13.08.2016 - 13.08.2016
Alyssa and I ended our trip with 3 days in Buenos Aires. Why Buenos Aires? Because it was only an inch away from Rio on a map. FYI the international terminal in Rio is the nicest terminal I have ever been in. Good job, Rio.
We arrived in Buenos Aires in the early afternoon and checked into Mine Hotel in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. Palermo Soho is in the north of the city and a richer neighborhood. It is filled with cute shops and restaurants. Mine Hotel is an adorable boutique hotel. It was a nice change from our Airbnb apartment in Rio de Janeiro.
We ate lunch at El Caldén de Soho. We ordered a half bottle of wine, grilled provoleta cheese (a Argentinian favorite), and steak. The portions in Argentina are huge and cheap. Each steak could have easily fed 3 people.
On our first night, we went to the Argentine Experience for dinner. We arrived in Palermo Hollywood and received a welcome wine cocktail of Malbec, apple juice, lime, and pisco. We met our dinner companions. There was a retired couple from Australian who were hilarious, unfiltered, slightly inappropriate, and incredibly snarky. In summary, they were everything I hope to be at their age. The other was a wealthy family from the UK who currently spend six months of the year in Bermuda and the rest of the year at the ski cottage in Vermont. Celia and Sofia were the hosts for the Argentine Experience. They taught us about the cuisine, wine, common expressions and phrases, and culture of Argentina during our three hour meal. There was plenty of time to talk to the other guests about their travels during the meal. We also learned how to fold our own empanadas. The empanada is folded based upon its filling. Along with beef and caprese empanadas, we ate sweetbreads, chorizo, provoleta, chimichurri sauce, steak, mate tea, Malbec, roasted vegetables, and alfajores (dulce de leche cookies). We learned that the cuisine was influenced by Italian immigrants. As such, pasta is commonly found on Argentinian menus. We had a blast at the Argentine Experience, and the food was delicious. We highly recommend it to anyone going to Buenos Aires.
Thursday, we went on a bike tour with BA Bike Tours. They offer two circuits- the south circuit and the north circuit. Since we were staying in the north, we chose the south circuit. Agosto was our guide, and Alyssa and I were the only tourists doing the south circuit. We went to San Telmo (oldest neighborhood in BA where the rich used to live until they moved to Recoleta and Palermo in the north), La Boca (the poorest part of the town where the famous colorful Caminitos are found and tango was born), Puerto Madero (the new part of town where all the new money lives), and the center of the city (where the Casa Rosada (their White House) is located). Honestly, we knew nothing about Argentina before this bike tour. We learned so much. For instance:
-You cannot knock down buildings that are older than 100 years. So new buildings keep the old facades and build new modern buildings behind them.
-Tango used to be a dance between men. The men would use their dance skills to woo prostitutes. Thus, the women who now tango dress as prostitutes from the 1930s and 1940s while the men are dressed as macho mobsters.
-Tango was created by European immigrants which is why the music is comprised of accordions, pianos, violin, and bass.
-Puerto Madero was supposed to be the second port for the city. However, the architect of the port forgot one minor detail when building it. He forgot to ensure it was deep enough for ships. After a few decades of the port being useless, the government sold it to private investors in the 1990s who have since revitalized the area making it he ritziest neighborhood in the city. Another fun fact: the streets in Puerto Madero are all named after women.
-Many people fled to Argentina durian WW1 and WW2 since Argentina was neutral. People came from Spain, Italy, Poland, and Germany. Now Argentina boasts the largest Jewish population in South America.
-During the Cold War, the reigning dictator would silently arrest those with communist sympathies, tie cement blocks on their feet, and push them out of planes over the Rio de Plata. The government has not formally admitted and apologized to the country. Thus, every Thursday at 3, a group of mothers protest outside the Casa Rosada demanding the government own up to these atrocities.
After the bike tour, we ate Italian food at Campo del Fiore, and then grabbed coffee at Felix & Felicis, the cutest Harry Potter themed coffee shop in Palermo. We then went to El Viejo Almacén for dinner and a tango show. We met a retired man from Albuquerque named Ralph who was in Argentina to ski. Since he was alone, we let him sit with us. He was humorous and ended up drinking a bottle of Malbec alone, making him even more of a hoot. We learned all about his family. His wife chose to hike the Inca trail in Peru while he skied in Bariloche. Ralph is loving retirement and is a huge fan of his local senior center. The tango show was fantastic; however, the accompanying meal was not. Travel tip: skip the dinner option and eat before the show on your own.
Friday, we went to Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Perón is buried (Eva was the inspiration for the musical Evita). The graves were ornately decorated and all larger than my apartment. After the cemetery, we strolled through the Recoleta neighborhood which is ritzy and stopped for lunch at Cumaná, an Argentinian restaurant. We have decided we cannot eat cheese, bread, or steak for at least a month after this trip. That is all we have eaten for ten days and are ready for some fresh vegetables in the states.
After strolling around Recoleta and Palermo, we hopped in the slowest cab ever during rush hour to get to the airport. We only had 320 pesos leftover and started to panic when the cab fare went over the 320 mark. Plus, we were moving at a snails pace. When we got to the airport, I put my high school Spanish to use and explained our money situation. Luckily, the cab driver was 100% fine with us paying in USD. At this point, our flight was taking off in an hour, and I just started throwing our leftover pesos and some USD at him. He banked on our cab ride.
We checked in for our flight, got through security, and then waited in the most inefficient passport control line ever. The people working kept taking snack breaks, texting on their phones, applying lipstick, and disappearing at random. We finally made it through passport control and walked straight on the plane. We luckily made our connection in Dallas and landed in Houston early Saturday morning.
We had so much fun on this trip. Rio was beautiful yet chaotic, inefficient, and prone to travel mishaps. However, we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. We laughed so hard at every mishap and example of how Rio was not completely ready for the Olympics, and we enjoyed experiencing the Olympics in person. Buenos Aires was a clean and relaxing compared to Rio. The weather was perfect (sunny and in the 60s), and Buenos Aires has a very European feel to it. It was the perfect way to end our South American adventure!