The flight was long but thankfully uneventful. Two meals served, both inedible. I passed the hours reading River of Doubt by Candice Millard, about Theodore Roosevelt’s expedition to the Amazon jungle over a century ago. I thought it a good introduction to South America, although I would not be visiting Brazil.
The one hour ride from the airport to Buenos Aires provided a first glimpse of Argentina. It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and the humidity can be stifling. Air-conditioning recommended! Avenidas - boulevards - encompassing at least three lanes in each direction, many with wide medians separating car, bus, and/or trolley lanes, criss-cross the city. Parks dot the cityscape. European-style palaces compete with apartment houses and business buildings which date from over 150 years ago to recently completed. Many of the palaces, originally built by wealthy Argentine families, have been converted into government offices.
Hub and I arrived at our hotel 9:00 PM, tired and hungry. First stop: the hotel dining room. And there to meet us were our Las Vegas friends, Denny and Kathe, joining us on this trip.
The following evening we have 8:30 dinner reservations. Late by our standards, but Argentina’s Spanish culture dictates late dining. This is Denny’s second trip to Buenos Aires, and we are meeting a friend he met on his previous trip.
Our taxi turns off the main boulevard into a side street and pulls up to the restaurant. We stare out the window. It takes a few seconds to realize what is wrong - the street is black. No light. Not in the restaurant, not on the street, not in surrounding buildings.
We reluctantly send the taxi away and wait for our host Alberto. He will know what to do - he’s a local!
The restaurant is closed - no electricity, therefore no lights - so we wait on the sidewalk. After a few minutes we are suddenly bathed in brightness - the lights are back on! The restaurant opens, we enter, and our host arrives.
We leave most of the ordering to Alberto and soon appetizers appear. Over the years I have learned that sometimes it is best not to ask questions - ignorance can be bliss. One of the plates turned out to be sweetbreads - innards folks ate when an entire animal was consumed. Nowadays we can be more picky. Heart, brains, kidney…I take a couple of bites to be polite. I know what I eat throughout the rest of the meal. Fish, potatoes…the men savor thick, juicy steaks, an Argentine specialty.
We sip coffee and engage in conversation with our host, although we must lean forward and concentrate as he talks low and his accent is at times difficult to understand. Suddenly the waiter approaches and starts talking excitedly in Spanish - only our host understands - and points to the floor. We look down. Water gushes under our feet in a relentless stream soon covering the entire first floor of the restaurant.
Time to evacuate. We grab our things and quickly make our way to the front of the restaurant, the bar area, a couple of steps higher than the main floor.
The restaurant front windows offer another surprise - a torrential rainstorm greets us. People crowding around the bar take off their shoes, unfurl umbrellas, and run into cars and cabs.
Our genial host offers to drive us back to the hotel. I take off my shoes, walk through a puddle up to my ankles and jump in the car.
Torrential rains. Temporary loss of electricity. Heat and humidity. Palatial buildings. Beautiful parks. Variety of food, most familiar, including French fries and good strong coffee. Avenidas modeled after the Champs Elysee in Paris.
First impressions of Buenos Aires.