A Final Weekend in Buenos Aires

Yes, We’re Moving On Again

We’ve arrived at the part of the journey where we begin to say, “We still haven’t done …” At this point, we typically make a list of sites, restaurants and other attractions we have seen in our wanderings and said, “We need to go there,” but haven’t yet done so. Since we leave Saturday morning, we took advantage of the weekend to go on two death marches (one scheduled and one accidental).

But first, I want to mention that Tamar and I went to Teatro Colón to see Tosca. By the time we bought our tickets, there was only standing room only left. I was a little worried about standing up for that long, but I figured we could always leave early since there are three acts. I was worried about nothing. The first act, which was about 45 minutes, flew by so fast, I didn’t even think about being uncomfortable. We could see the whole stage from where we were and the theater is known for excellent acoustics so that wasn’t a problem either. I know nothing about opera, but it was magical. For me it was the combination of the singing, sets, acting and costumes. I don’t know if I will ever listen to opera, but I would definitely go again.

Saturday, we headed to Tigre, a small town just north of the city that sits at the mouth of the Paraná Delta. After a bit of confusion about getting tickets, including waiting on the wrong line with an equally confused Canadian couple, we found out that our Subte cards were already loaded and ready to go. There are two different trains to take: One is just a commuter line and the other travels along the river and into Buenos Aires’ fanciest neighborhoods. We thought we would take the coastal train out and the commuter train back, but we ended up at the wrong station, so we cheerfully took the commuter train.

About an hour later, we disembarked at the station, walked out and saw a McDonald’s. Sigh. We had decided to take a boat ride (thank you scopalamine) so after getting tourist information from the town employees who hang around for that very purpose, we went over to the docks and chose a tour. It’s very casual and there’s no need to book ahead, so we wandered over to a kiosk and bought tickets for a boat leaving shortly. For about 75-minutes we cruised around various canals and rivers looking at the houses and trees. We enjoyed it, although it was difficult to hear the taped narration.

Everyone’s a futbol fan during World Cup

For lunch, we sat by the river and enjoyed burgers. Tigre has a couple of museums, an amusement park and a crafts market that was once the fruit market. Many people use it as a jumping off point for more water sports adventure. We walked around a bit more, but didn’t have a lot of interest in the museums, so we decided to check out the crafts market and then head back on the coastal train. We’re not good shoppers, so we walked by some of the booths an shops and decided to head back. By this time, Argentina’s World Cup match had begun so it was eerily quiet, except around the restaurants that had the match on.

Here’s where the accidental death march comes into play: The coast train doesn’t go all the way back to BA. You have to switch to another line. No problem. We saw the river beaches and expensive houses along the way and were able to find the train platform easily and get a score update — 0-0. We saw a train pulling out as we arrived. Really? It couldn’t wait 2 minutes to allow for the connection? No, the trains in Argentina run on time. We waited about 40 minutes, got on the train and then realized it wasn’t going all the way back to the closest stop to us. Can you guess what happened? You are right. We decided to walk the rest of the way, which was about 6.4 km or just shy of 4 miles. All along the route, people were cheering. I think we were the only ones who weren’t wearing futbol gear.

There was no big Saturday night out after that. We didn’t even eat dinner. Just popcorn and some peanuts. Futbol snacks in honor of the face-saving win.

We had a reservation for a nice all-you-can eat restaurant, Gourmet Porteño, on Sunday. Of course, we decided to walk even though it was a bit more than 4 miles. The restaurant is at the south end of the restaurant row in Puerto Madero. We had been there once before, but it was rainy and chilly and the Puente de la Mujer was closed. This time we lucked out. Not only was it a beautiful late spring day, but the bridge was open, so I got to walk across it. It’s just a bridge, but the views were pretty.

We arrived at the restaurant hungry and a bit warm, but there was AC and plenty of food. I thought it was going to be brunch, but it was lunch, so no omelets or waffles, but plenty of … you guessed it: Meat! There was also pizza, pasta, sushi, salads, sandwiches and, of course, desserts! We had a leisurely meal and then headed over to San Telmo, which is a giant, crazy street market full of my new favorite Spanish word: tanteria, or crap. Among the flea markety items were also nice art, plenty of mate gear, leather goods, jewelry … anyway, you get the idea. Of course, we bought nothing (23 kilos is our rallying cry). If I were on a two-week vacation and heading home, I might have bought a couple of things, but the storage locker and our suitcases are full enough. We walked the full length of the market, which extended for what seemed like miles but was probably 6 blocks, and then resumed our death march back to the apartment. (total distance for this weekend’s death marches – 20.8miles)

Today, cousin Robin arrives in preparation for our very exciting actual vacation in Patagonia! We fly out Saturday morning.

A traditional Thanksgiving?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S., so my work was closed. Sue and I decided that since we had been back in Buenos Aires for three whole days, it was important for us to leave again – no more accurately, we decided that since we had a free day, we would head to Uruguay. There is a little town called Colonia del Sacramento just across the river Uruguay from Buenos Aries and there are ferries that run back and forth every hour or so. Sue got us tickets for a 10:30 a.m. outward bound ferry and an 18:00 (6 p.m.) ferry back.

