A good friend of mine from college, David Román, is currently visiting Argentina. David is an environmental lawyer who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico. He’s down here with about twenty students and colleagues from the university to attend a conference on geographic information systems. (More on that conference in another post).

On Monday morning I met up with David at the Lafayette Hotel, where his group is staying. BTW, that appears to be a fairly nice hotel for those of you who might be searching for a good hotel to stay at in downtown Buenos Aires. It’s not in my favorite location but you are right downtown.

As everyone in Buenos Aires this week knows, this has been an usually cold week. As I was walking to the hotel Monday morning, all bundled up in my Gloverall duffle coat, gloves, scarf, and cap, I encountered many other people shivering their way across Plaza de Mayo.

I spent some time meeting the members of David’s group, all very nice people. But, they were all extremely cold from the weather, asking what there was to do indoors. Unfortunately, most of the museums are closed on Monday but I recommended Malba, which I knew to be open, and a few other things. And I understood why they were so cold. Having lived in Miami for 5 years, I got acclimated to the tropical weather. My first winter in Buenos Aires was torture. And, of course, Buenos Aires doesn’t really have a real winter, more of a cool autumn, but when from you’re from Puerto Rico or Miami then it’s mighty cold here.

Winter in Miami rarely gets below 55 F but even at that you would see people breaking out the winter parkas, wool caps, and gloves! It was quite a sight.

Anyway, the Puerto Rican contingent is in for even more cold weather. Their travel agent planned a post-conference trip to Patagonia. This weekend they leave for Ushuaia and then to Calafate. I’m not sure what the travel agent was thinking about when sending a group of people from the tropics to the deep end of Patagonia in June. But the group is very excited anyway.

David needed to buy some warm clothing, so I took him out to Abasto for some shopping. The travel agent had wanted to bus the entire group out to the mall in Martinez, but that’s not really a good way to spend a day when your time in Buenos Aires is limited. So, instead, we did some shopping at Abasto, went to Malba, walked around Palermo and Recoleta, then finished the day with submarinos at La Biela.

David wanted a pair of “long johns” to stay warm while in Patagonia and long underwear is difficult to find in Buenos Aires. Of course, since it doesn’t really get that cold, then it makes sense. (One store clerk started laughing when David said he was going to Ushuaia next week). We only found a few pair in stores that sold ski clothing. Back in Tennessee you can just drop into a Dollar Store and find a pair.

The travel agent did arrange for the group to attend a tango show at Esquina Carlos Gardel, which David reported was entertaining. The travel agent also wanted to take the group to a gaucho dinner show but I talked David out of that one. Tango shows are bad enough but a gaucho dinner show in Buenos Aires sounds almost as bad as the Dixie Stampede.

Instead, the group followed my advice and had dinner at Chiquilin. On their first night in town, the group had dinner at one of the overpriced Puerto Madero restaurants. David said the steak, 27 pesos, was like something from Burger King. But he called me Thursday and said that they really liked Chiquilin where they had a great time. He told me that there is now a Puerto Rican flag hanging in the restaurant. Now, I have to go to Chiquilin just to see the flag. David told me to tell the waiters that I know the Puerto Ricans; he assured me that the waiters will remember them.

I’m glad my Puerto Rican friends had a good time in Buenos Aires. This actually was David’s second visit to the city. The last time I saw him was in Puerto Rico where we talked about Buenos Aires. I always will remember that he described the women of Buenos Aires as European with a Latin twist.

I’m wishing the Puerto Ricans warm thoughts and safe passage as they journey through Patagonia in June.

Update: David called me this afternoon from Ushuaia. He reported that the weather down there wasn’t too bad. He actually used the word “mild”. I just checked the weather service and the high temperature on Monday is 8 degrees Celsius. So, it looks like they got lucky on this one. (I see that the temp is dropping later in the week to a high of 1 celsius). But by that time they should be in Calafate. I guess traveling in Patagonia this time of year is rather hit-or-miss with the weather: bitter cold to perhaps not so cold, but it’s probably best to be prepared for the worse. David did say that Ushuaia right now is absolutely beautiful and that the group is having a great time.

Another update:

Lost in Calafate

David called me on Monday and I was surprised to hear that he was in Buenos Aires again. Due to the fog hanging over Buenos Aires this past week his group was stranded in Calafate for 4 extra days.

The Puerto Ricans were not happy campers, having to hang out in frigid Calafate in June. They missed the Mendoza part of their trip entirely while waiting to be rescued from Calafate. (Their flight from Calafate was scheduled to go to Buenos Aires and then to Mendoza. I was surprised that Aerolineas doesn’t fly directly from Calafate to Mendoza).

At one point they asked about taking a bus out of Calafate but were told that it was a 48 hour ride from Calafate to Buenos Aires. I think it was then that they truly realized they were in the depths of the world. I wonder how many dreamed of salsa and dancing on the beach under the swaying palms.