players in all the westerns that had cattle drives from Texas up to the railhead in Santa Fe and points north. I am told that the horns weren't something the ranchers bred into the cattle...it was simply a freak of genetics that resulted in the longer horns. Surprisingly it is not a definitive trait, aside from being large. No two heads have horns that are the same. Every cow (cow or bull) has some differentiation in the horns. In the photos below you can see one of the Longhorns with a horn that seems quite misshapen and out of whack. That's not a rarity. The longhorns are larger cattle than the Corrientes and don't move nearly so quickly (due to size). Still, they are impressive. 

 

 

Interesting the colour variations as well as the wonky horn on the cow on the right. 

 

 

During the late 1800's a lot of land was given over to European and American settlers. The intention was to run agricultural operations in the south. The newcomers did not really appreciate the ruggedness and severity of the local climate. It is "high desert" with everything that the title denotes. Some years are pure drought, some years have a little rain. It is cold at night in the winter and blisteringly hot at times during the summer. a few decades after the influx of "easterners" taking advantage of free land, they became aware that running a farm was not in the books. Most of them couldn't make a living and simply gave up the land and moved back up north. The land reverted to the Bureau of Land Management and is presently (in many areas) used as grazing land by ranchers. 

Around about this time (late 1800's - early 1900's) the train became the major method of moving cattle from the ranch to the processors. The ranchers were also looking for breeds of cattle that were larger and could provide more meat per animal than before. Not having to drive the herds en mass to the major centres was perfect for the breed of cattle the ranchers were bringing in - Herefords. 

As you can see, they are larger than the previous breeds and pack on a lot of weight fairly quickly. Unfortunately, they aren't as rugged an animal as the Corrientes or Longhorns and had some major issues with living in the high desert environment. They are a fairly docile breed but can be nasty when provoked. 

This big fellow is the breeding male and will live out his life at the ranch museum enjoying the company of his "ladies". He has sired a number of really great calves and the University folks take really good care of him. He's a prime specimen of the breed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranching in the South West has always been a risky venture. I was told that the chances of a young fellow going into the ranching business nowadays is zero to none. The cost of land is too high, the cost of the herd exorbitant and unless you inherit from your family, there is no hope of having your own spread. The weather here is not cooperative at all. You get some years with good rain and the range produces everything the cattle need to live. Other years there is a drought and nothing grows, including the cattle. There have been many times in the last 75 years where ranchers have had to sell off their herd because they couldn't feed them and the water supply had dried up. They do get some subsidies from the gov't but just enough to tide them over so they can use what they got from selling last year to restart a new herd this year..weather permitting. 

And the amount of land required is vast. In the north they talk of number of head per acre, down here they talk of number of sections for each cow. We belong to the "High Desert Hikers" group and go hiking every now and then in the hills around our valley. It is normal to come over a hill and see one or two cows with their calves chowing down on the local grasses. Only one or two mind you...the next ones that you see could be two miles away. They are spread over vast amounts of land simply because the high desert here doesn't feed very many cattle in one area. 

There is always the effort to increase the weight of the beef cattle produced and to make them sturdier for living in the tough conditions here. The ranchers brought in Angus cattle to try and make the switch to a higher profit margin.  And so they brought in Angus.

As you can tell, they are big brutes and can pack on the weight. They reproduce well to boot. Lots of calves make the difference and keep the herd at full strength. 

However, they are used to cooler weather and northern climates, and find the summer heat to be a bit of a problem. To solve this dilemma they imported the Brahma from India. These guys are used to the heat and sparse grazing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This breed worked very well and after cross breeding with the Angus produce the Brangus. Good solid meat producers. Fairly lean meat, reproduce well and live quite well in the southern western high desert. Good value for the money invested.

Here is the end result...the Brangus. There is still the effort to improve on the ranching methods and production of meats for the general public, and hopefully there will come a day when the emphasis on having good food will not entail such a heavy dependence on meat production.....however, in the mean time ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a move afoot at the moment to thin out (....less fat in the meat...) the production line. The object is to produce good meat with reduced fat content and something that will be better for you. The latest trend is to cross breed Charolais with the Brangus. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.

 

 

 

 

 

The rancher that does these lectures makes no bones about it..he can't eat beef...his system doesn't process cholesterol and he would have a heart condition pretty quick if he ate beef. We have chosen to forego red meats ourselves, simply because we aren't really comfortable with the processing methodology in use these days. But there are millions of people all over the world that eat beef and there is a thriving business in meat production in both the U.S. and Canada. 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Cowboy days Farm and Ranch Las Cruces https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2016/3/cowboy-days Mon, 14 Mar 2016 23:46:23 GMT
Dripping Springs Nature Area https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/dripping-springs-nature-area Las Cruces is located in the middle of the Mesilla Valley, southeastern New Mexico. At one time, millions of years ago, this area was very volcanic and the valley is actually the old caldera from an ancient volcano that existed way back then. Today the mountains that ring this area, although eroded by weather and time, stand straight and tall in many locations. Remember too that this part of New Mexico is nearly 4000' ASL and you can begin to understand how rarified the air is and how dry it is. Small wonder they call this part of the U.S. the "high desert".

On the eastern side of this valley are the "Organ Mountains". They get their name from the Indians who noted that the rock formations looked somewhat like the pipes you may see in a church organ. At least that is the story most locals seem to accept as being true ... although when the original indigenous tribes may have seen an actual organ is beyond me. In any case the mountains gave their name to a small town nearby called "Organ". 

Nestled up against these mountains, lining a couple of "box canyons" is the Dripping Springs Nature Area. It is quite the place, sponsored by the National Bureau of Land Management, and is the home of many varieties of wild life (mountain lion, deer, elk, etc) and bird life (hawk, eagle, falcon, quail, etc).

The Springs began modern life as the grazing land of a cattle rancher, was sold to a mining consortium (silver) was eventually depleted, sold again to a doctor who ran sanatorium for TB patients, sold and operated by a new group as a destination resort and when they ran into financial problems the land became the property of the nation and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This history sounded so interesting and the area on the maps looked quite enticing so we decided on a day hike through the area. It's about 26 miles out of Las Cruces, on a partial dirt road ... but the access is well maintained and the facilities excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can follow the trails and will come to the livery stables where the horses taking people to the sanatorium were kept, then in another mile or so come to the actual buildings (the remains that is) of the original hospital (which became the resort ?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just below that is the spring (it really is "dripping"). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They used the springs to fill a holding pond that people used as the major water supply. Unfortunately, what with the present drought being what it is, the springs do actually & only drip from time to time.

 

 

We walked the entire route (some 6 1/2 miles) and came to the cave where a local hermit lived for some time. The rangers at the park told us he was murdered somewhere along the line and it remains an unsolved crime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a good day, warm and partly cloudy, and we drove home from the reserve tired but happy. We're really starting to like this part of the world I think.

For more photos go to     http://globalodyssey.ca/p246670073

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Area Cruces Dripping Las Nature Springs https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/dripping-springs-nature-area Mon, 28 Jan 2013 00:44:25 GMT
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/new-mexico-farm-ranch-heritage-museum The state of New Mexico has a Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum out by the university district, east side of the city. You can get to it easily from the Las Cruces-El Paso highway. The state funds the museum and it is manned by volunteers, with very few paid employees working there. They have displays from all the way back to the early original native Indian inhabitants plus the later settlers (ranchers mostly). They now raise a lot of crop varieties here and pecan trees are everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cattle they have here are actually a cross between the Aberdeen Angus from Scotland and the Brahmin from India. It seems that the cross breed is perfectly suited to the climatic conditions here and does very well on the scrub grazing available. They also raise a lot of cattle that originated from the Texas Longhorn of the mid 1800's. There are a few of the originals in residence at the museum here, and "longhorn" is a very appropriate name for them. This one is small by most standards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was John Deere's 164th (?) anniversary of fabricating farm equipment when we visited here and they had a fairly sizeable display of various models of ploughs and harvesters to look at. Interesting to say the least. 

For more photos please see  http://globalodyssey.ca/p243633975

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) LasCruces farm https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/new-mexico-farm-ranch-heritage-museum Tue, 22 Jan 2013 19:12:41 GMT
4 months in Las Cruces - Heading South https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/4-months-in-las-cruces---heading-south As early as last Feb/Mar 2012 we decided that this year (2013) we would not be heading back to Buenos Aires. Too much political upheaval, 28% annual increase in the cost of living and very restrictive protectionist policies by the government put Argentina on the sidelines for the time being. We will go back ... just not this year.

After a fair bit of searching the internet and other sources, we came to the conclusion that Las Cruces, New Mexico (in the U. S. of A.) might be the best choice as a spot to pass the winter months. We wanted to rent a place in the area of Las Cruces but needed easy access to a relatively inexpensive golf facility. Luckily enough we found such a house on the 10th fairway of the Picacho Hills Golf and Country Club, on the west side of the city. It has turned out to be a pretty good choice.

We started our trip south and thought that missing the winter snows in the mid-west states and the high ground of the mountains would be a good thing, so we planned the road trip south via the coast of Washington state, Oregon and California before turning east and travelling through Arizona and into New Mexico

The coast of Washington and Oregon is magnificent. The roads are very curvy and as they traverse a large area of  bays and inlets, there are lots of bridges and ocean side scenery.

It took a bit longer for the miles to add up as the roads are twisty and slow to navigate. We had planned for 5-6 hour days but until we got clear of the slow roads we drove for upwards of 9-10 hours to get to the next way point. Mind you, once in California we stayed on schedule just fine.

There is a lot to see enroute and we found a colony of harbour seals that were quite interesting. They spend a lot of time in the water fishing but many of them "haul-out" for a rest and a sleep. 

At this point (day two) we were not far from a place called Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. For serious golfers, this place has got to be one of the major destinations on their "bucket list".   It is a "links" course (welcome to Scotland) and plays the same way.  We were amazed at how windy and cold the coast actually was and for some reason thought that once out of Washington it would be balmy and quite nice. NOT !

 

We eventually crossed over the state border into California and the real fun started. What they say is true .. everyone here tailgates at 80 mph, they all carry a gun in the glove compartment (not actually sure about that) ... which are two things you want least in a place with no socialized medical coverage. It was like the proverbial rat race. We actually opted to by-pass San Francisco (and the Golden Gate bridge) and drove the alternate route through the east of Oakland and then down west again to the coast and points south. I didn't take any photos here, nor in Los Angeles, which was no different .. only more congested.

We finally made it to Palm Springs which was interesting. Stayed the night here as well, just to have a look around. We found a nice place for a couple of drinks in the late afternoon and a neat restaurant for dinner ... and they had a live band that started mid evening. Spent a pleasant hour of so with wine and dancing ... It made for a really pleasant break in the drive.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fact that the temperature was 20 degrees warmer here than in Oregon probably had something to do with the enjoyment factor. Palm Springs seems like a nice place but we could tell it was a little on the expensive side. 

 

We spoke with a number of passers-by and everyone seemed very happy, helpful and to be nice folks. There were a lot of Canadian license plates in the area as well. Seems we're not the only ones contemplating becoming "snow-birds".