As many of you might remember, Sue gets terribly seasick, just looking at the water. She has scopolamine patches that really help her but have the side effect of making her terribly thirsty. She put on her patch the night before and in the morning we headed for the ferry. We sat out in the sunshine at the back of the boat and enjoyed the breeze and the rays. It has turned quite warm here and ride to Colonia took an hour and a half, and was very enjoyable.

We disembarked and walked around the town. We were expecting a cute little tourist town, with colorful buildings and a nice little central square. It was quite disappointing. First, the town is fairly run down, I guess the pandemic has taken its toll. Second, many of the places were closed, we suspect because Uruguay was playing in the world cup that morning. We made of the best of what was there, wandering through the town and walking along the river. Sometime around 2 o’clock we sat down and had lunch on the terrace of a little restaurant that overlooked the river.

After lunch we wandered some more, but by 4 p.m. we were done, and headed back to the ferry terminal to await our return trip. Once again we sat outside in the back of the ferry and enjoyed the breeze and sunshine. We both agreed that the best part of the trip was the boat ride. We cleared immigration in Argentina for the fourth and final time during this trip and headed back the AirBnB.

We had a quick change and headed out for dinner. We were meeting Marco at 9 p.m. at La Cabrera, one of Buenos Aires’ best steak restaurants. I believe the total count of vegetarian entrées on the menu was two. One was pasta, the other was grilled vegetables – and that may have been a side dish, not a real entrée. Not surprisingly, Marco and I each had a huge hunk of meat, while Sue had grilled vegetables. The food, wine and desserts were all great and finished up the meal right about on schedule – three hours after we sat down.

Today, we took a bit of time and made reservations for a weekend trip to the Atacama desert in Chile. It looks amazing and is the driest non-polar desert in the world. We will write more about that once it gets closer.

This coming weekend is our last in Buenos Aries before we head to Patagonia so we are going to pack a lot in.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the U.S.

Family Fun Time

Boy, they really know how to eat meat in Porto Alegre (Yes they do!! YUM)! Aside from that, Vitor and family went all out entertaining us and making sure there was never a dull moment.

Vitor wanted to show us how beautiful the sunset is over the river Jacuí, so we went to Cais Embarcadero, which is a park along the river with restaurants and bars (and an Insta sign, of course). We got there with perfect timing and the sunset was gorgeous. One thing we have learned is that a sense of time is not a Brazilian strong suit. We decided to eat dinner there and were given an estimate of one hour to get a table … more than two hours later, with me and Alexia in desperate need of food (they were talking about eating the barstools) , we were seated. Phew. Meat (and a veggie burger) did the trick. At least it was worth the wait and the company was excellent, as usual.

Friday night, we went to Sargent Peppers, where the house band — yes, you guessed it, the Lonely Heart’s Club Band — plays covers of ’80s and ’90s music include a few Brazilian pop tunes. There were 10 of us and we sang, danced and ate (mostly meat). The band was a lot of fun, but for me, the highlights were the man who sells roses on the street who showed up at the beginning of the second set and sang three classic Brazilian tunes and the fact that all the waiters get on stage and sing Hey Jude with the band.

The Rose Man Singeth

In case you were wondering about the playlist, here is pretty much the first set:

  • Betty Davis Eyes
  • Stand by Me
  • Every Breath You Take
  • I Will Survive (sung by a very large Brazilian man; it was a little discordant)
  • Sultans of Swing
  • Swept Away
  • Sugar
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • Pride (In the Name of Love)
  • Don’t Look Back in Anger
  • Don’t Stop Me Now
  • Don’t You (Forget About Me)
  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • With or Without You
  • Watermelon Sugar
  • Memories
  • Believe
Na na na nananana nananana Hey Jude

The second set had more Brazilian tunes, but here are the songs you will know. (Admit it, you know all these songs.)

  • Hey Jude
  • Under Pressure
  • Let’s Dance
  • Dancing with Myself
  • Psycho Killer
  • Titanium
  • Suspicious Minds
  • Dancing Queen

They were still playing when we called it a night at around 1:30 .

Saturday, we headed back to the beach. Well, back to the beach for me, but for Steven it was the first trip since someone around here has to support our crazy lifestyle. It was supposed to be very hot and it may well have been in Porto Alegre, but the gale-force winds were blowing at the beach so it was a little chilly, but very relaxing, especially when there’s a hammock. Steven loves a good hammock. They are nap-inducing.

Vitor’s friend Marcelo invited us for coffee after he joined us for lunch (guess what Vitor made (the steaks he BBQ’d at the beach were amazing!) so we could see his beach house. In case he forgets, he said, “Mi casa es su casa,” so if we ever want to go back, we can stay in one of the six bedroom suites and maybe even invite all our friends. Thanks, Marcelo 😉 Marcelo also told us that the beach, Praia do Cassino, is the world’s longest at 254 km (about 150 miles).

The one downside of the brisk wind was that we were a bit too chilly to hang out to stargaze. We still haven’t seen the southern cross, but we have time.

