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Archive for January, 2009

Glaciar Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno in all its glory

Perito Moreno in all its glory

There are many highlights of Patagonia, but Perito Moreno Glaciar is no doubt one of the biggest. After our trip there last week, it was easy to see why.

There are many different ways to see Perito Moreno. Most people just take a bus ride there from El Calafate. Once there, there are many different walkways from which to see it. It is also possible to take boat rides from either the north or south face. The above video was taken from our boat ride from the north face, which is the bigger of the two.  Here are several pictures from our boat ride, which gave us an up close and personal view of Perito Moreno.

close up view of north face

close up view of north face

North Face of Perito Moreno

North Face of Perito Moreno

Wide shot of north face (and remember, this is just half of the north face)

Wide shot of north face (and remember, this is just half of the north face)

Wanderers

Wanderers

One of the coolest things about Perito Moreno was the ice breaking off the face of the glacier. It made a thunderous sound and then came crashing down into the lake below, sending waves rippling all around and huge chunks of ice bobbing up and down. The ice that fell off was usually a deep blue color which was simply stunning (in the following pictures, make sure to watch the center of the photos and flip through quickly to get an idea of how massive the chunks falling off the glacier were).

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huge-calving-2

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huge-calving-4

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huge-calving-6

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Luckily, my wish was granted, and I was also rolling video as Megan was snapping photos of the ice falling off.

From the walkways you get different vantage points of the both the north and south face. In the above video, you can only see half of just the north face to give you an idea of the enormity of Perito Moreno. It did take the better part of a day to walk around the entire thing getting to see all the views of both sides of it.

Blue Ice

Blue Ice

Close up of crevasses

Close up of crevasses

View of north face from above

View of north face from above

Is this actually real?

Is this actually real?

View from above 1

View from above 1

View from above 2

View from above 2

View from above 3

View from above 3

North face

North face

North face

North face

North face

North face

Notice the boat to the right--this was a catamaran that holds 250 people, which is dwarfed by the glacier

Notice the boat to the right--this was a catamaran that holds 250 people, which is dwarfed by the glacier

We are currently in Puerto Natales, Chile, and we are leaving on Friday to go on a 5 day trek in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, where we will be out of the loop until Tuesday night (I won’t even know who the Super Bowl winner was until then).  We have a lot of preparing to do tomorrow, including shopping for food, packing our stuff, and getting prepared for 5 days out in the Patagonian wild.  We also hope to get a couple more blog posts written and scheduled from our time in El Chalten.

Until next time…

~Adam

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Caption Contest Winner

Thanks to all who left a comment on the three-month trip report–the captions made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair. We agonized and discussed, argued and negotiated, and we’ve finally decided that we can’t decide. You guys are all hilarious!

Anyone who left a comment on Adam’s three-month trip report post, and cares about getting a postcard from us, please send your address to mlklein at google’s popular email service, gmail dot com.

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Itinerary Update

We are currently in the middle of a long day of bussing it from El Chalten, Argentina, to Puerto Natales, Chile (long day=7:30 am–10:30 pm). We have not had access to the internet the past week we’ve been in El Chalten (except in the one (outrageously expensive) internet cafe in town), so we apologize, yet again, for the lack of posting. While we haven’t had access to the internet, we have had access to some of the best trekking in Patagonia. From Saturday to Monday, we hiked nearly fifty miles. Yeah, that’s over fifteen miles a day for three days, with the hardest and longest hike on day three. So we’re sore and tired, but have some amazing pictures we can’t wait to share. Which we will be doing as soon as we have more than a few minutes to get on the interwebs.

In the meantime, for anyone who’s been wondering where we’ve been or where we’re going, the Itinerary page has been updated with three separate new pages, accessible from the itinerary tab above: (1) Current Itinerary–where we’re planning on going as of right now, (2) The Route So Far–exactly what it sounds like, and (3) Pre-Trip Itinerary–just so we have a record of what we thought we’d be doing when this whole thing started. The gear page has been updated somewhat, but is, embarrassingly, still a work in progress.

Hope to have more soon!

