To fly back to Rio or not?? And don’t cry for me Argentina! 

Back in Buenos Aires but for more than a flight transfer this time. I’ve checked all my WhatsApp messages and my lovely hockey girls have updated me with the victorious Team GB hockey. Fabulous that they are in the final how exciting. For me though I think the exciting and hectic time of the last few weeks has caught up with me, feel rubbish and have a cold that I seem to be fighting. Anyhow I have a day and a half in Buenos Aires and off to the hostel I go. I had checked with my Argentinian friend that it was in a nice area and she had said San Telmo is lovely so I should enjoy it. It’s the older part of town with cobbled streets and crumbling decorative facades all around. So into my taxi I get speaking my pigeon Spanish and off we head. Panfilo (from my Iguaźu trip) had warned me that it doesn’t feel like South America but in fact more like Europe. And he is quite right. High rise modern buildings adorn the streets around, not like the understated buildings I’m used to seeing on my travels.

(From wikipedia)

So half hour later I arrive at my hostel ‘The Art Factory. Named so, because its covered with art throughout the rooms, eve the kitchen and bathrooms apparently. Sounds interesting and colourful hey. The hostel looks a bit dingy out front, but it is late and maybe it’s just the oldy worldly nature of the area making the streets look darker, and you have to buzz to get in, so at least it’s safe.

art factory.jpg

It’s 10pm so no chance of exploring the area tonight even if I did feel in good form. Two flights of stairs with my ridiculously heavy suitcase (or is it my stupidly weak arm strength?) and it’s a welcoming reception. Boards and posters with activities for every day, maps to show you around the town and a fridge with drinks for purchase, artistic characteristics already around the reception and waiting area. So far so good. I check in, I don’t have enough cash and it’s a 10% charge for a card which is ridiculous, but they let me pay for one night now and get the rest in cash tomorrow which is very nice. I notice the signs of types of rooms and realise this is a real dorm style hostel. More for backpackers than the solo tourist suitcase traveller. Rooms of 6 with shared bathroom available! Hey ho.

I get to my room which is on the corner of the stairs to the bar, restaurant and kitchen. Think it may be a noisy stay? Rooms nice enough though, art on the walls, double bed, airy and a bathroom all to myself although not entirely clean. I immediately notice there’s no TV? How odd when I’ve not actually watched one for most of the trip and don’t need it at all! There’s a kitchen just down the corridor with a gas hob, whistle kettle and good old cupboards and fridge with labelled food. Last time I saw this kind of kitchen was on my travels down under where I stayed in hostels. There’s colourful art down the corridors, so it is quite unique.



Well what a bloody awful nights sleep. I’ve never actually worn ear plugs but I have a set in my suitcase just in case, and guess what, I had to get them out to try and stop the noise from keeping me awake. People talking and walking around, doors banging nothing particularly malicious just a poorly insulated room. So my cold has hit big time, and feeling miserable!

I prefer to have days and activities or at least ideas planned. However for the rest of this trip I have no idea what to do at all which makes me less excited about the last few days. So having woken up I suddenly decide maybe I could fly back to Rio and watch the hockey final?? What an experience it would be? So I e-mail Flight Centre and ask if it can be done, look up flights that are about £300 so maybe it can and as I have nothing planned in Columbia what would I miss out on? not a lot. The issue I have is time as although it’s 9am here it’s 3pm in the UK and I don’t want to use my phone to call at £2 per minute so waiting for e mails will be the  issue with a time restraint.

Whilst waiting I head up to breakfast excited that is included, but that’s where the excitement died! Stale bread, cornflakes, weak squash, a variety of tea but no English breakfast (not that unsurprising) and a common room to eat in. It is however a very colourful common room, art on the walls, and there are a few others about so a bit of company of sorts, and you can order scrambled eggs so I do get something more tasty. Not sure why I’m moaning, at least I’m being fed!


