Wet dream

Trip Start Dec 24, 2008
Trip End Jan 24, 2009

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

5:00 AM - something lands on my legs.  Did Wade throw something at me as a joke?  Nope ... he was still sleeping ... thinking nothing of it, I went back to sleep.  5:30 AM - the lower half of my bed is soaked - WTF???  I reach down and feel a piece of ice - ice had formed on the air conditioning unit, and fallen on me, which is what I felt land on my legs at 5:00 AM.  Now it had melted, leaving a pool of cold water all over my legs.  Wade and I joked about my little "wet dream". 

What to do, at 5:30 AM?  Nothing - I simply shut it off, not wanting to deal with it, and only wanting to sleep.  But then ... with the A/C unit off, it got hot in the room, so I was up at 7:30 ... sigh ... a rough start to the morning ... Things got even worse when I realized that yesterday's Peruvian meal was not sitting well with me - they usually say to avoid raw fish in South America; perhaps I should've listened?

I crawled out of bread and got ready for breakfast.  I was curious to see if the hotel would do anything for me, since they'd been incredibly accommodating with R&D, even upgrading them to a superior room.  The manager was especially good to them, and it was the manager that I spoke with.  Perhaps a room upgrade for me, or a bottle of wine?  Nope!  Nothing!  Truthfully, the manager didn't seem to care - his words were apologetic, but really, he was just paying lip service.  I was disappointed, as I expected my Chino-freak novelty factor to get me some freebies!     

I said goodbye to Wade, and it was was off to La Plata, with B&H.  R&D were originally supposed to come with us, but Ranjit was starting to get sick, and with yesterday's uncomfortable day of travel, they decided to take it easy today. 

Ben was a little disappointed this morning, as he thought we were going to Palta.  I don't think any such Argentinean town exists, but Palta is the word for avocado in some South American countries, so it's understandable that Ben was sad to miss out on seeing a giant avocado.  Hopefully La Plata, the beautiful government centre of the Buenos Aires province, would be a suitable alternative for Ben.

Off to the Retiro bus station, about a 15 minute walk.  We could have taken a taxi, but given that today wasn't that hot, it was a good opportunity to get some fresh (perhaps less polluted is a better term) air.  After the terrible start to the morning with ice falling on my lap, things began to look up as we walked - a stunning Argentinean woman walked past us and into a bank.  It doesn't take much to brighten my day, does it?  And ... she was walking into a Galicia bank - another sign that I must return to Spain this summer!

Buenos Aires has been a bit strange for me, so far - after seeing the multitudes of beautiful women in Mendoza, I was fully prepared to move Argentina up to second on my list, ahead of Croatia, The Netherlands, and Poland (a close, three-way tie), on my list of countries with the most beautiful women.  Of course, Spain is still #1 by far, since it not only has the most beautiful women, but also the largest quantity of beautiful women.

But upon arrival in Buenos Aires, I was a little disappointed, because in Mendoza I thought "If this is how good it is in a town of a few hundred thousand people, how will it be in Buenos Aires, with over 13 million people???"  It's not to say that the women aren't beautiful here, it's just that there isn't the sheer volume you would've expected.  They do say that most of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires leave for vacation January and February, to escape the brutal heat.   

In Spain, it seems like you can't take a step without seeing two or three beautiful women walk by.  This explains why, while in Spain, I am constantly tripping over fire hydrants, running into lamp posts, and almost getting hit by cars, everywhere I go.  I need to learn to keep my eye on where I am walking, and not on Spanish women!    

One thing that is frustrating in South America, is the multitude of bus companies - most run different routes, but there is some overlap.  It can take quite some time to find the correct company that services your destination, when you show up and there are over 25 ticket counters! 

We finally made it to La Plata, where the weather was humid, but cloudy and fairly cool.  The weather was similar in Buenos Aires, which was funny, because one of the reasons for going to La Plata was to escape the heat - the original forecast for BA was 37, which obviously wasn't going to be the case today.

La Plata is quite beautiful, but the cloudy conditions were an unfortunate thing today - with such poor lighting, I doubt that any of the photos will capture how beautiful some of the architecture is around here.  The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception overlooks the stunning Plaza Moreno - the cathedral was quite impressive, even compared to European ones.  But perhaps I only thought this because I wasn't expecting a cathedral of this calibre in South America.

