"It's so nice to have a fridge with food" -James

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

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We took a "vacation from our vacation" in Mar del Plata, a beach-side city on the east coast of Argentina, about 5 and a half hours south of Buenos Aires. Thanks to James' very generous parents, we had a week to enjoy a 1-bedroom apartment as part of a timeshare agreement. It was on the 9th floor and had an amazing view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Having time to spread out and relax, read, sleep, and of course, watch cable TV, was just what we were longing for after challenging hikes and long bus rides. This simple living arrangement offered us some very exciting amenities:
1) We had more then one room! A bedroom, living room, dining area, and kitchen!
2) We had a kitchen with our very own refrigerator!! We could cook!
3) We unpacked our backpacks to put our clothes in drawers for the first time!
4) With the extra room, we had our friends Trevor and Liz come for a visit.
We titled this blog entry a quote by James that really, truly captured our feelings after making a grand ol' visit to the grocery store to stock up for the week. For the first time in four and a half months we had a fridge filled with food!  It was really nice not to have to eat out for every meal, to be able to saunter into the kitchen for a snack, or to be able to enjoy leftovers!
From what we have read about Mar del Plata, once the summer months set in (January-March), the weather warms up, the beaches are packed, and the night life gets crazy. Since December is the start of summer, we anticipated the city to be more crowded, but this was not so (fine by us!). The weather was windy and overcast for the first few days, so we did not feel guilty for staying inside, sleeping in, watching TV, and reading.
We did a bit of exploration of the city, however, and stopped in one afternoon to see the Museo del Mar, a shell museum that houses a collection of 30,000 shells from all over the world. Benjamin Sisterna, a past resident of Mar del Plata, traveled around the world 20+ times over 60 years to gather his collection. It was quite impressive...we even found a small shelf of shells from California, including Corona del Mar, where James teaches high school.
At the port area of Mar del Plata there resides a STINKY colony of sea lions. Actually, stinky does not nearly capture the awful smell of these animals. I had to plug my nose because the smell caused me to gag, it was that bad. The male sea lions, the bulls, are beasts with their heads covered in manes, like true lions. I did not realize they would look so different then the sea lions we saw in the Galapagos Islands.
The highlight of our time in Mar del Plata was definitely when Trevor and Liz came to play with us! They are from Colorado and on a very lengthy honeymoon for 8 months through Central and South America. We met them in September in Costa Rica and then ran into them in again in Quito, Ecuador. We realized how much we liked them and decided to stay in touch. It turns out our timing allowed us to meet up again so they came to enjoy the pad with us for a couple days. We LOVED sharing travel stories and spending time with this really great, adventurous, and generous couple. During this adventure of our, James and I have spent all of our time together, which is great and we are really enjoying, but we so miss friends and are reminded of how much they enrich our lives.
Trevor and Liz also brought with them great weather! The sun shone, the wind took a break, and we headed to the beach. It was quite a different beach experience then what we are used to. First of all, most of the beach is actually taken up by rows of private tents that are only available to those willing to rent them for the day, the week, or the month. For about $20/day you get a shady tent with plastic patio chairs, a table, and a lounge chair. You also have access to the kids playground equipment that is part of that specific area. My question is why do kids need a playground when they are at the beach? Second, Argentinians are serious about their sunbathing. For those who do not rent their space on the beach (like us), set up their beach chairs and towels so that they are facing the sun directly, even if that requires turning their backs to the ocean. Isn't the view of the ocean one of the best parts of being at the beach? I always thought so. The crazy thing is, though, that a majority of the people at the beach that day weren't sitting...they were standing. Groups of people stand in the shallow water of the breaking waves (which were really small that day), and talk or just hang out. Once again, most had their backs to the open ocean. Finally, despite the fact that it was a really warm day, people sipped their hot mate tea with thermos of hot water on hand. A strange beach experience...
 Later that night Liz and I dusted off our rusty baking skills and set out to make Christmas cookies and we all contributed to the making of a feast for dinner. We had a great time trying our hands at making empanadas, meat-filled pastries, that we all have been eating throughout our time in Argentina. If you know where to find empanadas in the Southern California region please let us know ...
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