 

We left Palm Springs with great expectations for the next two days heading east and were certainly not disappointed. We crossed the California/Arizona border, the sky cleared, the temperature went up and the road became straight and smooth. The sun shone and life was good. We stopped here and there for gas ($3.19/gal) or the "rest-stops" which seem to come up every hour or so of driving. It's a great road system and makes the driving a great deal less strenuous. 

There is however the endless straight-away of the highways, with not much to see on the horizon except the mountains in the distance. We passed a lot of emptiness, with the odd old farm house or ramshackle cabin stuck way out in the middle of a field somewhere. In some ways it seems really desolate. But there is an abundance of blue sky, hardly any cloud, no rain (yes.. it is desert and very dry) and lots of cactus and tumbleweed. 

As I said, there are mountains in the distance and every now and then we had to climb a fair sized hill along the way, but basically it's pretty flat. Wherever there are hills though, it gets interesting. At first I thought the hills were from some kind of geological land shift (orographic lift) forcing the hills upward, you can see the stratified layers of the earths crust on hillsides that have eroded away. It turns out that this area of the southwest was volcanic in origin and the flatlands are actually part of what was once a gigantic caldera. At one point the caldera was a lake (hence the sedimentary layers in the rock). There is a pretty huge magma extrusion underground here (about 10 miles down) .. not as big as the one under Yellowstone Park up north, but fairly big in any case. most of the mountains are part of old volcanic cones that have eroded or fallen apart with age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the drive from Palm Springs to Tucson and points east, we managed to crawl into Las Cruces on day 6 around 2:30 pm and were met at the house by the care-taker gal who was most happy to see we'd made it. 

For more photos please see  http://globalodyssey.ca/p954330579

 

 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) LasCruces car south trip https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2013/1/4-months-in-las-cruces---heading-south Mon, 21 Jan 2013 18:42:27 GMT
Socialism - Why It Doesn't Work https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/5/free-enterprise-vs-socialism An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. 

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. 

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. 


When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. 

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. 

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. 



 
These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) politics https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/5/free-enterprise-vs-socialism Thu, 31 May 2012 17:38:12 GMT
Family history https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/5/family-history Seems that our family did in fact originate in Ireland. I was wandering through the internet today and came across these photos. 

Ardtully and the old Orpen estate

The pics are of an estate (castle) called Ardtully, in southern Ireland. I gather it was quite the promenant fixture in the landscape, until Cromwells army invaded and razed the place to the ground. I remember your great-grandfather Orpen talking about Ardtully years ago, back when I was much younger than you are now. 

Too bad, ... it looks like it might have been a real nice place to live back in the dark ages. The ORPEN family coat of arms still hangs over the main entrance though, which is a plus. 

I'll have to go there some day, if for nothing more than to just see it with my own eyes. 


The castle was a permanent fixture in the surrounding landscape until Cromwells army razed it to the ground It still lives on, although not as prominent as before
The ORPEN Coat of Arms still hangs over the main entrance

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) personal stuff https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/5/family-history Fri, 18 May 2012 01:50:31 GMT
A Brief Sojourn in Wine Country https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/a-brief-sojourn-in-wine-country This past week we  pulled the pin on BA and went for a few days to Mendoza. For those of you who may not know, Mendoza is the Napa Valley or Bordeaux region of Argentina. They make some of the best wine in the world right here. While in Mendoza we were privileged to be able to join a group that went wine tasting at a number of fairly exclusive wineries just outside of the city, in an area known as Lujan de Cuyo. Cuyo would be the regional area (not all that large actually, similar to a long valley) and Lujan is the smaller area within that has it's own micro-climate and correct conditions for the type of wine grape that they grow. There are other smaller areas (Maipu or the Uco valley to name a couple) and each one produces very distinctive wines due to the differing soil, sun and altitude conditions of each area. 

The city of Mendoza is wonderful. On the way in from the airport we had a great conversation with our driver whom we understood with absolutely no problem. I had to ask when I realized he was speaking regular Spanish and we all had a good laugh while he explained that those people in B.A. don't really speak Spanish, they fake it most of the time. No wonder we have trouble understanding Platenese Spanish! Every one outside of B.A. speaks the regular lingo, which does make things easier. 

The city is fairly modern in many ways but still has an old section that was the original core of the town. Some years ago Mendoza had a hugely devastating earthquake that levelled everything. They rebuilt, using all the new modern methods of construction, so now total collapse is not so much a problem. One thing they did that is of interest is how the new city parks are situated. It seems, after the last quake, people simply wandered the streets with nowhere to go after their houses were destroyed. During the rebuild the city decided that sizeable parks could be the answer ... so they built a central park, Plaza Independencia, and then added four smaller parks (still fairly sizeable) just off each corner of the main park and 2-3 blocks removed. In the event of another catastrophe the citizenry are supposed to gather in each of those parks where emergency services will be provided. When not in use for emergency purposes the parks host all sorts of entertainment events, displays of artwork, childrens day trips ... there are fountains and playgrounds, bike rental stands, arts and crafts kiosks, the list goes on. It seems to be a really smart way of beautifying the city while providing the infra-structure for people to enjoy ... or depend on should the need present itself. 

The city is much more laid back than B.A. The drivers aren't nearly so courageous (dangerous), the pedestrians actually have the right of way and the cars allow for it. The people seem quite happy for the most part. There is no end of shopping going on in the city centre and although the prices here are slightly less than in the "big city" they are still quite high compared with our experience of last year. 

We stopped by the local museum and spent some time wandering through. Amazing stuff when you consider just how long ago all the exhibits were in use. The local history goes back to the days of the Spanish occupation after the conquistadors began exploring the interior of South America from Lima, Peru. That would be in the mid 1700's.

On our second to last day in Mendoza we were part of a wine tasting tour. It took the better part of half an hour (I'm being facetious) to get to the first winery - they are all so close together - and get into the tour of the property. The young man escorting us was a font of information and, as it turns out, is a qualified "sommelier". He took the course, did a practicum in the U.S.  and worked as the sommelier on the Canard Lines Queen Elizabeth. Came back to Mendoza (his home town) 6 months ago to study economics and works for the tour company to help pay for the education. We visited the Bodega Dominion del Plata, Pulenta Estates, Bodega Piatelli and the Bodega Melipal (Melipal gave us the gourmet luncheon - what a feast).

We toured the individual wineries at each stop, did a tasting of their more popular wines and usually ended each session by trying their top of the line limited production. These wines are distinctive, each with it's own personality and each one was very, very nice.  We ended up buying a couple of bottles - the Pulenta Estates La Flor Sauvignon Blanc (and we're not great white wine drinkers .. but it was soooo good) and the Piattelli Malbec Grand Reserva. They weren't cheap but they will be worth every penny if we can get them back to Canada without the travel home ruining them.  We rated the wines as best we could, being uneducated palates that is, and, surprisingly enough, came in not too far off the professional rankings. 

For more photos of Mendoza and the wineries, please go to              http://globalodyssey.ca/f337718835        

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Argentina Malbec Mendoza Wine https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/a-brief-sojourn-in-wine-country Sat, 28 Apr 2012 19:31:07 GMT
The Myth of the Maids https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/the-myth-of-the-maids Someone asked me the other day about the maids here and does everyone have one .... so I did a little digging and found out some interesting info regarding "mucamas" (aka house maids).

Last year, the place we rented came with a mucama. We were not impressed. The standard of cleanliness after she had left the apartment was such that we ended up cleaning again later. She did change the bedding and the towels etc, plus water the flowers, sweep the patio, and generally tidy .. but really clean .... not really. 

We found out, after our time here last year, that the property managers hire the maids and then charge the owners the maids salaries, then pay the maids themselves. Our maid was getting something like 12-15 pesos an hour ($3-$4 dollars). Also seems the property manager was charging the owners 25 pesos and paying the maid the 12-15 as I said, at least that is what the owners told me after the fact. This year, we decided that we didn't want a mucama as neither of us are comfortable with some stranger wandering around our apartment .. especially when we don't know how trustworthy she is ... so we're doing without. 

But many couples in this area are both working .. and they work long hours. Not abnormal to have people leave for work at 6:15 am, come home around 3pm, then go back out again until after 11pm (they finish work then go for dinner). Repeat "dias habiles" (every weekday). It is accepted that these folks will employ a mucama to care for their house as the owners don't have time to do it themselves. 

So what does this entail .. having a mucama. Well .. you can do it two ways .. either "en blanco" or "en negro". Blanco being above board, everything included and declared (obra social, social security, paid vacation time, and sick time). Negro is simply the black market underground economy. Everyone knows it exists (including the govt) but no one does anything about it. Anyway, the rates for negro are higher than blanco and will vary, depending on hours of work and what you're comfortable with. This will reflect the insecurity of not having a permanent job on the maids part, as well as her foregoing all the other social services working "en blanco" provides. 

As of this week, under "blanco", a mucama will get around 18-20 pesos an hour. The govt standard for a full time maid is 2000-2800 pesos a month (do the math). With the inflation rate being what it is, that will go up, probably to around 20 - 25 pesos an hour by next September. You also have the other expenses, as in the items mentioned in the previous paragraph. Interesting to note that last Nov 2011, the official pay rate was 15.79 pesos an hour. 

Under "negro" the mucamas will get somewhere around 25 - 30 pesos an hour but they also want a lunch provided, as well as "viatico" (travel expenses). Viatico is important as most of the mucamas travel daily from the outlying barrios at the city's edge to work in the downtown area .. and that costs money, of which they earn very little. 

Usually the maids are hired based on referrals ... so it pays them to do a good job and get a good recommendation from their employer (but not  from we transient tourists .. we're never here long enough for it to matter much in their lives). A local told me that they would never hire a mucama that had worked for a gringo ... we pay them too much and spoil them for working for a local Argentine. Interesting concept I must say. 

So endth the lesson !

 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/the-myth-of-the-maids Sat, 14 Apr 2012 19:33:24 GMT
Finca en las Pampas (A ranch in the prairie) https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/finca-en-las-pampas-a-ranch-in-the-prairie I received a query recently about ranches in the pampas and if you can actually go and visit one.

I'm pleased to say .. yes you can. We have been a couple of times to a particular ranch and have always had a great experience while we were there. Don Silvano's is one of a number of "fincas" that encourage tourists to visit and then put on quite a show when they come. We like Don Silvano's, mostly because of the entertainment and the fact that the staff are so readily available to explain all the goings on around the ranch and what is next to see or do.

They offer a number of activities for you to take part in. You can go for trail rides, be driven around the estancia in a horse drawn carriage, play bocchi ball, wander through the corrals with the horses and cattle or just sit in the shade and "veg out". Additionally, they also do a display of the normal activities that happen on a daily basis around the ranch. The gauchos that work there play a major part in these events.

There is the "main house" for you to explore, as well as a bunk house area that is rented out, room by room, for those guests who want to stay over night. It is a very unique experience and although we have not stayed for the weekend, they tell me that it is a never ending menu of surprises and pleasantries. A late night song fest and barbeque was mentioned as the highlight of the Saturday night.

The main feature of the "tourist daily visit" is the parilla luncheon. Everyone gathers in the main dining hall and you are fed a meal unlike anything you've ever had. The meat is excellent (all barbeque), the wine never-ending and the entertainment exemplary. We've been to that luncheon twice now and it's been a wonderful gathering on both occasions. Not only do you get "fed" well but you also learn a lot about farm life in Argentina. They have entertainment that schools you in Argentine history as well as regional differences ... and you can even learn to dance a couple of local folk dances as well. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We heartily endorse a visit to Don Silvano's or any other estancia out of the city. Well worth the time and effort to get there. If possible, stay the weekend. It's an experience you won't forget.