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We have left behind the comforts of our apartment in Buenos Aires, along with our private kitchen, private room, private bathroom, and eating steak and drinking red wine to excess.  We have now re-entered the backpacking world, arriving in El Calafate last night to begin our 6 week journey through Patagonia and the Lake District of both Argentina and Chile.

It was initially difficult when we saw our room for the first time (a 4 person dorm with two sets of bunk beds, both of us getting a separate top bunk–how romantic).

Our room in El Calafate

Our room in El Calafate

But a quick look out the window of the upstairs of our hostel and a trip to the front porch reminded us of why we are roughing it for the next several weeks we are in Patagonia.

View from second floor window of our hostel

View from second floor window of our hostel

View from the second floor window of our hostel

View from the second floor window of our hostel

The surroundings of the town of El Calafate are gorgeous.  It reminds us a bit of Switzerland, with a nice, beautifully colored green lake surrounded by huge, dark green trees and snow capped mountains in the background.

One thing that has been a bit unexpected is the wind.  While it is summer here, it doesn’t get hot because we’re so far south, but one of the things about summers in Patagonia is wind.  It’s typical for the wind to be constantly blowing at 25-35 mph.  It’s pretty crazy just walking down the street.

Look at that hair!

Look at that hair!

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet since my last post was the length of a book.  But we are adjusting just fine back into the backpacker’s life, and it doesn’t hurt that we have our visit to Perito Moreno Glacier tomorrow to look forward to, in addition to hiking, ice trekking, camping, and visiting glaciers and icebergs in the coming weeks.

Take care everyone, and until next time…

~Adam

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The 3 Month Trip Report

THREE MONTHS!! Wow. It’s pretty crazy to think that we’ve been gone for three entire months. At times it seems just like it was yesterday that we were hugging our families at Lambert and saying “Adios!” and wondering and dreaming and imagining how this trip was going to shape up. And at other times, it seems like we have been gone forever. It’s an odd feeling, and I imagine it will be the same for the next nine months, until all of a sudden, poof, it’s October of 2009, and we are home.

We’ve been talking and reflecting quite a bit lately about our time so far, especially with the 3 month milestone approaching and realizing that the trip is a quarter of the way finished. Also, with our time winding down in Buenos Aires and the planning in full swing for the next few stages, I thought it would be fun to just write about random experiences and things that have happened. I have also decided on a word limit on this post since I tend to be a bit wordy at times (even though it still clocks in at over 2700 words, sorry).

So here are 30 words or less on 40 different topics covering the 92 days we have been gone.

1. Favorite city: In two words, Buenos Aires. OK, so I have 25 remaining words (this is going to be harder than I thought, damn, new rule, anything written inside parentheses doesn’t count towards the 30 words). The vibe here is great, and it’s one of the most laid back places I’ve been to, especially considering there’s 13mil people here.

buenos-aires-deserted-streets-of-the-microcenter-2

2. Best place to chill: Cafayate, Argentina. Small town. Beautiful surroundings. Wineries. Cheap food and places to stay. Great chocolate stores. I wish we could have stayed longer.

3. Place I wished we had air conditioning the most: Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. We took 9 cold showers between the two of us the first day we were there. It sucked. It was like the hottest days in August in St. Louis with no AC. We are spoiled (which brings me to #4).

4. Most spoiled I’ve felt: Buenos Aires. It’s going to be rough moving on. Going back to hostels and shared kitchens and bathrooms, ugh, gotta start preparing now.

5. Best thing we brought: Computer. We debated back and forth about bringing it. So glad we did. Much easier to keep up with this, get our pictures uploaded, and skype with our families (Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve found a site to watch playoff football).

6. Thing I wish I would have brought but didn’t: Another pair of shoes. I have some hiking/walking shoes, and a pair of flip flops. My flip flops aren’t going to last much longer. I’m going to need to add a third pair.

7. Something we should have left at home: Megan’s shoes (I was brilliant with my packing, if I do say so myself). But my wife brought these shoes that give her blisters every time she wears them. Worthless (on a side note, now she wants the original shoes she bought right before we left but left at home because she found and bought a different pair, you know, the ones that are worthless).

