Preparing for my visa run/ Streets of Buenos Aires [YQrtw Day 69 Jun 15]

papa francesco in argentina

[I wrote this yesterday but forgot to click on Publish. Doh]

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

This is the first time during the entire trip that I’m conscious that it is a weekend. Usually everyday jumbles up together since I do not have a routine separating the weekdays from the weekends.

Today, I planned to finish at least 2 days of revision in the morning. Sadly, I had to deal with printing my documents for the US visa application and that took up half of the morning.

I spent another half of the morning reading up on Veelas in the Harry Potter world (I’m now at GoF!) which led to more useless web surfing.

In the morning, I also booked ferry tickets to Colonia del Scaramento, Uruguay, for my very first visa run.

Wait, YQ, you can’t just drop new vocabulary like that into your post and expect us to Google it.That’s just lazy.

Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like
Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like

OK OK, I’ll explain. Long term travellers do visa run to extend the length of their visa. The do this visiting another country and coming back to the country of their choice in a short period of time.

Take me for an example, when I arrived in Argentina, the immigration officer gave me a 30-day visa. (I seriously thought it was 90 days. Damn you VisaHQ.)

That 30 day deadline is coming up in 2 week’s time and I will become an illegal alien if I overstay.

However, since I’m applying for a US visa, I suspect that my passport would be kept with the US embassy for at least a week since next Thursday and Friday are public holidays. If I have terrible luck, I might even overstay.

So to extend my visa, I will visit Uruguay. I will get an exit stamp at the Argentine side and a new entry stamp when I come back in the evening.

Thankfully my visa run is just a ferry ride away. I’ve read horror stories such as Juno from Runaway Juno who had to do a 573km visa run.

After concluding my affairs of the morning, I decided to take a walk and visit the second hand book stores my teacher told us about.

Streets of Buenos Aires

Luckily, Ave Corrientes, where the bookshops are, is very near the hostel. I only had to walk about 3 blocks to get there.

Along the way, I snapped a few photos so you can see how Buenos Aires looks like.

Street of Buenos Aires
Street of Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Buenos Aires back alleys
Buenos Aires back alleys
Head's up on Buenos Aires's street
Head’s up on Buenos Aires’s street
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.

Poked fun by a jerk

I browsed through one of the second hand bookstores. It didn’t look like the usual second hand bookstores crammed with books from top to bottom shelf. Instead, the books were arranged in stacks on tables.

There were a lot of interesting books around. I was tempted to get a Book of Myths for Children which had Greek legends but 22 pesos wasn’t something I wanted to spare.

At last, I found a Sweet Valley Twin book. I’m more attached to the Sweet Valley High series but that book was only 3 pesos so I bought it.

At the cashier, I made a language mistake by saying, “Good.” when the cashier said, “Good day.” The other person at the cash register was unkind and asked his friend repeatedly if he asked “Good day” and laughed.

I was rather upset about that. When I left the shop, I kept imagining that I knew enough Spanish to retort, “Well, at least I’m learning another language. What about you?”

Alas, I do not know that much Spanish.

On Ave Corrientes, Ave 9 de Julio

Enough complaining, let’s get back to sightseeing Buenos Aires.

Metropolitan
Metropolitan
Newstand. I'm very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
Newstand. I’m very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
La Americana, an empanada place.
La Americana, an empanada place.
Pizza place
Pizza place
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
obelisco de buenos aires
obelisco de buenos aires
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It's from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco's new job.
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It’s from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco’s new job.

Dinner was another nice meal of home cooked steak with mushrooms. It’s strange that the mushrooms were more expensive than my two rather large pieces of beef.

How was your weekend?

Hidden treasures on the road: Second hand bookstores

I know books don’t make the best souvenirs:

Little Prince, Beauvoir
Little Prince, Beauvoir

Despite that, I always feel a sense of euphoria when I stumble upon second hand bookshops overseas.

The musty smell of the shop, the yellowing pages and the cheap price of books give me more thrill than shopping for clothes unless the garments are second hand and cheap.

Here are a few of the hidden treasures I’ve found during my travels:

BOOK OFF, Japan

BOOK OFF, Tokyo
BOOK OFF, Tokyo

BOOK OFF is one of Japan’s second hand book store chain. I was introduced to it by my host family in Fukuoka. At the end of my summer school, I sent home a heavy box of Japanese manga.

Popular manga usually go for 200 yen for a book while older manga are 100 yen. Foreign language books are not cheap though.

When I visit Japan (which is not often), I always have my eyes peeled for a branch of BOOK OFF on the streets. (There’s even some BOOK OFFs in Paris, if you are ever there.) When I see a BOOK OFF, I can’t help popping in to see their collection.

During my last trip to Japan, I had a free day waiting for the evening to come so I could go to Gintama Land. I found a BOOK OFF on the second floor of a building and spent hours in the shop, thumbing through comics.

Books in BOOK OFF are always in pristine condition. They look even better than most of the books on my shelf back home.

The Japanese usually read books stores while standing (it even has its own phrase “tachiyomi“). On weekends, it’s quite a sight to see everyone standing, reading while facing the bookshelves.

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes
Bouquinerie du Centre, Nantes

I was looking for a place to have lunch in the center of Nantes when I came across a second hand bookstore “Bouquinerie du Centre”.

The selection wasn’t a lot but it had titles which weren’t easily available in Singapore.

Trying to look smart, I picked up a few Simone de Beauvoir’s books which looked easy enough to be read. Le deuxième sexe wasn’t available, unfortunately.

But I must confess that the books are still in the suitcase since my move to my new rented room in August 2011.

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco
Adobe Bookshop, San Francisco

While in the Mission District looking for lunch (again!), I found Adobe Bookshop. The shop was in a state of orderly mess with stacks of books arranged alphabetically according to author and genre.

I browsed the rows and rows of books, squeezing through bookshelves and found a man snoozing in one of the armchairs.

While I was looking for something to buy back home, a man came into the shop. He said he accidentally bought the same book and asked if he could exchange it for another. The shopowner agreed.

The old gentleman came to my aisle and was looking up and down for the author’s row. When he asked me if I knew where the author’s book was, I helped him in his search. We found it.

He then asked if I had my lunch as he was going to grab a bite. Although he didn’t feel threatening, I pretended that I just ate because I don’t think I should go around having lunch with strangers I’ve just met, even if it was in a book store.

Bridget Jones
Bridget Jones

While browsing, I overheard the shopowner telling a customer that the shop will be closing down as the landlord wanted to increase the price of the rent. I looked at the price of the books and wondered how the shop manage to stay open in the first place.

When I paid for my books, the shopowner asked if I was from overseas. I answered, “Singapore”. He then said that he was collecting foreign currency and if I had any money from Singapore to exchange with one of the foreign money in the plate.

I did have a S$2 note and I chose a pre-Euro coin from France. I said my thanks and left with my books.

I think the shop would have closed down by now. I feel sad.

This post was inspired by this week’s #Travel Talk on Twitter (#TTOT): Hidden treasures.

Have you stumbled upon hidden treasures when travelling? What was it?

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