Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Christmas comes to Rosario

Well, that's a lie, but with two posts in just one day, it must really feel like all your Christmases have come at once (although, hopefully not in the case of members of the Wood family [or other Christmas-haters out there] reading this... because "all [y]our Christmases coming at once" would probably be like some kind of massive nightmare for you/them/us). Anyway, after a couple of hours by the pool, a nice refreshing cold(ish) shower (even the cold tap isn't that cold) and a daydream about a nice cup of tea (such a thing unfortunately does not exist here in Argentina), it's time to get back to business and try to slacken this blog's pace of decline. So, WFA (that's "without further ado", BTW - and if it's not already an accepted acronym, after appearing on this blog, it soon will be - I've had 17 page views since I updated this morning: that's almost as many as the BBC gets*, I'm sure), let's get this cliché-mobile on the road:

Saturday 22nd January 2011

After an exhausing day of being sociable and whatnot, Saturday mainly involved relaxing by the pool. It was very hot (quelle surprise!). Luckily the pool and garden of the hostel are lovely, and so was the company, so it was a most pleasant way to idle away the day. We did manage a little excursion to the supermarket (a big Carrefour about 3 blocks away) to buy food for dinner, but other than that it was evening before anything approaching "activity" commenced. So, any French people reading this should say a big thank you for helping to support one of your giant multinationals. "You're welcome - just make sure you pop into Tesco the next time you're in Thailand or the Czech Republic, okay?"

As the evening air started to cool (how many times have I used the word balmy in the last couple of months? Well, I'm sorry for the repetition, but once again it was, ok?), Oscar and I ventured out. We walked the other way along Av. Oroño (or is a a Boulevard? Hmm Bv. or Av.? - it doesn't really matter, why don't you choose!) towards Parque de la Independencia. I said before how lovely Bv/Av Oroño was, well it was still lovely and also a hive of activity on this glorious Saturday evening. I've never seen so many walkers/joggers/idlers before, and that's including watching the London Marathon on TV (okay, okay... another teensy exaggeration there, but it was really busy with people). The park was also lovely with it's verdant lushness and it's backdrop of deep blue sky replete with setting sun. And treat of treats: a son and lumiere (sorry, no grave accent there to do full justice to the French language, of which I've been speaking a lot lately) show to accompany the dancing fountain in the middle of the lake. Yes, it was tacky, yes it was a tad underwhelming, yes it did have a whiff of Sidmouth Carnival about it, but still (!) with Queen pumping out across the water (the band, not HRH) and bats swooping overhead and a parade of girls dressed as if to go to a wedding, posing for photos by fake-Roman columns, what's not to love? It was a winner! :-)

Hard to match that, obviously, but the steak dinner almost did! After worrying about the quality of the slightly cheaper cut of meat, and the fact that the pan-fried potatoes and peppers kept sticking to the bottom of the bloody saucepan, it was triumph. Even Oscar, with his complex Chinese, palate enjoyed it! And the wine was good too (although after all this time and all those bottles, I can't really remember what wine it was - it was red, it was Argentinian, and frankly, they are all beginning to taste a little bit, well, the same**). You will be shocked to hear that no Fernet was consumed on this particular evening. After the exertions of the last couple of days it was early to bed (around 1:30am), although not before we had had a laugh with the girls, making up increasingly silly Spanish names for the non-Argentinians of the group. Oscar Axel Fernando Rodriguez Ramon Chino Puto Natalio Esclavo Boludo, being the pick of the bunch!

*in about a nano second.

**in addition to the sea, I am looking forward to drinking Old World wine (or, well, wine from just about any other continent will do, although I'm not sure Asian wine is up to much - is Lebanon classed as Asia? I think it probably is, and it produces some semi-decent wines, but it gets confusing what with Israel appearing in the Eurovision song contest and Isreal being even further away from Europe than Lebanon...). Anyway, please don't get me wrong (especially any rabid Argentinian nationalists reading this), I like your wine, I really do, it's just that I'm used to variety (it's the spice of life, after all) and after a while I find your big, gluggable, fruit-driven wines a bit, well, one-dimensional. Oh, and I'm not looking forward to drinking the sea, in case that was how it came across - just being near it, listening to it, watching it and maybe (as summer approaches) actually going in it (or at least, dipping in a single toe).

