“I think you’re at the wrong airport..”

Hearing someone say those words to you, in slightly broken English, at 5:45 in the morning is not a good way to start your day. Just, you know, in case you were wondering.

To clarify, Buenos Aires has two airports. As I understood (until this morning), the Jose Newbury Aeroparque is the local airport, and the other, a 30 minute drive out of the city, is the international airport. Alison and I flew into the Buenos Aires International Airport from Santiago at the end of May when we first came to Argentina, and since I had booked a round trip ticket back to Santiago from BA, I simply assumed my flight would leave from that international airport. Of course, I knew there was a local airport, since I had flown in and out of Iguazu through the Aeroparque, and I even joked with Alison when I was coordinating a taxi pickup through the BA hostel I stayed at last night that it was a good thing I knew to differentiate between the two airports, otherwise they would have sent a driver to pick me up at the wrong one.

So when I forked over $180 pesos (just about $40 US) and hopped out of my taxi this morning after a 30 minute drive outside the city, you can imagine my disbelief when the LAN agent I spoke with told me my flight wasn’t, in fact, leaving from that airport. Luckily, I’m my parent’s daughter and left a ridiculous amount of time between getting to the airport and my actual flight departure time (7:50 AM) since I didn’t know how long customs would take, so the extra 45 minutes back to downtown BA wasn’t too detrimental and I was able to make my flight. Thank goodness it was a Sunday morning and the roads were empty! Of course I had to pay another $220 pesos ($50 US) to get all the way back where I had just come from… nothing like wasting close to $100 on a stupid mistake! Oh well, lesson learned and it all worked out fine — I made my flight without a problem, and I’m back safely at Alison & Ignacio’s apartment.

I’m in disbelief that 3 weeks of my trip have already gone by — I can’t believe I’m back in Santiago, getting ready to travel on my own, and hike to Machu Picchu at that! I have such a mix of emotions: part of me is terrified to be out in Peru and Bolivia by myself, another part of me can’t wait to be on my own, truly enjoying my independence and some very serious “me” time.

Last night was a bit of a strange experience in and of itself — I got back from Iguazu and got in the cab my hostel had arranged for me, checked in at the hostel to find that even though I’d paid $8.60 US for one bed in a 4 bed suite, I was actually going to be staying in a room on my own. I didn’t have any complaints, of course, but was confused when they showed me to a rather large room with only one bed and a small wooden wardrobe with a place to lock my bags. Of course the tiny heater they had started in the far corner of the room (opposite the bed) was doing nothing to heat the huge space, so I knew it was going to be a cold night.

I think I confused the man working the desk — when I asked him to bring me an extra blanket and he came upstairs, he seemed completely taken aback that I had taken it upon myself to move the bed directly next to the heater. Hey, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. I told him I’d move it back this morning, but he didn’t seem too concerned, just mostly confused. Luckily leggings underneath my sweatpants, two pairs of socks, a tank top, long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt were enough to keep me warm under the two relatively thin blankets they’d given me. I’m becoming a pro at learning to sleep in the cold!

I also had a grocery store fail yesterday: the original plan was to meet up with Erica and cook, but she wanted to go out to dinner and watch the Celtics, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be faced with Boston sports in another hemisphere. Instead, I went across the street to the grocery store, where I spent a significant amount of time wandering the aisles, probably looking like a sad, lost and confused puppy to everyone else in the store. In all fariness, it’s rather difficult to grocery shop in another language and country where you don’t have the vocabulary to ask where things are.

At one point, I was able to mutter the question “Donde esta queso parmesano?” to a man stocking the shelves, who answered something very quickly and pointed in a vague, general direction, so off I went to wander down the same 3 aisles I’d already been down. Of course, grocery shopping for one is impossible in the states, but to shop for one person, for one night, not being able to keep any leftovers was a total fail. I spent $40 pesos ($9ish bucks) on pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, a yellow bell pepper (the only decent looking vegetable I could find in the produce section), chocolate cookies and a bottle of water.

One thing I wish Alison, Carolyn and I had done more of when we were traveling was cook — buying groceries to split and share amongst 3 people is relatively easy. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have a kitchen we could use at the BA B&B we were at, so it didn’t make much sense, but it could have saved us a lot of money, especially since Buenos Aires is a very expensive city to eat out in.

