Friday, November 26, 2010

Actually telling you something about Argentina (maybe)

Afternoon folks.

I've got precisely 30 minutes before going out for an ice-cream (to help bridge the gap between lunch and the late Argentinian dinner). You'll be pleased to hear that "operation weight-gain" is proceeding nicely! So, as I sit here, laying down fat into my adipose tissue, I'm going to start telling you about what's happened since I left you last time (on the way to the airport). Without further ado, here goes:

Sunday 21st November 2010 (continued) was a bit of a long wait at the aiport (4 hours of trying not to fall asleep and miss my flight), but I must say that I felt at home in Terminal 1 (after what must be more than 30 or 40 Saturdays over the last couple of years, already idled away there). I did the obligatory perfume-testing, loitered around in case of whisky tasting (there was none) and generally mooched around to kill the time.

The flight left more or less on time and was okay but no more (Qatar and Singapore's respective airlines have clearly spoilt me). 3 stars, at a push. The meal/drink service was cursory to say the least, but I did manage to procure a red wine and a (large) whisky, so that helped to knock me out. I even managed a solid 3-hour stretch of kip at one point, which must surely be some kind of record for a male member of the Wood family.

The flight was generally uneventful (not even that much turbulence to get excited about), but I was sat next to an interesting character. He is what I can only describe as a Brazilian boxer/cage-fighter, which I am obviously guessing at (we had no formal communication), but judging by his rude manner ("oi, more coke" to the flight attendant), buldging biceps and the fact that he punched me a couple of times while I was sleeping would seem to hint in this direction. But, (in the words of the passenger arriving back home from Lanzarote last December) I survived!

Monday 22nd November 2010

I arrived at Sao Paulo airport about 2 hours ahead of schedule, which meant a rather long wait for my connecting flight. The airport didn't provide much of an insight into Brazil, although there were some fantastically atmospheric views of the surrounding favelas on the way out. And OMG, the city is HUGE. It goes on forever. Wow.

Unforunately, despite having an optimally-located window seat (no wing to obscure the view - well, obviously the plane had a wing - two of them, in fact - but I was sat near the back) it was cloudy most of the way down to B.A. It did break up a bit over the River Plate, so I could see the beast of a (brown) river making its mighty way out to sea (also brown, albeit slightly less so). And then B.A. was sprawled out below, seemingly as vast as S.P. We landed slightly ahead of schedule and I have to say the flight was a vast improvement on the first leg. There was even a choice of food this time (chicken or meat). I assumed the meat was some kind of Brazilian bush-meat/road-kill (or at least, something without a name), so I went for the chicken instead. Accompanied by red wine (obtained after a lengthy exchange - me: "red wine, please", hostess: "water?", me: "no, red wine, please", hostess: eh?, me: "RED WINE", hostess "quizzicle expression", me: *points to bottle*...). We got there in the end, and it was rather a nice Argentinian Malbec at that.

So, we land and wait on the tarmac for what seems like an eternity (obviously getting a bit excited at this point). And then, after worrying about being stopped by immigration and customs (for no particular reason - just officialdom-inspired paranoia), I found myself in the arrivals hall before I knew it.

Carina was the first person I saw, swiftly followed by Axel, Camila and Lourdes (in alphabetical order, so as not to discriminate). Needless to say I was very happy to see them on my first (ever) day in South America. They dropped me off at Camila's house in Monte Grande (not far from the airport), where I had a quick shower (and sit down) before we headed over to Camila's Aunt's house for her birthday party. It's quite different from Monte Grande (which is a proper town, albeit attached to Buenos Aires). It was a nice modern house on a gated compound, with lovely wooded grounds. We were a bit late for lunch (it was my second of the day - having had the first one on the plane at about 10am). It was a typical Argentinian asado (BBQ) - gorgeous meat washed down with a very nice bottle of Patagonian Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (not the whole bottle - I'm not that bad - at least, not on the first day). So, just over 2 hours in the country and I had already experienced  my first asado/red wine combination. And the hospitality extended to me was amazing. Everyone was so welcoming, I cannot describe how well they managed to put me at ease (my first few hours on the continent and I already felt at home).

After eating we went for a walk around the complex, admiring the trees and plants (which looked lovely in their late spring glory - this reminds me of the "don't the trees look beautiful at this time of year" taxi incident in Durham!). It seemed strange leaving in late autumn and arriving in late spring. But, obviously a very good kind of strange. The weather was bright and warm (low 20s I would guess). A nice gentle introduction, indeed. After birthday cake and bubbly we drove back to Camila's house, at which point we had a light shower, just so that I didn't feel too homesick!

Dinner was empanadas (Argentinian pasties) and I stuck it out until 10:30pm before collasping into bed. In summary, after a long and tiring journey I found a fanstastic welcome waiting for me at the other end. Things bode very well indeed....

Well, it's ice-cream time! I'm going to have to be more concise with future updates, because I'm already 4 days behind schedule! Whoops (that's whoops as is "oh dear", rather than whoops as in "makes sound like an American expressing mild interest"). So much for good intentions!

I hope all is well with you in a cold and snowy England (sorry... I feel a bit guilty, but I only escaped the winter, I didn't create it!).

Best wishes,
Love J xx

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