Sunday 23rd January 2011

Oooh, I slept well! My stomach was almost totally back to normal by this stage (it occasionally felt a bit "uncomfortable" at times, but there were no more loose stools and no more nocturnal shitting, that's for sure [as if it's something you can be unsure about - well, there might be cases of sleep-shitting, I suppose, as it is only a natural extension of sleep-peeing, and we've all been there, haven't we. Haven't we? {when we were children, I mean, well, I hope}]). Anyway, greeted by another sunny day, (and after the yummy croissants and not-quite-so-yummy coffee) the decision was made (not hard!) to spend the morning by the pool. A group of girls from Buenos Aires had arrived at the hostel (this is not the reason for spending the morning by the pool, just an aside), and they were clearly on a hen-weekend (not in the raucous style of a group of pissed-up ladettes from our fair isle, no. More in the style of a giggling, cake-baking [complete with chocolate penises], mate-drinking, long-hair flicking, strange hybrid bikini-wearing, Argentinian-style hen party. Actually, they were a bit annoying, and didn't really get into the spirit of hostelling (keeping themselves to themselves and moaning when Oscar did some "top bombing" in the pool and splashed them a teeny-weeny little bit). Miserable cows!

Luckily our own little group comprised some of the loveliest people of the trip so far and it was really sad to say goodbye to Gigi and Fer, who were heading back to Buenos Aires. :-(

With our group now shrunk down to 6 people... In the afternoon we got the bus to the beach (La Florida), only for our trip to be aborted when we discovered that there were no more sunshades for hire (the beach was so busy - what with it being Sunday and all - that they were all already taken). Bugger. It was stinking hot (yes, again!) and with a blazing sun (ditto!) and so we decided (especially with Kevin among us, and his alabaster Breton complexion), that it would be more sensible to head back to the hostel and lounge (in the shade) by the pool instead. Thankfully, it wasn't a completely wasted trip. There was some kind of World Marathon Swimming Championship in progress (up and down the river), and so it was quite interesting to watch that for a while (especially seeing how strong the current was - on the way back down the river the more savvy swimmers headed out for deeper waters, where the faster current saw them overtaking the crawlers in the slow-lane).

So, it was more time spent in and around the pool. Which I love! I don't know why I bother with all the "acutally travelling" lark. I think I'm just a simple package tourist at heart. Give me sun, a pool (and a beach - ideally with crystal clear warm sea on the other side), and I'm happy. I should probably just spend the winters holed up in Playa de Las Americas, drinking lager with big-bellied Brits (after all I'm fast becoming one of those with all the meat I'm comsuming!). Alternatively, I suppose I could upgrade in class and do it in the Caribbean, but, basically, anywhere warm and sunny (with somewhere to swim) and I'm as happy as a pig in shit.

In the evening we had a date (Kevin, Oscar and Me) with the lovely Argentinian ladies (Agustina, Roxanna and Paula) at The Club de Milanesas. Crikey, that sounds far more exotic than it actually was! For anyone unfamiliar with what a milanesa is, then think breaded escalope and/or Wiener Schnitzel, which Argentinians are contractually obliged to eat at least twice a week (varying the meat content in order to spice up their lives somewhat). Anyway, this particular establishment treated its milanesas as if they were pizzas, garnishing them with various pizza-style toppings, which invariably including a huge dollop of sticky melted cheese. It wasn't fine dining (by any stretch of the imagination), but boy was it filling! We were all absolutely stuffed afterwards, and headed back to the hostel, happy in the knowledge we wouldn't need to eat again for three days. Actually, it was another lovely evening, and the combination of great company and the feeling of being on a proper holiday, are rendering these few days as some of the very best of the trip so far!

Oh, when we got back, the hostel had a power cut. Apparently, the town has various different electricity circuits and at times of peak demand (it was so hot that EVERYONE must have been using their air-conditioning), they switch one of them off in order to cope (I might just be making this up, but from various Spanish discussions that't how I understand it). Anyway, what's strange is that the hostel must itself be on more than one circuit, because the lights went out, but the air-conditioning kept working. Weird. So, it was in (almost) complete darkness that we went to bed...

Monday 24th January 2011

Another day in and around the pool (I sense one of this blog's many themes developing)! It was my last day with Oscar, as he was going back to his slave duties at the supermarket. We had lunch together (I put together some pasta/chickpea concoction, which I made really spicy a) to appeal to Oscar's tastebuds and b) to camouflage the fact that the pasata was rubbish and I didn't have any olive oil). He got his bus at 4pm, but it turned out it was the wrong one, that left him several blocks away from the supermarket. Thank goodness for his smartphone with GPS (I think I'm gonna get myself one of those upon my return - Dad, you can start researching for me, if you like! And anyone else with any recommendations/advice - just let me know), otherwise god (capital letter or not? Always a dilemma for an agnostic-going-on-athiest) knows where he would have ended up!