I met two super sweet girls from Liverpool while I was cooking dinner last night, and left them with my extra pasta and sauce, and they were very grateful. I talked to them a little about how they had taken the TEFL and were certified to teach English, spending their summer after graduating from university in Buenos Aires together. I wish it weren’t so expensive to take the class and get certified in the states — aside from that obvious hurdle and the fact that I’m paying to store my stuff in Connecticut right now, I think I’d very seriously consider moving abroad to teach if I had someone to go with. I do feel so thankful that I am truly “free” right now — though the goal is to be in New York City eventually, I can really do whatever I want, and that freedom is so exhilarating!

Speaking of, Briann just booked a two week trip out to the west coast! We’re going to meet in Seattle on July 11 and spend a few days in Seattle, then hop down to Portland, then see San Francisco before we head down to LA for a few days in my home city to show her around. She has never seen the pacific ocean and I’ve never been further north than Sacramento, so I’m very excited to export the Pacific northwest! I think it will be hard heading back to LA from such an amazing vacation/travel adventure, so I’m glad to have another leg of travel booked — and this time speaking the language and having a cell phone will make coordinating and traveling much easier!

The rest of today is dedicated to errands: doing laundry, unpacking and repacking, getting passport pictures taken for my Bolivian visa, printing out copies of my credit card and passport, also for my visa, and then buying a handful of things like an alarm clock, flashlight, and more shampoo/conditioner. I’m glad I have the day to get that type of stuff done — it’s much needed after 18 days of non-stop travel!

Our last two days in Buenos Aires!

I can’t believe we spent a full eight days in Buenos Aires and are already on to our second leg of the trip in Uruguay — and that our time in Montevideo is already over! Since I have so much to say (or I guess, type?) about the end of our BA portion of the trip, I’ll save Montevideo for a separate post.

City skyline from the Japanese gardens

On Wednesday, we started the day with a visit to the Jardin Japones — the Japanese Gardens of Buenos Aires, built by the Japanese Argentine Cultural Foundation in the 1960’s. The gardens had a similar feel to the Chinese gardens and temples I visited in Beijing on my Northeastern Dialogue of Civilizations trip, and it was a bit strange to have sudden flashbacks to my 5 weeks spent in China while in the middle of Argentina. Regardless, the gardens are a beautiful green space, plus it’s always fun to see a Koi pond!

From there we walked up through Palermo to the MALBA museum, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. The museum is half price on Wednesdays, and students (I may still take advantage of my Husky ID) are free, which was a nice break from the rather pricey entrance and tour fees we’ve been paying throughout BA. Coincidentally, the museum had a beautiful exhibit entitled Bye Bye American Pie, featuring seven American artists of the late 1900’s: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Cady Noland y Paul McCarthy. I’d never seen work from any of the artists, and I was lucky enough that there were English translations of almost all the descriptions so I could understand everything. I particularly loved the work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an expressionist painter who died in 1988, at the age of 27, of a drug overdose. His work — combinations of everything from elephant drawings, repeated words written in pencil and crossed out in bright paint colors, and messages of African American history — was thought provoking, bizarre and absolutely captivating, and I truly enjoyed it.

Larry Clark‘s photographs were a bit harder to stomach — many of them were raw images that involved heavy drug use in rural America. It was interesting to think about the way America was being depicted to South Americans, but also interesting to think about the prevalent drug use in our country, especially during the 70’s and 80’s.

Erica met up with us and we left the museum to grab lunch a few blocks away, walking through the beautiful tree-shaded streets of northern Palermo, lined with huge, beautiful houses. A stark contrast to yesterday’s La Boca visit, but great to see nonetheless. I had my first tortilla — not a tortilla at all, but a Latin American version of a frittata, made with eggs, potatoes and onions. Heavy, but delicious!

After another hour and a half or so checking out the other MALBA exhibits, we wandered back toward our hostel, stopping for a delicious helado on the way. Buenos Aires has particularly good ice cream — their mascarpone flavor is to die for. I hadn’t realized what a heavy influence Italy had on South American countries, particularly in cuisine. I didn’t expect to see so much pizza and pasta!

Erica went to an architecture expo and we took a bit of a break at the B&B, then met up again to head to La Catedral — a tango milonga in an 1880’s warehouse that originally served as a silo and dairy factory.