Fuelled up and ready for who knows….I head off out armed with a map of the city and the one plan that I will join the afternoon walking tour by the free walking tours company at 3pm. I pass lots of locals milling around, one with a pack of dogs it seems. past little cafe’s, supermarkets, shops, garages and bakeries. A very bustling morning in Buenos Aires.

I get lost, although find a lovely portrait of Eva Peron on the side of a tall building (which I later find out is the Social Development Building) then find my way to the riverside which to be honest may as well be London South Bank it looks so European.

I mean it’s lovely, relaxing and bustling and I head onto the navy boat on the river to learn about the Argentinian navy (although mot of the notes were in Spanish so i am really just looking at pictures and artefacts), and their dogs, but it just isn’t as exciting as being in other South American cities.

I’m also constantly wondering if I will be heading to Rio tomorrow and need to find wifi to check my e mails. I stop at a cafe who had wifi for a drink and find out it’s going to be £900 at least and that’s if the airline will let me swap destinations, not guaranteed!! Oh the decisions!! I eventually decide it’s just too much, although a gold medal hockey match to create history would be amazing, I just can’t warrant it. I have spent loads already, need money for possible fertility treatment and do wonder what my reasons are for going back? Is it the glory and jealousy I’d get from people thinking it’s amazing I’d changed my plans? Is it to try and get on TV again? Is it to see history? Probably a bit of all three!

I continue my walk around Buenos Aires, pass a school that has hardly any open space for the kids to run around in, get lost in the criss crossing maze of San Telmo’s streets (but there are worse places to get lost in to be fair, its very safe here) before finding my way to the walking tour meet point. I say criss crossing as it’s very much like Milton Keynes. The roads are like a grid and forms a checkerboard look on a map. 

That’s a school behind those bars!

A lovely local guide introduces himself, there’s about 20 in the English speaking group. A bunch of young travellers who have obviously met at their hostel, some Americans talking very loud, some couples and then me!

Off we walk down the Avenue de Mayo starting in a small park at the Plaza del Congresso, by the congress building. Walking down past the monuments, particularly discussing the Monumento a los dos Congresos with its triumphant Republic figures sculptured on top.

The pigeons, making it feel like Trafalgar square, were brought over here to help make it feel European. Nutters!! Who wants pigeons if they have a choice??

The young American girl is so bloody annoying even after five minutes. With her purple hair, stand out sunglasses and loud voice she certainly likes to be centre of attention. She screams when pigeons fly in front of her, when asked to wait at traffic lights she tells everyone she’s been hit by a car before so knows what it’s like. Some bouncy castles are in a play area and she starts telling everyone how she wants to go on them, ‘I love bouncy castles!’ Oh dear god. Shut up already!! (Miserable old English girl alert)

Can you guess which one she is?

This square has a few random grassy areas where dog owners walk their dogs for some greenery to sniff and scent. There are several statues with various historical stories that we are talked through. There are some homeless people sleeping in the shade, some locals out walking, the mismatch of light coloured buildings overlooking the square from the streets at the sides. It just doesn’t feel South American?

As we talk about the history of Buenos Aires and come across the topic of Evita I realise I’m wearing a Madonna t shirt. Completely by chance as I can’t be that choosy over clothes this late on in the trip, makes me look like some superfan!

A lovely American lady started talking to me as we walk around, she saw my Rio jumper so used it as a talking point. She’s a soccer coach and over here for a last minute two week break. Off to Cusco next so we discuss our travels, teaching and general life. I love meeting new people!

The tour takes us down the Avenue de Mayo. The variety of building styles is so fascinating, how some are Italian inspired, others French, and we get to look in a traditional and famous cafe, Cafe Tortoni, with its full length double doors, round wooden tables, huge floor expanse and Art Nouveau mirrored walls to give the oldy worldly feeling.

We stop at a fake Iguazu Falls water feature, funny when you’ve been already. If you haven’t it may be cool, I had to have a selfie anyhow just for the fun.