For more photos please visit              http://globalodyssey.ca/p911081579

Enjoy.

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/finca-en-las-pampas-a-ranch-in-the-prairie Thu, 12 Apr 2012 22:49:21 GMT
Nuestro Caballos (Our Horses) https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/nuestro-caballos-our-horses We spent this past weekend going to a local exposition. We have stayed in this part of town now on two separate occasions, for at least 3 months each time. A block from our present apartment there is a building that we knew was there .. but paid little attention to. We have always thought it was nothing more than a place for rock concerts or the like. Turns out that this place is truly amazing. 

The complex (and it is a complex) is called "La Rural" .. you can see the name on the side of some of the buses that pass by, it's part of their usual routes. The front of the building is rather non-descript and the sidewalk in front is usually the hangout for some of the cities more indigent residents. Lots of trash in the gutters and cigarette butts and paper on the street. Around the corner is another main street that was the parking place for the Dakar rally vehicles from last years race as well as what turned out to be ... the main entrance to the complex. The entire place backs onto a shared fence line with the American embassy, so you have to believe that at least some part of the complex is as safe as Fort Knox.

La Rural hosted the annual horse and dog show this weekend. Hundreds of displays, horses and dogs and of course people, coming and going. It was amazing to watch ... and very reasonable to get into. Cost all of 20 pesos ($5.00 CDN) for the days admission. They had two show rings that were twice the size of Olympic hockey rinks, one that was about the size of an North American hockey rink and an outdoor ring that was like half a soccer field. The stalls were all laid out in such a way that each breed of horse was in the same area. They had everything from polo ponies and Palaminos to my two favourites - the Peruvean Walking horse (Peruano de Paso) and the Argentine Criollo (the local version of the North American western saddle horse). The horses on show here are not your typical "dressage" type horses. They don't do high stands or kicks, they don't run little obstacle courses and they don't look like they'll fall over from fright. All of these horses are "working" horses that are trained to work on ranches or service the local farming communities in one way or another. No prissy little things here, these are the tough guys of "Equus Caballus"... and I love them a lot. 

The actual showing in the ring is always in reference to what they are called upon to do on the ranch. The exercises are reflective of the cattle herding, the transporting of humans, the game of polo, all the usual activities each breed takes part in or does for a living. The horses are graded by a group of judges that stand out in the middle of the ring and ask the riders to perform various manoeuvers. The judges know all the horses and the riders so don't always ask for the same exercises from every horse ... although the basic format may be the same, what they ask can vary a great deal. While all the judging is going on inside, in the outdoor ring they have demonstrations by every breed of horse attending the show. They had everything from English saddle riding to polo players whacking a ball to actual working gauchos riding herd on some cattle (cutting horses come to mind) and then a few of the Peruvean walking horses, all going through their paces. 

The Argentine Criollo is the working horse here, equivalent to the American saddle horse in the U.S. and Canada. They are somewhat more stocky than the American breed, with legs that look slightly short for the body size .. but these little guys are strong as steel and can work all day without batting an eye. The Peruvean Walking horse I particularly like. I have a bias for it, having lived in Peru for a couple of years and seen it way back when .. plus I have a bad lower back. The Peruano de Paso has a characteristic walk that is almost like a strut and, as a result, its back remains perfectly flat when it walks. No jarring of the riders spine, no odd movements, in short .. it's a flat ride. It is truly an elegant horse to watch or to ride. 

The riders and wranglers here also intrigued me. Many are ranch owners who are indulging their hobbies and fancy themselves "breeders" but in actual fact they are just "horse enthusiasts". Some are legitimate breeders. They have more money than god. You can also tell them apart because they have absolutely no pretences (they don't dress up in costume to show the horses) and they take a great deal of interest in the other horses in the competition. Then there are the actual gauchos. They have this certain non-chalance about themselves that makes you believe they are only there because the owners/ranchers asked them to come to handle the horses, so here they are ... and they're bored. They've been there and done that ... for real. These guys I love !! You always know a "pro" when you see one. 

 

 

 

This was Easter weekend and the crowds were getting larger and larger as the weekend wore on, so we didn't go for the last day, but for the days we went, it was well worth the visits and not only did I see some great horse-flesh, I learned a lot too. I'm still looking for an English book on the Argentine Criollo. If you know of one, please let me know. 

For more photos and movies, please go to  

                   http://globalodyssey.ca/f887642168

Enjoy !

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/nuestro-caballos-our-horses Tue, 10 Apr 2012 08:10:33 GMT
Cartoneros https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/carteneros Here in Buenos Aires they have garbage collection on a daily basis. They have to! There is just so much of it that they would get too far behind to let it slide for even one day. 8 million people generate a ton of trash. Surprisingly, you see very very little evidence of recycle bins anywhere. There are piles and piles of green garbage bags in mid block and on every street corner .. but no blue recycle bins or collection depots anywhere. I would suppose, based on that observation, they do not have a recycle program here in the city. 

Wrong ... they do ... and it begs explanation.

The topic of the Buenos Aires Cartoneros has been documented, filmed, written about and blogged damn near to death. Go on an internet search and you'll see a few thousand entries under that title. However, I can't let my time here in B.A. go by without at least mentioning these folks and the job they do. It's amazing how such a poorly regarded and looked down upon resource could have such a disastrous effect if it weren't here. After all, all they do is collect the recyclables that are discarded every evening by the residents of the city.

To get the statistics out of the way first: 

- 400,000 tons of recyclable material is collected and sold every year

- Cartoneros earn 70 million pesos annually selling it

- By the time it's passed through the middlemen and back into business, it's sold for 450 million pesos

- There are 6 -10,000 cartoneros today that make the daily trek into the city, as opposed to over 40,000 back in 2002 (during the economic crisis)

- 10,500 are officially registered with the government

- Cartoneros get $.45 pesos (thats 45 centavos = about 12 cents U.S.) per kilo of white paper, 17-20 centavos for cardboard, 12 centavos for newsprint, 25-30 centavos for plastic bottles and 7-10 centavos for glass.

The neighbourhood bosses who collect from the cartoneros add 20% to the price before they sell the bulk to larger recycling collectors, who add another 100% before they sell to the paper mills and recycling depots as raw material, who themselves sextuple the price when they turn the material into finished products that they will sell back into the public market.A "cartanero" at work

There were garbage pickers long before the Cartoneros, but these guys came into their own during and after the economic meltdown in 2002. The govt back in those days was just happy that some people were finding work (jobless rate was over 50%). At the time the recycle money was pretty good too (comparatively). The rates that the recycle companies paid back then were much higher than today .. and jobs were tough to get back then as well. The government helped by putting on a special train to take the workers from the barrios into the city and then using the same train to carry all the recycle material to the plant up near Tigre or the plant out by Mataderos. With the economic recovery came better work opportunities ... and then the recycling businesses began to pay less ... which accounts for why many Cartoneros have moved on to other jobs. However, each evening, rain or shine, these folks arrive from their barrios outside the city and go to work, pawing through all the bags of garbage looking for the recyclables.

This "job" has become regarded as a "profession" by it's practitioners. They have a union of sorts. The govt has recently acknowledged their contribution to the cities welfare and has accorded them the same increased benefits as any normal worker gets. They are registered with the city government and have ID cards to prove their place in the workforce. For many, it has become a family affair. Some bring their kids with them and they all go trash-picking (I'm dead set against child labour) and it's not unheard of to see the wives and babies manning the little coffee stands at the central pick-up points scattered throughout the city. The guys take a coffee break every now and then when they bring their cart loads into the collecting points.

I'll let you find your way through the internet to read or see more photos on these folks. As I said, it's a tough job, in unsanitary working conditions and inclement weather, but it is honest work and serves the needs of the city. I'll just leave it at that.

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/carteneros Mon, 09 Apr 2012 07:41:03 GMT
You're really going to love this one !! https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/youre-really-going-to-love-this-one About two weeks ago, we got a notice from the general manager of our apartment complex shoved under our door.

It was an instruction sheet that told us, with the cooler weather coming on, they were activating the heating system in the apartments and wanted all residences to keep the temperature set at 26 degrees, for the benefit of all apartments surrounding the one you occupy. If one is cold, it affects the heating in the adjacent flats (I assumed because of the cement walls being cold in winter etc). It is an "in-floor" electric heating system .. and because it was 26-28 degrees outside (and we use the air conditioning) we elected to not turn ours on. 

Last night, a nice fellow from upstairs knocked on the door and very politely explained that he lived above us and could we please turn our heat down because his place was over 30 degrees. I showed him our thermostat & that the power switch was off. He was puzzled by this. We talked some more and during the discussion he told us when they built the building 5 years ago the builders had made a mistake and hooked up the temperature controllers in each apartment incorrectly. The controllers actually control the temperature in the apartment immediately above the one you live in. 

If you recall, I mentioned the way they build here in a previous post. The first drawback to this method is that this mistake from 5 years ago is irreversible. It can't be fixed without tearing apart the cement walls in every apartment. The residents have been living with this problem ever since. Our upstairs neighbour then seemed to accept the fact that he would be warm until the real cold came and and shrugged it off by saying it wasn't our fault, this was the best we could do and he'd just have to accept it. His apartment - 903c has air conditioning too and he'd have to use it for a while longer. 

I had to tell him, our apartment is actually 2 below his .. we're 703c. When he realized that he'd made a mistake, I thought he was going to croak. Very embarrassed and very apologetic. No problem I told him - I felt for him .. I didn't laugh until after he'd gone.

As the adage says "There but for the grace of god go I".

I thought you might appreciate hearing the sort of thing that happens here from time to time ... with, what to us, seems like a lot more frequency than at home. 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/youre-really-going-to-love-this-one Thu, 05 Apr 2012 14:10:32 GMT
Feria de Mataderos https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/feria-de-mataderos Back in the old days, I mean really "the old days", the gauchos (cowboys) from the surrounding ranch lands used to bring the cattle into the outskirts of Buenos Aires just as you might imagine they would .... in huge herds all walking from the finca (ranch) to the processing yards. As time passed, the trucks and trains began taking over that job. Little by little, the old way of life disappeared and was replaced by the newer and more modern ways of processing. 

As this was happening, the city of Buenos Aires was growing. New housing and more factories spread out and eventually engulfed the area where the beef processing took place. That area became known as the barrio of Mataderos. A lot has changed since the old days and with that in mind, a few people decided that it would be a shame to lose the history and traditions surrounding one of Argentina's most prized resources, that being the growing and processing of good beef. 

In 1986 these folks put together the "Feria de Mataderos". Now ... literally translated, it means Fair of Slaughter .. but to regard it as only that would be a dis-service. It is much more. The traditions, folks songs and dances, as well as the handicrafts and art work of the rural people in Argentina are very special and need to be preserved and kept alive. The Feria allows that to happen. Every year, on Sundays, the fair opens its doors (or should I say closes the streets to traffic) and invites everyone to the party. There averages some 300 stalls and booths selling the arts and crafts. There is a stage set up and bands play, groups sing old songs, and people dance in the streets. At various times during the afternoon and evening the gauchos appear with their horses and provide displays of riding prowess as well as demonstrations of the variety of skills that they need for working on the average cattle ranch.

