Sorry, did you really think I was going to make it through an entire month in Argentina without one ‘Dont Cry for me’ quote. Well today it happened before we took the city bus tour. As we queued for the buenosairesbus.com tour the suntan cream was running into my eyes and one of my friends said ‘Dont Cry’ to which the reply was ‘for me Argentina’. Sad I know but there you go.
So I finally made it down into the centre of Buenos Aires. The city bus tour looked like a good option if I was going to try and avoid being mugged, robbed, beaten up, raped, shot, stabbed and dumped in a skip.
As Ive mentioned previously I had a whole shot list of photo ideas that I wanted to do but talking to my friends here in the current climate it would probably at best end up with me coming home several kilos of camera equipment lighter and at worst several kilos of body parts lighter.
Going round on the tour bus Im not saying that my friends were being overly cautious but based more on travelling between tourist areas than the tourist areas themselves.
The bus is one of those hop-on hop-off affairs and it takes about 3 and a half hours to do the circuit, we had all day and it was dull and overcast in the morning. Typical, the day I’m fit and well enough to go out and do a major photo session its the first real overcast day we’ve had. Of course the weather forecast for the rest of my stay in BA is thunderstorms so manana doesnt really quite cut it
So the plan was to be completely sad and stay on the bus for the first circuit and see if the weather improved. This involved no more effort than sticking the elbow out of the side of the bus and lying back. Of course sticking the elbow out of the side of the bus was precisely how I got a perfect triangle of peeling tan on my left elbow. by now of course this is now redder and deeper but thats another story.
The first thing I noticed about our newly arrived open top bus was that it wasnt open topped. There had been some rain the day before and people got wet and complained and tried to get their money back. The bus company had then put the bolt on rooves on. Great to stop you getting wet, rubbish if you want to sit at the top of the bus and look all around you. To those people who complained about getting wet in the rain on an open topped bus I can probably guess your nationality, but sure come to Belfast, our open top busses have a forcefield that deflects rain so you can see all around you in the worst weather. Just remember its pay in advance and absolutely no refunds and dont beleive everything you read on the internet.
So of course I managed to pick the wrong side of the bus, the row with no working headphones and even if they were the speakers behind me blasting out the spanish tour information would have drowned them out anyway. No-one thought to think that the high volume setting might need to come down a bit now theres a roof on.
But still very little to see in the dull grey light anyway and even less to photograph.
After about 3 or 4 stops of the hop on hop off tour no-one had hopped on or hopped off. I thought we were going to be the only saddos doing this but it turned out that the scare stories had indeed pervaded all of the visiting society who deemed it safer just to sit on this bright yellow bus. For those reading and if you are ever in the same situation, the left hand side of the bus is best, probably about 2 or 3 rows from the loudspeakers at the back. Judging by the number of tree branches crashing off the roof a crash helmet wouldnt be a bad idea, but definitely sunglasses. Thats todays health and safety announcement over.
I love watching people and I had a real treat on this trip, in front of me was a tourist couple, German, who sat over two rows of two seats, both at the window side one behind the other. For most of the trip they sat with their backpacks on the spare seats beside them. People would come up to the top deck to look for free seats and they both would ruffle about in their bag to take up as much space as possible. You rarely see such coordination outside of the synchronised swimming in the Olympics. The old man in front had a wee point and shoot camera with a big screen so it would be rude of me not to look at what he was shooting. All I can say is dirty old man. Every time we stopped he would use the high vantage point to zoom down on some really good looking tanned womans cleavage and take a photo. Im describing this in great detail for research purposes only. I dont know if his wife was aware, didnt know, didnt care whatever but firstly I thought what a sleaze, secondly I thought I really should have brought my point and shoot (to blend in and be safe you understand, not to look down womens cleavage). Anyway at one point in the tour outside Recoleta these two stunningly beautiful tall blonde women came up to the top of the bus and had a look round for seats (either German or Scandinavian or similar). The old guy couldnt lift his bag off the seat quick enough, Im sure he was verging on hernia territory he moved that quickly. But they took one look and moved down the bus. Following them up the stairs were two huge black guys and our hero couldnt get the bag down in time before one took up residence beside him. I must have seemed a right idiot laughing away to myself.