I’m almost a loss for words to describe the La Catedral decor — one part raw and rustic, another vintage and eclectic. Mismatched tables and chairs filled the back third of the room behind the dance floor, and sofas and chairs with ripped cushions, stuffing popping out of several corners, line the walls. Artwork hangs in every available space on the 20′ walls. Bare, colored lightbulbs are wrapped precariously on a wire circle and hung directly above the dance floor, and aside from a few kitchen bulbs, a controlled spotlight, and the glow from the candles on the tables, provide the only light. My photos don’t do the space justice, since the dim light made it hard to capture, but here are a few:

A dozen couples, including the two tango teachers who we saw teaching the end of a lesson when we first arrived, took turns heating up the dance floor. Our variety of empanadas — chicken and cheese, pumpkin, caprese, and vegetable — were so good they practically melted in our mouths. Between the incredible tango dancing, live music and delicious Malbec we were drinking, I felt like I was truly experiencing Argentine culture.

Thursday we began the day in San Telmo on Defensa Street, the same avenue where the market was set up last Sunday, and where I happened to fall in love with a gorgeous leather jacket being sold by Diego, an older gentleman who owns “En la Escalera” — a leather pop-up shop that consists of a small display of beautiful jackets on a random set of stairs, tucked behind a huge metal door. Of course, he didn’t have in the right size/color combination I wanted, but luckily was very sweet and told me to be in touch later in the week. When I emailed him on Wednesday to see if he had gotten one in stock, I was in luck! He told us to come by between 12 and 2, and when we got there we discovered he had even written a special sign with my name telling me to ring the bell. He let us in and let me try on the jacket, stare at myself in the mirror, debate with Alison and Carolyn for entirely too long, and even held a lighter to the jacket to prove it wasn’t synthetic or plastic (I had never heard of this test before, but it made sense to us and seems to be legitimate) before I finally forked over my 600 pesos. Long story short: I’m obsessed with my gorgeous, fitted, black leather jacket and so glad I splurged!

With my wallet feeling very empty but my nose filled with the scent of leather (I obviously put the jacket on that moment and refused to take it off the rest of the day), we meandered San Telmo, perused a few shops and stumbled upon a galleria — a large, open building with dozens of small store fronts selling antiques and all sorts of chachkies. When Carolyn spotted a pair of beautiful gold earrings and a large collection of hand painted toy soliders in a display, we began talking to the seller, an older, heavy-set gentleman with Italian heritage.

Our new best friend showing Carolyn the various soldier figurines

We ended up at his storefront for almost 45 minutes — he pulled out an old map and gave Alison a history lesson on Chilean-Argentine relations and colonial borders of South America. He showed us an old fashioned stamp holder (which we mistook for an earring display), let us marvel at his collection of pocket watches, for which he had a half dozen beautiful stands and holders, and even took out a dozen of the lead, hand painted toy soliders to explain to us their different uniforms and what part of Argentine history they came from.

Carolyn purchased three of the soliders as souvenirs and then we went for lunch at one of the historic cafes in San Telmo. The special of the day — a chicken, onion and bell pepper mixture that they were calling a stew but wasn’t really, served over rice — was the perfect hearty meal to warm us up, as a serious chill had set in when a cloud cover hid the sun.

We took the metro back to our area of town and did a bit more perusing of stores on Corrdoba Ave, where Alison bought a beautiful coral-colored floor length skirt.  Then we went back to our B&B to quickly change before heading to the Teatro Colôn to see the Buenos Aires Philharmonic perform. The theatre is stunningly beautiful inside and is six levels, with balconies lined along the edge of each of the levels. Our seats had a partial view so we had to lean a bit over the railing to see the orchestra, but it was a wonderful performance, and so nice to be able to enjoy beautiful classical music, even in a country where I don’t speak the language.

From there we went to dinner at La Peña del Colorado, a venue that puts on live folk music shows. We arrived at the end of the show so we only caught a few songs, but after devouring our quinoa salads we grabbed our bottle of wine and went to the back room, where a few musicians had invited us to listen to them play. They passed around guitars, a Chilean woman sang her heart out, and our new friend Diego played bluegrass on his fiddle. They alternated between conversation, soulful ballads and upbeat songs — a handful of other people joined the festivities, some playing instruments, others just listening and clapping. It was incredible to see the emotion the men and women played their instruments with, and despite getting back to our hostel at nearly 3 AM for just three hours of sleep before getting up to catch our 8 AM ferry to Uruguay, it was well worth the exhaustion!

zapatos rojo

I can’t believe today is our sixth full day in Buenos Aires. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to spend over a week in the city — I really have a sense of the city and all of its neighborhoods now, and feel like we’ve really gotten to do all of the things we initially listed out during our trip planning phase.