As we head across the main road through the city, Avenue 9 de Julio, we pass the opposite side of the building I saw whilst lost, with the Ava Peron mural, and we learn her sad story. She was the second wife of the president Juan Peron, and served as the First Lady until her death in 1952. She was also called Evita (the movie I’m sure most of you have seen) which is the Spanish language diminutive. The side we are seeing is the serious political face. It faces the North where the divide of the town sees the moneyed classes and the other side is the happy face facing south to the working classes, her preferred Barrios (neighbourhoods).

Our guide tells us that Argentina has the most public holidays in the world because of all the independence days it’s had, 19 public holidays in total. That there are 14 million people in the city. And that it the 1990’s $1=1AP so it was party time. Everybody was happy, rich and spending until 2001 when it all collapsed and the country has struggled to recover. It’s now $1=15AP, how mad is that.

The homeless are often those who lost everything in the financial collapse. Very sad.

We finish our walk at the Plaza del Mayo at the ‘Pink House’ where Eva Peron gave her last speech from the balcony and that famous scene in the Evita the movie. I must say it has heightened my interest in that movie which as yet I haven’t seen, and intrigued me on the history of Argentina.

A lovely afternoon learning about the history of the city. Well worth doing. Alison (my US friend) and I then head off to find a restaurant for some dinner although really a bit too early for it in South America being only 5pm. As much as I’d like to see a tango show, neither of us has much energy, my cold is taking hold unfortunately and it’s really something to do with a friend not solo?

So we head back to the riverside I was at earlier, find a nice restaurant and order some steak. It’s fit for a family!! Three pieces! Lovely though and a lovely evening too. It even has an apparently Scottish Dessert which I try for the sheer hell of it. My Scottish friends back home have since commented that it is of course, pure fabrication. Nice dessert though.

The nighttime view along the river is quite lovely, especially with a full moon reflecting onto the water. Would be very romantic, and I did just sit an admire it for a while.

We say our goodbyes whilst hailing taxis. She is off to do a day trip on horseback tomorrow, I am off to Colombia, not the Olympics, although it is constantly on my mind.

Will tonight’s sleep be any better?

Well I didn’t need my ear plugs, so it’s either quieter, I’m knackered or I’ve got used to it? I have a an hour before taxi pick up to get some wine. I’m keen to take some home after the insightful wine tasting in Peru telling me Argentinian wine is the best and Malbec particularly. So I get 5 bottles and pack in my already heavy suitcase, and make it back just in time for the shuttle bus. At the airport I pick the wrong bloody check in desk. The man is an arse. My case is as usual over their weight of one piece at 23 Kg, but its passed through three flights so far without issue . He tells me I have to pay, gives me a ticket and sends me away. No discussions or help just matter of fact. At the payment desk it’s £50. Sod off am I paying that for a few Kg of wine. So I refuse, well plead poverty, which isn’t untrue. I head over for some help and burst into tears. The tiredness has definitely got me. The helpers were great, the man who checked me in, Laureno, not. He was rude to the staff, rude to me. Told me it was my problem and not his and i will probably miss my flight now. Anyhow I eventually had to trek over to the other terminal, collect my case, take out 5Kg, carry it as hand luggage and check the suitcase back in. What a complete waste of time. The hassle lost me an hour and a half but saved me £50 and I got on the plane in time. Result I say!

I even had time for a photo of me in my GB hockey top and GB flag to post as a good luck to the TeamGB girls in the final. Still a little unsure if I’ve made the correct decision not to go but what’s done is done.

Thank you Argentina for an insightful 36 hours, not my favourite destination in South America by far but interesting none the less. Country number 5 beckons on a 6 hour flight.


Olympics, Sugar Loaf and getting on TV….twice!