Driving round on the bus we got to see pretty much all the tourist sites and spots, in complete contrast to my previous experience, BA is a beautiful city, full of wide avenues, mixtures of old colonial buildings, modern architecture, european with a hint of not. The commercial area is pretty much the same as any commercial area in any big city in the world and down here it was the first I’d seen of multinationals and billboard type advertising. Again little to separate the place from most other world cities.
Its the quirky nature of some places, the old decaying buildings, the former rich family palaces who when they fell on hard times sold out to foreign governments so there is an area filled with some of the best looking embassies in the world.
Its not really a walk around city as a lot of it is very spread out (as the 3 and a half hour bus tour with only 12 stops) would tell you, but there are areas that it looked like it would be very safe to walk around. Its a strange mix, one of the locals told me theres no real middle class, just rich and poor and this certainly seems to be borne out travelling round. The bus tour mainly goes through rich areas but down around La Boca it goes through areas the police had told me not to walk through. Of course these are the areas with the friendliest people, waving and smiling at the people on the bus.
The weather was picking up as we finished our first circuit so we decided to stay on the bus and go round again and get off at Recoleta, famous for us primarily as the area containing the Recoleta cemetary and the tomb of Evita Peron. The bus stops outside the tourist office and theres a half hour wait before it continues so we chatted and I decided to get off the bus, get some photos of the nearby Plaza De Mayo before we set off. Of course the driver and guide had nicked off for a mate and a smoke so we were locked in, something they dont tell you so be warned
So at this point I have a confession to make, well not a confession of sorts but more an explanation of how we work. I love getting all the tourist literature from a place and going through all the photos and comparing whats in the brochures to whats actually there. For example, if I want to photograph a place in Ireland at dawn I would scout out the location, pick a good morning with relevant clouds, pick area, pick spot, get there well before dawn, get photos, come home, review etc etc. This might take 2 or 3 goes due to changing weather conditions, some moron has parked a white van in the wrong spot or any multitude of things. So the finished images could have taken weeks of research and maybe a couple of years to get the right sort of conditions.
None of which you are going to see speeding past in a big yellow bus. You might but its highly doubtful. Its like the city tour, coming mid summer isnt going to be a good idea, going over midday isnt a good idea, certain buildings will look better in the morning, or evening or in the case of the Theatro Colon, in May when they take the scaffolding down! Im glad there isnt a trade descriptions act for tourism or Id be permanently in court.
‘Your honour, exhibit A, the Giants Causeway’
‘Your honour, exhibit B, what we saw, mist’
So bearing that in mind and taking a more realistic view of the descriptions of Recoleta cemetary I went forearmed.
I have to say though, it lived up to every single description. The cemetary is for the rich and famous of Argentina, its described as a city of the dead, with streets, walkways, ornate buildings. No-one is buried underground (at least that I could tell) and the whole place is a show of wealth and status, even when you are dead. Every word is true, Ive never seen the like of it before. Well organised and laid out, the equivalent of coffin multistoreys in some cases. Glass doors with small rooms with coffins neatly stacked and laid out. It seems strange for someone used to burying people in the ground or burning them to see them laid out in a small living room type environment. Some coffins hundreds of years old, in most cases perfectly preserved. In some tombs the marble has broken and bits of coffin sticking out here or there adds to the slightly eerie feeling when you find an avenue not populated by tourists. We spent time wandering around and avoided the headlong rush to Evitas tomb. One of my friends has a family burial plot there that they have never seen and we found it. A distant relative was a general in the army and judging by the size of the tomb was very well off indeed and very well thought of judging by the number of plaques.
Wandering back I just kept an eye out for a queue of tourists and sure enough found evitas tomb. In relative terms it is quite modest compared to some there but probably the most famous for non-Argentinians.
There is a busy market on the hill on the way up to the cemetary, something they dont show you in the tourist brochures of the walls
Its a place selling all sorts of tourist tat but notorious for pickpockets so watch out.