Surprisingly, Gouchos are still employed on these ranches in the old tradition although do they augment the horse work and old methods with newer tractors and jeeps for use around the farm. They are very proud of their heritage and taking a day to go out into the pampas and watch the men at work tending to the requirements of the finca is an education in itself. A number of ranches make themselves available for visitations by tourist groups, as well as visits by local Argentinians who may be out for a day in the country.  

We went to this weeks grand opening of the Feria for the 2012 season. There were a lot more stalls and vendors than when we were at the fair last year. However, the parillas (barbeques) were marvellous, the dancing great and this year the museum is open, having been refurbished during the off season. Very educational. For those who might be contemplating a visit to B.A., try to make it during a time when the Feria is open. It's closed mid December through to the end of March.

note: Cruise ships come in mostly on Sundays, and the fair is open on Sundays. Great fit for those who are interested.

For more photos go to    http://globalodyssey.ca/p979078641

 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/4/feria-de-mataderos Mon, 02 Apr 2012 20:33:41 GMT
My little traffic movie https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/my-little-traffic-movie For those of you who think we exaggerate when we say traffic in BA is outrageous... 

here you go ........ 21 buses in 1 min 15 sec.

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires traffic https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/my-little-traffic-movie Sat, 31 Mar 2012 12:10:01 GMT
Recoleta .... (rico Recoleta !) https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/recoleta-rico-recoleta I slipped "rico" into the title to this piece because, in truth, Recoleta is the rich and well-to-do area in Buenos Aires. This part of the city lies between Palermo chico and the central section of town that starts at Plaza San Martin. It's not a large barrio but it is the cleanest, neatest and most well kept barrio in the entire capital region. Along side a number of foreign embassies (the French embassy in particular) is one street corner that is now a shrine to the bombing of the Israeli embassy a couple of decades ago, as well as the residence of the Papal Nuncio (the Pope's representative) here in all of South America.  

There are so many of the top of the line shops here that you can buy anything of first class quality, any of the top brand names, that you may want. And on nearly every block there is a shop specializing in Polo or riding gear. In these shops they also sell hand-made saddles, bit and tackle for the horsey set plus the required mallets etc for the polo players. I will not bother to mention the prices of all these commodities ... I'd have to work forever to afford just one day of shopping in this barrio. 

Additional to this example of extreme "largesse" and retailing is the abundance of the best hotels in the Americas. There are a number of newer "boutique" hotels, as well as some of the grandest name places that date back to the mid 1850's. All have been refurbished and are prime examples of European architecture and opulence. I will not bother to mention also the standard of service all these shops, restaurants and hotels offer ... just bear in mind that it is commensurate with the wealth of the area and leave it at that. You have to know that this is a special area simply because there are more police cars cruising around Recoleta than in the entire rest of the city. The streets are pristine clean (no dog dirt on the sidewalks here) and streets cleaners are in evidence on every corner. I am told that only the wealthiest of foreigners and Argentines live here, as well as most of the government "power elite". They pay high taxes but they also get what they want .. which is a great place to live. 

Recolata is also known for it's main attraction, the cemetery. This "dead centre of town" is impressive to walk through, to say the least. The entire history of Argentina can be experienced through the reading of the names on the crypts, family vaults and tombstones inside the walls. The church next door is small but really quaint and dates back a couple of centuries as well. The entire complex is well maintained and walking through the place seems like a fairly nice way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. 

The big drawing card for tourists to the Recoleta cemetery is the family crypt where the remains of Eva Peron are interred. After years of having her remains shipped all over hells half acre (she was originally buried in Italy at one point) she was finally returned to Argentina and placed in the family vault. But don't go looking for the Peron vault. Her original name was Duarte and she is in the Duarte family crypt. Hawkers at the entrance to the cemetery sell maps so the tourists can find their way but there are a myriad number of other names on that map whose headstones should be visited as well ... as I said, the entire history of Argentina wrapped up in one graveyard.

After a day in the tombs, you might want to go have a coffee at the outdoor patio of La Biela, one of the oldest coffee emporiums in the city. It rivals Tortoni's in popularity and is the outdoor version of Tortoni's indoor excellence. On Sundays, the hillside just outside the cemetery (Plaza Francia) hosts some 50 - 75 sidewalk stalls and booths where they sell arts and crafts made by local entrepreneurs. On a sunny afternoon, walking through Recoleta is well worth the effort. To quote (kind of) "Max" in the "Sound of Music" ... "I love rich people, I love how rich people live .. and I love how I live when I'm with rich people". 

For more photos of Recoleta go to          http://globalodyssey.ca/p1032724888    or     http://globalodyssey.ca/p644098577

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires Recoleta https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/recoleta-rico-recoleta Thu, 29 Mar 2012 18:25:09 GMT
Tigre - the Delta area https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/tigre---the-delta-area Tigre is not really a "barrio" like you would think. Most barrios are sections of the city, with housing and apartment buildings like you see in most other cities or like here in Buenos Aires. Most barrios are localized, with their own sports teams, favourite bars, etc. etc. Tigre is different. Tigre (pronounced "teegrey") is an entity unto it's own, primarily because of it's location and life style.

Tigre is the part of the greater Buenos Aires regional district but sits alongside and part of the Delta region of the Rio de la Plata. The town itself is on the edge of the city, at the confluence of the Rio Lujan and Rio Tigre, both of which flow into the Rio de la Plata. It is the northernmost section of the city of B.A. and from where we live (Palermo) it is a one hour ride by bus (fascinating way to travel) to get there. The bus driver on one occasion (we've been to Tigre a few times) asked us why we didn't take the train, as it is so much faster. I told him we had taken the train to Tigre once, but found we could see much more of the city and the people by taking the bus. He agreed and thought what we were doing was a good idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Tigre, there are some interesting sights. They have a number of river-side rowing clubs, a full fledged casino/hotel complex and a couple of fairly nice coffee shops and restaurants. However, the big draw is the river delta area. On the various islands in the delta they have a wide variety of hostels, spas, B&B's, as well as some people's permanent homes. The folks from downtown come here for weekend "getaways", business events (at the conference centres on the various islands) or to vacation at their own little cottage. Huge main building .. like a church it would seem No doubt who owns it

To cater to all of these activities there has to be some mode of transport to get people from point A to point B .... and there is. In Tigre proper, alongside the Rio Tigre, there is a complex of wharves, docks, and jetties, and an entire system of river-taxis to service the islands. I have spent the better part of a couple of hours just sitting at the main pier watching people loading up their "goodies" onto the water taxi, getting ready for the ride home. Most of the taxi services also offer tourists rides through the delta and it is by far the most economical and enjoyable way to see the area. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the loading process, the dogs on the roof, the myriad water bottles, the food bags and luggage, plus people crammed into the interior of the boat, it all makes for a really interesting experience. What amazes me is that the boatmen know all the residents of the delta and where they live. As you wander your way through the river channels and side streams, they invariable pick just the right jetty to cozy-on up to and off load a couple of people coming home. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke with one of the boat fella's and we had a nice chat. Seems that there are a lot of places on the delta that are owned by "town folk" from Buenos Aires. He didn't have too much good to say about them, as he thinks they are mostly '"transients". They may come for a weekend or a couple of weeks in the summer but for the most part their cabins or homes in the delta are empty. What a waste. Mind you, having seen the area myself and realizing how cool it can get in the winter months, I imagine that living in the delta year round is an experience you would only want to do once. As for me, I'd live there all summer and for part of the spring and fall ...... only coming off to visit the local golf course on the odd occasion. Boat leaving for the delta.

They do have their own set of problems though. In some months of the year the tidal waters from the River Plate raise the level of the delta waters to the point that everything floods. All the docks that belong to the delta residences are water-borne, meaning they float. When the water rises, so do the docks. A local told me that it is not unusual that you go shopping in Tigre, take the water-taxi home, climb off onto you own jetty, then slosh through 2 feet of water along the path to get to your house.  Which probably accounts for the fact that most houses in the delta are built on stilts. 

I am also told that there are times when the power to the islands fails .. and it can be off for as many as 5 days at a time. In the summer heat and humidity, the last thing you need is no air conditioning for a week at a time. Very uncomfortable and you can trust me on that score .... been there, done that !

And one last thought ... what about garbage? They do have septic systems or chemical toilettes in all of the islands, and garbage collection is, once again, by boat. 

In any case, taking a bus to Tigre and a boat trip through the delta is one of those experiences that you will remember for a long long time. Well worth the minimal cost (.50 cents for the bus & 8 dollars for the round trip ticket through the delta on the water taxi). 

For a more comprehensive look-see at              http://globalodyssey.ca/p883583327 or        http://globalodyssey.ca/p421891063

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires Tigre https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/tigre---the-delta-area Wed, 28 Mar 2012 22:13:32 GMT
Palermo - It's Where I Live ! https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/my-palermo---where-i-live It seems I have inadvertently started a string of blogs describing the various barrios in Buenos Aires (see San Telmo). I've had good feedback from people telling me they would like to see/hear more ... so I suppose it's "on with the show"

When I first contemplated coming for an extended period to Buenos Aires, I had no real idea of where I would like to be. I have stayed in "El Centro", near the downtown city centre, and in my other life (before retirement) was most familiar with Echeveria (the airport area) on the south west side. After much investigation, it turned out that Palermo Nuevo suited us the best. It has a plentitude of shops, green spaces and parks all over the place and best of all, is quite near the golf course. Perfect for us. We did the internet search exercise and found a place for 3 months last year and a different apartment (again in Palermo Nuevo) for 4 months this year. Obviously we like it here. 

Palermo is one of the largest barrios in what is known as the Federal Capital Region and also in the province of Buenos Aires. The city is of the same name, which you already know, so you can imagine the "politicking" that goes on around here. In any case, Palermo is large enough that locals refer to various places in the barrio by location or description. There is Palermo Viejo (old Palermo) also known as Palermo Soho. There is Palermo Chico (little Palermo), Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Nuevo (new Palermo), and last but not least, Alto Palermo (high Palermo, also known quite simply as "Shopping") - the main shopping district with the Alto Palermo shopping centre (like Surrey Centre in Vancouver or Eaton's centre in Toronto) as the main attraction.

Palermo Viejo is a really neat area. There you can find a goodly number of furnished apartments for rent short term. There is also quite a number of youth hostels and B&B's advertized, so there is no lack of accommodation. The streets are all tree lined, the roads and lane-ways cobblestone in many places, and the number of good restaurants and bars in this area boggles the mind. There are also some of the best night clubs here as well, although many newer ones have opened recently in Palermo Hollywood.

 

 

Needless to say this area attracts the party goers, the younger travellers, and some folks like us who refuse to acknowledge our age or the passage of time. 

 

Palermo Hollywood got it's name from the fact that it hosted a number of movie studios back in the early days. It too has it's fair share of restaurants, night cubs and tapas bars. It shares its unofficial border with Palermo Viejo and it's totally acceptable if you  start the night out in Viejo and end it in Hollywood. All part of the fun & games.