8. Hardest thing about being away(family-wise): Though the holidays were tough, not seeing our niece and nephew is the toughest. No offense to the rest of our family and friends, but none of you are really going to change much over the next year. Not so for Johnny and Julia. They change daily, and they are going to be completely different the next time we see them.

5-30-2008-10

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9. Something I lost that I’m still angry about: So I have these eyedrops from Walgreen’s that I use all the time that are awesome. Sure, they burn the eyes and blind you for a minute, but then I swear you see better. I lost them about a month ago. I still bitch about it.

10. Favorite Restaurant: This is really, really hard. El Desnivel (Buenos Aires). It’s a steakhouse with one of the best steaks I ever had (disclaimer, I started writing this post a few days ago, before we made our own steaks we bought from a local butcher). And a steak is about $9 (and a bottle of wine for less than that). We’ve been there twice (and we are definitely going at least once more). Argentina is awesome.

11. Favorite Restaurant (#2): (Sorry, I couldn’t pick just one) Star of India (La Paz). Great Indian restaurant. Really authentic, good, spicy Indian food. Great Naan. Can’t wait to actually go to India.

12. Favorite street food: (We’ve eaten a lot of street food to keep the budget down, some of which is great, some of which messes with your digestive system for a month) Falafel (Rurrenabaque, Bolivia). We ate this falafel from an American family who lives in Rurre. They have 8 kids and have raised them all in Bolivia. The dad was a bit wacko though. I made the mistake of asking him what made him bring his family to Bolivia, and 30 minutes later, he was inviting us to come over and watch conspiracy theory videos with them. We declined. But they made a mean falafel. YUM! (and yeah, I know it was over 30 words, and I don’t care!)

13. Favorite Bolivia moment: Hands down the Salt Flats tour. Magical. Spiritual. Beautiful. Amazing. It exceeded all expectations I had for it, and my expectations were HUGE going in.
isla-del-pescado-salar-de-uyuni-11

14. Favorite food: Steak. In Argentina. So good. So juicy. So well cooked.So good with red wine. So cheap. So big. (So while all the steak we had out at restaurants has been great, we went to a local butcher suggested to us by our Spanish teacher.  The pics below are from our dinner with those steaks, which is up there for the best steaks we’ve ever eaten)

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15 and 16. Best new foods I’ve tried that I had never had before:

1. Lomito-I’ve had all the ingredients before, but never together. Start with a piece of french bread, a slice of beef loin, a piece of ham, cheese, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, mustard, and hot sauce (I’m glad I don’t have a scale in BA, cause I’ve had lots of these since I’ve been to Argentina.

2. Mollejas (Sweetbreads)-had these for the first time the other night at El Desnivel. Sweetbreads are the thymus gland (of either lamb, beef, or pork-no idea what we had). Sounds gross. Really good.

(on a side note, I have also tried kidneys, blood sausage, and intestines. Kidneys weren’t bad, the blood sausage had a good taste, but the texture was a little weird, and intestines were not very good)

17, 18, and 19. Most fun nights we’ve had

1. New Year’s Eve. I wrote about it last week. Just a fun, great night in which we got a chance to spend an evening with a family from Buenos Aires, and they were some of the nicest and most accommodating people we’ve ever met.

2. First night in Argentina (Salta). Long bus ride from Bolivia. Tough time finding a hostel. But we ended up drinking some red wine, then heading out for more drinks at local time (about 2am). Drank Budweiser’s and watched some good, local music.

celebrating-our-arrival-in-argentina

4am in Argentina, gotta love it!

3. Halloween (at the South American Explorer’s Club Clubhouse in Cusco). Only 2 weeks into the trip. Hadn’t really met too many people, yet. Hadn’t really done much socializing, yet. Great start. Met some great people.  Had a blast (as you can see from our late night photo shoot).