We decided on sushi for dinner (we being Alexia and I), but the boys wanted burgers because they hadn’t had enough meat at lunch (while the steaks were delicious, according to Vitor, if it doesn’t have bacon, then it is a light meal – and there was no bacon). The hamburgers they got were only slightly smaller than an LP in diameter. They typically come with cheese, an egg, peas, corn, onion, lettuce, and tomato. If that’s not enough, feel free to add bacon. It’s hardly a surprise that there was a bit of meat left over.

Meat, left; meat, center; Steven eats meat, right.

Vitor cooks meat (well, lamb meat) for our last night in Porto Alegre.

Sunday, we went to an art fair in Parque Farroupilha. It’s a huge park that houses an small amusement park, trails, the weekly art fair, and a Saturday farm market among other attractions. There, Steven bought a meat knife. He is very proud of it, so don’t be surprised if he cooks you meat the next time he sees you just so he can show off his knife (OMG! it is a fabulous knife! Vitor explained the knife rules: 1. Never use the knife to cut vegetables especially onions- that is a sacrilege. 2. Never use the knife to cut raw meat -use a stainless steel knife for that. 3. (This one was for Sue) – you can’t use the knife on the owner to cut their throat when they are sleeping, even if they are snoring, just use the pillow.

Our fabulous host, Vitor, bought me a mate cup that is really beautiful. I really enjoy mate, but not just for the drink, but because of the ritual that goes with it. I hope I find some other mate drinkers when we settle down. The mate in Brazil is different from the Argentine mate. It’s got a lighter flavor and greener color. I’m not going to play favorites, though. I like them both.

You’re never going to guess what happened after the art fair. Try not to faint. … We went to a vegetarian restaurant! It was an all-you-can-eat buffet and it was delicious! It’s a good thing everyone ate a light lunch because our last dinner was another meatfest. While the giant leg of lamb and rack of lamb ribs were cooking, everyone “snacked” on sausage that contained cheese.

We got to say goodbye to everyone, including Vitor’s brother, sister-in-law and one of their kids while we shared good food and wine. It was a fitting ending to a very family-oriented week. We had a blast and are thinking maybe we should learn Portuguese next. (That is the imperial we meaning Sue. I am unlikely to manage to learn enough Spanish to order in a restaurant, let alone actually hold a conversation).

Thanks to Vitor, Alexia, Alice, and Lucas for opening their homes, showing us around their city and state, and putting up with our TERRIBLE attempts to pronounce Portuguese words.

Ciao for now, Porto Alegre.

Family, Friends, Food and Football

This weekend was all about family. When I was in college, my parents hosted an exchange student from Porto Alegre, Brazil, named Vitor. Our families have been close ever since and we think of Vitor and his family as our family. My mother decided that for her 85th birthday she wanted to visit Vitor and his family. Sue and I had already planned to be in Buenos Aires and so we quickly agreed to hop a flight and join her and her traveling partner, my sister, Judie. 

Tonight’s cast of characters:

  • My mother: Turned 85 on Saturday and is still walking 3 miles a day
  • Judie: My much younger sister (she and Sue are the same age – currently 39 and holding) Judie is MUCH older than I am. She was born in April; I, in June.
  • Vitor: Our brother from another mother and chief host of the insanity that is to follow
  • Alexia: Vitor’s fabulous wife who is smarter, better looking and in every way better than Vitor
  • Alice: Alexia aad Vitor’s daughter; she has recently passed the Brazilian equivalent of the bar and is beyond wonderful. She speaks fluent English and is happy to help everyone with everything.
  • Lucas: Alexia and Vitor’s son; He always has a smile and is just starting at college. As a teenage boy, he has an appetite that doesn’t end.
  • Bruno: Alice’s boyfriend who is also a lawyer, speaks immaculate English but has two strikes against him in my book because 1) he drinks Budweiser and 2) is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

…and now back to our story…

Mom and Judie arrived on Thursday morning. For reasons we cannot recall, Sue and I decided to book our flight on Friday at 5:30 AM (IN THE MORNING). We figured that we would get to the airport at about 4, as we didn’t expect that it would be crowded. Boy were we wrong! Luckily Aerolineas Argentina has a “great” system. Everyone waits on huge lines until your flight is about to depart and they call up your flight and you bypass the line. At about 4:45 they called our flight; we bypassed the rest of our our line, checked in and were on our way. Boarding started at 5:10 and amazingly we left on time for the 90-minute trip to Brazil.

4 a.m. at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, a smaller Buenos Aires airport. Boy, do I look sleepy!

Vitor picked us up at the airport, whisked us to our AirBnB and then to his place. We met up with everyone and then piled into two cars for a trip to a winery called Casa Valduga, about 90 minutes away. We arrived at lunchtime and headed for their restaurant. The food is served continuously, by which I mean the waiters carry trays of food from table to table and you can take or not as you choose. I was not aware of this when the service started, so by the time we reached the seventh or eight dish, all of it either meat or pasta, I was struggling. The food was fabulous, and I was very full. Luckily, after lunch, we headed to a winery named Casa Miolo for a tour and some tasting. It was nice to walk around and stretch our legs. The tour was in Portuguese, but come on, it is a winery, so we all know what they do and how they do it. After the tour and tasting were done, we headed back to Vitor and Alexia’s house and relaxed for the evening.

