Thursday, December 20, 2018, Buenos Aires
My plane landed in Buenos Aires, probably an hour before the plane from Toronto, carrying J.P. and Ellen, Patrick and Rosie, and Andrea. I made contact with Eilat and Vivianne, our transfer person, and waited. Eventually they processed through and we were off to our hotel, The Brick, a Sofitel, in Recoleta. It was around noon, and we had all been traveling all night and then some. We got our rooms right away, dropped our luggage and went out for lunch. We plan to be fully on Buenos Aires time, by tomorrow. We pretty much are, already, just tired.
There is a currency crisis in Argentina, and it’s the holiday season. The HSBC ATM in the upscale mall, across the street, wasn’t even giving the natives money, much less us. We had lunch there, though, and it was good. After lunch, Patrick, Rosie, Andrea and I went out on the streets, following the hotel’s directions, to the nearest ATMs. None of them was in the mood to accept the Royal Bank’s debit cards but Patrick got some money out of another Canadian Bank through the National Bank of Argentina, about eight blocks away. We’ll keep trying, but now it was nap time.
We had a dinner engagement, planned by my BA friend, Eilat. We were going to a restaurant she was dying to try. It was called Mishiguene and, when I just googled it, I found out it is one of the Diners’ Club 50 best restaurants in the world. Singlethread in Healdsburg is on that list, but The French Laundry and Per Se aren’t any more. There are three in Tokyo, though, so I’ll be dragging Trish and Steve to at least one of them.
We were ahead of the crowd, so Mishiguene’s celebrity chef, Tomas Kalika, had time to help us choose our meal and wine. The cuisine is “Modern Jewish” and it was unique and wonderful. It was served like a Chinese dinner, all about sharing. I was too brain dead to list all the appetizers, but I remember the one I contributed. It was Kibbeh Nayeh. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, which was a pile of raw lamb with bulgar and spices. It was just outstanding, though, as was everything else Tomas served us. By the time we got to the mains, we were filling up, and we had ordered two bone-in pastramis, grilled and sauced up, with caramelized onions draped over the sides. It was too much. We sent more than half a pastrami home with the delightful Eilat, for her husband, who had been baby-sitting.
Eilat was thrilled with her treasure and called her husband, César, from her taxi to tell him she was bringing home supper. He said he had already eaten. She got home, triumphantly put the box on the table and told him to dig in. He said he had already eaten. She got him a knife and fork and opened the box. He said he had already eaten, and then he saw it. He was persuaded to have just a bite. He ate the whole thing. He was very happy. Don’t miss this restaurant when you visit Buenos Aires. http://www.mishiguene.com/prensa.php
Of the four taxis we took, one had a dishonest meter, so J.P. Ellen and I paid double to get there, but we were a lot smarter on the way back, and we had Eilat cautioning the driver, not to try that.
Friday, December 21, 2018, Buenos Aires
We slept like logs and just made it up for the last half-hour of The Brick’s buffet breakfast, which is absolutely excellent. I took Chase’s ATM card out and had better luck getting money. RBC still wasn’t giving me a peso. I had work to do for my Distinctive Voyage on board, so I bought the rest of the group a tour guide for the afternoon. They all liked Soledad a lot and had a lovely time with her, at Eva Peron’s grave and all the usual Buenos Aires highlights, except …… JP got attacked for his Rolex. He fell but he managed to hang on to it. The perp got away on the back of a motorcycle. JP took it off and put it in his pocket. Less than half an hour later the same perps had the nerve to try again. Unbelievable. What else is unbelievable is that he was able to identify them, following the group, in one of Patrick’s photos. Here they are:
There was no fancy dinner this night, we were going out to tango with Soledad. We weren’t seeing a Tango Show. We went to a place where the locals go to tango. We left the hotel around 9:30 pm. I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I was dependent on the snacks they would serve. The others hadn’t had all that much, either, just a few treats on tour. We were hungry.