One of Megan's infamous late night self portraits

One of Megan's infamous late night self portraits

America's Next Top Model-Male Edition

America's Next Top Model-Male Edition

20. Place we’re going that I’m most excited about: Colombia (and it’s not even close). New Zealand, Patagonia, Thailand, India, all up there, but this tells you how many great things we’ve heard about Colombia. Every person who’s been there said it was their favorite. Can’t wait (and so, so, so happy we added it back in to the itinerary).

21. Thing I’m most proud of (concerning the trip): The fact that we’re under budget so far. Most people have said that their budget has been blown up. Not ours. We’re averaging a little over $70/day, total (this includes everything except our flights- which is a separate budget-but it does include accommodation, food, transportation, and anything we’ve done).

22. Thing I’ve missed the most (not people): Food. We’ve had great food since we’ve been gone, but I still miss food from home. St. Louis pizza especially. And home cooking (even though we have gotten a taste of that in BA with our own kitchen, it’s still not the same) The bright side is that we haven’t had fast food in over 3 months.

23. Thing I’ve missed the most (#2): Good beer. I love beer. And quite frankly, the beer here sucks. What I would do right now for a well poured Guinness. Or a Schlafly Oatmeal Stout, or a Coffee Stout. And don’t even get me started on the fact that I missed out on their Christmas Ale (and no, I don’t have a problem).

It's not Guinness or Schlafly, but the King will do just fine

It's not Guinness or Schlafly, but the King will do just fine

24. Thing I’m surprised I haven’t missed (as much as I thought I would): Sports. I love sports, and it helps that I’m able to easily keep up with everything in the internet age (and the fact that I’ve found sports websites and have been able to watch some NFL playoffs and the College Football National Championship game and all the soccer I want). But I haven’t been pining for it like I thought I would (we’ll see if this is still the case at the 9 month mark when baseball season is in full swing).

In my Sunday element, even in Buenos Aires

In my Sunday element, even in Buenos Aires

24. Local custom I’ve most easily adapted to: Eating dinner late-Argentina. And I mean really late. If you go out at 9-10pm, you’re early (10-11 on the weekends). We were at an Indian restaurant last Friday night, got there at 10:30, left after midnight, and people were still streaming in when we left. Weird.

25. Event I’m going to miss most about not being home the next 9 months: PHISH AT THE FABULOUS FOX THEATRE!!!!! I know I’m a brat, and it’s one thing that I’m missing Phish’s comeback shows, but it’s a whole different one to know that they are playing a 5000 seat venue in my city this summer and I won’t be there. I freaked out when I saw summer tour. (side note-the baseball All Star game would have been first a week ago, but this trumps everything–good thing I have money put away for their New Year’s Eve show next year, wherever it may be)

26. 5 times in Buenos Aires: The amount of times my wife has been catcalled (that I’ve heard) since we’ve been here. They aren’t shy about whistling and yelling. Even if there’s an intimidating guy with her (yeah, that’s right, I’m intimidating–actually, you know what, I have noticed this has happened more often since I’ve shaved my beard, maybe it needs a comeback?)

27. Weirdest assumptions about me by locals: Being mistaken for another nationality. I have been mistaken for Dutch, French, and Spanish so far since we’ve been in Argentina. Don’t know why, can’t explain it, I’ve never fooled anyone before.

28. Biggest surprise about the local people: Their knowledge of American politics. From the high school girl in Cusco who recited every American President to the local shopkeepers who give us a fist pump about Obama, so many people have wanted to talk American politics with us when they realized we weren’t from Holland.

29. Weirdest (and best) fad (make sure to read the caption underneath the picture and take part in our contest): One word. Mullet. In Argentina. They love it down here. Between that and the tights on the women under miniskirts and the tight jeans on the men and the times I’ve heard “Billy Jean” on the radio, one would think it’s 1986 around here. It’s awesome (and I’ve been telling Megan that all I would have to do is cut the front and top of my hair, and I’d fit it just perfectly).

Create your own funny caption in the comments section-winner gets 2 free beers from us when we get home

Create your own funny caption in the comments section-winner gets a postcard from one of our next super cool destinations.