That pretty much sums up the bus tour of BA for me, lots of nice looking places but little in the way of real interest for me. I could have got on and off and did a lot more tourist shots of buildings rather than just drive bys but unlike other cities I do get bad vibes from acting the tourist here. Ideally Id like to take time over things hanging around waiting for decent or the ‘right’ light to photograph things, take pictures of local people doing local things and generally experiencing the life of the place but with a camera and lens worth more than most people make here in a year, the gulf in society, the massive and unpublished inflation and similarly underplayed unemployment figures I have to realise that I would like to go home in one piece. For me thats the saddest thing about being here, a beautiful city but I suspect there isnt much income from tourism to justify the extra spend making people feel safer. Travel forums are full of stories of tourists being victims of crime and yes the internet gives a voice to the dozen or so people affected, thats not to diminish their plights but there are perhaps thousands that nothing has happened to. Im not a normal tourist though, I carry a lot of expensive equipment, I have two cellphones with me, both of which have never left my room in the apartment. I have a ‘cheap’ swatch watch that has never been on my wrist since the airport, I cant wear half my travel clothes as they would signal me out as a target. Its something I feel stronger here, again perhaps my friends are being overcautious but as with the kidney stones incident it will be them left to pick up the pieces and I have to bow to their judgement, they are the people who live here and are on the ground day in day out.
There are some beautiful photos of Buenos Aires out there, Id come with loads of ideas of how to do them my way but sadly thats not going to be the case, Im sure things will improve here, just as probably things at home might worsen. A friend of mine travelled round the world 10 years ago and has some beautiful photos of places you would never consider travelling to today. Similarly places he couldnt go then have become must sees now.
Things will change, cruise ships regularly dock in Belfast now, something not considered just 10 years ago.
I have to say though, if you do get the bus tour and you only decide to hop on and hop off once, do it at Recoleta. It is probably one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited and I say that about very few places I’ve been.
Speaking of which, its nearly time to pack to head to Iguazu Falls. Ive just checked the weather forecast for Wednesday and they have a ‘feels like’ value. In Belfast its normally something like 2C but feels like -5C. For Iguazu its 39C feels like 56C. Poke me with a stick and tell me when I’m done.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
Following on from yesterdays disaster
I did indeed get up at 6am. Needless to say consuming 3 litres of water in as many hours meant that sleep was almost impossible.
So by 6am I was still a bit sore but the water was flowing freely and going on previous experience the worst had passed or been passed but thats too much information.
So had a shower and got ready to go on the day trip to Colonia Del Sacremento. Which is in Uruguay a completely different country altogether
I had hoped for a longer trip to Colonia then on to Montevideo for a couple of night but just wasnt able to put it in the time remaining. If I had been able to plan as I wanted then the whole kidney stones thing would have hit me roughly as I was on a 2 hour bus trip from Colonia to Montevideo. Who says things dont happen for a reason.
So I packed my bag and put in 2 half litre bottles of water.
By the time I’d caught the underground and walked to the ferry terminal Id about 100ml left. Oops.
Due to the late nature in booking this trip Id booked the luxury trip (ferry, full guided tour, full dinner) etc and the cheapo seats on the ferry were booked up. So I had the option of premier class or first class. Since first class was only 3 quid dearer then why the hell not.
On arriving I had my ticket double checked (I always travel like a scruff, then again I always dress like a scruff so no change there then) and was escorted to the VIP lounge. I could get used to this. So priority boarding and up to the ‘special’ lounge which has more airconditioning, large lounge type leather seats, free drinks and table waitress service. Of course other than downing my coffee and visiting the loo I slept most of the way there.
Even in ‘special’ class with its ‘special’ reserve toilets the stink was overpowering, each toilet and urinal had a wee note explaining that the toilets were eco friendly and the odd colour of the water was because it came directly from the river. What was left unsaid was that the contents were probably rejoined with the river just as quickly.