So the itinerary plan was to head off to see the sailing at the marina. However as I have travelled lots so far due to the ridiculous distance between venues, an hour taxi to see dots in the ocean didn’t appeal to me. The others therefore got up early and headed off. I did wake up a bit upset that I’m on my own again as I thought we’d maybe do breakfast or something before they headed for the 1pm start. But never mind. I decide to head to Sugar Loaf as the others have done it already yesterday and their pictures look great albeit a tad cloudy yesterday. The sun is shining so looks promising. Taxi seemed easiest so off I head. He doesn’t speak English so I get my google translate out and all is good.
It’s not too expensive, about £20 for the cable car up. You can trek up the first part but I think I’ll enjoy some lazy time and enjoy the view. 

The cable car is in two sections. You get out at a middle station (sounds like a ski resort) and can check out the views, eat, relax whatever you want before getting on the second cable. I have met some very colourful Americans in the line. I ask them what they are here to see and realise they are a Christian group. So I get the chat about their beliefs, a free pin badge with the Olympic rings represented by fish and I am told what each colour means. The bit I remember is black is for sins, red is Christs blood, green is the growing of life after sins! I mean very interesting and they didn’t shove it down my throat. Although when they asked am I a Christian and my response was yes but not practicing, she didn’t seem to understand. They go to all the Olympics and hand these pins and bibles out trying to spread the word.

I manage I sneak away and into a cable car without them. The views are awesome already. I stop at middle station, take some photos. The selfie stick is very handy today. Sugar loaf is the view as we have not crossed over the water yet. The view is already spectacular. The deep blue ocean spread far and wide, the golden beaches curving around the bay’s. The marina with the array of expensive boats bobbing about. The city looking much cleaner from up above, hustle and bustle of the traffic and tourists stretching around the hills and bays. And then the amazing iconic Sugar Loaf mountain in all its splendour. A mix of rock and green from the trees, connected to land only by the wires of the cable car. A picture of natural beauty. The top cable car view is equally spectacular as you see over the marina, Copacabana beach, little beaches in alcoves you wouldn’t know are there, the mountains in the distance and just a view to remember.

At the top there’s a huge poster with pens available to write your name in. So obviously I had to. Then you just peruse at your leisure. I wander down some steps into a forest area, notice signs saying don’t feed the monkeys as they are a danger to natural species. As I sit for a bit of a snack out they pop, bold as brass, trying to get in my bag. I mean they look cute but what a cheek.

I wander around a bit more and can see the Olympic sailing and windsurfing going on. An American man and his wife are sat watching so I ask for some details. Bless him, he chatted away about how the blue were men’s and green women’s windsurfing. There were two sailing categories I only remember Finn? And he has binoculars so could see the flags of who was competing and winning. GB at one point. I take some pictures, zoom into the beach where the girls are watching and just then sit and watch for a bit. 

Simply stunning views of the whole local area. Love it. 

Time to head back down, and I decided that I am going to buy some hockey tickets for this afternoon as GB women are playing and the stadium was half empty. I don’t rush though and go to the little museum section to learn about the mountain and cable car. In the 1050’s ships that sailed to Rio would come across the mountain as their first view point and it would welcome everyone to the area.

In 1808 painters portrayed Sugar Loaf in all pictures painted so it started to become an iconic view. Then throughout the 19th century it became an icon with the cable car being built in 1912. A photographer climbed the mountain to photograph the views from Sugar Loaf and once this is available for everyone and it becomes a huge tourist attraction. There is an old and new cable car on view as you reach the top. The newer cable moved quicker and therefor made the mountain more accessible to tourists.
So history lesson completed, off to hockey. Now I know it is a ridiculous journey to the Olympic Hockey centre I can plan better and leave plenty of time. It’s quicker this time as I chose a slightly different route, and it’s saves me a whole 45 mins. Express train from central Rio which is absolutely manic but fun to experience. It’s a locals train and not new like he Metro. There are locals selling food and drinks on the train, shouting in Portuguese just like a mobile market. The train goes past favelas as we start in Cental Rio, one of the toughest areas I have seen. On the long walk from the station I meet some random Brits and they are family members of one of the players (Owsley) so I chat along with them. The army has their marching band out which is an awesome sound and more Christian groups try and preach to us but we manage to move along quickly!