Today we had a much later start since we didn’t head to bed until after 2 AM. After our breakfast of coffee and media lunas — the Argentine equivalent of miniature, sweeter croissants — we took the good ol’ 152 almost its entire route to the El Caminito section of La Boca, a very touristy area of the same neighborhood where Erica lives. El Caminito is known as the birthplace of tango, and the two, small streets of the area are easily recognized by their brightly painted buildings.

Alison and I have been doing slightly touristy things, but for the most part, we’ve been wandering on our own, not taking group tours and avoiding being stared at too dramatically since Alison speaks fluently. In El Caminito men were talking to the three of us left and right, pushing fliers for their restaurants in our faces, asking if we wanted to stand in tango poses for photos, asking where we were from and telling us we were muy linda, very beautiful. After ignoring their cat calls we took lots of photos and wandered through the various art studios and souvenir stores.

Today was the first day we had sunshine and blue skies, and aside from the photos I posted of San Telmo, might have been my favorite photo day. We opted for lunch at Proa, a beautiful modern art space with an adorable cafe, delicious sandwiches, and very enticing large couches and low tables.

Gorgeous restaurant (and incredible view) from our lunch cafe

After a leisurely two hour lunch, and a delicious brownie, we got in a cab down to the Congressional Plaza. The Congressional building looks similar to the U.S. White House, with a beautiful dome atop the center of the building. After asking two different security guards about the tours for the day and getting two, very different answers, we returned to ask yet more questions. The guard, instead of being annoyed by the silly gringa chicas, decided to personally walk us into the building, through the temporary special art exhibit and show us the beautiful chamber room where all 257 deputies sit and vote. He let us look more at the art and then we made our way out and back downstairs — a perfect little peek inside!

From there we walked north on Callero Ave and did some shopping, and I purchased a beautiful pair of deep rojo (red) lace up oxfords with a wood kitten heel. I’m already obsessed, and can’t wait to wear them! Alison wanted the same pair in camel, but they were out of her size, so we’re on a mission to check out one of their other locations to find them for her.

From there we hoped on the metro a few stops back to our hostel, grabbed some olives, cheese and bread and are currently relaxing in the lobby of our B&B before picking our dinner destination!

I’m working on photos now, and will get up a second post soon with links to those!

Mas patatas

I am sad to admit that though I made lofty promises of a crazy Saturday night spent out on the town, Alison and I had a delicious Italian dinner a few blocks from our hostel and promptly walked back to our B&B, climbed into our beds, and passed out. In my defense, I equate my exhaustion to not napping. Oh well! I’m thoroughly enjoying the carefree attitude and relaxation that come with being on vacation — I’m here to see South America and the cities we’re staying in, but I’m also here to relax, and if that means heading to bed by 12:30 on Saturday night, so be it!

Sunday — Day 4

Sunday was the same overcast, mid-60’s weather we’ve been having all week, but despite the gloom we made our way down to Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada for a formal tour. Thankfully we had a bilingual tour guide, who did our entire tour in English and Spanish (poor woman — as a tour guide I truly appreciate her dedication!) so I was able to understand most of the explanations. The Casa is a much larger building inside than I had even anticipated. One thing Alison & I have noticed throughout the trip is how deceptive Argentinian architectural facades are — we go to restaurants and discover they’re actually quite deep and expansive (or even two or three levels) and realize that buildings we knew were big are actually vast, with countless rooms we had no idea existed.

After our tour, and a million photos later, we met up with Erica to wander the San Telmo market. When asking everyone for advice on the best things to do in BA, hands down the number one recommendation was to check out this market — the equivalent of a massive flea market meets farmers market down a single, quite narrow, cobblestone street, where you can buy anything your heart desires. Three packs of Nike socks for 10 pesos (approx $2.50), beautiful handmade silver jewelry, floral scarves, leather jackets and purses, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the homemade, incredible, pollo empanadas, fresh squeezed orange juice and plethora of kettle corn and cotton candy.