I made a mental note that if the boat went down it would probably be a better bet not to put on a lifejacket and to forget that I know how to swim. Probably best to go quickly. As the ship left BA at a speed the seacat and HSS can only dream of all the huge dead fish in its wake told its old story. It also explains why when the tour guide in Colonia asked if we wanted the driver to stop for a bit by the river so we could go swimming. Silence. That will be a no then.
I dont remember much else about the trip over apart from some of the proles down in cattle class starting a fight. Oh they can be such ruffians.
Now out of water I thought I’d buy a bottle from the first class lounge, I didnt know if they took Argentinian pesos in Uruguay (they do) or if they had ATMs (they do) or what the currency rate is (about 30 to the pound). I didnt want to go to an ATM and take money out only to find I was presenting a shopkeeper with something that would buy a small car rather than a bottle of water. In my defence last nights research time was spent in casualty.
So I ordered a bottle of water, no make that two, no better make that three. So it came to about 18 arg pesos which although is about 3 quid is a massive ripoff, maybe I should have bought them down in cattle class.
As I started to get off the boat some of the pain started coming back, maybe all the movement in the boat had moved stuff around or dislodged stuff. Im not a doctor so stuff is as good as you get.
I got the feeling this could be the shortest day trip to Colonia on record but by the time I’d got to the terminal I was feeling less terminal. Immigration had taken place back in BA so it was straight to the tour busses.
Now. I love travelling alone or with friends and doing the independent thing but at times its nice just to kick back and let someone else take the strain in an organised tour. Since the luxury tour here was about 10 quid extra including a full meal instead of sandwiches and a coach tour to various spots, what the hell.
I have a dim view of most of these tours organised by local reps as I dont expect most of them to be anything like you read in the brochures or online literature. Looking through sites like the lonely planet forums or tripadvisor usually gives a decent bit of feedback.
Two ‘tours’ I always laugh about are the Moscow river and dinner tour and another one I took in Guangzhou in China quite a few years ago. The Moscow one wasnt cheap and we ‘cruised’ the Moscow river for two hours followed by a ‘gourmet’ dinner. Ive put two of those words in quotes and you can probably guess why. 30 tourists hiding under a plastic canopy in freezing July in Moscow whilst a tour guide rattled off names in Russian cannot be called a cruise by any dictionary in the world. I did find out that the big Stalin built (not by him himself of course) apartment blocks ringed the city so the one Id been using to get directions off was probably 3 different ones. The ‘gourmet’ dinner consisted of a starter plate of slices of tomato and cucumber (about 3 of each), followed by a tray of fried eggs between us all, followed by a baked potato with a small amount of pike, followed by a tray of chocolate eclair pastries. One of my mates doesnt eat fish or eggs, I suppose he got the better deal really although it was funny at the time. What was even funnier was when they served the chocolate eclairs, they lifted them off the serving plate, cut them in two then put half on each of our plates. I have to say having spent 3 days in Moscow this probably was gourmet and rather than complain was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen. People had stopped showing their disappointment, even to our ever present vhs camerman. Funnily enough we werent told we’d be videoed and were never offered copies….
The previous best to that was the tour of Guangzhou. The terracotta warriors museum (of which there were two and many mirrors), the kids of Kindergarden 1 performing (it was closed that day), the visit to see a panda at the zoo (well you could see the ear of the panda) and the trip to the market and the gourmet (that word again) dinner.
The market was brilliant, I mean brilliant from a cruel observer point of view. Many on the bus thought it would be a place full of trinkets, and colourful items and loads of plastic tat. It was in fact a live animal market. When I say live, all the animals we saw were live when we got there and a few had expired by the time I was the last one back on the bus. I have to say the people carrying off the fish and the chickens couldnt get much fresher, as they walked past the bus the animals were still twitching. I have to say though its easy to criticise other tourists but almost getting splattered by the blood from the goat who had just got his throat cut but managed to work itself loose would almost have put me off my dinner too.
We got to a really superb hotel and everyone relaxed, gold and marble everywhere, not even the Romans would have had somewhere as decadent as that. As we entered the restaurant are there were the usual row of fishtanks which most of the new arrivals didnt realise were our dinner options. Most people are familiar with the straight to wok noodles but straight to wok fish needs a bit of getting used to. Particularly the selection method which you think means ‘ahh look at that fish’ and which means ‘spear that one and cook it immediately’.
