TRAVEL: Roaming Readers
Beautiful Buenos Aires
At the end of October last year, our daughter and her husband took my wife and me to Buenos Aires for two weeks. It was one of the most interesting and fun trips we’ve ever taken. Buenos Aires is a huge city (about 13 million) but very lovely, with beautiful, wide, tree-lined boulevards, much like Paris, and lots of high-rises and skyscrapers, much like New York City. The population is very cosmopolitan and European and is not much different than an American city – except that everyone speaks Spanish. The food is wonderful and the city abounds with restaurants. However, don’t even think about starting dinner until at least 9 p.m. We were in several different places that had diners packing it away until midnight and the customers were still coming in. There have to be at least a million taxis in Buenos Aires and it’s easy to get around day or night. The city is covered with outdoor cafes and people are eating and drinking at all hours. There are lots of things to see and do, including nightclubs, tours, museums, street fairs, shopping and more. Best of all, Argentina is currently one of the vacation bargains of the world – an American Dollar is worth three Argentine Pesos. We stayed in an apartment in Recoleta, an upscale neighborhood very close to the central city. Most everyone lives in an apartment or condo and everything is within walking distance, much like living in the French Quarter. The seasons are reversed in Argentina, so we were there in spring. The weather was beautiful and from what I’ve heard, spring and fall are the best times to visit. It is a long plane ride – nine hours from Miami – but the Argentine Airline is passenger friendly and although the food is mediocre, the drinks are free. To me, Buenos Aires was New Orleans on steroids. Don’t miss it.
Postcard of Buenos Aires.
It was 1955 and I was all of 19 years old. I see an ad in The Times-Picayune hawking tours for the Greyhound Bus Line on Canal Street. What excitement stirred within my soul! I begged my parents to allow me to book a tour and I wanted to take along my 12-year-old sister. After much discussion, my parents agreed. I booked a tour for two to Chattanooga, Tenn. I boarded the bus around 8:30 or 9 p.m. It was one of those new upper deck buses with restrooms aboard. We drove all night and arrived sometime the next day. We had nice hotel accommodations, guided tours in a long tourist car and met lots of people from different places. Mountains and hills impressed me after looking at New Orleans’ flat land my whole life. When I compare then and now, it’s like night and day. Safe, secure – not a hint of anyone ever being afraid to let two girls travel alone. My dad picked us up late. He misjudged the time and when he pulled up in front of the bus depot, there my sister and I sat, each atop a suitcase. Those were the days!
1950 Greyhound Scenicruiser advertisement.
Neyt the Best
I walked along the train platform looking for bottles of clean water, not an easy task in remote Mongolia. I was tired from the Russian border crossing which took most of the night, so when I saw bottles full of clear liquid, I decided to ignore the fact that the Cyrillic label looked like it said Chernobyl on it. I decided I was being paranoid and bought eight gallons for $2. I made my way back to my train cabin with my radioactive water thinking about how my friend and I decided against a beach vacation with Coronas and hammocks. We wanted an adventure and I guess we got it.
I went into our cabin, dropped the water on the floor and looked up to see my poor, sick friend looking down from her perch in the top bunk. She was now the color of boiled mutton, which, in all likelihood was the culinary delight responsible for her food poisoning. “Want some tea?” I asked. I interpreted her blank stare as a “yes” and went down the hallway to boil some water. A woman started to yell at me, “Neyt! Neyt!” After several minutes of confusion and awkward translations, I realized I did not buy eight gallons of water, but eight gallons of illegal Russian moonshine. I was wondering if the beds in a Mongolian prison would be more comfortable than our current ones when I saw my friend heading to the bathroom we shared with 65 other travelers, no doubt thinking of Coronas and hammocks.
Venders at a Trans-Siberian rail stop.