Anyway, he got there in the end (probably receiving a good beating from his boss for arriving back late - actually I later found out that the boss' wife did indeed give him a good telling off, firstly for daring to take a few days off and secondly for only wanting a summer job and not wanting to enslave himself to their tawdry little enterprise for the rest of his life. She makes the woman from the hostel in San Luis seem positively civil, nay delightful, in comparison!)

Whoops, pressed publish by accident. Hope I can edit this time... Let's just see...

Yup, it seems that I can edit this time, so I'll just finish off writing about Monday and then publish properly before going out for my evening constitutional.

So, where was I? Oh, yes, having just said goodbye to Oscar... Well, I subsequently spent some more time by the pool, then went for a bit of a walk in order to take out money (it was still really hot... and not exactly the temperature for being very active!). I had dinner with Kevin and the girls (making the world's biggest ever rice salad - where is Norris McWherter when you need him*). It was the last evening with everyone all together (the next day I was going to stay at the house of Vanesa - a Rosario resident all her life, for a bit of local flavour). So there was a touch of sadness in the air (and more power cuts)... but it was still a lovely, candle-lit evening, full of Spanish conversation (and French conversation - which has actually stopped being confusing now, as I can finally switch relatively painlessly between French and Spanish - not something which can be said about my Italian, I'm sure, which I fear has now become so Spanglified, that I might never get it back!!!). Anyway, it's all good brain exercise, and should stop the old grey matter from wasting away too much (especially necessary in the face of the wine and Fernet onslaught that it is up against).

Well, I'm going to leave it there for the moment. The last couple of days have been fractionally cooler (glorious, clear-blue skies allowing some of the heat to escape out into the atmosphere, perhaps), so it is the perfect evening for a decent walk around the city. I'm off out to explore some parts of Rosario that so far remain unknown (to me) and other parts that I have seen several/many times before (and like a lot!).

Best wishes to all my lovely readers.

Love J xx

*I know, he's dead.

STILL in Rosario!

Hello there,

Just time for a quick update before lunch. I'm still in Rosario (but back at the hostel now - lured back by the swimming pool and not wanting to overstay my welcome chez Vanesa). I'll try and get two days done in this sitting, and then (fingers crossed - if no-one else is using the computer), come back once I've had lunch and a siesta next to the pool!

Right then:

Thursday 20th January 2011

After a night of getting up every hour or so to go to the toilet I was tired of/from shitting. Luckily it was just coming out of the one oriface (not the double-whammy of concurrent puking/shitting), and it wasn't totally liquid, so it could have been much worse. But diarrhoea is never pleasant. In the end I took some Immodium and that seemed to reduce the frequency of my thunderbox visits!

After all that nocturnal exercise, it was hard to drag myself out of bed. However, despite my shitting-induced lethargy, it was still a gorgeous day, so it wasn't too much hardship to spend the day relaxing next to the hostel's very nice swimming pool (even if it wasn't big enough to actually swim in).

By lunch time (and a little siesta) I was feeling much better, so in the afternoon I went off to find Oscar (who was working in Rosario, at a Chinese supermarket - which sounded like extremely hard work, for very little pay and with the added bonus of a slave-driving boss who barely let him leave the shop. Still, that was better than spending the summer doing nothing in the boiling furnace of La Rioja, apparently). Anyway, he somehow managed to get the afternoon off and we walked together to La Florida, which is a beach in the northern suburbs. It was lovely... another balmy late-afternoon/evening, strolling along the beach... people watching... gawping at the huge ships which occasionally pass by... paddling in the silty brown water. As we strolled back, we passed some beautiful houses in that part of town, and took refuge for a while in a plush new air-conditioned shopping centre. It was great... and especially nice to have some good company once again!

Oscar decided that he would take a break from the supermarket for a few days (a mini-break, if you like), so gathered up his things and came back to the hostel with me. When we got back we met some lovely Argentinians who were staying at the hostel (Fer, Gigi, Roxana, Paula and Agustina). We ate pizza with them and drank beer and Fernet. It was a lovely evening, and my stomach was feeling quite a bit better by that point. I had a slight relapse during the night (only one toilet visit required, though!), so didn't sleep all that well, but the diminishing frequency of toilet visits was reassuring, nonetheless (and a blessed relief for my sore bottom)!

