Posts Tagged ‘visa’

Colonia del Sacramento

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been in Buenos Aires 3 months already. When tourists arrive here they are given a free 90-day visa. It can be renewed for a further 90 days by visiting the officials in Migraciones and paying $300 (Argentine pesos, not US dollars). To remain legal the alternative is to leave the country and return(which can be done on the same day).

The easiest way to leave the country and return is to take a ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay and back again. So that’s what I did last Saturday. While virtually everyone in Buenos Aires was sat in front of their TV watching a football match I was sat on a fast catamaran listening to golden-age tango on my iPod and heading towards a few hours in Colonia.

There are 3 companies advertising crossings to Colonia and there is a choice of fast catamaran (50 minutes each way) or slow car ferry (3 hours). It’s worth comparing the deals on their websites and booking in advance. A day return ticket cost me ARG $190. All services leave from the Buquebus terminal at Darseño Norte and they share the vessels. Immigration formalities (departure from Argentina and admission to Uruguay) only took a few minutes. Boarding started about 30 minutes before the departure time and departure was a few minutes later than advertised. Not bad for a South American country whose team were playing in the World Cup. The crossing was smooth and uneventful and took about 20 minutes longer than the advertised 50 minutes.

I thought my ticket included a bus tour around Colonia but when I got there the tour people said otherwise. It wasn’t worth arguing about. The information desk had maps of the town. There’s not really a lot to see in Colonia anyway, a small historic quarter, a couple of parks, a handful of museums, a racetrack and a disused bull ring. I would have liked to see and snap a photo or two of the bull ring. It’s 5km from the port and it was hot and sunny and I had just 4 hours until the ferry returned to Buenos Aires. So I decided against walking there and back. One of the taxi drivers at the port offered me a taxi tour of the town for ARG $70 (about £13) and I couldn’t be bothered to haggle. I also couldn’t be bothered to sit in the back of a beaten-up old taxi on a hot afternoon.

After turning left out of the port I walked up Miguel Angel Odirozola to Barrio Histórico in about 10 minutes. It’s got cobbled streets, some ruined buildings, a couple of preserved buildings from the Portuguese colonial period, part of the original city walls, a drawbridge, a lighthouse and loads of restaurants. Admission to the lighthouse was ARG $3.50 and there’s a decent view from the top. Most of the restaurants around Plaza Mayor were doing lots of trade (I doubt it was brisk!) with lunch costing about UR $300-$400 per person. There’s a foreign exchange desk at the port but everywhere is happy to accept Argentinian pesos at a rate of roughly ARG $1 = UR $4, about the same as the foreign exchange desk. The bars and restaurants outside the historic quarter were cheaper.

After lunch and a couple of hours of aimless wandering it was time to head back to the port. The immigration officer wanted to see my outbound ticket stub (stamped with the admission date – probably a good thing I hadn’t thrown it away – no-one had told me I needed to keep it) and passport, and gave me another 90 day visa for Argentina. Mission accomplished!

We left Uruguay almost exactly on time with the sun just starting to set. The Rio de la Plata was as calm as a mill pond and the return crossing was even smoother than the outbound one. It was no quicker though and it was properly night time when I walked out of the Buquebus terminal. The air was heavy with despair, it was almost palpable. Everyone looked miserable and dejected. I didn’t need to ask what had happened in the football.

There are some photos from Colonia del Sacramento in this set on Flickr.

Que pasa

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

There’s not a lot for me to report on the tango front. The week before last I tried a new milonga for me – the Tuesday afternoon El Arranque at Salón La Argentina. I got there shortly after it opened, at about 3:30pm and stayed for about 4 hours. There weren’t many people there when I arrived but by 5pm there were about 100 people, with an excess of men. So rather more people than the Monday afternoon milonga at La Ideal. I was the only extranjero (foreigner) there and easily the youngest man in the room by at least 15 years. Some of the guys looked like they’d have difficulty walking without a zimmer frame, never mind dancing. A couple of the women were possibly in the same decade as me, the rest were at least a decade older. Despite those things, or maybe because of them, I danced all the tandas I wanted to.

The following night at Sueño Porteño I had something of an epiphany (in the feeling sense). It struck me that actually I don’t need to tango every day. This came as quite a surprise and I haven’t worked out all the ramifications yet. On the practical front it does mean I’ve only been out to dance 4 times since then including (another new one for me) the Nuevo Chiqué 1st anniversary milonga at Casa de Galicia. 3 of them were rather disappointing outings because my heart wasn’t in it, but last night at los Consagrados was good as usual.

There’s a photo from El Arranque and a few from Nuevo Chiqué in my Milongas set on Flickr.

I’ve had a few days out and about sightseeing. One was a wander around Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero. Plaza de Mayo houses many government buildings and the architecture is very grandiose and monumental. Puerto Madero is rather like London’s Docklands – a rejuvenation of the docks area into a luxury flats and fine dining complex complete with a single pylon suspension/swing bridge, La Puente de la Mujer. According to the designer it represents a couple dancing tango but I can’t really see it myself. Have a look at the photos in my Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero set and see if you can.

Another was a wander around Palermo and Recoleta, including the world famous Cementerio Recoleta. Having been before I didn’t need to track down the tombs of the rich and famous in general, or Eva Peron in particular. But it was a good excuse to take a few photos.

The third was a visit to Palacio Barolo in Avenida de Mayo. When it was built it was the tallest building in Buenos Aires, at 100m, and the views across the city from the lighthouse at the top are quite impressive. At the time of writing this post, their website is broken but you can read a bit more about the building and it’s history here and see some photos in my Palacio Barolo set at Flickr.

In a couple of weeks I will either have to go and sit in Migraciones all day and pay $300 (pesos not US dollars) to renew my visa, or take a boat trip across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. Spending the money on the boat trip sounds like the better option…

I’m making a bit of progress on the castellano front. Slow and not at all steady, but progress nonetheless.