We munched on street food, perused the endless stalls and attempted not to stumble on the cobblestones and loose one another in the crowds. Despite the rain clouds that threatened most of the afternoon, aside from a few minutes of drizzle we lucked out. I bought a beautiful, hand-carved, wooden key holder for my new NYC apartment (!!), Alison got a gorgeous pair of leather, kitten heeled, lace up booties and a cute apron for her boyfriend’s mom, and Erica bought socks as to avoid doing laundry for another day.

After wandering the market we walked down into La Boca, the downtown neighborhood where Erica is staying. It has a bit of a bad rap for being unsafe and not a great place to be at night, but her apartment is off the main street and we felt completely fine walking to/from her neighborhood. Our goal was to head to the Boca Junior futbol stadium to buy tickets for the 7 PM game, but after multiple, fruitless inquisitions with police officers standing guard on every corner and walking through crowds of staring Boca Junior fans and we decided to head back to Erica’s apartment (just a few blocks from the stadium) to rest our feet and make a game plan.

A few google searches later helped us determine that tickets almost always sell out on the day of the game, and are upwards of $200 pesos to sit in the safer sections, so we decided at $40 US it wasn’t worth it, and instead stayed in and made delicious homemade chicken parm, pasta and broccoli.

The true Argentine adventure came after dinner, when we decided to grab the 152 bus down Santa Fe back to our B&B. Little did we know that despite the massive crowds at the half a dozen bus stops along the street near Erica’s apartment, the buses don’t make their regular stops on game days. Unbenownest to us, we stood for at least 30 minutes, probably longer, waiting for the bus that simply never showed up. After Alison spoke to a woman who had been waiting an hour and a half, and overhearing two American students talking about how long they had been waiting, we gave up and hailed a cab.

We were hesitant the driver would rip us off, or worse, but luckily he was an extremely friendly guy and he and Alison spoke in Spanish the entire cross-city drive. A cab ride like that would have cost an easy $80 or $100 in Boston, but we paid $62 pesos, or $17 dollars. Granted the bus would have cost us $2.50 pesos (50 cents) each, but we decided all things considered, it was a well spent $8 bucks each.

Monday, Day 5

To start our week off, Alison and I set an earlier alarm than we’ve been used to and got up for breakfast and to shower around 9:30. We made our way down to San Telmo, the neighborhood with the street market we were at yesterday, and found the El Zanjon site. After discovering their website has false information (tours in English and Spanish are, in fact, not offered every hour on the hour) we had an hour to kill before the next English tour, so we made our way down to Puerto Madero, the waterfront section of the city.

The waterfront reminds me a bit of Boston’s — very up and coming, with more modern apartments, upscale restaurants and classy bars. The water, however, is a putrid brown color, and not exactly picturesque. We had another very gloomy day (sans the 10 minutes of sunshine where we finally glimpsed some blue sky) so taking pictures was a bit of a challenge, but we wandered for about 40 minutes before making our way back to the site.

El Zanjon is an absolutely beautiful brick structure which has been reconstructed after a 20 year excavation project discovered the building, hiding beneath a crumbling and ruined facade. The structure, constructed in the 1830’s, belonged to a single wealthy family who held multiple African slaves, and who lived in the home until the 1870s, when they fled and abandoned the building to avoid a Yellow Fever epidemic which struck in San Telmo. The structure was then partially rebuilt as a tenant house, where 23 families lived. In 1985, when someone bought the land to develop a restaurant, they discovered sloping floors and began to dig. What they discovered was beautiful arched brick tunnels, built decades ago to protect a forked river that ran through, what were then, the outskirts of town.

Over the last 20 years, a private estate has worked tirelessly to restore the property, rebuild the brick walls and tunnels, and discover as much about the buildings and properties as they can. It was a steep $15 dollar tour, but well worth it to see the beautiful reconstruction efforts.

After our tour we came back to Palermo, and grabbed lunch down the street where we had our first language misunderstanding — despite Alison’s fluent Spanish. We each ordered sandwiches but on the menu, Alison’s was listed as coming with french fries, and mine was not. Alison asked what the portion size on the fries was and our waiter, in a very fast, rushed Spanish, responded “un pocito” — small. After confirming, at least we thought, that mine did not come with patatas, Alison ordered me a side of what we were told were sweet potato fries.

Ten minutes later, two plates, loaded with large sandwiches and huge helpings of thick cut  french fries, arrived at our table. And then, a few seconds later, a second dish, heaped with more french fries, was brought to the table. All we could do was laugh at the massive amounts of potatoes we had to consume. They were good, but definitely not sweet potatoes, at least not as far as we could tell. Luckily, Carolyn (Alison’s sister) was arriving from New York in just a few hours, so we brought her back a snack.

