Mode of Living
I shall now proceed to give you some account of the manner in which I spent my time. I was 11 days in all on shore and during that period I enjoyed myself as much as possible. I lodged at the house of McGaw in the Calle del 25 de Mayo, not far from the beach. There I had a bedroom for sleeping & in the day time I sat down in a room common to all the lodgers & the public in general. At 8 oClock we used to have an excellent breakfast consisting of tea & coffee – good milk – excellent fresh butter make by scotch folk – fresh laid eggs – sausages – beef steaks & stewed kidneys. For all this we paid 2 paper dollars or 14d. At 3 oClock the bell summoned us to dinner in the best room in the house, large and well furnished. From 12 to 18 usually sat down to soup very good of its kind – fish – roast beef – boiled mutton – roast & boiled fowl – very so so potatoes – peas cabbage, with as much red & white wine as you chose to drink. The whole being concluded with some sort of tart. The price was 4 dollars each or 2/4. Those who wished to have tea – & their number was very small – were careful to be at the house at 7 oClock, when they had served out to them by the hands of M.rs McGaw as much tea as they could swallow, which was generally proportioned to the quantity of cold roast &.c the remains of dinner, which they could take in.
The time of rest was various – seldom before eleven, sometimes 1 or 2, according as there were more or less persons in the common room, who kept up most merrily in singing – joking – story telling & relating of their adventures. A great many merchants – captains frequented this house chiefly scotchmen – of different characters & humours but contributing by this very university to the general fund of laughter & amusement. It was very seldom however that I remained beyond eleven out of bed – I was particularly anxious to get away when the mirth & fun grew fast & furious – when drunken jokes & low ribaldry succeeded to decent humour & harmless enjoyment – and by following this prudent course I escaped those headaches, of which the devotees engaged in celebrating the orgies of Bacchus over night, complained so lamentably next morning. I must confess however that it was not always with feelings of pleasure that I sought repose – repose did I say, more correctly my couch – earlier than the rest. The moment of lying down was the commencement of my torments in the shape of numerous fleas, who did me the honour – better honoured in the breach than in the observance – of banqueting on my blood. Unless I had previously been very tired, some hours generally elapsed ere I closed my eyes in sound repose.
Riding at Buenos Ayres
When I had thus comfortably established myself in quarters, & knew the meal hours, I had much time between whiles to be occupied as I pleased. I have already told you my impression of the town – & I must now tell you what I think of the country. Horse-hire being here tolerably cheap, I was persuaded to go out on horse back several times. At first I was very awkward & fearful of proceeding beyond a walk pace. Soon I tried a trot but found myself so jolted & shaken – my feet continually coming out of the stirrups & my balance in consequence so often unsettled that it depended on the slightest chance whether I should fall to the one side or the other – that I soon gave it up as a bad concern. By great good fortune & extreme care, holding on in case of necessity by the pommel or crupper, regardless in the moment of insecurity of the mirth excited among the beholders by my awkward horse position, I escaped without a single mischance an affection which was more than could be made by some of my acquaintances, who pretended to greater experience & skill that me.
In the course of my rides having unintentionally struck my horse too hard & roused his mettle, off he set at full gallop which terrified me a little – I held on stoutly & to my surprise discovered that it was much easier & more pleasant to canter & gallop than to amble or trot, & every time afterwards I enjoyed the pleasure thus unexpectedly opened to me.
Country around Buenos Ayres
Becoming thus more daring in my horsemanship I extended my rides considerably – & regretted exceedingly that by the laws of the place no one is permitted to gallop thro’ the streets or along the beach where the washerwomen are, under penalty of having his horse sold at once. On one occasion I accompanied M.r Snell & M.r McGaw, to a Quinta or country house belonging to the latter & tenanted by a Captain Anderson, who had been in the 71st reg.t & had been taken prisoner at Buenos Ayres in Whitlock’s time. The distance from town might be about 4 or five miles – but I am told that the appearance of the country for many hundreds of miles is precisely the same as it presented to us on our way to the Quinta. In consequence of the late rains, the roads were very bad, & in many places impassable – to the pedestrian. They were all well marked off by lofty thick hedges, composed of the aloe, the thistle & the prickly pear. We were most kindly received by Captain Anderson, who led us over his grounds. He had a most excellent and well laid out garden, fuller of peas beans &.c but with no fruit trees. All round was a large extent of uncultivated land covered with weeds & thistles galore. After a long walk we returned to the house & sat down to a very comfortable dinner – of which part consisted of excellent scotch kail. After dinner we visited one or two of the scotch farms & witnessed what our countrymen are capable of accomplishing under every disadvantage. From the top of a large tree I had a good view of the vast extent of country. Nothing could be more tiresome from the unvarying sameness of a perfect level, such as I looked upon. It reminded me of the ocean in a calm, with a distant & equal horizon. Here & there the eye rested with something like pleasure on an isolated white house, or on a group of dwellings composing a small village. From the extreme level you could trace far & wide the common roads, by the lofty hedges. An enemy or friend could be equally descried at a distance. The trees are not at all numerous; & there are none of those lofty & well-shading trees, the ornament & the advantage of other country. Peach & apple trees are the chief boasted – and in the fruit season, there are such a vast quantity of the former, that they are piled mountain high in the market.
If you were to pay for it, you could not get a stone of the smallest size – all the houses are of brick, covered over with plaster.
At five oClock P.M. we rode back to Town, much pleased with our excursion, and with the attention and civility of our host – and in the impression that we would not part with barren mountains & romantic glens for half the world of the richest level country.
Besides this our longest ride into the country, we made several trips to behold the same or nearly the same scenery. We passed many excellent – nay even superb country houses, built on speculation by Englishman. We also visited a sort of public Garden kept by one Tweedie, a north-countryman which are on Sundays much frequented, & there you can have tea, coffee, wine & spirits, with fruits in their season. The appearance of the gardens is not very fine, & far inferior to another which I also visited & goes by the name of Vauxhall. They are however specially convenient as places of resort, where once a week at least you are sure of meeting all your friends. I am told that they do not pay well which is a great pity.