Once this had passed down the line people stopped pointing. Then as we all gathered one of the fishkeepers decided to clear his entire sinuses in a way only footballers know how. (finger over one nostril, blow like mad). He had great aim and it went straight into the biggest tank and was promptly devoured by a mass of fish.
Looks like nobody for fish then.
Surprisingly the most popular item consumed during the whole banquet was rice. In fact I think it was the only item consumed.
So back to Colonia, back on an air conditioned coach, there were only 5 of us on the bus, myself and 2 australian couples. Which isnt really a surprise. I love australians and their attitude to things, they get on with it and do it, no pissing around, no pissing anyone else off. Just leaving your job to go travelling round the world for 8 months, I just take my hat off to anyone doing it. Just Do It as the famous ad says. One couple were 2 weeks into a world tour which would last 8 months the other had been away 2 months and were on their last couple of weeks having been to Cuba, Colombia and Bolivia previously. Of course one of them had to have been of Irish descent and I said the only difference between his great great grandfather and mine was that his got caught stealing bread and mine didnt. Even the mutual greeting of ‘hows it going’ seemed to bond us all. Great travelling companions and a good laugh and down to earth as well.
The first stop was only 5 mins down the road, a walking tour round old Colonia. Colonia is a beautiful wee place and deserves the unesco recognition. It is a bit of a tourist trap but today it wasnt busy so we got time to walk around and see things, and from a photography perspective, time to assess light and see which places I could easily return to in the afternoon.
Id recommend a trip to Colonia to anyone, but only for a couple of hours, thats all it really takes, you dont need a guide and everything is signposted in different languages. Above all else it is very very safe, It relies on tourist trade and people cant do enough for you. They will accept arg pesos, us dollars and euros in the shops as well as the local currencies. Like any other tourist resort you can hire mopeds or quads and golf carts to get around. Although I didnt I would consider it. Did I mention it was safe to walk around with a camera? if I didnt, it is.
Getting to act like a real tourist for the first time since I’ve been here. Have to say it was refreshing.
After the walking tour (which was pretty much the whole of colonia) we got on the bus to visit the bullring and a homestead/farm (read tourist trap) place.
Id been interested in seeing the bullring but as we drove round it it had been fenced off as too dangerous. For some odd reason I thought it might have been working or had been working until recently. No it was built in 1910, staged 8 bullfights then bullfighting was banned in 1912. Still it looks like a mini colosseum but not even worth asking them to stop the bus for. The homestead was interesting as it was the first place we saw toilets and my current predicament I was thankful for that. Other than that a few photos, some marmalade and cheese tasting (not at the same time) was about it. Well not quite the owner of the place has quite a few collections of things, keyrings, pencils, perfume bottles, a whole house devoted to the collections.
Then it was back into Colonia for lunch. I have to say the lunch was superb and we took 2 hours over it, lovely restaurant, great service and real good food. I did say to my travelling companions that as an irishman it takes a lot for me to compliment the steak and potatoes elsewhere. They laughed as one of the couples came from a sheep and dairy farm and agreed with me. Lo De Renata was the restaurant and thoroughly recommended.
Id say the cost of the entire trip would probably have only cost twice would it would have cost for the dinner back home.
After lunch there was just time for a bit of wandering down to the handicraft market and then back through the town before pickup to go back to the early evening fast ferry. Seems like a hurried day but was just enough time without feeling rushed.
Back on the fast ferry I was greeted with a glass of champagne in the ‘special’ lounge but I bet theyve never had anyone refuse it before and ask for water. So whilst everyone drank champagne I had water out of a coca cola cup.
Thats my kind of travelling first class
I travelled to Colonia with Buquebus (who has one of the worst websites going and never answer their email) and would recommend the trip to anyone. Definitely something worth doing if you have a couple of days to spare in Buenos Aires.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
To see the photos from the Trip to Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay click here
Well it finally had to happen. I managed to drag myself away from photographing beautiful women and drinking cheap beer to get my ass down into Buenos Aires.