Palermo Chico is the closest part of Palermo to the downtown city centre. By heading south out of Palermo you get into the barrio of Recoleta, which I will keep for another "spiel". In "Chico" there are many very posh apartment buildings, wide streets and what seems like wide sidewalks to match. The Japanese Zen garden is here, there are a couple of additional parks to wander through and one of the nicest golf driving-range complexes I've ever seen. Which figures I suppose. It is a wealthy area and hosts quite a number of foreign embassies, each in it's own what looks like a very old, majestic and imposing building. Except the Canadian embassy (of course). Very modest building, not big by usual standards, and as a citizen of Canada, getting in to see someone is nearly impossible. We tried. Ended up talking to a secretary on an internal embassy phone line. But I digress. 

My Palermo is Palermo Nuevo (I mentioned that earlier) and I can't think of a nicer place to be. We have a huge park, with a lake, a large rose garden, walking tracks, all within a two blocks of our flat. There is also the Cancha de Golf Municipal de Palermo (the golf course), the Hippodrome (they have horse races on Mondays and Saturdays), and the main Polo grounds for the Argentine Polo Association (we started the 2012 season this month - games every weekend). There is a shopping centre (Jumbo) and a number of other stores and bodegas within a three block radius of where we are, plus a number of fairly reasonable restaurants along the streets surrounding our building. And to add to the ambiance, if you wish to go anywhere, the #34 bus line has a stop right outside our front door. 

Palermo also plays host to the city zoo and a botanical garden that doubles as the central meeting place for all the stray cats in the city. They tell me there are more than a 1000 of them, and park visitors regularly feed them .. some cats even get to go to a vet if required. As I've said ... they really love their "mascotas" here. 

There are many other barrios in B.A. Each has it's own personality and flavour ... but for total enjoyment and ambiance, I love San Telmo but prefer to live in Palermo. It is another of my favourites.

To see more of Palermo, go to     http://globalodyssey.ca/p1031749601       or    http://globalodyssey.ca/p937587588

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires Palermo https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/my-palermo---where-i-live Tue, 27 Mar 2012 22:43:54 GMT
On a Lighter note - Building buildings https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/on-a-lighter-note---building-buildings As many of you may know, our apartment this year isn't quite what we expected it to be. That is worth an entire article on it's own but for now be content to understand that the front of our apartment faces another building about 30 yrds across the abyss and right between us is a new apartment building under construction ... which is where my story begins.

The methodology whereby apartment buildings get built in this city is somewhat different from other places. For one thing, they build entirely out of cement. Yes ... the outer walls, the inner walls, the entire building is made of cement. To hang a picture on the wall of your bedroom takes a mini jack-hammer and a cement strength nail. 

The interesting thing is that all the water pipes and electrical conduits are buried in the walls. They literally carve out lines in the cement to install the water and electrical lines, then patch back over to make the walls flat. A plasterer will then come in and, by hand, completely plaster all the walls and ceiling to a flat surface, suitable for painting. The floors are cement as well (I know .. it's obvious they would be) and the norm is that they use floating floors made from manufactured flooring as the surface you walk on. Very hard on the feet I might add. 

The building next to us has been in the process for at least 6 months and will be for another 6-7 months, according to the workers out front that I spoke with. They were very busy today, bringing in the water tanks that are installed on the flat roof of the building. They use small pumps to fill these tanks and the height above the apartments is used to give the water the pressure that is needed to service the individual apartments. Sometimes these pumps fail and there is no water pressure. Or, as in our case last week, the fill valve failed and the tank over-filled. We had water running down the stairwell from the 26th floor and I noticed it when I put out the garbage in the centre stairwell. We're on the 7th floor by the way. It flooded the elevators from above and all of them were shorted out for two days. It's been a week and the last of them are still not repaired. They had to rewire all the circuitry on top of all the elevators. We're just glad we don't live on the 23rd floor. 

Anyway, back to next door. Today they were bringing in the empty water tanks for placing on the top floor. In North America, they would have brought in a huge crane and mounted it on the top floor. Hoisting up the three tanks would have taken an hour and it would have been duck soup. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not here! Manpower works ! They arranged a series of ropes over the side of the building, had men pulling and towing and literally hoisted the tanks up the side of the building by muscle power alone. I had to hand it to them ... it worked. But they were sure tired when the last tank was finally up on the top floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I spent 10 minutes this morning just looking at the front of the building and watching while one of the workers was using a chisel to chip away part of the cement around what will be the garage gate opening. They are now going to put a "distressed brick" facade on the cement walls around the gate. I asked the fellow why they just didn't leave that part of the gate structure empty until they could use brick to fill it, and he didn't know why .. but that was just what the boss told him to do...so he was doing it. Go figure. 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/on-a-lighter-note---building-buildings Wed, 21 Mar 2012 01:34:08 GMT
And All This Means What? https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/and-all-this-means-what  

Having traveled to Argentina off and on since the mid '70's I learned a long time ago that things here aren't always what they seem. It is true that there was a military dictatorship back in those days and as often as I walked the streets of B.A. at that time, I had no idea that some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War were taking place right under my nose. Since those days, there has been a return to democratic rule, a war over the Falkland Islands (British held territory a few hundred miles off the coast) and a recession unlike anything experienced by any country since the great depression. Talk about a place of extremes. Argentina has gone through a hellish recent history .. not one I would care to live through. 

I recently read a great book, entitled The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out) by Paul Blustein.

Here is what the reviewers said about his book.

This dramatic, definitive account of the most spectacular economic meltdown of modern times exposes the dangerous flaws of the global financial system In the 1990s, few countries were more lionized than Argentina for its efforts to join the club of wealthy nations. Argentina's policies drew enthusiastic applause from the IMF, the World Bank and Wall Street. But the club has a disturbing propensity to turn its back on arrivistes and cast them out. That was what happened in 2001 when Argentina suffered one of the most spectacular crashes in modern history. With it came appalling social and political chaos, a collapse of the peso and a wrenching downturn that threw millions into poverty and left nearly one-quarter of the workforce unemployed. Paul Blustein, whose book about the IMF, The Chastening, was called 'gripping, often frightening' by The Economist now gets right inside Argentina's rise and fall in a dramatic account based on hundreds of interviews with top policymakers and financial market players as well as reams of internal documents. He shows how the IMF turned a blind eye to the vulnerabilities of its star pupil, and exposes the conduct of global financial market players in Argentina as redolent of the scandals - like those at Enron and WorldCom - that rocked Wall Street in recent years. By going behind the scenes of Argentina's debacle, Blustein shows with unmistakable clarity how sadly elusive the path of hope and progress remains to the great bulk of humanity still mired in poverty and underdevelopment.

Everything that has happened here since those days has to be taken with due consideration to the "melt-down' that occurred back then.

Argentina now has the modern day version of Eva Peron, in the form of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, running the government. At the moment, the Fed is spending more on its public programs and social reforms than it has money coming in. So what is the government doing about it?

In the last three months, the government has enacted a number of laws limiting the access or use of foreign currency (read as being U.S. dollars) such that the Central bank retains the reserves in U.S.$'s that it needs to carry on business. So yesterday the Congress enacted a revision of the Bank Act that now gives the Federal govt greater access to the Central Banks reserves. In this way the Federal govt can spend the money in the reserve to maintain their social services and stay in the good graces of the lower middle class and lower class folks (of which the overwhelming majority of Argentines are).

Along with this little fiasco, the Feds, who used to be responsible for the subsidies to the bus services and train services around the country, have pawned off (by act of Congress mind you) the bus and train service here in the Federal Capital region, to the city. The city mayor has already had to assume the responsibility for the subway because of a similar rule change by the Feds going back to last month. As a result, the fares for the train will probably go up 125%, the bus fares from 1peso 25 to 2pesos 75, and the subway is still an unknown .. they haven't quite figured it out yet. At last count, the mayor has approached the Supreme Court here for an order to stop the transfer .. as he knows it's just a way for the Feds to sluff off the financial responsibilities for maintaining that transportation system to someone else. 

The Feds have also started a program of reducing imports by requiring a special clearance to import any foreign made goods. Licensing is required. All this to protect the manufacturing industry here in the country. Sounds like a plan, except that the locally manufactured goods (of any sort) are of lousy quality and even the local Argentines don't want to buy them .. they much prefer imports, even at greatly inflated prices ... which, of course, leads to inflation. The consensus seems to be "buy it now .. you may not be able to find it in the future". So there is a bit of a push by the average guy to spend more than he should on things he might not be able to get down the road. And for good measure, the banks are now starting to offer mortgages ... at over 9.5% interest. Private consulting firms have pegged the annual inflation rate at over 28% ... so the govt decided to fine those private consulting firms upward of 500,000 pesos ($125,000 U.S.) if they issue reports that differ from the govt report stating inflation at 9%. How sweet does it get?

Again mind you .. most people here don't have loans or mortgages. They have such a distrust of banks (since 2001) that most transactions are done in cash ... which is usually in U.S. cash I might add. Not all of it is declared. I was recently made aware of the fact (by an American who sold his apartment here) that even the banks are involved in somewhat risky (read illegal) money exchange programs. The govt's Internal Revenue Service (the AFIP) has a separate Bureau de Denuncias with it's own private phone number and you can make your worst enemies' life a private hell for the next 5 years by phoning in an anonymous complaint that he is taking payment in American dollars but not declaring it. Additionally, if you are an Argentine travelling abroad and wish to use your bank card to access local currency, you have to have an American dollar account here in Argentina to effect the exchange or your card won't work. That way the govt can keep tabs on how much in the dollar reserve cash fund is actually leaving the country. I was also told that the fellow selling his apartment made an additional $15,000 U.S. on the sale, having done the money exchange under the table.  

If you read back to the events of 2001/2002 and before, you can see the gist of that history happening all over again. Too much government spending to fund social programs (so it can stay in power), not enough revenue coming in to fund the programs, dipping into the countries financial reserves to keep those social programs going, money restrictions to keep the foreign currency reserves that it needs to gain loans from outside sources, assets fleeing the country via underground methods (vast amounts of money and company offices are moving to other parts of the world), the list goes on. And pretty soon they'll be needing the help of the foreign banks to keep themselves afloat in the sea of debt. 

But this time, no one will help, not if they're smart. And eventually the events of 2001 will repeat themselves. It has to happen . It's destiny. 

I've spoken with a number of locals, both the wealthy and those who are not so much so, and they all say the same thing. You get used to it. Every 10 years or so the country goes through a massive financial upheaval, then things get better, then things get worse .. it's a cycle that everyone is aware of and that everyone seems to take for granted. As this "formula" works it's way through the various levels of " governmental non-performance" the rich get richer .... and do it on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged. Totally unfair ... but what's the alternative? I have no idea ... maybe a benevolent dictatorship ... but they tried that and it was a disaster. Perhaps finding a few good men for government offices, ones that aren't corruptible and who can't be bought off ... that might work. But go ahead ... find one. I dare you. In a land where family honour and reputation seem to be of ultimate importance I can't fathom how there can be so much corruption in the government ranks. It boggles my mind. 