Soledad took us to a Milonga. We were the only tourists in the place. The other couple of hundred people were there to dance the tango. The tables were set so almost everyone could face the dance floor, especially on the boys’ side and the girls’ side. The couples sat at tables on the ends. That way everyone knew who was who. Very efficient. All the ladies had proper tango shoes, as did Soledad, and she put them on. No one asked her to dance, though, doubtless because she was busy with us, because she’s lovely, and serious about tango. It was wrong, but we, myself in particular, were pretty focused on food, and we were not in luck. They had three little empanadas left, and some terrible pizza. We ate it anyway, and we drank bad wine. JP was smart. He had a giant Stella Artois in a thermal cooler. He also had a pretty sore shoulder, thanks to having hit the pavement a couple of times.
We were glad we went, because we like authentic cultural experiences, but none of us was ever going to tango, so we left around eleven. The night was young, if you tango, but we just wanted to go back. I know Soledad was disappointed in us, but she had been with the group when JP was assaulted, so she understood. We went back to The Brick. I gave JP my Voltaren and Andrea and I went to Rosie and Patrick’s room to share their very nice Canadian wine. Yes, I did write that last sentence.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
After another yummy Brick buffet, Rosie, Patrick and Andrea went walking around town, which they love to do. JP, Ellen and I went to the Brick’s fitness center, which had a nice little covered pool, as well as the usual machines, weights and mats. I got an hour of exercise in, along with a short swim. Ellen swam a lot more, and JP rested and nursed his sore shoulder. Then the three of us walked to the Saturday Artisan market in Plaza Francia to spend a fun hour. I ended up buying a bag of plastic bags. Well, it was supposed to be a sleep shirt. I think I insulted the vendor, when I made a fuss over examining my change for a thousand pesos. I had been caught with counterfeit, on a previous trip to B.A. She fixed me. The money was real, but the shirt was fake. She probably need the $7.50 a lot more than I did, but I felt pretty stupid, all the same.
Eilat was coming out to play with the three of us, all of whom knew her from previous trips. Ellen and I had found the Alvear Palace Hotel on the way to the bank the day before. It was perfect, a Grand Dame, with a perfect English Tea. At a little more than $25 per person, it was less than half the price of all the other Grande Dames I know. Apart from the scones, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and petit fours, it included a glass of champagne and desserts from the trolley. By the time the trolley came along, we were thoroughly stuffed. Lucky César, again, Eilat chose him four, full size, delectable pastries. He may start liking minding their little daughter, if she keeps coming home with the treats.
We had to eat again in a couple of hours. You can’t do Buenos Aires without a fabulous steak dinner. Belen, our hotel concierge, had found us Piegari Carnes, a couple of blocks up the street. The ojo de bife’s were fabulous, and cooked right, and the Malbec was delicious. The bill came to about $75 a couple, which wasn’t bad for the quality, but not a patch on Mishiguene, where we had twice as much very good wine, and paid about the same. We recommend both these restaurants, as well as The Brick Hotel.
Sunday, December 23, 2019
There’s not much to do on boarding day except board. Vivianne came back with her van to pick us up at 12:30 pm. The van driver and bellmen began loading it up. She kept suggesting they try to close it before they topped it up with luggage. She must have told them three times before they found out for themselves. Ellen and I knew, too. When the bottom suitcase won’t let the door close, there’s little point in finishing the job, until you solve that one. But what did we know? We were just women. But we had a secret weapon, Patrick, a man who was really good in geometry. He stepped in and solved the equation in a jiffy. QED.
Boarding was slow, but uneventful, the way you want it. I had trouble getting the info I needed for the Distinctive Voyages letters, though, and Andrea had trouble getting her suitcase. We got the folders all ready, but not delivered, by dinner time. I recorded the broadcast welcome, and we delivered them after dinner. It was a pretty good dinner, and we all fell into bed, after we had delivered the letters.