It was time to get the camera out, dodge the muggers and thieves and get down to photographing the tourist spots.
But first another cup of coffee.
Then a look at the thermometer which surely must be wrong.
Then a look outside up into direct sunlight that would make a gremlin shriek.
So after two hours of faffing around further it was decided that no it wasnt going to get any cooler and we had a 3 hour window of good light to get at least some tourist shots under my belt.
When I came here I had two A4 pages of shots I wanted to take. I showed this to my hosts who did a lot of tutting, pointing, and sharp intakes of breath only before seen in the world of automobile mechanics.
It was decided that if I want to get home in approximately the same number of pieces I came in I’d better limit myself to all the other photos of Buenos Aires there are on the net.
It became apparent that there are only certain pictures from certain angles for a reason, firstly few tourists seem to come here and those that do are only stopping off for a day or two on the way to Antarctica or Patagonia or some other remote reason.
Thats a shame and then again it isnt. As people have offered by email I’ve long since lost hope of my chances of getting a job with the Argentinian tourist board. I like to think of myself as fairly streetwise having grown up in the lower falls area of Belfast during the height of the troubles but I keep reminding myself, you dont know _here_.
Thats what I have local guides for and for those of you thinking of travelling to places like BA this is well worth the investment. I say investment as its not really an expense. A local guide can give you a flavour no disney like cruise ship day pass can ever do.
Be sensible, dont wear jewelry, expensive watches, dont walk around with designer clothes on (fake or otherwise), take a minimum of stuff out with you, keep a photocopy of your passport somewhere. Always bear in mind that most crime is opportunist, no matter what country you are in. Dont take strange cabs, I had two young women jump in my car in Belfast one night and ask me to take them home because they couldnt afford a taxi. If I wasnt acting like their big brother I wonder what the hell they were thinking of. One lived up a dark road just outside Belfast and got me to drop them off there. Height of stupidity. But they were drunk, on a work night out and had spent their last few quid on a kebab rather than a bus or taxi.
It also sounds heartless but try to distance yourself from obvious targets as you might get caught in the crossfire.
Getting back to today the plan was to go to La Boca, walk to Caminito then walk round the shoreline to Puerto Madero. Sounds simple enough. Then why are tour busses dropping people off at the Boca stadium door, picking them up there then driving them the couple of blocks to Caminito? As my guide said, well it may just be a short distance between here and there but the muggers know that tourists will be walking that way so take your pictures, put your camera in your bag and then we walk down.
I stopped to get a picture of a local cop who was standing on the ‘border’ street corner giving out advice. He posed for a picture and asked me to make sure I captioned it with the word ‘underpaid’, so I will. We walked a block (about 100m) away from the Boca shops and had lunch, a steady stream of the odd one or two tourists walked past looking obviously like tourists and covering their cameras round their necks with their hands. Yes from my experience of Northern Ireland I highly doubt that will stop a bullet.
So on to Caminito and to be honest as a lot of the locals here describe it its the disneyworld version of BA. A couple of brightly painted houses, street cafes that even Michael Schumacher couldnt weave his way through and a few handicrafts stalls. We even had a Maradona lookalike to get photos with. Poor guy must have ate a lot of pies to get that physique.
I was more interested in the old areas that Caminito had been refurbished from, lots of old colonial and crumbling architecture, old bridges and cranes undergoing refurbishment. Real town planning or lack of in all its glory. As with any waterfront each building tells a part of the history and one leads to another telling the story of the area.
Then I got stopped by the police.
At first I thought it was something to do with no photos in the port area, there was a sign saying argentine naval prefecture or something like that so thought it must be something military. When my guides translated it as, your friend will not make it through this area alive, not with those trainers, we decided to get the bus to Puerto Madero.
On the bus through what can only truly be described as a slum it was obvious that our maps didnt tell the whole story, from tourist traps of Caminito to 3rd world in less than 300 yards. It was that stark.