After catching up with Carolyn, we headed out into Palermo to wander and show Carolyn our neighborhood, which both Alison and I are completely obsessed with. Picture Soho boutiques lining every street, with gorgeous trees and cobblestone streets. Aside from the taxi drivers racing down the roads and a few piles of dog poop you have to carefully avoid, Palermo Soho is picturesque and beautiful, and I’m so glad we’re staying out in this section of town.

We did some shopping — Alison bought a beautiful tan wrap dress — and tried on some ridiculous items (floor length horse print skirts, for instance), then came back to do some research and decision-making about the Uruguay portion of our trip. We booked Buquebus ferries from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and then from Colonia to Buenos Aires. We’ll be taking a bus between Montevideo and Colonia, and are flying out of BA to head north to Iguazu after that portion of our trip. Around 10:30, we left the B&B to grab dinner at our first parillio — the famous Argentine steakhouses.

We picked Don Julio’s: highly acclaimed, well rated and only 3 blocks from our B&B. Our food was incredible — we shared a bottle of Malbec, a delicious salad, and three entrees: a half chicken, a rib eye steak and an order of pumpkin and spinach ravioli. We were up to our eyeballs in food, but everything was absolutely delicious, and our total (with tip) was only $380 pesos — $82, less than $30 each!

It’s 2:30 AM and I’m exhausted, but pictures will come tomorrow, I promise!

First three days in Buenos Aires

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in Buenos Aires for 3 days — they’ve flown by! I think the number one thing about Argentine culture that I love is how laid back and genuinely helpful everyone seems to be. I know we’re in a relatively safe and sheltered neighborhood, and that there are areas of the city that are very rough, but overall all of the people we’ve met have been invested and interested in helping us out, which I truly appreciate.

We’re staying in Palermo Soho, the southern section of the Palermo neighborhood, located west of the more central, downtown area. Our B&B is through a simple, almost hidden, wooden door on a smaller side street, and the interior has gorgeous exposed brick and spacious rooms. We’re in a triple (I’m sleeping on the top of a bunk bed — Tawonga throwback!) so that when Alison’s sister gets here on Monday we can all share a single room. There are only 4 or 5 other rooms in the B&B, which is owned and operated by two sisters, both of whom are so so sweet and incredibly helpful — they give us great advice and suggestions as to what to do, where to go and, most importantly, how to get there!

Day one — Thursday

On our first day, we walked north east to check out the botanical gardens and the zoo, since they were both close to where we are staying. We were a bit underwhelmed by both — the zoo is massive with a wide range of animals, but isn’t well kept like American zoos, and most of the animals looked sad and a bit out of place, which was strange. Throughout the zoo grounds, there were hundreds of guinea pig-like creatures that looked like a cross between a jack rabbit, rodent and overgrown squirrel. We could not figure out what they were to save our lives, despite asking one of the zoo workers who was far from helpful. After lots of googling, I discovered they are a breed of Patagonian Mara. Sort of creepy, mostly cute — Alison and I were just glad they didn’t attack us for food the way we thought they would!

Here are my pictures from the zoo & botanical gardens, though they’re not exactly my best.

We walked down to Plaza Italia and split a veggie calzone for late lunch, then window shopped as we wandered back to our B&B, perusing all sorts of local adorable Palermo shops.

After some relaxing, we made our way to La Fabrica del Taco, a Mexican taco restaurant. A bit more expensive than we were anticipating, but absolutely delicious nonetheless. Alison ordered a Michelada — beer mixed with salt, lemon juice and hot sauce — which was actually way better than it sounds. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Day two — Friday

On Friday we braved the Buenos Aires bus system and took the 152 all the way down Santa Fe Ave. to San Martin Plaza, where we began a walking tour of downtown BA I’d found in my guidebook. We saw the plaza and walked down Florida St., a pedestrian avenue filled with leather and clothing shops, and then saw the Colon theatre (pictured below), one of the oldest theaters in BA, where you can still see orchestra, opera and ballet performances.