Friday 21st January 2011

It must be said the hostel breakfast is a triumph. It's simple - nothing more than 2 types of croissant (butter or lard - the former sweet, the later savoury) and cafe con leche, but it does the job and tastes nice too (except when they don't put enough coffee in the machine and it comes out watery... but it's a minor quibble).

After breakfast Oscar and I met up with Vanesa and did some proper sightseeing in Rosario (with our local guide leading the way!). First we sauntered up Av. Oroño (with a beautiful tree-lined promenade all the way down the middle) to the river's edge. It was getting hot, with the sun already high in the sky by 11am (I believe we are on an equivalent latitude to southern Morocco in this part of Argentina). We then took in various waterfront parks (including a huge private school, which is sort of located under the esplanade), all of which have great views across the river, and our visit culminated in the impressive (if massively Fascist-looking) Monumento a la Bandera. As the name would suggest (if you understand Spanish), it's a monument dedicated to the Argentine flag, and it is certainly monumental! Although I'm not sure I would exactly call it beautiful, it looked really dramatic against the very blue sky! The views from the top of the tower were fantastic too. (as always, visit for pictorial evidence).

We had a lunch in a riverside restaurant, which, naturally, given the location, was over-priced and a bit disappointing, but the setting was lovely, so I'll forgive it (this time!). I had Cesar Salad, which was okay (I'm in a forgiving mood, otherwise I would be more critical of the lumps of stale bread that passed for crutons and the mediocre pre-packaged dressing).

Vanesa had to return home to get ready for work, so we walked back to the hostel (along Cordóba, which is the main street in Rosario, and another pleasant place fora  wander). We quickly grabbed our stuff for the beach and went to meet the 5 Argentinian ladies from the night before (and Kevin, from France), who were on the beach up at La Florida (getting the bus for a bargain 2 pesos). It was lovely to be on the beach (it felt like a proper beach holiday - something which I'd rather been craving all the time I've been inland) and although the river looks absolutely disgusting ("thick brown sludge" would be an accurate discription, with islands of debris floating by, along with ships [and people!] of all shapes and sizes), it was still refreshing for a quick dip. However, I couldn't bring myself to swim with my head in (plenty of people did!) as it just seems so counter-intuitive given the colour and squelchy mud underfoot (I'm sure it's just silty, but when water looks that brown, it isn't something that invited prolonged submersion). Oscar and me tried to teach Shithead to the others, who, apart from Gigi, didn't seem that receptive an audience (or maybe the sun had made them a bit slow), and we drank mate with squash (think: squash drunk through a straw with bits floating in the glass). Oh yes, before I forget, a quick comment on the bikini bottom fashion here. I have to admit I don't quite get the style, which is best described as a cross between a normal brief and a thong, therefore cutting in half-way up the bottom. I guess it is supposed to accentuate the round curves of the bottom (which I believe is the most important part of the anatomy here in South America), but on most people it just kind of looks ridiculous (culo means ass in Spanish [and Italian] for anyone who didn't pick up immediately on this hilarious pun). Hmm... Maybe it's me, but you just can't beat a good old-fashioned knitted swimming costume IMHO!

Well, as the sun was beginning to set, it was back to the hostel to contemplate bikini fashion, cook pasta for dinner, drink wine, drink (more) Fernet and prepare to hit one of Rosario's premier nitespots. Madam was the name (don't worry, it wasn't a whore-house [as the name might suggest], just a night-club), and dancing was the game. Actually, we were all feeling a bit tired after the exertions of the day, but still managed to have dance-related fun until 4:30am, when we headed back to the hostel. Vanesa had come to join us and (having lost each other in the Reggaetonified melee) stayed a bit longer at the club with Udi, from Israel. Unfortunately, on the way to the bus stop, she had her handbag grabbed by a passing motorcyclist (a common form of theft on the streets of Argentina, apparently), and so had a rather longer night that the rest of us (reporting it to the police before finally managing to get the bus back home around 7am, I believe).

Right, it's time for lunch so I will leave it there for now. Another two days down, another couple of weeks to go (am I ever going to get this thing back on track?)...

Best wishes y'all...

Take care,
Love J xx