‘Last week, I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed’
WC Field’s famous quip came to mind during our recent visit to Montevideo, Uruguay. It was ‘Dia de los Difuntos’ All Soul’s Day so most shops and businesses were closed for the weekend. It was really, really quiet.
It was a forced break from Buenos Aires as we had to leave Argentina to renew our three-month tourist visa. It was also a chance to withdraw dollars from the ATM and use our credit card to buy goods. Surely, I’ve explained about financial transactions in Argentina?
It’s very complicated but suffice to say that with the election looming, it’s very difficult to know how much things will cost, either now or after the election. There are two rates for the dollar and they`re both very volatile right now, especially the ‘blue` dollar which fell seven times consecutively this week. Leaving us a little poorer every time.
There is media speculation about the scrapping of the blue rate and a devaluation of the peso. No one will know till the election on the 22nd of November, so people wait anxiously.
The Buquebus boat trip from Colonia, Uruguay takes only an hour, but Buenos Aires is another world and we soon realised we were back. Outside the terminal, the three of us waited patiently for the flashing white man to appear at the crossing.
Midway across the zebra crossing, a car sped through the middle of us. We shouldn’t have been surprised; we were back in Argentina. In Uruguay, motorists stop for pedestrians, flash their headlights even, but in Argentina a pedestrian crossing is just an invitation to compete.
There’s a madness to Buenos Aires but we love it. We strolled through busy streets, now so familiar, to San Martin subway station. Passing cafes overflowing with merienda munching multitudes.
The Subte station was hot and sticky, heaving with workers eager to get home.
We have family rules now about underground travel. They’re easy to remember.
- No one uses mobile phones.
- Everyone stays together.
- No one boards alone.
One morning on the Subte, Darragh passed first through the barrier just as the train doors started to close. He instinctively stuck his head out and lunged forward through the closing doors like a sprinter at the finishing line. I was behind him so jammed my foot in the door, wedging my leg in the gap.
Well, we still have Darragh and my leg is fine but we have learned our lesson. I should have known anyway, because years ago it happened to my brother and me as children on the tube in London.
I remember the doors closing and my hysterical parents shouting at us from the platform. Luckily, nice people on the tube looked after us and told us to get off and wait at the next stop.
But I suppose as Michael, a retired Canadian school inspector,with whom we lunched in Montevideo told us,`that’s travel! travel will teach you!’ Although, he did mutter this over a meal of assorted animal parts heaped on a plate!
Travel does teach you and so at San Juan Station, we were more careful as each train pulled up, packed past capacity with perspiring Porteños. Any comparisons with sardines would not do justice to the claustrophobia.
No matter how packed the subway is, Argentinian commuters always seem to think there is room for one more and will push themselves aboard.
The fourth train to arrive seemed less packed so the throng moved forward in one unified step into the carriage where we stood with our arms pinned to our sides and our bodies meshed into those around us. A sticky mass.
We travelled like that all the way home, Darragh sweating and laughing. It was incredibly packed and chaotic. Busy and full on, just like Buenos Aires.
Postscript for Maimeo, Daideo, Granny and Grandad
NO GRANDCHILD WAS HURT DURING ANY OF THESE ADVENTURES