So what are we left with? Next year it will be worse than it is this year. And this year is worse than last year by a long shot. I will not be returning to Argentina for next winter. I know if I come back it will be more costly, more things will be harder to come by and more people will be unhappy. More strikes for higher wages, more social unrest and possibly more military interference to maintain law and order .. sound familiar? History repeating itself. 

it just bothers the soul out of me to see such a wonderful country, that has so much to offer, being raped and pillaged with such regularity by people who have more money than god and still want more ... and are willing to get it by ruining the lives of so many others. 

But this is just my opinion ..... and, as always ...... I could be wrong.

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/and-all-this-means-what Mon, 19 Mar 2012 05:50:20 GMT
A Word about Food Shopping in Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/a-word-about-shopping For anyone who might be interested, I thought I'd put in a few words (well ... maybe more than just a few) about food shopping here in Buenos Aires.

To begin with ... it is not true that you can't find a lot of things from North America or Europe. If you know where to go you can buy anything that you want. It's the finding where it is that can be trying at times. So I'll start at the local level and go bigger and better as you read on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are an abundance of small local corner stores (or mid block stores) where you can shop locally for groceries. They sell the usual "in season" produce, basic canned goods, paper products & cleaning supplies (toilet tissue, kleenex, ... that sort of thing) and a few hardware items - batteries, plasticware, etc. The stores are usually operated by non-Argentines and are not particularly friendly or clean places to shop ... but they are certainly handy and you can't go a block without running into one. They are open at all times of the day and night, and every now and then you can find a real bargain price-wise or some very rare thing that you couldn't locate anywhere else. Prices reflect their convenience factor ... higher than many other types of stores. 

Along with these "corner stores" there are quite a few small produce stores as well. They are run by local Argentines who have the connections with the outlying farms and they offer all manner of vegetables that you already know about and some you may not be familiar with. When you go to these places, most will not let you actually pick the item you want. You have to tell the server what you want .. and he/she will pick it out of the basket/barrel/box for you. In our experience, this means, along with the good stuff you may get a couple of whatever you asked for (carrots, onions, beans, etc) that are rotten or unripe or "buggy" .. and you end up throwing some away when you get home.

They do have the most wonderful "juice" oranges here that you'll find anywhere. They are sizeable and really sweet. A couple of fresh squeezed oranges will fill a glass and really set up your breakfast. During the day, if and when you go downtown, you can see street vendors with their little pushcarts that have a press mounted on the front and they sell plastic glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice to passers-by. 5 pesos ($1.25) buys a nice tall glass .. and in the middle of a hot afternoon, it's great. 

Moving up a notch in the scheme of things, there are also a few "chain-stores" that are similar to the Max stores or 7/11 that you know about. SuperMercado and Maxi-Kiosco are two of the more well known names. They are similar to the "corner stores" I spoke of above, but most are clean, neat and tidy, well laid out and the service is better. They are a little pricier, but they too have the odd deal if you know what to look for. 

Something to note. Every store ... from the corner store to the most expensive and largest brand name places (we'll get there) all have huge wine and liqour section. All stores sell booze over the counter ... no govt outlets here. And some of the wines (especially the Malbecs, Merlots and Cab/Sauv's from Mendoza region are really cheap but really good. Imported alcohol is outrageously expensive but liqour made in Argentina is cheap. A locally produced  750 ml bottle of Vodka is 19 pesos ($4.74) vs $23 in Vancouver, not to mention the $200 bottle of a decent single malt scotch ($60 in the liqour store in White Rock).

Now we come to full-fledged grocery stores. DISCO and COTO are a major names here in Argentina and they do a phenomenal business. The COTO we go to seems to be always very very busy. That is not hard to understand, as their prices are usually reasonable and they let you actually do the "touchy-feely" thing with the produce .... so you know you're not getting ripped off. They have yoghurt here that is really good as well, seems creamier than most I've had before, and one of those little containers (breakfast sized) costs about .50 cents. The only draw-back with any of these stores is that, on any given day, they may not have the one or two items that you really want. Inventory isn't a high priority and people just put up with the fact that the store may not have something today ... but maybe tomorrow ??  We'll have to see. 

 

And now for the full-meal deal - the big box stores - JUMBO and EASY. You usually find them together, in the same big building, and it appears they are the combination of WalMart and Home Depot, on a slightly smaller scale. They are definitely not Costco. You can see from the photos the difference here from other stores.... and the prices reflect that change. We mentioned to an acquaintance one day that we had to get something at Jumbo and the reaction was "oh .. thats where the rich folks shop". Maybe so ... but they have virtually everything and their booze department makes any liqour store in Vancouver look like a poor cousin. EASY is the associated hardware store but not quite the same as a Home Depot. EASY doesn't sell a lot of what you'd expect. You can't buy a standard household extension cord for the living room .. or a kitchen knife sharpener. They will sell you a blow-up air mattress though, but they don't sell batteries for flashlights. Odd ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have made two discoveries since we've been down here. The first actually came from last years visit. We found a bodega under the train overpass near our place that has an amazing stock of deli style canned and packaged goods plus an equally amazing wine cellar. We buy our wine here. They offer all the major brands and some others that don't travel at well but are still marvellous. We've been buying a brand of Malbec called Atilo Avena. It costs 24 pesos a bottle and is excellent ... as good as some of the 40-50 peso wines. At this bodega the deal is .. if you buy 6 or more bottles you get 25% discount. That brings the price down to less than $5 a bottle. It would be very easy to become an alcoholic if you weren't careful. 

We've also found a store in our local Chinatown that has the freshest fish you can imagine. Argentina doesn't have a sizeable fishing industry (no real continental shelf large enough where fish can live) so they import the fish for this store from Chile. The Pacific Salmon is wild and wonderful, and the prices are a bit higher than at home, but lower than most other places. 

We have discovered that under certain circumstances, paying the higher price at JUMBO or COTO is worth it .. if only to reduce the frustration by not having to go to 6 stores to find 4 things you might need .. time is money and my time is important to me. I don't want to waste it hoofing it from place to place looking for something when I know where I can get it .. even if it is slightly more expensive. And knowing your prices is definitely mandatory. On any given day, the prices at every store will fluctuate and various items go on sale as loss-leaders. We've found some excellent price reductions simply because we know what we're looking for and how much it costs elsewhere.

COTO and JUMBO by the way offer home delivery for your groceries. Provided you buy more than about 150 pesos worth (+/- $40) you can have them deliver your bags to your house or apartment. The cost in most places is a mere 15 pesos ($4) but for really big loads, they charge more. How much bigger a load has to be I don't know but I have seen people in the line in front of me spend 700 - 800 pesos ($200) for two full shopping carts and the store charged them the same 15 pesos for delivery. 

And a last comment about prices. Inflation here has been around 28% over the past year. Every time you to go into a store, things are more expensive. Prices change weekly. Generally speaking, you can find fairly good groceries for a fairly reasonable price .. some things are totally unreasonable. Fruit is quite a bit higher cost than in Vancouver. Some vegetables are a lot cheaper, and meat is usually a good buy as well. Bread products are right up there and dairy (milk, cream, cheese) is also a high cost item. Soap, toilette paper and kleenex are also all more expensive. Our best guess estimate is that it costs somewhere around 20 % more to do the grocery shopping here than in Canada. 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires BuenosAires mercado https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/a-word-about-shopping Sat, 10 Mar 2012 14:21:44 GMT
Why All The Fuss ? https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/why-all-the-fuss- We were in town today. Went to the Air Canada ticket office to buy some tickets on LAN airlines. Turns out you can't do that here. You have to buy them outside the country or buy directly from LAN, at a much inflated price. Wouldn't have mattered anyway .... as the gal we spoke with explained .. the company gave the office a brand new computer system that is the state of the art machinery. No printer to go with it. The old printer won't print the ticket stock anymore as the interface is all wrong. They're back to hand writing tickets for the time being. So much for progress.

  But I digress. On the way to that office we ran into a huge traffic jam. Absolutely chaotic! .. and with no end in site. We ended up walking and came to a major intersection in the Av 9 Julio. Seems there were some 5-6 groups of protesters there, with placards, drums, chanting, marching and generally being a pain in the butt to everyone. They stopped traffic and humanly barricaded the main street in town and wouldn't let any vehicles pass. The police were there and just left the protesters alone do their thing.

 

I looked around and it seems that one group was protesting how long it took to recover the last dead body (3 days ... a young man in a rear car) from the train wreck at the Once train station last Wednesday. 51 people died and over 650 people injured when the train ran into the barricade at the end of the track in the station. Seems the train failed to slow down and each of the cars imbedded itself into the car ahead - like an accordion I guess you could say. 

The teachers here are on strike now, protesting the low salaries and poor working conditions. In most cases they are justified, especially when you consider that the parliament (congresso) just voted themselves a 100% raise and won't offer anything more than an 18% uplift to the teachers - and with inflation reaching 28% as well. 

And of course there is the army. Seems during the war over the Falklands (Malvinas) Islands the real army was sent to do battle and they conscripted a lot of men into the army to replace those that went to fight. The conscripts who stayed in Argentina, never went to war and were released immediately after the end of hostilities are now demanding the same degree of medical/retirement compensation as those regular force men who actually fought and stayed in the service for a career. The govt is telling these guys to pound sand .. so they are protesting. 

The protesters seem to gather numbers like wind gathering leaves. When the word goes out that there will a protest, everyone makes a day of it .. they bring the kids, Dad takes a day off work, Mom makes a picnic lunch and they all go to the event. It's party time for the most part .. as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

Eventually this will all blow over, but then there will something else for people to get upset about and protest and rally and block traffic etc. etc. etc. There always seems to be a tempest in a tea pot brewing somewhere.

As Rose-Ann Rosannadana used to say ... "There's something ....... there's always something"!

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/why-all-the-fuss- Wed, 07 Mar 2012 19:49:42 GMT
Polo ... an Argentine passion https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/polo-----an-argentine-passion I went to the Polo grounds this afternoon. In fact, the polo grounds are a block and a half away from where I'm living. It's a huge complex ... hosted the world championships last fall ..... teams came from all over.

The polo grounds around the block from my house

I knew nothing about polo until this week. I did know that Prince Phillip played it at one time, as did Prince Charles. I'm told that neither of them were really any good at it. I was not aware that, of the worlds best players, the top 7 come from Argentina. I suppose they can be critical if they want to ... experts usually are. 

 

 

 

 

I was also made aware of the fact that some of the best horses in polo are bred here. They throw crosses between Thoroughbreds and the local Criollo blood lines or Thoroughbreds and derivatives of the American Standard quarterhorse ... although the Argentine Criollo seems the preferred choice. There is also a big debate on where the Arab comes into the breeding picture ....                                                         but this was all news to me ....?

Huge stands .. but unless the event is a "special" local clubs don't get much of an audience

 

 

 

For those who might wish to know, Polo is a team sport. Four players a side, they play 6 "chukkers" of 7 minutes each. There is a short break between each chukker and a slightly longer one after the third (mid game). The object of the exercise is for each team to use their mallets to drive a white plastic ball (originally made of wood - but the wooden ones split up all the time) between the goal markers of the opposing team. Highest score at the end of the game wins. 

Sounds simple. Not !!!

There is a finally honed set of rules that also seem simple in their explanation because there are so few of them ... but they are hard to follow. For example, a rider can hit the ball forward or back and the line of travel of the ball becomes what you might call the line of pursuit. The player hitting or pursuing the ball must keep the line on his right and no other player can ride over that line in front of the player pursuing that ball. A following player can ride off the pursuing player by having his horse push the pursuing rider to the side (something like boarding in hockey) but can only approach the pursuing rider at less than a 45 degree angle. 