30. Best save: I hung my towel out of the balcony to dry, it fell off onto the downstairs neighbors’ balcony. Went down there, twice, no answer, left a poorly written note in Spanish, never heard back. Ingenuity won out with a broomstick and squigy. Here’s the picture (you can imagine the rest):

Who said St. Mary's boys aren't intelligent?

Who said St. Mary's boys aren't intelligent?

31: Themed party I’m most excited about throwing when we get home: Empanadas!! They are a staple of Argentine cuisine. We’ve made them several times now. And we’ve talked about all the different types we can make. So hold me to it. We’re hosting an empanada party at our house when we get back (on a side note, when we were in Cafayate, one of the most fun nights we had was when we went to a small restaurant for dinner that only served empanadas–all different types, it was awesome–actually, maybe we can open an all empanada restaurant in St. Louis when we return, hmmmmm???).

32. Best book I’ve read: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. The first of his two epics. I’ve read them both on this trip. What a great book. Perfect for traveling, too. It’s 1000 pages, it moves quickly, and you don’t want to put it down (perfect for our multiple, epic 15+ hour bus rides we’ve taken–which brings me too…).

33. Worst experience of the trip: It hasn’t all been rainbows and puppy dogs for us. Our bus trip from Coroico to Rurrenabaque. 18 hours. Not a single paved road. Overnight. Sheer cliffs to one side of the road. Last row of the bus. No sleep. Ugh. Just horrible.

34. Wilson: I just wanted to mention our dog cause he’s awesome and he’s the best dog ever. And I miss him terribly. And I can’t wait to see him and pet him again. That’s all, just had to give him a shout out.

35. Dumbest thing we’ve done: World’s Most Dangerous Road. It was great. I loved it and thought it was really exciting, but really, we paid a lot of money to ride our bikes down a road where there’s a death count for the year at the top. Not the smartest thing we’ve done.

wmdr-2

36. Best dessert: Dulce de Leche. Think really creamy caramel. That’s dulce de leche. And it’s everywhere. The best is the dulce de leche flavored ice cream, combined in the same container with dark chocolate ice cream (and yes, I have gotten fatter in the most recent pictures, with this being a key ingredient in my obesity).

37. Reminder-teenage boys are idiots everywhere: We rode bikes last week at a Nature Reserve in BA. Some idiot teenager was screwing around with his friend on his bike and ended up crashing into Megan. No big injuries (a nasty bruise on her leg was about it), but still an annoyance. So just in case anyone was wondering, no matter the culture, teenage boys are idiots (even though this is the case, I do still miss all those idiots I teach).

38. Remembering Grandpa: (this merits more than 30 words) As anyone who knows me knows, I lost my Grandpa last June, rather suddenly. I still think about him often, and there have been several reminders of him throughout the trip. In Lima, the second day we were there, we heard some music coming from a park. We walked up and saw a huge group of people in a dance party, mostly senior citizens, all having a great time. I couldn’t help but think of him. And most recently in La Boca, seeing the statues of the accordion players, all the bands having accordion players, and the tango and waltzes we saw, again, Grandpa, you were on my mind. I miss you tons!

39. Examples of how our standards have changed: The following statements have been uttered by us at some point on the trip. (regarding a stray dog in the park) “It isn’t that mangy.” (After Megan stepped in one of the piles of dog poop that are on every sidewalk of every block in Buenos Aires) “At least it’s only on the bottom of my shoe.” (Regarding bathrooms, at various points-and yes, the exclamation points accurately depict our excitement at the time and are in chronological order) “Not bad at all, it had a toilet seat!!” “They had soap in that one!!!!” “Soap and paper towels!!!!!!”

40. Most memorable moment so far: Machu Picchu. I can still vividly remember the moment I walked through the Sun Gate and saw it for the first time. It was one of the coolest and most memorable moments of my life. Just an incredible, beautiful, mystical, and magical place. As I said in my post about it over 2 months ago, I really think everyone should make an effort to go there at one point in their lives.