The interesting fact about this cathedral is that is was constructed between 1885 and 1999, but it actually needed to be restored in 1997, before it was even completed!  Unfortunately, it wasn't as impressive on the inside, as it was on the outside.  

We walked past the Casa Gobierno, then stopped in the Fine Arts Museum - tiny, but excellent.  Ha and I were stealthily taking photos of the paintings, thinking that it wasn't allowed, only to be handed free catalogs of the works on our way out!  We decided to leave La Plata, though it was worthy of spending a few more hours here, because both Ben and I were still feeling the effects of last night's Peruvian meal.  Wade also had some issues, but I seemed to have the worst problems out of everybody.

It was quite a far walk back to the bus station, made even more difficult because it was getting hot in the mid-afternoon sun.  Crossing the street is always challenging here in Chile, since there is absolutely NO respect given to pedestrians - it was nearly impossible at this one intersection that had the usual intersection of two streets, but was further complicated by a diagonal street that went right through the middle.  We stood there for several minutes, trying to figure out when we could cross the road - there were simply too many cars and too many directions to check before crossing!

I almost passed out a few times on the walk back - I really shouldn't have even tried, especially given that I was feeling ill today, but that stupid backpacker mentality always takes over, and I end up walking a couple of kilometres when I don't even have any business walking a hundred metres.

Luckily, we made it there without incident, and I promptly passed out on the bus.  A lovely siesta, all the way back to BA!  Because of that, I was feeling well enough to walk back to the hotel, but given that Ha wanted to do some shopping, and Montezuma wanted to exact revenge on me once more, I left them in the dust! 

I later ran into R&D at the hotel reception, using the phone - apparently, their problems getting money at the ATMS had worsened, and they weren't able to take out a single dollar, either using their bank card or credit card.  They were on the phone with Bank of Montreal back home, but weren't getting any useful information - "Just try again later ...", they were constantly told. 

It's funny, because reviews of the hotel always suggest that the service is uneven, and at times, even rude.  Though R&D always got great service from the manager, Sergio, they were having all sorts of problems with the receptionist on duty at that moment.  Sounds like she wouldn't even lift a finger to help them.  Why can't this be like Spain, where all the hotel receptionists are seemingly friendly, kind, and sweet?    

Later, we all walked down to Puerto Madero, in search of a nice place to have dinner.  I wandered up to one restaurant to have a closer look at the menu - when I returned, Ranjit asked me "How was it?"  I told him that the menu looked so-so.  "No - how was IT?" - this time, I realized that he was referring to the restaurant's attractive hostess. 

Is this how little everybody thinks of me?  This isn't Spain, where my choice of restaurant would be based first on the hostess, and second on the food.  This is Argentina, where the food is much better, and as such my choice of restaurant would first be determined by the food, and THEN the hostess.  We skipped this place, because the hostess wasn't able to outweigh the mediocre menu.

Instead, we chose Bice, an Italian restaurant that had been well-reviewed by Iain and Carol.  The menu was a bit pricey and in some cases, was comparable to North American levels.  This was still a bit surprising, despite Puerto Madero being an upscale location in BA.  We all joked that it was almost like we were dining on the waterfront somewhere in Vancouver - and really, based solely on appearances, you'd never know the difference.

The waiters at Bice absolutely loved the t-shirt that Ranjit was wearing - he picked it up our second day in BA when we were in San Telmo.  The shirt is basically a commentary of Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal in a World Cup match against England, a source of great pride for Argentineans.  I regretted not getting the same shirt shortly after Ranjit bought it, but had even more regrets after seeing the reaction of the waiters - perhaps the Argentinean senoritas would fawn over the shirt in the same way ...

Since R&D were running low on funds, they asked if they could charge the meal, and keep everybody else's cash.  None of us had a problem with this, but then Ben decided to do some Enron-style accounting.  Ben and Ha's total was something like 175 pesos, so Ben told R&D to give him 25 pesos, and he'd give them 200.  Well, R&D handed over the 25 pesos, but then Ben discreetly put the 200 pesos back into his wallet ... it was all an innocent mistake, but I prefer to remember this moment as Ben trying to rip off R&D.  Ben - how could you rip off two poor travelers who had no cash of their own?  Terrible!
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