So into the ticket office and lovely jubly I have a ticket but I have my selfie stick with me as it was a godsend up sugar loaf mountain. But you can’t take them into Olympic venues, so I am asking a chance I get a lax security guard and can bet it in, I’ve even taken it apart so one piece is on my camera case as the other in my bag. No such luck. I’m told I can go out and put in my car or something. Now that is a long way to go to save a selfie stick. I try a different security section and have now hidden it in my shoe under socks (I have my shoes with me in case I get cold feet). Nope, he made me empty bag out. Damn it, but good security is good today! So I have to throw it away. Ouch!!

Ah well I’m in and with time to spare, so off to get a beer and add to my cup collection. The purchase of food and drink is ridiculous. You queue to buy a ticket for whatever you want, the card machines only accept visa, some don’t work. Then you have to queue again to get the food/drink and it’s not always available at every vendor. Madness! They have no Sprite so it’s just beer today. I head to the Olympic logo for some photos, sit by the big screen to watch some swimming and then get chatting to another random Brit. She’s a volunteer and never seen hockey. Very chatty, very enthusiastic and she tags along with me over to the match. 

As I have a superior ticket we can head over to the dug out side of the pitch (no one checks your tickets for sections or seats here, you can literally try and sit anywhere!) and there we find a huge GB crowd. Great. We join them by sneaking into the bottom row of them all, and see the family of the players. Sam Querk (one of the players), boyfriend turns up in full GB suit, hat and drum. Let’s go GB let’s go, let go GB let’s go, let’s go GB let’s go. Chanting as we speak! Such a good atmosphere. I recognise a lady from the Venus Williams match as she had a cap and flag. I ask her if that was her at the match and yes I’m correct. How funny, small world!

The girls play great and we win. So much fun, and I teach my fellow Brit the rules as we go along. Lovely crowd. At the end of the match an Argentinian boy comes over to me to ask if we can exchange my GB hand flag for an Argentinian t-shirt. I just can’t bring myself to hand it over so say no. Karen, the lady I’d seen at the tennis says she has some spares so she will meet me tomorrow and replace, she couldn’t cope with the boys little sad face! 

Karen, my fellow Brit friend (can’t remember her name) and I retire to the long journey home and it seems much quicker when you have company. However the volunteer we were directed by sent us a bloody long way round. I know the normal route but he said to walk to a different station, just a five minute walk. Well, it was a 20 min walk, down a badly lit, unmanned road and I didn’t feel safe at all. We also had to ask for directions as it wasn’t a signposted route! The volunteer had been very excited to speak English but completely bloody wrong! We made it at least and I’m glad there were two of us! As we get off the metro we bump into some volunteers that Karen knows. Karen came out here to volunteer but hasn’t been given a shift, even though she was cleared. So she’s just watching instead. One of the volunteers she knows I recognise as I volunteered with her at the hockey in June. Small world meeting in a random street in Rio. She is a bit shocked though, when I say I’m here on holiday not to volunteer. Bless her, we had to joke with her that people do go on holidays and don’t always work! We head for some food as I’ve had a few beers and not eaten all day and head into Bobs burgers. Well, it’s a very cheap version of McDonalds. More Wimpy like and just not worth the calories!

So day 3 done. What will tomorrow bring?? 

