Monday, August 31, 2009

For Those Who Love to Rock! Part Uno.

J and I barely made it on to our flight to Atlanta without bitch-slapping the jerkstores at the Delta ticket counter at Philly International. Air travel, unlike most other modes of transportation, really has the propensity to make my blood boil; perhaps it is the absolute callousness of the ticket agents. They know you are at their mercy; they are all drunk with power and douchebaggery.

All J and I wanted were the seats we had confirmed, which is apparently WAY too much to ask of Delta. (Normally we would not make a stink, but the seats were towards the front of the aircraft. We had a tight connection* and DO NOT trust that any flight out of Philly will take off on time, ever.)

Plus, I also suffer from an acute affliction known as Haughty Arrogance of the Frequent Flyer. You've seen us, dudes. We have the security line down to a science and we're constantly judging you, rolling our eyes as you fumble with your laptop or YOU DEIGN TO PACK liquids in your carry-on sans plastic bags. What kind of asshole packs liquids? We ridicule. Oh shit, did this moron just fucking beep? Oh what, you forgot to put your cell phone on the belt? Amateur.

(J actually picked the shorter line when we got to security. I shook my head tiredly, beckoning him to move to where I stood. There are kids in that line, I mouthed. He moved. And sure enough, the kids held up everyone as the distracted parents fumbled with sneakers and tiny pink back-packs.)

(So ready to be a parent!)

Naturally, this disorder makes me especially senstitive to the insensitivity of the ticket agents. Don't you know who I am, I want to shout. I practically own this airport!)

(Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But still.)

(My, did I just take up 80 paragraphs about South America to bitch about Delta?)

(Oh, I did. And I don't regret any of it. I hate you, Delta.)
And now, for the piece de resistance - now with more painstaking-details!

J and I did eventually get the seats on our Atlanta-bound flight switched to the front of the plane; we made it off with plenty of time to make our Buenos Aires connection. Once we settled into our seats on the Boeing 767, I headed back to the bathroom and to chat briefly with one of the flight attendants.

"So, you make this trip often?" I asked politely.

She replied affirmatively, and I sweetly inquired, "So, is this generally a very turbulent flight?"

"Oh yeah. When we get towards the equator, it's always really bumpy. But don't worry; the pilots are military-trained."

*Wakes, pops pills*

Of course, Overly Candid Flight Attendant is wrong in her prediction. The flight is so spectacular that we hardly believe ten-and-a-half hours have passed when we stumble off the aircraft the next morning in Buenos Aires.

We navigate the airport rather smoothly, and we make it out to the taxi stand. We grab a cab to Puerto Madero, where we grab a ferry to Colonia in Uruguay. From Colonia, we grab a bus to Montevideo. I jotted down some notes on that leg:

Still high.

Apparently, all you have to do is put me any moving vehicle (plane, ferry, bus) and I am asleep and drooling within minutes. Uruguayian countryide is beautiful. Sparse and green, covered in pockets of small homes in which clothes hang on wires drying in the warm sun. Long to really jump out of this bus and start visiting homes.

(Obviously, the drugs had not worn off yet.)

We are still in good spirits as we arrive - via taxi - at our Montevideo hotel, Plaza Fuerte. We've been on this journey for about 24 hours now, and we're relieved to be in our temporary home.

Plaza Fuerte is a beautiful, refurbished hotel located in Cuidad Viejo, or Old City. Our room is split level; we've got a small living area on the first floor, along with a tiny balcony, a writing desk, and the requisite flat-screen. In the upstairs loft, we've got a queen-sized bed and an elegant bathroom with a large shower (the second biggest we've seen in our travels to date, which is always a welcome treat).

These stairs will kill you.
The view from the balcony.

We learn very quickly that no one speaks English in this place. I consider our American arrogance; any country we have visited up until this point, we have found English-speaking guides, receptionists, waiters, etc. to help us navigate the unfamiliar terrain. When people back home ask us how we manage to communicate, we usually shrug and say, "Oh, everybody speaks some English. We've never had a problem."

Enter Uruguay.

She is a welcome challenge. J took Spanish in high school; he still remembers a bit. We did some studying on the plane: Hola, Adios, Que tal?, Cuanto cuesta? We attempt these phrases self-consciously, and are pleased when we are understood; though when we do ask how much something costs, we can't decipher the answer and the merchant has to write down the amount for us anyway.

Our lesson in humility continues the next day, as we happen upon a street market near our flat. Montevideo's markets are teeming with antiques. J and I have little interest in these items in general, but we eye everything curiously. I zero in on sterling silver mesh bags from the 1920s, the merchant tells me. I am so relieved that someone is speaking English - that I may actually have a conversation in this strange place - that I start chatting excitedly. When he asks me where I am from, I tell him America.

"You are in America!" He exclaims, and my face turns crimson.

"Uh, North America, I meant."

"Anglo-America!" He admonishes me, though we continue to talk for a few moments before J and I meander off, towards the massive meat market J wants to visit. (Oh, now that is an amazing sentence.) It's about a fifteen minute walk from the hotel, and as we make our way we wonder aloud why the streets are completely quiet and empty. It's a Saturday afternoon, and the weather is cold but refreshing (perhaps in the high 50s). Are the Uruguayians hibernating?

We find everyone in the city at the indoor market. There are a billion restaurants enclosed here, some with table seating; most with bars you can sidle up to and order Patricia beer and blood sausage for a few pesos. We throw caution to the wind and order the barbeque for two. A few minutes later, enough food to feed a family of five for a week is placed in front of us.

Mmm... papas fritas!

Our waitress is a lovely, non-English speaking woman who gamely tries to mime what we are eating. She is pointing and rubbing her belly excitedly as we dig in... We hungrily eat the intestines in many incarnations, as well as a bite of kidney. (Not my first kidney, but likely my last. In case you haven't indulged, it's very... THICK.) We wash it all down with beers and sauvignon blanc, and eventually we meander through the empty streets back to our hotel...

Part Dos, Coming Soon!

*That's what she said.


Mountain Momma said...

Wait until you have kids - then you'll really love going through airport security. Especially when the baby is sleeping and they make you take him out of his stroller because, you know, he could have a bomb in his bootie or something.

Homevalley said...

Oh Mountain Momma, we will get our comeuppance. I suspect in the form of babies who don't travel well... We are far too arrogant now, thinking, well, if Brad and Angelina can manage...