Saturday was my mother’s birthday party, so preparations needed to be made. Vitor ran here there and everywhere getting meat, meat and more meat. Alexia made salads, vegetables, tabouleh and potato salad. The rest of the cast tried to help or just stay out of the way. The party was held in a party room at Bruno’s parents’ apartment building. Many of Vitor’s family and friends showed up and quite a few spoke enough English to have conversations, which is really great because my Portuguese is even worse than my Spanish, which is nearly non-existent. The “boys” (Vitor, Bruno, and Bruno’s dad and brother) fired up the indoor BBQ (what a great invention!)  and promptly roasted approximately one full herd of cattle.  The challenge tonight was to try each different cut of beef without bursting – it was a tough challenge, but I rose to the occasion. Sue was of no help whatsoever as she is a vegetarian. The party lasted until after midnight and everyone was exhausted by the time we got back. I would like to take a quick moment to say how welcoming everyone was. Many had never met us nor my mother, but that didn’t seem to make a bit of difference to them. In their minds, we are friends of Vitor and Alexia and therefore we are friends of theirs. It is so nice to make new friends.

Luckily for us, Vitor planned a quiet day of football on Sunday. In the morning, we watched American football on TV (there was a game being played in Germany, so it was on early in the day). We had a “light” meal of about 30 pounds of pasta and Alice’s wonderful homemade sauce. Then we hopped into the cars and headed for the nearest 50,000-person stadium to see the last game of the season of SC Inter. We sat in some box seats behind the goal and what we in the U.S. would call the bleacher bums. The area by the goals is all standing room only and the crowd sings and chants the entire game. Inter scored their first goal after 11 minutes and then piled on, winning 3-0. I hope the videos give you some idea of the electricity in the stadium.

Goal #3
The bleacher bums sing and chant the entire game

After the match we retired back to Vitor’s and watched more American football and had beer, wings and pizza – because we hadn’t eaten enough the previous few hours/days. Somewhere around midnight, we called it a weekend.

For those of you trying to keep track of where are/will be here is our schedule for the next few months:

11/15 – 11/21 (or 15/11 – 21/11 depending on how you read dates) – Porto Alegre Brazil

11/21-12/3 (21/11 – 3/12) – Buenos Aires

12/3 – 12/17 (3/12-17/12) – various stops in Patagonia

12/17 – 1/26/23 (17/12 – 1/26/23) Santiago Chile.

Un blog especial para los profesores de ingles

This blog is mostly in Spanish, but you can use Google translate 🙂 It’s for English teachers because it’s that nameless exercise where someone writes a sentence, covers it up and passes it down the line. Here’s the version TJ, another student and I created yesterday:

Una noche oscura

“Los adolescentes caminaban por la ciudad y estaba muy oscuro. 

Ellos buscaban una fiesta donde su amigo Baba estaba tocando música pero no lo encontraba. 

De repente hubo un sonido muy raro. Parecía venir desde una casa abandonada en la calle. Un minuto después, el sonido vino de nuevo, más fuerte e intenso. 

Pronto, una chicago corrió por la calle y gritó, “Ayudenme, ayudenme!” 

Y después de esto todos tenían mucha hambre y caminaron a un restaurante que conocían pero este restaurante está cerrado … por muchos meses … pero había abierto ayer! 

Por quererte, acababa de llorar y con la vuelta del sol, hacía calor y había mucha luz, los problemas del pasado desaparecieron y todos siguieron con el día con calma. Así es un día típico en Buenos Aires.”

Espero que lo disfruten. That’s subjunctive because I don’t know if you will or you won’t. If I knew that you would, I would use the indicative.

Marco … Polo!

Since our friends Marco and Barbara graciously took us to the peña, we decided to respond in kind with a trip to a polo (one l – two ll’s would make it pollo -which is chicken!) match since the Argentine Open (Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo) was starting. The polo grounds are smack in the middle of Buenos Aires and about a 30-minutes walk from our apartment. Because we have such a deep knowledge of the sport, which is very popular in Argentina, we decided we should definitely invite our Argentinian friends. They also had extensive polo knowledge (equal to our, which was zero).

A few days before the match, I looked up the rules, which seemed to be: There are four players on horses and they try to hit the ball between the sticks using a mallet (called a taco here). Wow, we were so confused. That’s it???? As baseball fans, we knew it had to be way more complicated. The rest of the rules were thus:

  • You can’t ride the same horse for too long (Yay!)
  • There are four or six or eight chukkers of 6 1/2 minutes and then the bell rings and they play 30 seconds more.
  • The pitch is 300 yards long and 200 yards wide unless it is boarded (which these were) and then it is 160 yards wide.
  • You can’t put the mallet in your left hand (although you can hit from the left side using your right hand)
  • You can nudge a horse and rider away from the ball if you are parallel
  • Every time a team scores they switch sides of the pitch.