Well the girls were asleep when I got home at 11, and still asleep when I got up for water polo at 8am so it’s becoming rather an individual trip for me and a couples trip for them. So water polo at the Olympic park. I’m getting pretty good at the travel now, so although it takes a long bloody time you get used to it. I’m late as it was a 9am start. But I’m just going to enjoy the atmosphere and see the games and venues. I get in and head to the aquatics centre which is the other end of the park but it’s all shut! Bit concerned as although I’m late it only 10am? I eventually find out it’s not at the aquatics venue but another swimming venue at the end of the park I just bloody came from! A lovely driver of a buggy let’s me take a ride over though, result! The water polo is in the same centre as the diving as when I sit down I suddenly see the diving boards at one end. A water polo match has just finished and it was a Brazil one so lots of people about and lots smiling. I get to see two matches including America who are pretty good. GB aren’t in it this year. It’s a brutal match. One of the girls would be swimming along with the ball, stop to throw and suddenly she’s dunked under water. Hilarious. They have a sin bin area at the corners of the area, marked with red swimming ropes, and I think they get 2 mins. Substitutes are done by diving in before the player coming off has come out the pool. The GK has a different coloured hat, other than that anything goes. Well clearly not deliberate dunking but tactical dunking maybe? I’ve been told under water is just carnage and it’s best not to know what’s going on under there.

On the way out we see some synchronised swimming being practiced in an outdoor practice pool. Odd sport but they are amazing. 

So I enjoyed my first water polo spectating and decide to see if there’s any tennis tickets available as Murray is playing. It is sold out so I literally loiter (with my GB flag around me) around the ticket entrance (it’s in the Olympic park so I’m already in), then wander to the box office and low and behold I get offered a ticket for face value. About £50. Fab. In I run, and take a seat ad spot Karen down the front. So I work out where they are sat and head down. Big GB crowd, 8 in total. A couple, both teachers, (the Hardmans) on their honeymoon, what a fantastic idea, and who have half their face painted each. Three lads from Manchester, two are teachers. Karen, a school sports coordinator, her flat mate Charlotte who’s volunteering, and now me. We are literally front row, behind the players seats. Couldn’t get closer if you tried. The Hardmans are asked to kiss for the camera so the two halves of the Union Jack create one flag. And the camera is on us a lot. The group all have data available out here and suddenly their phones are buzzing with messages saying we are on TV. How funny. Great atmosphere, we are very loud and Andy wins! And to top it all off he heads over after the match to say thanks for the support, signs some autographs, has some selfies and is really humble. What a day!

Not sure we can top that. 

I have basketball tickets for tonight with the girls. I kind of want to stay at the tennis as Nadal is playing and it’s about an hour away at the same park as the hockey! But it’s good to see different venues and spend time with the girls so. So I do head off albeit a tad later than I should of. Lindz texts me to say they are late but there, where am I. I’d forgotten the long walk as well so was an hour late, but enjoyed the marching band en route. I also decided to use my mobile to call the parents. Think the bill will be huge as both mum and dad chatted for ages, 20 min call?? Eek! My aunt had seen me on TV and called my mum to see if it was me!!

So I eventually got to the basketball, grabbed a beer in a new sport cup for my collection, found the girls and watched some basketball. China v Turkey. Michelle is funny. I don’t support either, just enjoy being neutral but she was torn between China as she loved being their recently and seeing the Great Wall, and loves the people. But also Turkey as she met her youngest sons dad in Turkey and although no longer with him wouldn’t have her son if it wasn’t Turkey. So she really struggled to decide and I actually don’t know who she ends up shouting for. Great match, Turkey surprisingly good! We don’t stay for the complete second match as all knackered and hungry. The food in the Olympic venues is shit, and expensive for what it is, so you end up not eating all day. Good diet!!

We head back, Michelle’s hip is hurting so get on a different route back, a train line right by the venue and saves that bloody long walk. How annoying that they don’t tell you to go there!! 

We find a restaurant near our apartment and enjoy some proper food. I think it’s my first proper food for two days, the Bobs burger doesn’t count! Nice to spend time with th girls this evening, although I see my new tennis friends saw Heather Watson as well after I left as they snuck onto number one court. 

When I check social media, Facebook was full of posts saying I’ve been spotted on TV again, it’s hilarious!! My friends have started a #wheressam game.