Dont get me wrong when you live in that type of poverty and I remember similar stuff growing up, you really cant blame people for taking the only routes open to them. It is good to sit in an ivory tower and say I wouldnt do this or I wouldnt do that, you never know what you will do until you are in that situation. If your family havent eaten for 3 days and some dumbass tourist walks past with something that will feed your family for a month, then dont say what you would do in that situation until you are actually there.
As the saying goes, ‘Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes’, which reminds me I better put both pairs of Nikes back in the bag and buy something local.
As we got off the bus at Puerto Madero there was the sight of two cops in a wee hut which now I come to recognise as the boundaries of safe areas. We stay in a relatively safe area, the shops dont have grills on the windows and at busy times theres an armed cop every 100 metres or so. In the other areas they seem to be just left to get on with it.
Puerto Madero is a testament to new money, like a lot of other previously neglected cities it is full of gleaming new buildings, lovely walkways by the water, new bridges, cafes, expensive shops, a nice place to be. For me though I could be any modern city. The Santiago Calatrava bridge has its double in Dublin and to be honest it reminded me a lot of the regeneration of Dublins docks. The layouts were similar, right up to the masted ship sitting next to the Calatrava bridge. Maybe he thought no-one would find out.
Dear people of Buenos Aires,
I’ve designed you a new bridge that represents two people doing the Tango.
‘Santiago, Dublin have been on the phone asking where their new bridge design is’
‘Quick give me the Buenos Aires one’ quick scribble ‘Here that will do’
Dear people of Dublin,
I’ve designed you a new bridge that represents the Irish harp.
Well ok maybe a slight exaggeration but judge for yourselves.
So where does the take the boy out of Belfast come in?
Well at the start of the journey we visited the home of Boca Juniors. Argentinas best club ever (so I’m told). As I was completely unattached in the Argentine football world I am now a Boca fan.
So the stadium tour had to be done. Due to my love of football and having been in or toured a lot of the worlds great stadiums this really was the highlight of the day for me. Getting in and around the stadium, seeing the terracing, long since gone from UK football, the sparse nature of the visiting dressing room to the plush surroundings of the home dressing room with accompanying underground 5 a side warm up pitch. Just what you want to see, opposition – sod them!
On the tour the tour guide said she would split the couple of hundred people up into two groups, the spanish speakers and the english ones. So we were left in a group of about 9 and asked where we were from. Poland, England, Ireland, Scotland, France. We were then asked what teams we supported, which of course in my case is Liverpool (for my sins). As they went from Warsaw to Middlesborough to Norwich, the scottish guy in front of me said ‘Rangers’. Now, I dont follow Scottish football but something deep down in me wanted to scream ‘Celtic’. I did think better of it as to come halfway round the world to start a sectarian fight would only leave the muggers very confused.
So you can take the boy out of Belfast but you cant take Belfast out of the boy.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here
Sorry its been a while since the last blog but Ive been a bit out of touch.
Its a week now since I landed in Buenos Aires and just when I think Im getting used to the heat it just gets hotter. Between the day I left Belfast and out and about yesterday in downtown BA there was almost a 50 degrees centigrade difference.
First impressions of BA was that it was hot, damn hot. That was followed by, hot, hot and sticky, hot, overcast yet hot, hot and damp, hot. My poor wee pale blue irish skin now has a peeling patch on my right elbow where I put it out the bus window on the way in from the airport.
It wasnt long before I was food for the mosquitos either. You have to love nature, mosquitos hit the veins each and every time, something that any NHS doctor would be proud of. I know I know a lot of people will be screaming at me saying I should have used insect repellent, I did, just not the right one. Im now using a local formula that belongs somewhere in the arsenal of North Korea.
Buenos Aires is an amazing place for a pseudo city boy like me. I say pseudo because Im a city slicker, a townie, someone who has grown up and lived in and around Belfast. Belfast is a city. Well it is and it isnt. Buenos Aires IS a CITY. We all went to the park the other day, we needed a 20 min train ride and an hour on the bus and still hadnt left Buenos Aires. The bus from the airport was about an hour to here and we took another bus ride in the same direction for another hour the other day and was still in the city.
