Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Susan's here! Susan's here! Susan's here! Finally, we get to see Brian's mom, plus stay at the same spot for over a week. What more could we ask for? After 7 weeks of traveling quickly we are ready to settle in and have a visitor. Brian and I took an overnight bus from Viedma to Buenos Aires on Saturday, the 17th. This ride was much better than the last. No fist fights. We purchased some bigger seats and had a good LAST ride in South America. I am so happy to be done riding these buses - you have no idea!

We arrived in Buenos Aires (BA) early in the morning and had a fun time trying to figure out how to get to our "house". After living in with the Chicago CTA for 5 years it wasn't too hard to figure out the subway system, it was just hard finding it, I was...shall we say...not all there that morning because of my lack of sleep, but luckily Brian had at least a little clue what was going on. Once off the subway and in our neighborhood we walked and walked trying to find a place for breakfast. We had a few hours to kill before the person was meeting us at the house. There were bars open at 8am but no place to serve breakfast. But, finally we found one. We got so excited when we saw great looking omelets on the menu, but when we tried to order, the guy said they don't serve food until noon - what? Why have a breakfast menu. Anyway, we did get a little something to eat there and after that we tried hard to waste time playing cards and messing with the internet. After waiting about an hour and a half, we walked the few blocks to the house and the lady was waiting. She had been there for 3 hours! Yikes - we could have gone straight there! Anyway, the lady didn't seem to mind too much.

The house is great! Weird layout but very old and interesting. It was on the second and third floors. It had a couple of bedrooms and a nice living room (that opened up onto a balcony) and a nice kitchen. On the third floor was also another bedroom but a wonderful, huge deck and hot tub. It was great. It was however, 100 degrees outside, really, when we arrived, so we weren't jumping in. I had to sleep and Brian walked around town. The next morning Susan arrived! Of course my alarm didn't go off, but I managed to have my teeth brushed before she got there. 

Finally, a familiar face. She was so happy to finally be there. Needless to say, we were all still really tired so first things first, a nap was in order. That night we headed north to the neighborhood Belgrano, where a art and craft market was going on. These are huge in BA and Sundays are the days to go. After that we walked around the neighborhood - which I believe walking in the best way to see this awesome city. We stumbled upon a huge gazebo in the middle of a park that was overflowing with people dancing the tango. Our first tango experience! They were blasting music and people had about a 2 by 2 foot area to dance, it was very interesting to watch. After the tango we heading back to the train but stopped at a GREAT place called Big Mama's to have dinner. Funny that we are in BA and stop at a place called Big Mama's - it looked good and tasted better!

The next day we headed to one of the two most visited city sites, the Recolata Cemetery.   We were expecting a nice, quite garden-like place with trees and flowers - your basic cemetery only much bigger. Boy, were we wrong! You know those above-ground "tombs" that are all cement and have a big locked door on them? This cemetery was nothing but those. Only, they are MUCH bigger. Almost all of them have glass doors or windows, some even with stained glass, allowing you to see right into them and all have the coffins just sitting out. Some were so extravagant that they had huge statues outside of them, most were made completely of marble and some were so old you could have walked right in if you wanted to. All of them were different. It is not the city's responsibility to keep these graves kept up - it is up to the family. So imagine if the family is all dead, poor or just lazy...imagine what the graves are like. So many of them had the front doors broken open and trash and glass filling up on the inside. Some even had the coffins broken and on their side because they had fallen (some had 10 or more people buried in the same one, each person on a different shelf). All of these tombs had staircases too, leading into a crept type area. I don't really know what was down there and don't really what to think about it. We walked around for about an hour or so, we saw Evita's grave (which was the only one with flowers on it). We saw some amazing statues and some really really scary tombs. All in all, it was very interesting to see. After only 15 minutes I got the creeps and was ready to go. We came across one tomb that was broken open and I saw some bones!!! AHHHH!!! There was something like 70 cats they had on the property - we are guessing to keep down the rat and mice population. Again, I cant really describe this cemetery - creepy is the best word for it. If you come to BA, you have to go, don't go at night and I wouldn't plan on staying very long. Please Note: to my loved ones...I want to be cremated!!!! Brian too.