Most of the penalties involve actions that would endanger horse and rider, so the angle of approach to another horse is very important. You cannot intersect the imaginary line of the ball unless you’re so far away that it doesn’t really matter. The worse infractions are basically a free goal for the offended team because they put the ball right in front of the sticks and no one can defend. Other penalties may mean a free pass at various field positions. It’s also forbidden to hit another player’s taco above the horse’s height or underneath the horse.

Two referees ride on the pitch, and a third acts as the final word.

Simple! We figured we would absolutely know what was going on.

We didn’t realize that there were two matches, so we arrived in time for the first, which was played on the smaller of the two pitches. We were very confused, because we were told we could sit anywhere except a special middle section (which was mostly empty and stayed that way) and we had numbered seats. OK, it’s Argentina, said Marco and Barbara.

I chose a side, which immediately was down by a goal. We could see well enough, but it took a little time to acclimate. By then, Las Esquinas, my guys (yes, they were all guys), were down by several goals. The basics were simple to follow, but penalties or play setup — not so much. We cheered with the crowd and decided that we definitely loved polo AND that our tickets allowed us to watch the second match on the nicer pitch (we got a polo twofer).

La Esquina lost to Cria la Dolfina, 9-5 (this is why we don’t let Sue bet on sports).

Lunchtime! The polo stadium (arena, whatever?) was really nice. I guess the rich folks who enjoy polo also enjoy decent food (including veggie options), pleasant seating and clean surroundings. I couldn’t resist the pepas, which are shortbread cookies with a jelly center, except Marco said these were gourmet style. The jelly was fresh, not congealed like you would get if you bought packaged pepas. Well worth it. (Marco, Tamar and I all had the traditional choripan – a sandwich made from chopped sirloin steak – Yum!)

After eating, it was off to the second match (but be warned that if you want to take your beer to your seat, you will have to hide it somewhere). This time, our seats were up high (sorry Steven, although you were a great sport)(for those of you who are familiar with the stadium that White Sox play in – this grandstand was steeper than the third deck) and we could really see the plays developing — or maybe the teams were better. We let Marco pick who to root for, and he chose Ellerstina over La Irenita. If I were you, I would follow Marco’s picks.

We were totally into it and even were able to pick up on why penalties were happened. Score one for us! Perhaps the best part of the second match was that Marco and Barbara broke out the mate(a traditional Argentine warm drink – a little like herbal tea). I was a little afraid it was going to taste like dirt because I have had it before and it tasted like dirt, but there’s was very good and we learned all about the ritual of mate. (If you say “gracias” you’re not getting any more. That’s the signal that you are done.) I’ll save the full mate lecture for another blog.

As we sat, the shadows from the apartment building next door grew diagonally across the pitch and the wind kicked up. By the time the seventh chukker came around, we were chilly, but we knew we could last another 15 minutes, so we stuck it out to the end of this incredibly close match. Marco’s Ellerstina won by the slim margin of 16-8. At one point, we were trying to describe the slaughter rule in Spanish to Marco and Barbara.

We think since it was the beginning of the tourney, we were watching low seeds against high seeds, but what do we know. Maybe the scores are always lopsided. At any rate, we had a blast! If you’re so inclined, there’s an Argentina Polo Channel on YouTube.

(The finals are on December 2nd – so maybe we will see another round.)

Dance Party! (and there’s more)

Cacio e pepe in the making!

Wow, did we have a busy weekend. Our friend Tamar arrived Wednesday so now we have another partner in this adventure. But even before I get to the dance party, I have to tell you about the very best dessert, which I had following fabulous cacio e pepe (yes, I had extreme dog belly, but it was worth it) on Thursday night. I love chocolate. I really love chocolate mousse. When I heard that I could have the special chocolate mousse at La Locanda, I leapt at the chance. I thought it sounded odd because they add salt, pepper, and olive oil to the already delicious treat BUT, porque no? So I ordered it. First, the waiter had us try the standard chocolate mousse before he put in the extra ingredients and it was really yummy. Then, he salted, peppered, oiled, and stirred. OMG! It was creamy and amazing. Try it!

OK, on to the weekend. Our friends Marco and Barbara invited us to a peña. We had no idea what it was, but we said yes and we are very glad we did. It’s a community dance party (think the kind of dance party they had during the 1940s big band era) where everyone dances traditional Argentine dances to live music. This being Argentina, it doesn’t even start until after 10 p.m., so we wisely had an afternoon siesta. Marco and Barbara picked us up and after learning that open 24 hours does not mean the parking lot is really open 24 hours, we found a parking lot and walked over. The room has a big dance floor against a stage. There’s a small bar where you can get water, beer, wine and, of course, empanadas and pizza. Folding with tables and chairs frame the edges of the dance floor. During the week, dance lessons are offered.

We arrived in time to take the dance lesson before the peña even officially starts (and remember we arrived at 10!), so we were total experts after one hour of learning five or six difference dances. Sure thing. At the end of the class, we snaked around the room hand-in-hand in that classic of all cultures where you try to whip the end of the line by moving faster and faster and making tighter turns until everyone is just laughing. There was also a hora-ish circle dance — another staple of party dancing.

