Round one in Buenos Aires

Trip Start Aug 03, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2008

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

The previous blog entry depicts some of the fun of our 17 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires. The bus was actually rather fancy with food service, movies, and cozy seats...sort of like a long airplane flight. We decided to stop in Buenos Aires (BA for short) for a few days to get organized and plan out our time in Argentina. We will be returning to BA at the end of December where we will spend Christmas Day before flying to New Zealand, so our main purpose of being in BA at this time was short. When in Lima, Peru,we joined a club called South American Explorers. It consists of 4 clubhouses throughout South America (Lima and Cuzco in Peru, Quito in Ecuador, and BA in Argentina). You join for a year and as a member you have a bunch of great resources including access to information about travel, trips, hiking, and other members' trip reports which is really helpful when trying to decide what tour agencies are worth using and those that are not! You can also receive international mail at the clubhouses, exchange books (this is a big deal since we are always reading), use the internet for free, enjoy a cup of tea and just relax, etc. So...when we arrived in BA we spent a few hours at the clubhouse getting organized and figuring out where we would travel in the country.

We ended up spending 2 days in BA, tootling around on the Metro and exploring some parts of the city. We found a small, old hotel for a great deal with a crazy bathroom. It was without a shower curtain so you just showered next to the sink and toilet. Definitely different but actually quite functional and the room dried pretty quickly! We visited a district called Recoleta which is home to the Recoleta cemetery where the famous Eva Peron (Evita) is buried. The cemetery is like a mini city full of elaborate mausoleums and sculptures decorating the burial sites of elite families. In comparison to the other mausoleums, Eva´s was really not that exciting but there was a herd of tourists there anyways, elbowing their way past one another for a photo. As we wandered around the cemetery we realized that it was nearly a month ago exactly that we were wandering around cemeteries in Peru. A rather morbid habit we are forming...
We also saw a Tango show at a restaurant in the San Telmo district where we were staying. San Telmo is famous for housing the tango culture, with the tango dance starting in Buenos Aires in the 19th century. It is said to be originated from the African community there, influenced by ancient African dance forms. It is different then the ballroom tango that most of us are probably more familiar with in part due to more "body contact". Ooh la la.

When traveling as we are, as you transition into new countries the first couple days are often an interesting time of figuring out what is unique or different about that country. For example, in Argentina, breakfast is usually small and consists of medialunas (small croissants) that are either salgado (plain) or dulce (sweet). We cannot seem to find pancakes or waffles anywhere but the meat and wine (specifically Malbec wine) is delicious and very affordable! James ate a GIANT steak that he claims was the best he has ever had for $6.50. Dinner is also really late...the earliest is usually 8 p.m. but we have gotten into the habit of eating as late at 10 p.m. Part of the reason, I think, is that it stays light outside so much later, with sunset being around 9:15 p.m.  Other then meat, other common foods are pasta, pizza, milanesa (thinly breaded steak), and empanadas (meat or vegetable-filled pastries). The desserts are everywhere, and one of the tastiest is something called alfajores which are cookie sandwiches (filled with dulce de leche, aka carmel, and covered in chocolate). Of course we must try all of this as part of the travel experience with no complaints here!
Yerba mate tea is all the rage with people carrying around these small cannisters with a metal spoon/straw and a thermos of hot water and drink it constantly. We met an Argentinian couple who let us try their tea...must be an acquired taste.
Leaving my ramble about food, another difference about Argentina is the speak a form of spanish called Castellano which sounds a bit different then the more common Spanish we heard in Central and many other countries in South America. Here they pronounce double letters such as "ll" as "jha" so instead of pronouncing a word such as "plantillas" that would sound like plan-tee-ahs were it spoken by me, it is pronounced plan-tee-jhas. There are many words like this that are spoken in this way and it throws me for a loop when spoken. Nevertheless, it is definitely easier to understand then Portuguese!
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