And they're off !

With all 8 riders and horses milling about the field, and pushing and shoving each other around, you can imagine how hard it is to actually play within the rules, ... and the rule above is only one of a number of rules that they have to know. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The horses are tied up wherever the stockmen figure they can get the best shade for the mounts.

Each rider has a menagerie of horses, I counted 8 for one rider this afternoon. You can tell which horse belongs to which rider from the colour of the leg wraps (protective wrapping around the lower leg area).Each rider has his own colour for each match. These horses have to be the 100 meter dash experts of the horse world. They start and stop on a dime, rush forward at an incredible speed then come to a grinding halt in less than 15 feet. They pivot, spiral, back up, move directly sideways, all by the touch of the riders knees and heels. It's amazing to watch. But in the afternoon heat (it was low 30's today) it's not long before the ponies get overheated or winded. 

 

 

 

As soon as a rider senses his horse is tiring he immediately heads for the sidelines (no time is called....play continues) and he will do a quick swap with a groom holding his "stand-by" horse. The remount is already exercised and warmed up to go into the game so there is a minimum of lost time for the player. A player will go through all of his horses in 3-4 chukkers and needs to ride with the knowledge that he has to preserve the horses for the last half of the game. It's all very technical ... and watching the grooms and trainers prep each horse in turn and have it ready for when the player needs it is watching poetry in motion. It is a finely organized ballet, quite similar to the pit crews in a formula 1 race, only these guys do it with horse flesh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these horses are raised and living on "estancias" out in the pampas region of Argentina. Bred specifically for polo, they are trained by professional trainers and as their training progresses, so does their value. It takes nearly 10 years to "finish" a horse, that is .. have the horse fully schooled in all the things his rider needs him to do to play the game with any hope of showing well. 

As you can well imagine, this sport is expensive. I play golf .. new clubs can be pricey. I used to ski ... new skis can be pricey, but the expense for "doing polo" requires an entirely different set of financial numbers. A separate income based on owning a few oil wells would probably help. Just the salaries for grooms, stock men, trainers, drivers for the horse trailers ... the list goes on .. is immense. Add to that the cost of stables, tack, farm and grazing land, run-ins and corrals, etc .etc. Well ... it adds up.The afternoon I spent at the polo grounds was among people who have more money than god !! And they looked the part. There is a lot of money here ... old money ... from families that have been part of the power structure for generations. And they are the ones who, for the most part, support the sport here in Argentina. There are quite a lot of very recognizable sponsors as well, so money for the sport doesn't seem to be a problem. 

For more photos regarding my "visitation" to a world I can never be part of please see    

http://globalodyssey.ca/p79701681

For more on the sport of polo please refer to the American web site

http://www.sportpolo.com/default.htm

It's in English and gives a good description of what's what with the game. 

Enjoy !!

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/3/polo-----an-argentine-passion Mon, 05 Mar 2012 12:47:33 GMT
Buenos Aires - Palacio Paz https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/buenos-aires---palacio-paz  

“If Buenos Aires was once Paris, the Palacio Paz is the clearest example of this.”   This is the quote on the homepage for the Palacion Paz, and is a perfect description for this beautiful palace.  It was built by the Argentine diplomat  José C. Paz, who lived in Paris for a number of years.  The designs came from French architect Louis Sortais, and most of the building materials were imported from Europe, and the result is that the looks as though it were taken right out of Paris and transported to Buenos Aires.

The palace is quite stunning inside, and still contains all the original furnishings.   It is definitely worth a tour if you have time while visiting Buenos Aires.  Tours are about about 1 hour long, and are offered in both English and Spanish, though the English tours are only twice a week.  The tour goes through the major rooms, explaining what they were used for, and you will also learn about some of the art.  The tours are very well-done, and it gives you a fascinating glimpse into life of the upper class Argentines in the early 20th century.  There are not self-guided tours allowed.

Bottom Line: Definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in seeing one of the most ornate palaces in Buenos Aires, and learning some Argentine history while your at it.

For more information on tour times and prices, visit: http://www.palaciopaz.com.ar/

Palacio Paz
Circo Militar (Plaza San Martin), Retiro
Av. Santa Fe 750
Consultas 4311-1071 /79 int. 147
[email protected]

 

An amazing place. It reminds me very much of the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. 

The palace here was given up by the family (the Le Paz family) in the late 1930's because it became too expensive to maintain and operate. They had over 60 people as servants and maintenance workers ... to keep a family of maybe 8-9 people (the family members) in the throws of absolute luxury. The association of retired military officers bought the place and have maintained it for the last 80 yrs. There are apartments for the retired military folks (daily rental - like a mens club actually) plus they also allow rental of the other areas of the palace for weddings, family reunions, etc. etc. The tours also play a part in generating revenue to offset maintenance costs. 

I have walked by this place on many an occasion in the last two years but had no idea of what was inside.  I thought it was owned by the Federal government and was some sort of military office set-up ??

Anyway, here are just a few photos from todays excursion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/buenos-aires---palacio-paz Wed, 29 Feb 2012 07:07:33 GMT
Paseadores de Perros https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/paseadores-de-perros Here in Buenos Aires people have a love affair going on with their "mascotas", aka family pet (dogs). Everyone has one, and living in such a "high-rise" dense area is not a deterrent. I've seen everything from a St. Bernard to a Chihuahua coming out the side door of apartment buildings. In fact, most buildings in BA have rules that you must use only the freight elevator if you are taking your dog in or out of the building. 

You would think that somewhere along the way, with people having to work so hard to earn a living, that the dogs social life would suffer. Not So!

When the local economy went down the toilet in 2002, some enterprising young folks started to offer their services as professional "dog walkers". Here they are called "Paseadores de Perros" and in the last 10 years they have elevated the job to a prestigious art form. Having a dog walker take your pet out on a daily basis is not only good for the dog but has definite "snob appeal" for the owners, and that too is important as most of the folks in this area are upper middle class and fairly "class conscious". 

The walker will come by to pick up your pet in the morning (and leaves the remainder of the pack tied up down stairs while he's doing that). He will comb the neighbourhood for all 10 - 15 dogs in his list and then scoot them off to the local park for a couple of hours. The dogs get to run free or are tied up to a favourite tree while the walker commiserates with all his dog-walker friends. At the noon hour he returns the dogs to their homes and sets out to gather up the afternoon group for a repeat of the morning session. Some "walkers" are doing so well that they can afford mini-vans, which they use to carry the dogs to and from the parks. 

In all the times I've watched this process happen, I have never noticed any pack of dogs fighting amongst themselves or offering any resistance to the walker or passers-by. 99% of the dogs seem quite well adjusted and socialized. Mind you, I love dogs .. and the dogs know this, ergo I've never had a problem with any dog ... so maybe my observation in this regard is biased. 

Walkers do good business, all things considered. I had to ask to find out and was told that a good walker can get 20-30 clients a week and will charge upwards of 500 pesos a dog for a months worth of walking. They walk each dog once a day, usually work 2 - 3 shifts a day, with weekends and holidays off. 20 dogs a day works out to be 10,000 pesos a month. That works out to about $2500 a month U.S. (and they will gladly accept payment in U.S. dollars preferred).

 

People take their dogs with them everywhere. These two were waiting very patiently for their owner to come out of the local COTO grocery store and take them home. 

They paid no mind to anyone else, in spite of the fact that they were blocking the main entrance and customers had to step over them both coming and going. 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/paseadores-de-perros Sun, 26 Feb 2012 17:18:07 GMT
Coffee Shops https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/coffee-shops  

Coffee Shops

 

One of the great things around Buenos Aires is the "coffee shop" life style.
They have a variety of coffee shops on every block, usually occupying
the corners of most streets .. you could compare them to British style pubs as they are so numerous ... and they do serve alcoholic beverages if you ask for one.


Usually asking for a coffee at 11a.m. or 1:30 p.m. is enough. They'll bring out the nicest smelling espresso (or a "cafe double" if you want a bigger cup) and then add on as part of the service a couple of small glasses of water and a plate of these little sweet "nibblies". It's hard to describe them but they usually compliment the coffee quite well. The ones at the side are called "media lunas". They're actually mini-croissants with a sweet honey type coating.


 

 

 

You can sit outside at one of the sidewalk tables, read a book, listen to your walkman, most places now have wi-fi for your computer .. and no one asks you to leave, no matter how long you stay. It really is relaxing and a great way to spend a couple of hours in "down time"if you having nothing pressing to do. Also great if you're a people watcher.

We were in the north end of Palermo/Belgrano one day and came across this coffee shop on one of the street corners along the main drag. We sat outside and had a coffee and jamon y queso toastado (ham & cheese toasted sandwich - very thin). Was very good .. but it was the ambiance and look of this old shop that caught my eye more so than the coffee. Really old, really unique and a perfect place to spend a couple of hours. 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/coffee-shops Sat, 25 Feb 2012 19:10:34 GMT
A Nice Surprise https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/a-nice-surprise  

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2012

A Nice Surprise

 
When I was a younger teenager I lived in Europe for awhile. We had cartoons in the local papers and books about an original French native (a Gaul) named Asterix, from the times of the Roman occupation. He used to fight with the centurions all the time and through a series of great adventures, always seemed to make the Romans look foolish. He seemed to me, at the time, to be an ancient version of Superman, always on the lookout to right the wrongs perpetrated by the invaders, on the unsuspecting average guy.
 
Some time after being exposed to that genre of entertainment I had the opportunity to live in Peru for a couple of years (mid '70's). While I was there a cartoon character named Mafalda became quite famous. She was a youngish little girl who always seemed to see things as they actually were, not as the media or publicity mongers portrayed them. She, like Asterix, was always the first one to complain about the short comings in the system and I think she was one of the very first pointedly political cartoons ever printed in the Peruvian newspapers. 
At one time I had a T-shirt with her picture on the front and the words "A mi no me grite !!" underneath, which means "Don't yell at me!!" I lost it somewhere but wish to this day that I still had it. A collectors item no doubt.
She was very unique for being so honest in her opinions, especially during those times when both Peru and Argentina were under military dictatorships, and Chile had just overthrown their national government and were trying to reinstate a democratic form of governance. 
 
 
In Buenos Aires there is a Plaza Mafalda dedicated to her and it is known in the city as the place where they hold all sorts of events, monthly, for children. Puppet shows, dog shows, mini circuses, unending fun for the kids.
They also have a food market every Wednesday morning, when the local farmers bring in their goods from the outlying ares and sell them to the locals ... at very good prices.
 
We thought we might try it out earlier today. Took the bus up to the plaza and was severely disappointed by what was there. 4-5 stalls with farmers groceries, a few dog walkers with their usual pack of hounds .. and that was it. 
 
However, we were walking back toward the street where we could catch the bus to our part of town when we came across something unique. It was a market billed as a "Mercado de las Pulgas" aka "Flea Market". Paris has one .. after the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul the Paris market was probably the original .. but this one is special. I have never seen one like this in South America.
 