During the class, we learned (to say I learned would be a very large overstatement) the chacarera, gato, chacarera doble, escondido, and a few others. Most involved dancing facing a partner and then dancing to and around them in various steps. Apparently, we were dancing stories, but we were happy to sort of get our feet going in the right direction. In one of the dances (I don’t remember it’s name), we were lined up with women facing the men and when we met and crossed the lines over, we held our fists up. Barbara said the dance originated as a show of strength between tribes.

One dance we could manage was a couple’s dance — take two steps one way and one step the other (umm…we mostly managed, but I kept losing the count when my mind would wander). Excellent! Even simpler than a box step. We were pretty good at that one. But let’s just say that Marco is a great teacher and we enjoyed ourselves even if we ended up the wrong way round many times.

The first band had 10 members who played several different horns, piano, guitar, bandoneón (like a small accordion), and drums. If you could stop yourself from dancing, more power to you. After a break, a second band with a singer who had a fabulous voice played. We danced and talked and had a great time. We also got to see excellent dancers doing the samba, the zamba, and other dances that even Marcos wouldn’t do without more lessons. We learned that the samba has very specific moves and the partners signal each other with handkerchiefs. (the video below is Sue and Tamar doing the chacarera)

What made it so amazing was not the music or the dancing, it was the community atmosphere and joy. The crowd ranged from 20-somethings to oldies (even older than us) and everyone was on their feet. Sometimes the dance floor was so crowded, bumping one another was inevitable, but everyone was laughing about it.

The second band finished up at about 3 a.m., but we could have kept on dancing. (At least I could have, I’ll let Steven tell you how he felt. (Old, but not particularly tired. ) We did sleep well that night, but that didn’t mean we lounged about on Saturday. No way. Too much to do.

Every weekend, artisans set up shop in a pedestrian area right outside Cementeria de la Recoleta where Eva Peron is buried. We walked over and perused the arts and crafts at a local outdoor market before heading into the cemetery. When we got to the gate, an attendant asked us if we were Argentinian. When we said no, she said, Ooooh and ducked her head as if she were so sorry that we were unfortunate enough to have been born elsewhere.

The cemetery is all paved and originally we thought it was all above ground. It is full of grand mausoleums, but some of the graves are underground (some you can look in and see the coffins, others you see stairs going down). Anyway, being unfortunate enough not to be Argentinian (we must have done something bad in a previous life), we didn’t really know anyone else to visit besides Evita, but we wandered around anyway because there were many cool photos to be taken (Apparently before she was interred in her family’s crypt, her body had a unusual time — including being displayed in her husband’s dining room for a while — read about it here).

We grabbed some empanadas for lunch at a deli and ate in the glorious sunshine, did some errands, and Steven and Tamar had plates of meat for dinner. I had pasta.

I’m going to leave Sunday’s adventure for the next blog, since Tamar and I are starting Spanish classes tomorrow at the ridiculous hour of 8:30 a.m.

Bridging Valhalla, Italy, China and Argentina

Another weekend, another 30 or so miles in what Steven affectionately calls our death marches (affectionately??? they are pleas for help!). We don’t necessarily do it on purpose, but we want to see everything. Typically we intend to walk somewhere and then take public transit (here it is the Subte) back. But then, we think to ourselves, “Selves, we may as well just walk back!” and so we do.

I wanted to do something touristic (as they say here), so we got tickets to a tango show. Once that plan was in place, we looked in the area for a restaurant since the show started at 10:15 p.m. and we opted out of their meal option. Always a good choice. You can get a much better meal for less if you don’t eat at the show and you don’t mind being a bit farther from the stage. We decided to walk and wanted to do so in the light since we didn’t know if walking there after dark would be safe.

Of course, Steven happened to find a Viking bar, Valhalla, nearby and we love a stupid theme, so that was first on our hit parade (where else would you want to go to a Viking bar – only a place that is literally on the other side of the world!). As you would expect, they had drinks with Norse names. Steven had a Thor and I, a Wessex. They were fine, but the real excitement was the fur-covered throne and props for picture-taking. The Thor comes in a plastic horn, what else? Since we got there well before Argentinians begin to head out (ie before 9 pm), they were still setting up the kegs, etc. so we drank up and headed for a classic Argentine meal: Italian food.

We went to D’Oro, mostly because it was a short walk from there to the tango theater, but yum! If you’re looking for good Italian and happen to be in Miami, they have an outpost there. I’m not sure why Italian restaurants in Buenos Aires also open in Miami (see our last Italian food adventure) unless it’s the nonstop flights, but we enjoyed a hearty meal of appetizers and pasta, plus a delicious glass of wine each. The waiter was so kind as to explain the difficult stuff in English, too, although I think my restaurant Spanish is doing well. By the way, in case you are wondering, the service is not included in the bill, which every waiter in BA will tell you.

I’m glad we went to El Querandi tango show, but as Steven put it, an hour and 15 minutes was plenty. At this show, they cycled through the different eras of tango with video vignettes to introduce them. A band consisting of piano, bass, accordion and violin played while the dancers changed costumes, sometimes accompanied by singers. We got a bottle of wine with the ticket, but, to put it nicely, it was not nearly as good as the wine from D’Oro, so we let it sit and drank agua con gas. The only hiccup in our night was that we had a bit of trouble finding a cab. We thought that was odd, but we also aren’t really sure of the best spots to grab one and we can’t get Cabify (the most used ride app here) to work with our US credit card. Uber is not as popular, but after 10 or so minutes, we did get a driver.

