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Posts Tagged ‘Buenos Aires’

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

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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.

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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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When this trip is finished (which is a horrible thought), and we make the inevitable “top 10” list, we will find it really difficult not to include New Year’s Eve. I’ve said it before since we’ve been gone, but it continues to ring true that the most memorable moments so far have been the unexpected ones where we meet new friends and really experience the culture of the places we are visiting.

As I said in my last post, we were invited to our friend Maru’s parents’ house in a Buenos Aires suburb for dinner and the celebration of NYE. Now we just met Maru for the first time two weeks ago. She is a friend of a friend, and even though I met her one time about 10 years ago on St. Patrick’s Day in Dogtown (yeah, we both remembered that one), she was a stranger to us just a mere two weeks ago.

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The fact that we were invited to her family’s house for New Year’s Eve (a traditional family holiday in Argentina-at least until about 2am) was quite the honor. Once the invitation was extended, we didn’t even think twice before accepting, figuring this would be great fun and a wonderful opportunity to interact with and experience a new culture celebrating a holiday. As the day wore on Wednesday, I have to admit that we started getting a little nervous.

First, even though our Spanish is improving since we started taking Spanish classes, we were informed that Maru was the only person in her family who spoke Spanish (which turned out not to be true). Second, as I said before, this is a family holiday, and we both felt a bit intrusive going into someone else’s home (whom we have never met) to celebrate a holiday.

Our fears quickly disappeared upon our arrival though. We were made to feel not only completely welcome, but accepted with open arms. There weren’t even the usually inevitable awkward first moments when going to someone’s house whom you have never met. Sure, the conversation was a bit slow at first, especially considering the language barrier (which really wasn’t too bad), but her entire family was so gracious and really made an effort to include us in the conversation.

After the first couple hours of drinking wine and playing with the dogs and meeting new family members, it loosened up quite a bit. As we sat there, Megan and myself, Maru, her brother, mother, father, mother’s cousin, and her husband and daughter, it really dawned on me how similar people are, despite coming from completely different cultures.

This trip is a funny thing sometimes. We have experienced so many different things and so many cultural norms have seemed out of the ordinary, at least for us. But celebrating a holiday in a different country on a different continent in a different hemisphere was strangely familiar for us. We have missed our family and friends terribly during the last couple weeks, but driving in a car, to someone’s home, and spending a holiday with a family, doing the same types of things we do at home, was calming and just what we needed to cure our homesickness.

All typical things we associate with holidays at home were evident in Argentina as well. There was the mom making a ridiculous amount of food that could feed an army. There was the dad happy to be spending the holidays with his adult children, a smile that you only see on a happy father’s face. And of course, there was the family member who somehow gets made fun of and ribbed at every available opportunity, who takes it all in stride with a smile and a laugh, even if it’s coming from the foreigner who barely speaks his language. There was the champagne toast at midnight, the hugs, the kisses, and all things we associate with New Year’s Eve. It really made us feel like we were at home.

Even with all the similarities between home and Buenos Aires during the holidays, there were plenty of differences, too. For starters, it’s summer here. So the weather is a bit different than we’re used to for December 31. Shorts and t-shirts usually aren’t part of the attire. The fact that we ate dinner sitting out on a screened in porch, drinking red wine and eating empanadas was a bit out of the ordinary as well.

And the fireworks, oh, the fireworks. I wrote about the fireworks displays on Christmas Even, but those paled in comparison. It was nonstop, all around us, putting the Fourth of July to shame. There were all types of fireworks, big and small, but the type we liked the most were called Globos. The best way to explain a Globo is that it is kind of like a mini hot air balloon.

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After a huge dinner and desert, the actual ringing in of the New Year, the fireworks, and even more snacks, wine, and champagne, it was unfortunately time for us to leave.  Maru’s brother, Matti, was kind enough to be our designated driver and drive us back to our apartment on his way out for the “evening” (I hesitate to call it “evening” because it was about 2:15am).

