Sep 082017
 


After a good night’s sleep thanks to great wine and a beef coma, got up early to do a bit of walking around the city before my evening flight to Sao Paulo. I wanted to get to the airport early and explore the newish AmEx Lounge there for a couple of hours before my flight. The Sheraton had no problem giving me a 4pm checkout, so I had most of the morning and afternoon to walk around.

Rather than get breakfast in the lounge I opted to get an early start and get breakfast on the way. Nice try on the name Argentina, but the Dulce de Leche muffin was absolutely delicious.

Continued walking, and came to the Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest avenues in Buenos Aires with nearly six lanes in each direction.

As I was crossing the street (legally according to having the “walk” sign) a driver made a left turn right into the crosswalk, striking me and launching me onto the hood of her car. I won’t write this up again as I already did a post on this with all the details, but fortunately her car ended up worse off than I did:

I was completely in shock after being hit, despite being upright, and all I remember was yelling and gesturing at the driver to pull over and shouting at some pedestrians to call the police. One or more drivers must have seen the accident and called it in, because the police appeared in less than a minute after I was hit.

After shaking it off, and determining I was more or less ok, for some reason I decided to continue on my walk. Perhaps the ultimate irony about the accident is that I was struck by a car…walking to a cemetery. My destination had been the Recoleta Cemetery to a bit of touristing around. Main entrance to the cemetery:

The main attraction of the cemetery, Evita’s family crypt:

Tons of huge elaborate tombs sitting in rows:

As I left the cemetery, I got to thinking that if I was going to continue on with the trip, I would be doing a lot of flying over the coming weeks, and the last thing I needed was the possibility of a rogue blood clot from possible internal bleeding. Problem solved when I stopped in a pharmacy to buy some aspirin…it was amusing the look on the pharmacist’s face when he queried why I needed it. Positive from this whole experience: my Spanish vocabulary has expanded to being able to talk about being hit by a car. Hah!

Small, but empty park, on the walk back to the hotel:

As I went to check out, I encountered a phenomenon I’ve never had anywhere in the world. Normally, when leaving a country, I pay the bill with any cash that I might have left over in order to not lose it before my next trip and then pay the rest with a credit card. I’ve started doing this since Uber became common, knowing I wouldn’t need any cash after leaving the hotel.

However, upon checking out at the Sheraton, the guy at the front desk told me that if I paid the room in cash, then he would need to charge me tax on it. If I paid with credit card, no tax. Made no sense at all. Thinking back on it, I might have had about $50 in cash, and the tax was going to be something like $40, so I decided even if I had to exchange it at the airport at a bad rate I would come out ahead. It was just strange.

Then I called an Uber…and it turned out that in Buenos Aires Uber doesn’t accept American Express. However, you CAN pay the driver in cash. That went a long way to taking care of my leftover cash.

Quickish trip to the airport, and on the way we drove down Avenida 9 de Julio. Stopping at a red light, a mime came out into the middle of an intersection and did a little performance for tips. I get it: wear a bright red shirt and be 6’4 and you get hit by cars, but if you’re a mime you’re safe. Odd.

Check-in, immigration, and security were nice and easy at the Aerolineas Terminal at the airport, and soon I had found the American Express Lounge. This lounge was recently built when the new terminal opened, and had been moved from the old terminal. In the old terminal, there was also a lounge within a lounge only available to Centurion Card holders, so I was curious to see if it existed in the new lounge as well.

Entered, showed my card, and was pointed to a door on the side and told someone will be right here to escort you in. Nice! I was the only one in the lounge when I arrived, and had the whole place to myself. While it was self-serve if you wanted, there was also one lounge attendant who kept insisting on bringing me drinks. Half of the bar…great liquor selection (especially the Johnny Walker Blue) and a pretty respectable Veuve for champagne:

Other half of the bar, including wine selections:

The main seating area of the lounge:

I decided to start with a glass of champagne, to celebrate my near miss with the car. Note the Veuve Cliquot stemware:

Buffet area:

Tasty selection of cheeses. These weren’t out when I arrived, but when I got there (I think I was the first guest of the day) they quickly rushed to set up the entire buffet just for me.

…that included mini sandwiches and a selection of cheeses and cold cuts:

After a bit, I decided to be extra-classy and enjoyed some sour cream and onion Pringles with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue…neat. This was followed by a couple more glasses…which weren’t measured…but the bottle was roughly 1/3 full when I arrived…and empty by the time I left…

Fortunately, the boarding gate was just two down from the lounge, and the lounge attendants insisted I enjoy the lounge until the last possible moment so I could be the last to board. At this point, there were two other very loud Americans in the lounge, waiting for their Delta flight to Atlanta. Strange characters, dressed in jeans and hunting jackets with baseball caps, and complaining that there was no Budweiser in the lounge. Not who I would imagine to be Centurion Card holders, but you never know!