It is a sizeable building and very old type architecture but not an old building ... new but built along old lines I guess you could say. 
For one thing, it was clean, neat and tidy, as if they really cared about putting on a good front. The bathrooms in the building were the cleanest I've ever seen down here, and they had deodorizer in them (smelled great). And every shop or stall was laid out beautifully, and neat, and clean, and no dust .. I could go on but here are the pictures. 
 

The main hallway

They mainly specialize in furniture

Also light fixtures


Refinishing underway





 
This is one of those places that you would want to go back to if you were looking for something really different to put in your apartment or townhouse. I'll probably go back, if for nothing more that to just look around. Oh yes .. and one last thought. They don't get tourists here. We had many an inquiring look as we wandered through the hallways. Very friendly but you knew they were wondering .. what are they doing here ??
 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) BuenosAires mercado pulgas https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/a-nice-surprise Fri, 24 Feb 2012 15:13:08 GMT
Taxis and Collectivos https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/taxis-and-collectivos  

Taxis and Collectivos

We are into our second year here in Bs.As. and are using the local public transport service frequently. I am very pleased to tell you it is something to be experienced. In Argentina "collectivos" are actually the big city buses and how the system operates needs some explaining .. but let's start with the taxis first.

In Bs. As. there are more taxis than there are people. The city is renown for the black and yellow taxis that prowl the streets at all times of the day and night. The "radio taxis" are the certified cars and charge the correct fare on the meter. The ones that aren't "radio" are not certified so can charge different rates .. usually a lot more.

You hold up your arm and flag one down when you want one. The driver will flick his lights on and off to indicate he saw you and then pull over and stop. They have a lighted sign on the front window to tell you if they already have a fare. You tell him where you want to go, he goes there, you pay and get out. It's just that easy. Best part ..... it is cheap, cheap, cheap.

You can drive for half an hour for about $6 - $8. So far so good. The only thing is you have to get used to driving with a Formula-1 racer. These guys drive at breakneck speed, change lanes without signalling, dart into side-streets and merge at 60 mph into main thoroughfares, all without looking for any conflicting traffic. Amazing to me that more people aren't killed by these guys while they are standing on a street corner.
And they fight with the buses for the best pick-up points on every street. The bus drivers hate them, but surprisingly enough, they seem to have this "code" worked out with horn beeps that lets the other guys know who's going where and when. They actually signal each other to let the buses go first or taxis go first, and in that way seem to stay out of each others way fairly well.

There is another type of taxi that is slightly larger than the small originals. They are called "remise" and charge the same fare when you flag them down .. but they can take larger bags, more trunk space, etc. They usually use them out at the airports or main bus terminals and train stations for obvious reasons.
 

There must be 120 bus companies in Buenos Aires, or so it seems. These companies bid for routes within the city and outskirts. The winning companies are expected to service these routes as often as possible without losing money. If they can't do it, the route will go to the next bidder. Each bus company has it's own special colour scheme for its buses and some are quite pleasant to look at. Some are totally otherwise, especially on the inside (dirty, poorly maintained, etc). You can never tell which bus line you will get at any given stop because the city allows for 2 or 3 different companies to operate on the same routes. Competition runs rampant.

Although these different bus lines do compete for passengers, the bus stops are staggered along the way so that no one company gets the lion share of the business. And the passengers seem to know which bus line has the good buses (the air conditioned buses) and of course that's the bus stop they go to. At some point (usually toward the city outskirts) the routes the different buses follow will vary, so it basically comes down to how far you want to go and to what part of the city you're travelling. 

As an interesting aside, the bus lines seem to send out two buses on the same route at the same time. The drivers play hop/skip, and each takes a turn at going first and picking up at the next stop. They swap lead enroute to the next pick-up point and in this way, as one gets full, the other bus picks up at the next stop.

When the lights turn red, all the traffic (and there is a lot of it) will cozy on up to the crosswalk lines as if they are waiting for the starters gun. The traffic lights in B.A. turn yellow before they go red like at home .. but also turn yellow before they go green, as a warning to pedestrians. The drivers know this ... so it's "gentleman start your engines". Once the lights go green, the race is one and any one not on the sidewalk by that moment better be running .. these buses wait for no man. Cars that get in the way also run the risk of being somewhat insulted by the horns and whistles of these super large racing machines.

This fellow better be running ... right now!

 

The buses are so many and so frequent that waiting for one is never a problem ... maybe 5 minutes at most. As you can tell, jockeying for position to get to the curb for the next stop can be a problem but these drivers seem to manage it quite well. They move in and out of traffic, block off other vehicles, dive for the bus stops at breakneck speeds, slam on the brakes or gun the engine to pull away from the curb .. it's quite the experience. The key to success as a passenger .... sitting or standing .. hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

The buses are not limited to the main roads, even the larger ones drift through the side streets with what seems to be an acrobatic capability. I have come to respect the drivers of these machines to a fairly high degree. They manoeuvre these ten ton behemoths with such skill and dexterity and all the while carry on conversations on their cell phones, listen to walk-man music or solve the nations problems with any passenger willing to engage them in conversation.

 
 

Liniers runs the local service in and around Palermo and to the west of city centre. The buses are clean, neat and tidy, the drivers seem courteous and we use his bus a lot to get to our favourite restaurants in Palermo Viejo.






 

OLD VETERAN OF THE MILK RUN

The Sube sign in the window is the newest form of payment system here. You have a credit type card and get it loaded (pay for a credit on the card ... like a Tim Hortons coffee card) at the local post office or other affiliated stores. When you get on the bus, you tell the driver where you're going and he puts the fare into the computer keyboard. You hold the card up to the sensor and it deducts the fare from your card total, then tells you what is left. No coin required. Dead easy !
As of next month, the fares will go up, but not for Sube card holders.
By the way ... the highest fare we have ever paid for a bus trip (took 1 hour and 45 minutes) was 2 pesos. The equivalent of .50 cents. We can go clear across town for .35 cents. It's the best deal you will find anywhere.

They also have the elongated (or "extended") buses on many routes. Depends on the traffic and passenger loads.

The amazing thing about this system is that they move some 1-2 million people a day into and out of the city. The federal govt recently turned the subway system over to the city, and the city immediately announced it was increasing the fares over 125%. From 1peso10 up to 2pesos60. Riots and strikes followed the very next day. The issue has still not been resolved but the city put a hold on fare increases for Sube card holders as a concession (I think) to keep peace for the time being. The new fares come into next month so it'll be interesting to see.

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) BuenosAires Buses Collectivos Taxis https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/taxis-and-collectivos Fri, 24 Feb 2012 14:10:00 GMT
Report from Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/report-from-buenos-aires  Last year We spent 3 months in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The experience was so rewarding we decided to try it again this year, hoping to repeat the same feelings and discoveries that we had made in the previous visit.

We arrived here in Buenos Aires on New Years day 2012, the beginning of a year that I'm sure we all hope will be better than the last. To be back in this city for a second prolonged visit seems quite amazing but I was really looking forward to it. However, the old saying that "you can never go back" seems to have taken hold here .. so I'm writing this as a means of underscoring some of the changes that have occurred since we last graced this country with our undivided touristy attentions.

To begin the comparisons, cost of living seems to be the major concern here. Last year we found that we could go places, do things and buy food for prices that were quite reasonable, well below Canadian prices. This year however it seems that everything has increased in cost measurably. In fact, it is so much so that prices are on par with or more than what you would see in Canada and imported items are vastly more expensive than last year. The increases are so pronounced that the government here has gone to great lengths to convince the public that last years inflation rate was only around 12%. Private consulting firms, the newspapers and even the more outspoken among the general public have been quite adamant in letting it be known that the real inflation rate was over 23%. I can give examples:

- the apartment we had last year cost $1600 a month. This year they are renting it for $3000 a month.

(thats in U.S. $'s, which is why we are not staying there again).

- last year a fairly good dinner at our favourite restaurant  (La Cabrera) cost about $50 - $65 U.S. for two, which included a filet of beef, a salmon filet, a great bottle of Mendoza Melbec, salad and all the trimmings. This year the same was over $85.

- a very simple summer shirt (with short sleeve and collar) was around $10 - $15 last year. These same shirts seem to be generally on sale for about $27 now.

 

How the average Argentinian makes end meet I wouldn't know (I do know but more on this later).

 

Not everything here has gone nuts price-wise. Taxis have upped their prices slightly but buses (collectivos) are still extremely reasonable. You can go from one end of the city to the other for about .45 cents. That would be well over 3 zones and $5.00 in Vancouver. The routes they follow seem the wend their way through all the different barrios in the city and usually end up in the far reaches of the outskirts some where. We've started a practice of every now and then taking one of these buses to the end of the line. No idea where we'll go or how long it'll take to get there but if there is something interesting when we get there we'll stay for awhile and look around. If not, then we climb back on the bus, pay the return fare and go back to where we started. Great fun .. and interesting as well.

 

And of course .. there is the golf. We went back out to our old haunt (Cancha de Golf Municipal de Palermo) the second day we were here, to deliver our bags to the caddy-shack and arrange for storage etc. Also to find out how much we would have to pay ... and based on the new cost factors, we thought it would be a lot. Not so! The course is a municipal course and they charge the same prices as last year. A 9 hole game will cost $7.50. We start at 7 am and play 3 times a week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). It gets too crowded on the weekend and they are closed on Monday. At this time of year it is also so hot by 10:30 in the morning that playing after that hour would be prohibitive for gringos like us. For now we limit ourselves to the 9 holes, but once the weather cools down a bit (mid March and April) we'll play the full 18 and make a day of it. Eighteen holes for $15 is a heck of a deal .. and the course is in fairly good shape considering the weather.

I really don't like the traps though .. it's so hot that the sand ends up baked hard and using a sand wedge to get out of the trap is a wasted effort. Works much better if you use a 60 degree loft iron and gently pick it up from the surface like a chip shot. A nice 5 iron from a fairway bunker works well too.

 

Some things seem to have actually improved a lot in the intervening months. The old run down subway stop at the top of the street has been removed and replaced with another brand new one slightly further along the main drag (Av. Santa Fe). It's clean, neat and new ... a great improvement ! There have been a number of other subway stops that have been fixed up .. as well as 6 new stops added to various lines in the city.

 

We still have the "paseaderos de perros" (dog walkers) in the city but in our area of Palermo, it seems that there is not nearly the same amount of dog dirt on the sidewalks as there has been in the past. The sidewalks are still in terrible shape mind you, the cement blocks and tiles stick up all over the place - I swear, designed to trip you - but at least now they seem cleaner than before. In fact, just this week I saw two or three different people out walking their dogs and actually picking up after them. This is a rare enough event that it was worthy of a 10 minute discussion between the two of us.

 

As for the sidewalks ... in many cases the upheavals are not from lack of maintenance, more from leaving the roots of the trees that line the street sides to grow as they will. When you consider the choices .. streets that are shaded and tree lined, .. or streets that are hot, dusty, unshaded and flat, which would you choose? Me .. I like shady and cool .. even if I step on an uneven paving stone on the odd occasion.

 

I'll continue my dialogue in the next instalment, for now .. this is enough.

 

 

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[email protected] (Global Odyssey) Buenos Aires https://globalodyssey.ca/blog/2012/2/report-from-buenos-aires Thu, 23 Feb 2012 20:53:05 GMT