Saturday

We meant to go for a (relatively) short walk to Barrio Chino, but after being puzzled by the lack of an entertainment center, we decided to take a detour. I had read that Palermo Soho (we are in Palermo, but it is a huge area split into many neighborhoods) was the happening area, so off we went. I can confirm that, yes, Palermo Soho is hipstery. We ran into a big festival. I’m not sure if it was a gay pride theme, but there was a huge gay pride component. Good to see. Everywhere here there are artisans selling their goods and this was no exception. Restaurants and bars lined the streets and people were out enjoying the spring sunshine. We will definitely head back there, but this time we kept walking to our real destination — only an hour away.

Wherever we are, we like the food comforts of home and that means Asian food! We figured we would hit a Chinese restaurant and then the Asian grocery for supplies. Of course, once we were loaded down with groceries, we would take the Subte or a taxi back. (You know where this is going.)

We arrived after 3 p.m. hungry and thirsty (it was sunny and in the mid-80’s) and Barrio Chino was crowded! We found a place, ordered noodles and lots of water and walked out with enough leftovers for two more meals each. Then we hit Supermercado Asiático. We were so excited. We love a good Asian market. It was a little bit like a small H Mart (we do miss H Mart) but it also had a few Mexican items. We were very proud of ourselves, because we bought with restraint, which meant that we could walk home laden with tofu, noodles, and sesame oil!

On the walk back (yup – no subte or taxi for us), we passed by Chorifest, which we thought would be a fun Sunday activity. Choripan is a combination of chorizo and pan (bread) and Steven was excited to try out one (or more?) of these sandwiches. I looked and allegedly there would be veggie options, so we invited our new friends Marco and Barbara and were looking forward to a truly local event.

By the time we returned from our second long walking day, we were tired, so we spent the night in.

Sunday

As we were getting ready to walk (yes, we hadn’t had enough walking) over to the festival, Marco emailed to say it might be cancelled because it was raining. We weren’t really looking forward to standing around eating in 60-degree drizzle, so we changed the plan. It was supposed to stop raining a little after noon but … well, you know how that goes. We put on our raincoats and started walking toward Puente de la Mujer, the Woman’s Bridge. This walk wasn’t too long — about an hour or 5 km. Well, it didn’t stop raining and the bridge was closed for renovation and has been for some time, but whatever, we were there. The neighborhood, Puerto Madero, reminds me of all the revitalized waterfronts we’ve seen around the world. Chain restaurants, glass buildings, newly made to look old walkways.

We looked around and then decided it was lunchtime. Argentina has a very meaty reputation, but everywhere we have been there have been veggie options. We went to a brewpubish place, where Steven got a pickle burger (a burger with pickles, not a burger made from pickles) and I, predictably, had a veggie burger. It didn’t really stop raining until we were on the way home. We stopped at Costumbres Criolles, an empanada spot Steven’s friend said was the best in BA, but we got the food “para llevar — pronounced here as para shevar — or to go. We’ll let you know how delicious they are as soon as we try them. One extra nice touch is the roadmap we got with the food that is similar to the ones you get in the box of chocolates so you don’t accidentally bite into coconut.

Because we are a little goofy, we went out again in the evening to see a movie. We definitely want to see a movie with Spanish subtitles, but each of us thought the other wanted to see “Amsterdam.” When we were almost at the theater, I asked, “What’s this movie about anyway?” Steven said, “I don’t know. I thought you wanted to see it.” We looked up the reviews, decided we were too tired to see a movie neither of us was that interested in, turned around, and went home to watch the Giants lose.

Another walk-filled weekend of exploring!

Iguazu Falls – the video

The enormity of Iguazu Falls is mind boggling and our “expedition” was broken into four parts, the lower trail, the boat ride, the upper trail and the Brazilian side. I have attempted to capture a taste of what it was like on video. I was using my GoPro, which I had not picked up in about 4 years, so to say my camera skills are rusty would be assume I had any skills at all.  Add to that my editing skills are significantly worse than my camera skills, so please don’t expect too much, but enjoy.

A map of the Argentine side for reference. The yellow is the lower trail; the orange is the upper trail; the blue is the boat ride; the red, which the Devil’s Throat bridge, was washed away by the flood.

The lower trail

The boat ride

The upper trail

The Brazilian side

Iguazu Falls

We took a weekend jaunt to Iguazu Falls, about an hour and a half plane trip from Buenos Aires. For some reason we can no longer remember, we took at 7:30 a.m. flight. Not knowing how long it would take to get an Uber or what security would be like at the airport (not the big international airport of Ezeiza, but Aeroparque Jorge Newbery), so we got up at 4:30. We were sitting at the gate before 6 a.m. Better early than late! (Susan is being kind. It is my time-based insanity that gets us everywhere early, and I am so grateful that she is willing to go along) At least the coffee was already flowing.