My favorite Machu Picchu Pic

My favorite Machu Picchu Pic

And that’s it. Three months down. Nine (at least, haha) to go. It’s difficult to imagine what this list will look like at the six, nine, and twelve month mark. If there’s anyone out there reading this and has ever thought about doing something like this, JUST DO IT!! I can’t say that enough. Besides asking Megan to marry me, going on this trip was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. This will not only make me a better all around person, but it will also strengthen my relationship with my wife, and the memories will last for a lifetime.

~Adam

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With our time in Buenos Aires coming to a close, I’ve been reflecting on some of my favorite things about this city and favorite moments during our time here. We have adjusted to our routine here with such ease that much of what we do hasn’t necessarily seemed Blog-Worthy.

I debated if anyone would want to hear about the afternoons we’ve spent in Parque 3 de Febrero in the Palermo neighborhood, lounging in the grass and laughing at god knows what until our stomachs hurt and I have tears rolling down my cheeks; about our excitement upon finally finding a bookstore filled with english-language books; about our frustration with figuring out the bus system (so comprehensive that there hundreds of separate lines and so complicated that the system is described not with a route map but rather with a whole book) and then the feeling of triumph upon realizing that “holy-shit-we-just-hopped-on-a-random-bus-and-got-ourselves-home-intact;” about sitting in a restaurant until nearly four a.m. talking about our plans, for this trip and after; about renting bikes and riding around the beautiful Coastanera Sur Ecological Reserve and hearing, to our horror, that there had been a fire the following day that burned hundreds of square meters of the reserve; about Adam holding my hand and keeping me calm while my dad had surgery back in St. Louis and about our elation upon hearing that the surgery went well; about my solo visit to the impressive Museo de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), about how odd it felt to navigate the city buses and subway system on my own and to wander the museum alone after spending approximately the previous 2000 hours with Adam at my side; or about how hilarious it was to watch Adam attempt to touch his left elbow to his right knee while playing “Simon Dice” (Simon Says) in Spanish class.

Each of these tiny moments, though individually commonplace and generally pretty ordinary, taken all together, make up my memories of a wonderful month in Buenos Aires. We have just loved our time here, and I hope you’ll forgive the month of slow posting. We’re off to Patagonia soon and will be resuming our busier schedule, so should have plenty of stories of glaciers and trekking and sleeping in dorm rooms and tents. In the meantime, the Flickr page (always accessible through the Photos tab at the top of the page) has been updated with some additional shots from Buenos Aires. Also, Adam will be back tomorrow with a look back at our first three months on the road.

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The Caminito of La Boca

la-boca-buildings

La Boca is a barrio that shows up on pretty much every list of must-sees for Buenos Aires. A working class neighborhood and the home of the well known (and rough-around-the-edges) Boca Juniors futbol team, La Boca has, in the recent past, undergone a transformation from its roots. Initially a barrio inhabited by immigrant dock workers, La Boca is now home to El Caminito, a tourist destination filled with antiques shops and typical Argentine restaurants offering tango shows to entertain diners.

caminito-building

tango-la-boca

The buildings of La Boca got their trademark bright hues when the residents brought leftover paint home from their jobs in the shipyards in order to spruce up their homes, which were primarily constructed out of corrugated metal. As the barrio gained popularity for its vibrantly-colored homes and tourist traffic increased, the Caminito (a small pedestrian street less than 100 meters long) began to gain popularity, and it became a haven for artists, who began creating, along with more traditional art, the plaster statues that have become a symbol of the Caminito tourist area.

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While the throngs of people can be a bit off-putting, I still recommend a visit to La Boca—it’s difficult to write something off entirely for being touristy, when I am, in fact, a tourist. Despite (or perhaps because of) the neighborhood’s popularity with tourists, it can be a bit rough, and visitors are regularly warned not to leave the main areas. As such, the Caminito and surrounding streets are more representative of the area than they are an authentic experience. Nonetheless, we spent a nice afternoon wandering the Caminito and the area near the river, then settled in to watch a live music and tango show with a bottle of wine and my favorite new lunch/snack–picadas (picadas are the Argentine equivalent of an antipasto platter). All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

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