We didn’t get back to our place until close to 3am, exhausted, full of food and wine, and happy.  Happy to have had such a wonderful evening.  Happy to have met some great, friendly people, happy to have a bit of normalcy back in our lives (or what counts for normalcy for us these days), and just happy and thankful to be doing what it is we’re doing.  This trip, although the best thing either of has ever done, can get a bit tough at times, but nights like  these remind us of how lucky and blessed we are to be able to travel like this.

So thank you Maru and family for an unforgettable evening.  It will be forever etched in our memories.  Happy New Year’s everyone!!

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It’s been a while since we’ve last updated, and there are several reasons for that. Mainly it’s that we’ve just been busy being, well, being not very busy, if that makes any sense at all.

We did so much and moved at such a fast pace for the first 2+ months of our trip that we are just enjoying being in one place, having our own apartment (with our own kitchen!!), that we are just getting back to a kind of normalcy (as much as that is possible being that we’re in a city of 12 million people in December, where the temperature is in the 90’s).

But I digress. We have been in BA for about a week and half. Christmas was a great time, albeit a bit weird, again this whole weather thing is really throwing us off. How can it be Christmas and New Year’s, and we have to have the air conditioner on in our apartment? It just doesn’t seem right.

We did end up having a wonderful little Christmas though, complete with a staggering amount of fireworks when it hit midnight on Christmas Eve, a la the Fourth of July. It was an interesting way to see Christmas celebrated. But we also got a chance to Skype and talk to a lot of our family, which was awesome and made being away for the holidays a bit easier.

We had a great steak dinner at “home” on Christmas Eve, then wandered around the city on Christmas Day, knowing that it would most likely be the least crowded the city would be. It was nice to get to see the city without all the pedestrians, cars, buses, and cabs that normally zip around Buenos Aires on a given day.

We have also been taking Spanish classes for the past week, which have been great and really challenging. We have been going for four hours a day and coming home with our heads spinning from all the new information. It’s a slow process, but the fact that we are hearing only Spanish (our instructors speak Spanish, even when trying to explain things that we are confused about) for those four hours a day is helping us immensely with getting used to the language. It’s been a great experience, and the people at the small school we are going to are great.

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First Day of School

Tonight, we were lucky enough to be invited to our friend Maru’s parents’ house for New Year’s Eve. Maru is a friend of our good friend Angie, and she is a porteno, or native of Buenos Aires. We’ve hung out with her several times so far, and she has been so gracious and welcoming. When Maru was telling her parents about us and how long we were staying here, her mom insisted on inviting us to their New Year’s Even festivities. It’s a little different here in that most people hang out with their families until late, around 1 or 2am, then the younger people head out with their friends until the wee hours of the morning.

Not sure if we’re in the younger demographic anymore and will be doing that, but we are so very grateful for the invitation to the get-together, and it will be a great experience for us to see how a different culture celebrates the holidays. Not to mention that we’ll get a chance to really use our Spanish as Maru is the only person in her family who speaks English. It should be a great night!!

One more thing to catch everyone up on is our itinerary. Until now, we were working on a very rough itinerary that didn’t have much planned. When we got to BA, we knew we were going to have to start making some decisions because we were heading to Patagonia next, and it’s high season, so things book up in advance. So we have been spending a lot of time researching exactly where we want to go in Patagonia. We are starting to solidify some plans, but nothing is set in stone, yet. We’ll update as soon as we get some things booked.

But we do have some exciting news about our plans for after Patagonia. We had been kicking around several different ideas for after Buenos Aires. First, it was spend a month in Patagonia, then head up to Ecuador and Colombia before heading to SE Asia. Then we cut Ecuador and Colombia because it was just too out of the way. Then we were talking about coming home for a week or so before SE Asia because it would have been cheaper to fly home first than to fly straight from here (for some reason flights from S. America to SE Asia are ridiculously expensive). Then we started kicking around New Zealand. Then Colombia came back into the picture because we have heard absolutely nothing but GREAT things about that country. Seriously, everyone who we have met who has traveled extensively around S. America and been to Colombia has stated Colombia as their favorite place. And people are starting to catch on and realize that it’s not the dangerous drug haven it once was, and it’s going to become a tourist destination sooner rather than later. So by going now, we would be catching Colombia at a special time, and we feel we can’t pass that up.

