Halloween sparks celebrations all over the world, from Hawaii to Argentina
LAHAINA, MAUI, HAWAII AND BUENOS AIRES - Duelling blog items here from me and my Travel department cohort, Adrian Brijbassi.
It's the day after Halloween where you are, most likely, but it's in full flight here in Hawaii, where there's a regular street party in the Maui town of Lahaina every Oct. 31. Everyone on the island, it seems, shows up to take in the parade if not dress up in some wild costume or other. Plenty of women in boots and fishnet stockings, of course, as well as women in German beer girl outfits, guys dressed as Elvis or Pancho Villa or Sponge Bob Square Pants, all parading up and down Front St. on the usual 24 degree night in what they call fall in Lahaina.
Quite harmless, but highly entertaining. Earlier in the day, at the Whalers Village shopping complex just north of Lahaina in west Maui, I spotted two small boys trick or treating and wearing fake grass skirts and coconut shell tops like Hawaiian women wear in the hula shows; quite brave if you ask me!
As for Argentina, it appears far more interesting and ghoulish, but I''ll let Adrian tell the story....
BUENOS AIRES — By 3 p.m. on Sunday, the zombies had fully occupied Plaza San Marino as Halloween festivities got started early in the day here. It’s not a big holiday in Argentina, as a few people told me this weekend, but those who do celebrate in the capital go all out.
A bride and groom who looked like a pair straight out of “Twilight” puckered up in front of the San Marino fountain. They were the main attraction among a couple of hundred ghoulish characters who drew attention in the large park in the Retiro neighbourhood known for its shopping on Florida Street and at the Galerias Pacifico mall, a beautiful place with a fresco of angels that should have a pricetag on it.
Halloween completes an eventful week for this city that made it on Star Travel’s Grand Tour list of great destinations around the world. On Wednesday night, the most prominent Argentine politician of the past decade died of a heart attack. On Friday, a procession that featured the casket of former president Nestor Kirchner stopped traffic in the centre of the city.
In rain that lasted for hours, huge crowds gathered in Plaza de Mayo in front of the Pink House, aka the presidential palace. Kirchner led the country until 2007 then gave way to his wife, Cristina (see, Bill and Hillary, it can be done). Cristina Kirchner is apparently a good lawyer but a poor politician. Her popularity rating is in the tank, but that didn’t stop the people of Buenos Aires from posting signs of condolence outside the Pink House.
Nestor Kirchner died suddenly at age 60. Many world leaders, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, have come to town for the funeral. While the city core was at a halt because of Kirchner’s death, Buenos Aires isn’t a place that stands still for long.
By Saturday, the city was boisterous and energetic; eager to enjoy springtime here. Cars whizzed through 9th of July Avenue, the widest thoroughfare in the world; long lines gathered outside of Eva Peron’s mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery; Plaza Dorrego was alive with café-goers, street vendors, families and musicians; and tango dancers shared Caminito Street with the people who come to see them and, for a moment or two, take turns partnering with them.
Buenos Aires is an easy city to walk in (mostly because it isn’t hilly) and I covered a lot of ground during a seven-hour journey to the barrio of La Boca and back. I also experienced one of those coincidences that make travel so much fun. Around three o’clock, I walked into a café in San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood in the city, and sat down for a coffee. I had been headed a couple of blocks farther north and west, to a bar called Gibraltar that Star Travel freelance writer Ben Stubbs had recommended. But the café called La Poesia, or poetry, caught my eye because of its name and the crowd that filled it. I went in, sat down and saw the couple next to me skimming through a Lonely Planet guide. They spoke English and I presumed they were American. Turned out they were from Toronto and one of them, Naomi Carniol, is a regular contributor to the Star’s business section.
What are the odds?
COPA AIRLINES IS ALL WET
I have no kind things to say about Copa Airlines, a partner of Continental and a major carrier in South America. On Thursday afternoon, I left Cartagena for Panama City and checked one bag to follow me through to Buenos Aires. I arrived in Panama City to find out I had been put on Standby even though my ticket had been purchased weeks ago. I still made it on the flight (although they stuck me in the back near the toilet; and you don’t need a description of how bad that is for a 7.5-hour flight). When I landed in Buenos Aires, my bag didn’t come off the plane. Being in the back, I also had the benefit of watching all of the bags come off the conveyor belt before I was able to follow everyone else out of the plane. When I didn’t see mine emerge, I thought the worst.
Sure enough, there was no sign of it in baggage claim. When I asked the Copa representative at the airport what happened to it, she said the decision was made to hold my bag for a later flight, which wouldn’t arrive for another 12 hours that day.
“What happens if it doesn’t get here, do I get reimbursed?” I asked.
“No,” I was told, “because it will be here within 24 hours.” I had nothing to worry about, I was told.
That was Friday morning at 8 a.m. By the time I went to sleep that night it hadn’t shown up. On Saturday morning, I asked the concierge desk at the Alvear Palace Hotel if the bag had arrived overnight. The concierge said no and then managed to do something I couldn’t: Get a hold of a Copa representative on the phone. He was told the bag would arrive Saturday by midnight. I went to bed at 3 a.m. and still had no luggage.
Finally, on Sunday morning, it came. I opened the bag and all of the clothes were soaked. The bag had been sitting somewhere in the rain in who-knows-where for who knows how long. No apology from Copa, no word on how much they would reimburse me for the clothes I had to buy for the two days I was in Buenos Aires or for how much they would reimburse me for the pieces of clothes in the luggage that are ruined. But I’ll be at the airport on Monday morning to see what they say at the counter.
Not surprising to me, the Copa website doesn’t list the company’s policy for lost or stolen baggage. Continental Airlines, however, does detail what it will cover for baggage that’s lost, damaged or delayed. We’ll see if its partner airline follows the same customer service policy.
(By the way, Copa’s food is also the worst I’ve ever had on an airline. It was so bad that several people were actually handing back the breakfast muffin untouched en route to Buenos Aires. Like me, they could barely stomach the microwaved version of shepherd’s pie. I know because, well, I was sitting near the toilet.)
You’re supposed to find the bright side of things. So at least I’ve had a chance to take a look at the shopping scene in Buenos Aires and I can report the prices are very decent. On sale, you can get a good pair of jeans for less than $40 Canadian and T-shirts for under $15.