Feb 232015
 
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Français : Un Starbucks à Paris (France)

Français : Un Starbucks à Paris (France) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quelle Horreur

What I like about traveling is seeing new places, learning how people live in other countries and finding out a few things about myself along the way. At least that’s the way I tell the story. In truth what I like most is when I can visit an exotic place without adjusting at all. I prefer the comfortable over the new.

It’s that way most of the time. I remark about the abundance of McDonald’s, carefully avoiding any patronage. I have smeared at Starbucks. I laughed at how we never heard anything but American music in Belgium. But even the most opinionated of culture snobs is forced to confess that things can get too strange. And so, as we start our second week in France, I find myself asking, “Where are the Starbucks?” Continue reading »

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Feb 102015
 
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We have been in Buenos Aires for over a week now.  That time has given us an opportunity to form some  opinions  about life down here in the Southern hemisphere.  Don’t expect a big report today.  Buenos Aires is not a relaxing place.  It takes just about all the energy this old Coot can generate to keep moving down here.  Even when you are trying to keep your cool and remain calm, just riding the SubTe (what they call their subway) or riding in a taxi engages all your reserves.  All the taxis are subcompacts and it takes me five minutes to get in and  out of one but once you are in, the ride is exhilarating. It amazes us that we haven’t seen one accident because taxi driving is a competitive sport down here.  Your taxi driver plays chicken with all  the other taxi drivers to get around a bus or into a better lane.

Down time is when you sit down for water at a sidewalk cafe, sometimes just inches from the traffic but once you order a water, you can sit forever.

That’s about it for today.  I just noticed that neither Bob nor Justin had checked in since my last post and I figured I’d better put something in. I’ll upload a couple of pictures  and add a few more observations about Buenos Aires to flesh out later.  Trial lawyers would have a field day in BA because we haven’t seen a sidewalk without serious safety issues since we got here.  Portenos (residents of BA) seem  to have an underwear fetish.  There are underwear shops in  the SubTe stations.  They do seem to celebrate Christmas with some of the same  themes we use but Santa Clause is Papa Noel.  Green wreaths, trees and lights are up  but in more restrained fashion  than back in  the  states.  More later.

BA Tour Bus

Open air Tour buses give you a quick overview of BA sights

View from our apartment

Our apartment view

BA sidewalks can be a challenge

There must not be trial lawyers in BA

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Dec 262012
 
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The word is pain!

A Buenos Aires Taxi

It didn’t take this Coot long to find something he doesn’t like about Buenos Aires. You know how it goes. You discover something great that make life better and lightens your day. But then you find that it has a flaw- and not just a minor flaw that you can excuse and joke about but a major one that you notice every time you use it and causes you to look and feel foolish as well as experiencing pain. You use the damned thing because you need it but you go through hell every time.

The thing that continues to bug me here in Buenos Aires even though our trip would be much less enjoyable if they didn’t exist is the taxi’s. I hate to complain because there is so much positive about the cabs. To begin with, they are everywhere and easy to hail when you need one. Where ever we go. At whatever time we are out we can find a taxi. Not only that, they are inexpensive. They aren’t as cheap as the Subte (subway) but you don’t have to stand while you ride and they are much cooler. Pounding the pavement following my photographer wife can be grueling and when you can’t face riding the Subte, the taxi’s are a quick way home.

The taxi’s are wonderful. With many fine features, they do make getting around sprawling Buenos Aires manageable but those feature come at a cost. I really do appreciate the Buenos Aires taxi’s but each time I use one I pay dearly. It is agony to get in and out of one. Maybe it’s no problem for your average Portano. It is a big problem for a tall, old Coot with some pain in the knee joints. Getting in and out of the darn things is painful and time consuming because the back doors are built for midgets with tiny feet.

Just a bit of background on the Buenos Aires taxi’s. They are all black and yellow with the same paint job even though there are multiple taxi companies. They are all four door vehicles but can be any make. We have seen Chevy’s, VW’s, Peugeot’s, Citroen’s, and other I can’t identify. They are all uncomfortably small with doors that don’t leave room for my big feet or room to get my knees out of the way. If you are tall it is a problem to get in and out but if you have any joint pain, it is torture.

Over time I have developed better techniques but they aren’t pretty. Sometimes I can lie back and swivel my feet in the air to get them out of the door. Other times it is a long shuffle while I manually maneuver my feet through the tiny space provided. It isn’t fun or graceful and it is never painless. I have no idea whether the Argentine government specifies the size of the doors. What I do know is that whatever the make of the taxi, the doors are the same inadequate size. There is no reason to discriminate when you are looking for a taxi because whichever one one pick will be uncomfortably small. I do know that if I found one with a bigger door, the driver would get all my business.

 

 

 

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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Flying South

 Posted by at 04:55  Coot Travel
Dec 032012
 
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Hola Coots!

The pressure is mounting.  It is only two days until my wife and I leave rainy Sacramento for sunny and warm Buenos Aires.  We’ve never been to Argentina and we’ve never taken a trip longer than two weeks so there is plenty of room for anxiety.  This trip we want to take only what we need after over packing last time.  The alternative might just be under packing.  What is the right amount of clothing?  I don’t know.  I’ll probably get it wrong this time too.  The one nice thing is that summer in Argentina means no need to take a heavy coat.

Then there is the electronics.  Modern travel  requires a computer, my wife’s iPad, telephones, cameras and all the connections, power supplies and batteries to keep them operating.  We did pretty well last trip where the only thing forgotten was a charger for a camera.  It wasn’t a serious problem.  Camera chargers are found everywhere tourists flock.  This afternoon we will set out all the equipment for packing.  The only loose end this time is our cellphones.  For the last trip we rented them.  This time we intend to use our regular cell phones and buy local prepaid sim cards.  This is more adventurous and will tax our limited Spanish but it is cheaper and provides us with local Argentine telephone numbers.  The downside is that it can’t be done until we get to Argentina and apparently there is a 24 hour delay after buying the card before you get your number.

We anticipate that there will be some problems as we settle into Buenos Aires for a month but we are making the entrance as simple as possible.  For about the same price as a taxi from the airport, you can arrange for a driver.  So when we make it out of customs at the airport there will be someone standing with a sign that has my name on it.  He will lead us to our transportation which will drive us to meet the apartment agent who will settle us into our home for the next month.  After a long flight, who needs a hassle?

Once we have our home base, it will be time to check out the neighborhood, buy some provisions and those sim cards and try our Spanish (or as they say in Argentina- our Castillano).  I can’t promise regular posting during this trip but the plan is to show some pictures once a week with observations about interesting and quirky things I discover.  Stay tuned.

 

Ralph

Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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