Aerolineas Argentinas (Operated by Austral) flight 2242
Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) to São Paulo, Brazil (GRU)
Depart 22:00, Arrive 22:45, Flight Time: 2:45
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration LV-CET, Manufactured 2010, Seat 3A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 75,694
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,452,671

All aboard, I was the only one in business class on the ERJ tonight. Only one of nine seats taken, but coach looked to be pretty much completely full except a seat or two.

Oh look, there’s even a mini amenity kit. Despite the J code on the ticket, I guess technically the call it “ClubEconomy.” Probably a better description, since when most people think of business class they think of seats that convert into flat beds and not domestic/regional seats.

Welcome to Seat 3A

I’m going to rant a little now. About 15 minutes into the flight, the flight attendants came on the PA system and announced there would be no service on this nearly three hour flight, due to the fact they were expecting turbulence. Now, I get this for short periods, or if there was an area with known weather, but this was one of the smoothest flights I’ve ever been on. Maybe two or three little bumps the whole way.

As if to make their point, they also blocked off the flight deck and galley by placing a service cart in the aisle. Want to use the washroom? Head all the way to the back of the plane…because that’s safer when there’s suppose to be turbulence? The turbulence was also sooooooo bad (sarcasm) that the crew spent around 90% of the flight standing around in the galley eating and drinking and chatting with each other…including at least one of the pilots.

No question this was just a lazy crew looking for an excuse to provide no service at all. I even tried to ring the call button at one point to ask for a glass of water…multiple times…and was completely ignored. This must have been the laziest crew in the history of aviation.

Thus, I can’t comment on food and beverage available….because we were never offered anything. Water included. Awful.

Great view of Sao Paulo on descent, however…the city just goes on and on!

After deplaning, quick shot of our ERJ:

Managed to change the rest of my pesos at the airport at a pretty bad rate, but losing 20% on $20 or so isn’t really the end of the world as far as things go. Decided to take an official taxi which accepted pre-payment by credit card, and I was off to my hotel to enjoy two nights in Sao Paulo before continuing on to Africa!

Aug 142017
 

It’s funny – I convinced myself this was a post I would never write. After all, I went to all 193 UN Member States without so much as travel insurance, never mind giving a second thought to medical insurance. I knew my policy through work was good, and convinced myself I was in good shape in case anything happened.

Well, “anything” finally happened yesterday in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the start of a 3+ week trip.

For anyone who knows Argentina, I looked both ways, confirmed the crosswalk light indicated it was mine, and started across Avenida 9 de Julio. I might have been looking at my phone as I crossed – I don’t remember – but regardless a car came from my back right direction and made a left onto Av. 9 de Julio, striking me in the right side. I flew up onto the hood of the car (thank God for being tall – any shorter I might have gone under).

After the driver realized what she’d done, she slammed the breaks, and I flew off the hood into the middle of the road…somehow landing on my feed and stumbling 10 steps backwards…still on my feet. I have no clue now I managed to land like this – especially given how uncoordinated I am, but I was very, very fortunate.

I stood there in the middle of the street, and just stared at the driver through the window. I would learn later she was just as paralyzed with fear as I was, and we didn’t know what to do. I seemed “ok” so motioned her to pull over to the side of the road as I walked there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all the other drivers had seen this, and many had called the police.

As we both stood there on the side of the road shaking, I told her I was going to call the police. But, truth be told, I had no idea how to do that. You don’t just dial 911 in Argentina, and I don’t know the local emergency numbers. Before I could think what to do next – the police arrived thanks to the other drivers who had called them.

After the arrived, I calmed down enough to start to assess the situation. My first instinct was to take as pany pictures as possible to document things myself. I didn’t feel like relying on the police to make sure I was taken care of…but it sure helped having them there. One teaser pic, the damage I did to the car:

The tough part here was, neither the driver or the police spoke a word of English. My Spanish is ok for ordering food and having a basic conversation, but trying to talk about medical needs and accidents – well that was a challenge. Fortunately, the driver confessed it was all her fault – she was distracted by her toddler in the back seat, and she insisted that I go to the hospital, and she needed to know I was ok. Despite her complete carelessness, I was very, very glad to see she wanted to make sure I was taken care of.

After a quick inventory, I determined that somehow nothing was broken despite being struck hard enough to launch me onto the hood of the car, no major cuts or abrasions, and just lots of soreness and bruising. The police and the driver insisted I go to the hospital, but I declined. I knew there was nothing they would be able to do (since no broken bones) and it semed a pointless waste of time. I wanted to see the things I was heading to see!

So, fast forward 24 hours now. Still convinced no serious damage, but I’m incredibly sore. Maybe a tiny limp, and there’s gonna be some serious bruising coming. I have to decide tomorrow: fly home, refund the rest of the trip, and call it a lesson learned, or soldier on knowing I’ve pretty much passed the point of no return.

My concern from today is: I had to take it really easy due to how sore I was, and how much fun will I have over the coming week if I have to do that? Time will tell.

Anyways, long post to say: you might think you’ll never have a medical/police issue when traveling, but it’s always best to be prepared…just in case!