The only hiccup came when our tour guide had us coming in an hour later on a different flight. We finally managed to track down an emergency number and Marcela arrived soon thereafter. I highly recommend getting emergency contact info if you book through an agency. It was Saturday morning, so our regular contact wasn’t working.

We went straight to Iguazu National Park in Argentina. We knew that because of extreme flooding the week before, the bridge to Devil’s Throat washed away. Bummer! However, because the river was so high, the falls were spectacular. Notice how brownish red the water is. The soil is full of iron and the water was carrying a lot of soil.

We also got lucky in that the boat, which had not been operating the previous week, was powering down the river again. We couldn’t go behind the falls, which were flowing with almost 10 times their normal water volume, but we did get a truly fun ride. We opted out of wearing our rain jackets and got plenty soaked! But the other aspect of our luck was the weather. Not a drop of rain fell, and the temperature was about 80, so we certainly did not mind wearing a bit of the Iguazu River.

The park contains several different paths that lead to points overlooking the falls. There’s also a train for those who don’t want to or can’t walk. It wasn’t very strenuous, but there are steps since there is an upper trail and a lower trail. We did the lower trail first; Marcela thought it would be less crowded. Apparently, word got out that lots of water makes for spectacular falls. We liked doing it that way because when we got a wide-angle view, we really understood what we were seeing.

Here are some interesting facts about the falls:

  • Iguazu means big water
  • Eighty percent of the falls are in Argentina
  • There are more than 275 waterfalls, making it the largest waterfall system in the world
  • Heights range from 200-270 feet (Victoria Falls is 354 feet) and they span 1.7 miles
  • When the water level is typical, water falls from Devil’s Throat at 1 million liters per second
  • Iguazu River connects to the Panama River
  • The area has been home to the Guarani tribe for thousands of years

The park contains wildlife such as jaguars and pumas (which we did not see(other than people’s sneakers) ), capybara, monkeys and coatis (which we did see because they love human food), and tons of lizards, birds, and butterflies. The river is home to more than 100 species of fish.

Aside for Shannon (and others who like natural disaster/human stupidity stories): Don’t climb guard rails to take selfies (also lots of signs in Argentina saying don’t put your kids on your shoulders).

The Argentine government, to encourage tourism, has set aside land for eco-friendly hotels. It seemed as though that mostly meant that they cleared a minimum of the jungle and used paper straws. We stayed at La Cantera Lodge, which was perfectly serviceable. The downside to the eco-friendly hotels is that unless you have a car, you’re stuck. We were tired from our long day anyway, so we opted to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. Surprisingly, Steven ordered a slab of meat. Vegetarian options were slim (how much pasta can one eat?), so I tried the river fish, a local delicacy. It tasted like white fish, but the sauce was delicious and it was tender.

Sunday, Marcela picked us up after the breakfast buffet (which reminded us of the ones at U.S. motels minus the waffle maker) and we headed to Brazil. The trick here was to have the Argentine driver get us close to the border where we met the Brazilian driver, who gets treated better in Brazil. The amount of time it takes to cross the border is unpredictable, but tour cars have a special line and the border agents in both countries were amenable. I’m not sure why it takes so long to leave Argentina, but they have their reasons. On the Brazilian side, we had to get out of the car and enter the immigration building to show our passports and proof of Covid vaccination. That took maybe 5 minutes.

Most of the reason to go to Brazil (aside from the fact that Vitor says it is much better than Argentina (Vitor says everything in Brazil is better than Argentina)) is the panoramic view. All but two of the 275 falls (or more because of the flooding) are in Argentina, but especially since we could not see Devil’s Throat from Argentina, it was well worth the short trip to the other side. Plus, we got to get drenched again!

The waiter treated our Quilmes beer like it was a fine champagne.

After we finished at the falls, we had a couple of hours to kill, so we decided to go into the town of Puerto Iguazu in Argentina for lunch and a wander (our two favorite things). Marcela dropped us off and we had a tasty lunch. Steven had another huge hunk of meat and I had a salad. The “downtown” consists of a few restaurants and a shops, some of which were closed because it was A) Sunday and B) siesta time with a temperature of 87 degrees. About a mile from the restaurant, there’s a lookout point over the river from which you can see three countries. Do you know what they are? We’ve already talked about the first two: Argentina and Brazil. The third is Paraguay. Needless to say, if there is a walk, we take it. I was excited to find that Iguazu has also adopted the Insta sign, everyone’s favorite place to pose.

While we waited at the border crossing, Marcela explained to us that depending on politics and economics, the people of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay trade off shopping in duty-free border stores. When we were waiting to enter Brazil, the line of cars waiting to go the other way was long, but when we headed back into Argentina, there was hardly a wait at all. Marcela was very surprised, but you just never know. For those of you who have crossed into or out of Tijuana from California — the Argentina-Brazil border would be a breeze.

Our last stop was back at the hotel, where we changed into warmer and dryer clothes for the trip back south. Our plane arrived back in Buenos Aires pretty much on time, we hopped a cab and were back at our apartment by 10 p.m., just in time for Argentine dinner.

Later in the week if we remember how to edit our GoPro video (where is a 12-year-old tech genius when you need one???), we will post some of the videos..