Thursday, July 21, 2016

Return To La CABA 2016: Part 1

It's been three years since we visited the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. Since this was our third time here, we decided to explore some new areas that we hadn't gone to before, and also to see if anything had changed in the city, particularly as a result of the change in government.
First of, if you're going to travel by train from Cordoba, make sure to book your tickets at least a month in advance. In 2013, we weren't able to buy our train tickets until 10 days before our departure date. We went to the train station this year with that idea in mind and we were in for a rude shock. All the seats and sleeper cars were booked. Apparently, July is a major vacation month nationwide. We were screwed. Fortunately, the bus station was right across the street.

We were expecting to pay 2,100 Argentine pesos (139.95 USD) for two round trip tickets from our host province of Cordoba to B.A. and back again, but we ended up paying 500 pesos extra (33.33 USD) from the bus line "El Practico".

We used the "El Practico" bus line in 2013 during our second visit and we were very pleased with the cleanliness, the food, and the service. Now I don't know what the hell we did wrong. We were expecting quiche, wine, coffee and dessert like last time. Instead we got this disappointment.
Suffice it to say we were starving most of the trip to B.A. It's winter down here so having the heater on all night was to be expected, but they had it so high that it was almost impossible to breathe. The restroom was a mess and everything smelled like a giant ashtray.

Once we got to B.A. we noticed that they mishandled our luggage and they ended up ripping the outer lining. I'm not the kind of person that stays quiet. In fact, I tend to get pretty irate when stuff like this happens, but my partner prefers that I keep a level head and we did go to B.A. for some R&R, not to pick a fight. So I decided to bite my tongue.

As we exited the station, we noticed a lot more homeless people than in 2013, but I'll get to that a little later. There was graffiti on the wall voicing just how much the cab drivers don't like the idea of Uber being in service here.

The one thing we avoided doing last time was getting on the subways or using the buses out of fear of being mugged. This time however, we wanted to move around the city a little easier. So we decided to get a SUBE Card.
It costs 50 Argentine pesos (3.33 USD). We got one from a lady at a newspaper stand. I know. You're probably thinking that this was stupid. Actually, the person that referred us to the stand was a cop so we risked it. Then we went and charged our card at a charging station before leaving Retiro, the area where the trains and bus stations are located.
We decided to walk to Magic Donuts, a shop that serves high quality donuts, somewhat equivalent to those you'd find at Dunkin Donuts back home in the States.
It was very far from Retiro, but we didn't want to get on the subway with our luggage. So after enjoying some delicious donuts, we walked to Hotel Mundial. We were a little too early to check in, but they allowed us to leave our luggage in the hotel.
We decided to kill some time by walking around and doing some sightseeing. I'm not sure how to explain it, but things looked a little grim. Of course that could have been the result of the weather. The thing that bothered me was the number of homeless people that had set up beds and makeshift shelters in the same plaza I'd visited three years earlier. In fact, the plaza was littered with homeless people. I don't know if this was always the case or if this is the result of the country's recently massive economic decline over the last few months.
Then it started to drizzle. Fortunately, our room was ready so we headed back to the hotel. We were pretty satisfied with Hotel Mundial in 2013, but this time, things were very different. Our hotel room had a turd in the bathroom trying to come out of a drainage grill on the floor. Naturally the restroom smelled like ... well, you know. So I went downstairs and they had housekeeping come up and take a look. They just looked at me and said, "Would you like us to pour some chlorine over the pipe?" And I'm like, "No! What I want is a clean room, turd free, please!" We got one. Well, it wasn't very clean. There were stains on the walls that looked like bodily fluids ... and I'm not talking about blood. Plus, you could hear the traffic down below and it was annoying as hell. How were we going to get any sleep? Unfortunately, this was the best they could do. We could have gone to another hotel, but we were exhausted.

Later that night, we went to buy pizza from Ugi's. Their pizza dough is the closest thing we've had to pizzas from back home, minus the pepperoni. We fell in love with Ugi's last time so we were looking forward to eating these two pizzas. Thank God they didn't disappoint us. Sure it got a little wet on the corners, but that was thanks to Mother Nature, who decided to rain on our evening 12 blocks before we got to the hotel.
The noise from the traffic below had died down around 11 p.m. so I headed to the window to close the curtains, but caught sight of more homeless people laying on the sidewalks below. It was truly heartbreaking.
I tried to distract myself by turning on the TV. Last time we were here, there were a couple of channels that offered U.S. programming with Spanish subtitles. But now, practically every show was dubbed in Spanish and not done very well at all. So I turned the TV off and decided to focus on the remaining 4 days of fun and adventures that were ahead of us.

I'll be posting Part 2 of our return visit to B.A. real soon. So stay tuned.

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