Now Ive been in cities with similar populations, Cairo, London, New York, Tokyo but they have all had geographical features like rivers or hills or something to break them up. BA is just one big city. Unlike other places I´ve been too it is all up. Not New York up where you have sections of the city going up but the whole place is apartment blocks and medium tall rise buildings. Well as far as I can make out so far. Whilst Tokyo is more blade runner, this place is more gotham city.
Ive been in other cities that proclaim to be 24 hour, sure in Belfast you might get the odd 24 hour garage or supermarket but this place really is 24 hours.
The last week has been pretty much trying to get used to the heat and the pace of life here. Clothes are out in the laundry at the mo, not that I didnt bring enough clothes, I did. I didnt bring enough clothes that wouldnt get me killed! Crime is rife here, theres no getting around it, with nightly news making Belfast during the troubles look like tellytubby land. On the way back from the park we missed our bus change stop so got off at the next stop and walk back one stop (which was at least a mile). Now normally that would be bad enough (I have a bad right leg and walking a mile is usually enough to see me visit an Accident and Emergency ward) but not walking a mile would have had the same consequences. The place we were walking through was ´colourful´to say the least, no street lights, broken pavements, small low rise buildings, those with windows not boarded up were barred and razor wire. If I didnt know better I´d call it a shanty town. At one point one of my friends said to me ´Man, those Nike trainers of yours will get us all killed´. Charming. So the next day it was ´dont wear that, nor that, nor that, nor that, dont wear any of those.´ Even stuff which is cheap back home is likely to end up bloodstained being worn by someone else.
Sooooo lets just say that the photo list that I had prepared in advance for BA is a hell of a lot shorter now having looked at my ideas and the places I wanted to go. I did wonder why such a huge city has a limited photo coverage. Until they make that 22 megapixel camera that attaches to your optic nerve, its probably gonna stay that way.
On the positive side Ive had two good model shoots so far with a few more to come, basic scenarios I´ve wanted to do in the likes of Belfast for a while but waiting 9 months for the sun to shine for 2 consecutive days was long enough to wait.
Whilst here I had planned some traveling ‘in country’ but havent managed to get that sorted yet, nothing is ever as easy as it seems on the web here. Will post more on that later.
The first night I arrived here we went up onto the roof terrace, 13 odd floors up its an amazing sight, just buildings as far as the eye can see in all directions, pretty flat too, just people, civilisation etc etc etc. No lights on the roof but enough light to be getting on with just with the reflected city light bouncing off the clouds. Straight back down in the lift for the camera and some night city shots I´d been interested in taking but never found the right place, now I have. (photos to follow). I’ll also arrange a model shoot up there before I go home.
Last night the local weather forecast was predicting a storm, thunder, lightning hail the size of tennis balls and the like. Naturally it seemed like the best place to observe this was from the roof terrace, rather than just look at it out the window 12 floors below. What a sight, I´ve never seen a storm like it, I´d seen a big lightning storm in the Alps a long time ago which at first appeared just like a fireworks display but last night the lightning was going left, right, down, around, across, everything. Real storm weather, the 10 or 20 degree sudden drop in temperature, rain that gives you a headache it hits you that hard and that change in atmosphere that scares the life out of you now, never mind a couple of thousand years ago when people thought the gods were angry. The gods were indeed angry last night although according to my mate nothing like as angry as they were one time last year.
doing the old one one thousand trick (sound travels at roughly one kilometre every 3 seconds so if you count between lightning strikes and thunder claps you know roughly how far away it is and if its getting closer or going further away) was interesting until there was one I didnt get to say the one part. So less than 100 metres away lightning hit a rooftop and I could probably tell you which one it was. At this point in time it did then become apparent that standing in the rain on top of a 13 storey building drinking beer out of a metal cup wasnt exactly the greatest decision I had ever made.
In Spanish the word for storm is ´Tormenta´to be honest I couldnt describe what I saw last night as any different.
To see the photos from the Argentina Trip, click here