So after an entire afternoon of checking different carriers and all of our options, we were lucky enough to stumble on a series of flights that will take us to several new destinations that we are really excited about. And we booked our flights yesterday, so the next phase of our trip is starting to come together.

Now we will leave Buenos Aires on January 19th. We will have 42 days in Patagonia, both the Argentine and Chilean side, until we have to be in Santiago, Chile on March 4. From Santiago we will fly to Bogota, Colombia (by way of Miami… how convenient), where we will have a little less than a month in Colombia. I can’t tell you how excited we are of going to Colombia.

Next, we fly from Bogota to LA on April 3rd and 4th, with a one night layover in Miami. Then on April 4th, we fly to Auckland, New Zealand, where we will have a little over a month. New Zealand came into play when we cut Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, thus freeing up some money because of the expense of the Galapagos. We figured that there probably won’t be a time soon when we can spend a month traveling around New Zealand in a spaceship (and what is a spaceship? you may ask, well, check out the website, http://www.spaceships.tv/; it’s our mode of transportation and our “home” for a month in New Zealand).

After New Zealand, it will be off to Bangkok, Thailand, where we just found out my Mom and sister will be joining us for TWO weeks, which is really, really exciting for us.

All of this means that we definitely will not be coming home for a mid-year break, which sucks. But honestly, as much as we would have loved to come home for a week or so, it really would have been difficult to leave again and head back out on the road. And besides, next October will be here soon enough, and then we’ll be there for good.

Sorry for the length of this post, but you know me, I can be a bit long-winded at times, and it’s been a while since we’ve updated.

We both send a Happy New Year’s to everyone back home and anyone else who might be reading this. We love and miss you all, and we will no doubt be thinking of all of you at midnight tonight (8pm your time, so give us a toast around that time if you think of it ;)).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! And here’s to a healthy, wonderful, and exciting 2009!!!

~Adam

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Our humble abode

Our humble abode

Full Disclosure: I haven’t been able to listen to the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” without getting misty eyed.  (OK, full disclosure: I haven’t actually made it all the way through the song, yet. I have to turn it off before the description “misty-eyed” is replaced by “blubbering mess.”)  We knew before we left on this trip that being away for the holiday season was going to be tough.  So we decided that we would choose a place to call home for the holidays–a place we could unpack our bags, get to know the neighborhood, find favorite restaurants, basically just get comfortable.

We have now been in Buenos Aires for three days, and we couldn’t be more excited about our decision. We are staying in a studio apartment in San Telmo, one of the few barrios in the city that still features a significant amount of colonial architecture. This gives the neighborhood a much more old-world feel than many other parts of the city.

Lucky for us, the inside of our apartment doesn’t continue the old-world vibe–it has a full wall of sliding glass doors that open out on to a balcony and another full wall of exposed brick, giving it a modern feel. Even more exciting for us, it has a kitchen! A kitchen that doesn’t have anyone else’s food or dirty dishes in it! A kitchen we don’t have to share with any other backpackers! A full. sized. refrigerator. One that we can put our groceries in and not have to label or hope that someone else doesn’t eat them. This is our new definition of luxury 🙂

Adam, hard at work

Adam, hard at work

Adam is back in his element and we’re having a great time experimenting with the local dishes. Behold, our attempt at empanadas (savory pastries), an Argentinian specialty:

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Homemade Empanadas

More Empanadas

More Empanadas

I promise we’ve actually done more interesting things than unpack and cook, though.  We had a wonderful day on Saturday with a new friend who was just fantastic–she showed us around the town, we drank entirely too much delicious wine and ate entirely too much delicious food, had lots of laughs and learned some solidly offensive insults in Castellano (Espanol to everyone but the Argentines).  It was a great day and an amazing start to our time in Buenos Aires.

Tomorrow morning we begin Spanish lessons, so hopefully within the next few weeks, we should be able to communicate beyond our recently-acquire ability to say very unkind things about your mom.  🙂

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