When it started to rain, we had a quick bite to eat at their cafe to avoid getting soggy, then wandered down to the judiciary building and out to Plaza de Mayo. Friday was a national holiday in Argentina, so much of the city was closed, but there was a huge celebration being set up in the Plaza, where the Casa Rosada (the BA version of the white house, painted pink) is. All along Ave de Mayo were street vendors selling empanadas, jewelry, Argentinian flags, and other knick knacks. We wandered along the fair and then up to Cafe Tortoni, one of the most famous BA cafes. We had heard great things about the cafe, but I think we ordered wrong — since we were craving salt instead of sweet we opted for a cheese platter, which was far from impressive. I did get to try Quilmes, the Argentinean equivalent of Bud Light, which is just as tasteless, and also unimpressive. We were pretty disappointed, but we stayed and relaxed for a bit before hopping on the metro back to our B&B.

Though our intentions were to get back to room and relax for a bit before meeting up with my friend Erica, who is in BA for a month doing research for her Northeastern honors thesis, we accidentally fell asleep for 3 hours. Being a tourist is tiring!

The other interesting thing about BA — which I can’t decide if I love or hate — is their timing for dinner. We met up with Erica for dinner at Bio, a vegetarian restaurant in our neighborhood, around 10 PM, and even then, we were early for a dinner seating! Everyone in BA starts their night at midnight, and parties through the entire night, until 8 or 9 AM. It’s certainly a whole other world, especially compared to the 1:45 AM last call in Boston.

After a leisurely and delicious dinner, we met up with Katie, a friend of Justin, a mutual friend that both Erica and I both know from Northeastern. The four of us drank two delicious bottles of Malbec at an outdoor table in Plaza Serrano and had a great time chatting and getting to know each other. By 2:30 AM we were exhausted and ready for bed, so we headed back to our B&B to crash.

Day three — Saturday

Because we had a late Friday night, we set a later alarm this morning and didn’t end up eating breakfast until after 11:30. We decided to try taking the bus again, but this time we almost got on the 110 in the wrong direction. Thankfully, the bus driver was smart enough to ask where we were trying to go, and when we explained he quickly told us we needed to get off and cross the street. Oops!

We took the bus down to the Recolata neighborhood, where we saw what we thought was a gorgeous old church. After wandering inside, we discovered it was actually an engineering school building and not a church at all. I didn’t get a picture, but this is what it looks like from the outside: a gorgeous old building!

We made our way to the Recolata cemetery, one of the more famous tourist sites in the city, where many famous and wealthy Argentinians are buried. The cemetery isn’t what I had pictured and is drastically different from American burial grounds — coffins are held in ornately decorated mausoleums above ground. There are no headstones and no grassy fields, instead there are thousands of mausoleums: row after row everywhere you look and turn, all lined up adjacent to one another with neat paths in between. Many have huge statues or bust sculptures in front of them, but others don’t have much upkeep, and their gates are rusted and covered in cobwebs. It was certainly an interesting visit, and though I appreciated the beautiful structures, because we wasn’t familiar with any of the individuals buried there, it was a bit strange for Alison and I to be wandering through a plot of mausoleums.

From there we spent a while checking out the neighboring church and wandering through the artisan market that had been set up outside. We walked past over a hundred stalls selling mostly hand-made jewelry, leather goods, children’s clothing… really anything you can imagine, including a plethora of empanada stands. I bought a beautiful pair of earrings made with inca rose stone, and Alison and I each bought beautiful silver link bracelets.

Erica came and met us in the area and we wandered a bit through the neighborhood before settling on a cafe that served sandwiches and delicious looking helado (ice cream). We sat and ate and relaxed for almost two hours before we decided we were exhausted and ready to head back to the B&B to nap. Siestas are addicting! We’re still deciding what the plan for tonight should be — we may do another late dinner and wine like last night before we crawl into bed, or head to a tango club Alison’s friend suggested. Or, maybe we’ll experience the Argentine party life and stay out until all hours of the morning — TBD. I’ll keep you posted!

Pictures!

Hi friends —

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to post photos from my trip. I had initially thought Flickr was the best way, but the free account limits you to 200 photos, and I’m already up to 175. Do you think it’s worth it to pay the $7/3 months, but then have my photos disappear at the end of the summer? I had thought about using Picasa via Google+, but does that option give you a public link? Anybody have any suggestions? It’s a pain to upload a ton of photos into wordpress posts, but I’d love a way to embed a slideshow or photostream into my posts…

Does anybody have suggestions?

In the mean time, there are a few dozen photos from day 1 in Santiago up on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35324653@N08/sets/72157629868587566/