29th October 2015 by emmadurnford

29th October 2015

Our gradual return to civilisation started today as we ventured out in Buenos Aires with yet another warning to be careful with my camera!

Unfortunately the weather spoilt our record of only 2-days of snow and rain during our whole trip by torrentially raining for most of the day. The pavements are pretty dire so every few paces you get a shoe full of rain water as the paving stones are not set. We headed for the main square where there is an ongoing demonstration by army veterans from the Falklands War (I admit I faked a Kiwi accent around here!) although the demo was not about the actual war but rather the way the army personnel have been treated in their retirement by the Argentinian government. Although I understand this is an ongoing demonstration with a ‘camp’ set up, the police were still on standby behind barriers in full riot gear with a water canon mounted on a vehicle behind as back up support.

Thinking we should move on (especially as I took some grab shots of the police) we headed off in the rain. One thing we have found in Argentina more so than the other countries that we have visited is what an incredibly weak economy they have. I watched a BBC news feature on what was happening in the world this time in 1972 and apparently the Argentinian peso had been devalued so badly, it was cheaper to paper the walls in bank notes than wall paper. The situation has improved now but not much. The American dollar is king here and often paying in dollars for a meal can save the equivalent of £20-30. There is something called the ‘blue rate’. It is not the official rate of exchange which is low but rather a black market rate of often almost double the official rate. It has been named the blue rate as although it is technically illegal, all the officials turn a blind eye to it as they are desperate to get dollars into the economy as well. Whenever we walk down streets (not just in Buenos Aires but also Bariloche) strangers loiter against walls and in shop doorways touting for business to exchange currency. This has in turn led to a rise in forged notes so we stick to ‘official blue money changers’!

Eva on reception told us that no coins are produced any more as they were hoarded by bus drivers and taxi drivers to the extent that the Argentine banks completely ran out. They were then ‘sold back’ to shop keepers at an inflated rate - ridiculous. In the end coins were abolished and now if you are owed a small amount of money, the shop keepers will give you a handful of sweets instead. I’m not sure that would catch on in the UK though!

Anyway, avoiding the money lenders in the streets, the broken pavements and rampant thieves (allegedly) we decided to take break from the rain and visit South America’s most famous bookshop listed at number 2 in the top 10 most beautiful book shops in the world (voted by the Guardian in 2008 so it must be right!).

The ‘El Ateneo Grand Splendid’ was originally built as a theatre in 1919 with a seating capacity of 1,050 and then developed into a cinema in 1929. Following it’s purchase in a dilapidated state in 2000, it has been converted into a massive bookshop with a cafe on what was originally the stage. I can vouch that the ‘submarinos’ are good and I only wish I spoke and read Spanish fluently as this really is the biggest selection of books I have ever seen - we thought of you @tristansmum when we were there. Even with a wide angle I had great difficulty in capturing the scale of the shop.
What a fantastic book shop - Fav
October 30th, 2015  
Thanks for thinking of me, Emma and Colin--when I first saw this capture I did think it was an enormous library. Glad you found something impressive which took you out f the rain!
October 31st, 2015  
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