Last week was my wife’s birthday.
Sometime ago, it seems like another lifetime, I wrote about the difficulties of facing my first wife’s birthday in Uruguay. Up north, I knew where to buy cards, get her a birthday present and set up a nice quiet dinner at some cosy restuarant. Here, I couldn’t find one or when I did find one, I couldn’t understand what the birthday card said. I always used to buy her something small and unique up north. Small you will find here but unique, you wont. There are tons of cosy restaurants but I didn’t know where they were. It’s really great to have friends when that happens.
This birthday, having 2 years under my belt, was totally under control. Birthday cards are no longer a problem because I buy a year’s supply of cards for each occasion when we’re up north in July. My wife’s anniversary card sits in front of me in preparation for this weekend. May is just a blur for me. Mothers day, birthday and anniversary all rolled into one. I took care of the present and the cosy restaurant in one fell swoop–a trip to Buenos Aires.
Those of you know who know my wife know she’s only interested in two things. Shoes and sunglasses. All joking aside, having been to NYC, LA, Paris and the isle of Capri, I honestly believe Buenos Aires is the women’s shoe capital of the world (style, selection and price). She was in heaven. Sunglasses weren’t so bad either. Betweeen Florida and Santa Fe, we must have checked out a dozen places. Not only did she find a great pair to add to her closet of sunglasses we brought down from up north, but she found a great pair of Reef frames for reading glasses. As you know, this country runs on text messages and I think she finally figured out she couldnt keep texting if she couldn’t read the incoming messages.
As for a cosy restaurant, that took a slight twist to a ‘very nice restaurant’. Buenos Aires has some great restaurants, even in the shopping district.
To make it a really great trip, we flew instead of boating over. Pluna must have known it was my wife’s birthday because both flights were on time. I’ve never experienced that before. This was the first time she used her Santander Van Gogh card to beat the immigration lines at the airport. There’s a special line and there’s never anyone there. We literally came in non stop and surprisingly enough, the luggage was already on the belt. And to top it all off, customs had gone home for the evening so we just walked out of baggage right to our car. Weird but true.
In the past, we used to stay with friends in Buenos Aires–the sister of my wife’s best friend. But she moved to Mendoza so we had to seek commercial lodging. After looking at a dozen different internet hotels and for each of them, reading at least one customer’s unhappy experience, I decided to fall back on the Marriott chain. I always used to stay in Marriotts up north when travelling on business. In 10 years, I never had a truly bad experience so I was hoping and praying that Marriott, Buenos Aires would be similar. For some reason, they had executive suites on sale that weekend so we took a one bedroom on the top floor. For us, we really liked the place. It’s not a modern building. Supposedly, 2009 was its 100th anniversary. But it was well kept and there’s no substitute for old architecture. I’d take peeling paint and cracked walls any day over sterile steel and glass. The staff were friendly. We had no problem checking in. Breakfast was included and it was very nice. The hot water was hot and plentiful. The bottled water at 21 pesos seemed a little too Mariottish for our tastes but the refrigerator had lots of room for bottled water purchased around the corner.
Getting the one bedroom paid off because my wife’s friend decided to come to BA to visit her for her birthday and the couch worked out just great. She even had her own bathroom.
I know that women’s clothing is a bigger money maker than men’s so it came as no surprise that most of the stores we passed held little interest for me. Oh well. It was her birthday and I was preoccupied with ways to pay off the credit card when we got back. I did end up buying a sweater in a fabulous sweater store that it turns out I have bought sweaters in twice before when we visited Buenos Aires when I was here on holidays years ago. I must have a thing for their style.
For men, they do have have fantastically stylish suits and shoes. But I’m a shleppy kind of guy, most happy in jeans and a polar (my newly adopted Uruguayan covering of choice). If I ever need to find a pair of shoes to wear with a suit, if I ever wear one again, this would be where I’d go. The prices are reasonable when compared with the quality and style. As always, Buenos Aireas has phenomenal leathers of all kinds. I have this dream of findig the right suitcase but I never have. But I keep looking.
No birthday trip to Buenos Aires can be complete without going to a live theatre. In this respect, BA is very much like NYC. Very much unlike my hometown of Toronto. People love live theatre. Prices are reasonable and some of these theatres are absolutely mangnificent. I forget the name of the one we went to but there were about 200 people in the audience. We had good seats. I think there were 70 pesos (about USD20) a seat. The show was a series of skits with scantily clad, curvaceous ladies. My language skills are fair or worse but I found I enjoyed myself. My wife and her friend were able to appreciate the jokes, of which there were many.
We went to the new mall that’s billed as 6 floors–4 up and 2 down. Once you’ve been to a mall in BA, they all look the same to me. Same stores with the same merchandise. But this one had something I hadn’t seen before down here–an honest to goodness WalMart. It turned out it was a WalMart in name if you’re American. The stock resembled nothing we’re used to. In fact, I kept telling my wife I felt we were in a bigger Tienda Inglesa. First place I went was to the food section looking for Skippy peanut butter. Nope. No Kosher dill pickles either. No original Kraft dinner. No real choice of salad dressing but it did have a good selection of Newman’s own albeit in small size bottles.
I have two memories from that trip that stand out the most.
First was what I thought was an incredibly built young lady standing on the street behing held back by 3 cops while some guy was yelling at her being held back by another 2 cops. Turns out the she was a he.
The 2nd memory was a young couple making out in the stairway of the Walmart mall, obvlivious to the world next to the elevator we were waiting for. Just before I got on the elevator I took anothe quick look and like above, the he turned out to be a she. They say Montevideo is very liberal in these kinds of things but in my 48 hours in BA, I saw more liberalism than I’ve seen in my 3 years in Montevideo.
To sum it up, Buenos Aires will be my standard ‘birthday package’ for at least the next year or two. That is unless my credit card bill comes in and reality smacks me in the head.