Welcome to the Big Decaying City

Trip Start Dec 11, 2004
Trip End Jan 01, 2005

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Hola Todas, Bruce here again

We are finally in the big big city. Did I say BIG? We took the metro (clean, nicely tiled Spanish style, but a bit rickety and heavy like New York's) down to the biggest boulevard in the world (9 de Julio) which is actually four streets and 22 something lanes wide (just like in the time-lapse film of _Baraka_). You can't get across in one go; I almost got corked by a taxi-driver on my first try and gave him some lessons in Anglo-Saxon phraseology for his efforts). We went to our hotel right near the big obelisk, which is big and smooth and big, and went in hoping for a great deal, a 3* hotel on the boulevard for $30.

Alas, all is not as a website suggests. Some of the fittings are lovely marble and so forth, but the lobby was tiny and I knew something was off. What we got was more or less a Canadian motel room in the back with no view and 1960's era furniture. Sigh. Something had to turn against my plans for a decadant xmas. Still, we were tired from the 14 hour ride (not too bad, but salon cama is only about 25% better than semi-cama, and surprise costs only about 25% more) and I reluctantly agreed to take the room for one day (as opposed to the three which I had booked). I hate feeling swindled but I made my displeasure known. They offered two better rooms (at higher prices!) and they were not significantly better and the views were not sufficiently ameliorated. I guess that is what I get for booking (but not paying) sight unseen. We are currently hunting for better digs. We just saw and gave a tentative yes to one cheap hostel with a cute family but now Vicki wants to try for a nicer place again.

We did walk around a fair bit and the city is buzzing with activity and all manner of shopping in the northeast business district. We had a fine lunch of sushi which Vicki had been craving desperately (she lasted all of 10 days without Asian food). Now, we're in the city centre south area called San Telmo which is stuffed with antique stores and semi-cobbled streets, a bit like Old Montreal. More to our taste, even despite the obvious presence of Lonely Planeters.

We did see one beautiful thing today, one of the world's great opera houses: Teatro Colon. It is 7 balconies of bronze, marble and red velvet, and has perfect acoustics. We were unable to get tickets to the Nutcracker (seats with no view were on offer..??) but we took a guided tour of the edifice. The workshop rooms go on and on in three basements. They are so good at production that they export costumes and scenery to other opera houses. Vicki said the theatre was even more beautiful than the one in Wien, and this was with the lights off even. Very lush rococco and marble stairs and busts and so forth. Capital 'D' for decadance. Some of the most beautiful things were the art deco style posters that lined the walls of the basements; alas, the prettiest ones were not for sale in the shop and those that were were small and 60 pesos ($25---aka. 2 steak dinners in Mendoza, *with wine*). Sorry Ivana, I almost got you one with Brecht on it.

Our aim tonight is to locate fancier digs (or go with the cheap hostel in San Telmo) and to see Dinner Show Tango. Sounds loopy but since we can't Nutcracker, why not keep the Christmas spirit alive?

Tomorrow's plan is to go to Ricoleta, the nice part of town, to the Museo di Bellas Artes, if it is open, and to the swanky cemetery (where I will promise to blow my nose in the general direction of Evita's crypt.) Then Vicki and I will separate and try to do a little bit of romantic shopping.

Keeping fingers crossed for fab digs,
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