Everyone says Argentina steaks are the best so when we wanted to take the challenge of grilling them ourselves. So that night we picked some up that looked grrreat. The house has a great BBQ pit up on the top deck next to the hot tub. Brian grilled and Susan and I made salad and such. We sat down and cut into the meat...only to be royally disappointed!!! How to describe it? Umm...I dont think stray dogs would have eaten it! We were going to try them though and almost threw the steaks over this fence where a few huge dogs lived - but we didn't want them to choke. Oh well, we had plenty of wine to fill us up. Better luck next time.

On Tuesday we decided to check out the zoo. I love visiting zoo's in other countries, for one - the animal variety is different than back home and two - every country is different on how they run the zoo (like in Thailand, it's completely okay to throw full size jelly-filled donuts at the gorillas). This zoo was great. We saw everything from elephants to those animals that are always getting killed on Animal Planet in Africa (gazelles I think they are celled). Lots of interesting things at this zoo. The biggest hippos I've ever seen - actually I don't know if I've ever seen a hippo. 
After a long day at the zoo we went to a bar called Dubliners near our house.   We had some great beers and got some appetizers. It's so nice and relaxing to just sit on the streets of Buenos Aires and people watch. That night we decided to make empanadas. I LOVE empanadas and after eating them for a few weeks I wanted to try and make them myself.   They turned out great and we had a great meal - had to make up for the steak the night before. I bet the dogs next door would have eaten some too.  Sitting and eating up on the rooftop is so great after dark. It's finally a tolerable temperature.

The next day, Wednesday, we headed downtown to check out the MicroCenter. It's like the Loop in Chicago - all the businesses and financial stuff happens here. Beautiful downtown - very historic.   We walked along the famous Avenue Florida and bought a few little things. That evening we went to a restaurant called Tortoni (which is the oldest coffee shop in the country) and saw an outstanding Tango show. Not only is it about the dance, but about the music.   The musicians were fabulous and we had such a great time watching them. They had to dance on such a small stage, I thought the lady was going to tumble off a few different times, but they only knocked over one of the microphones once. It was a great experience. After the show we headed back home where we stop at El Dorrego for dinner out so no one had to cook.

The next day was a day of rest. We could tell it was going to be a hot day when the hallway (lined with windows) was around 80 degrees by late morning - it was going to be a hot one. We stayed in and relaxed, did computer stuff and Susan and I watched a movie. That evening Brian grilled up some new steaks that turned out great.  Oh, so good.   After dinner, Brian and I wanted to do something a little "different" so we went to this club that turned into a transvestite show at night. I know, weird. But this show had been reviewed as being great and really fun. It was supposed to start at midnight but when we got there, we found out it starts around 2am but doesn't really get going until about 4am! I can't believe how late people stay out. There was no way we could stay out that late because the next day we were getting up real early to go on a tour. So, sadly, we missed the transvestite show but went to a few other great bars on the way back home. Both were reviewed as "the places to be seen". I think one girl took a picture of me - maybe she thought I was famous.

So after our day of rest we wanted to get going again. Susan signed us up to do a tour that took us up to a little town called Tigre. It's a big vacation spot with all the locals. The girl, Macu, picked us up at 9:30am and headed over to the train station. It was like the Metra in Chicago but it cost $.80 (about $.25 USD) to ride all the way up to the suburbs. Great ride - we got to see where the rich people live and just get a feel for other parts of BA. We ended up at a bustling little boat terminal and got on this great old wooden ferry-type boat which took us on a cruise through the maze-like rivers that eventually form into the Rio da la Plata which flows out into the Atlantic ocean.   There was house after house after house of little vacation homes right on the river deltas and they all had docks and little beaches. The only way to reach them was by boat. There was even a grocery boat that would go to each house and drop off food. It would be an awesome place to vacation! There were so many nice homes but you don't have to be rich to live in one. This area was for everyone, which was great to see.   We stopped at a wonderful restaurant called Gato Blanco along the way for lunch. It was such good food. However, right when we sat down at our table outside the breeze completely stopped. I don't have to tell you how hot it was, but without a breeze it was unbearable. I made the best of it and every so often went inside and stood in front of this huge fan in the dining room. I'm sure they thought I was crazy. This was such a great tour - to get to see some "real" BA.

Saturday we wanted to see everything we hadn't yet (or as much as we could). We headed down to the MircoCenter in the morning and walked over to the Puerto Modero docks.   There are 4 huge docks that lay between the downtown and this Buenos Aires
"shoreline" reserve. Some passanger boats do use them, but we are thinking they are not used as big commercial docks anymore. Restaurants and bars lined both sides of them.    We walked around and decided we HAD to have ice cream. Again, it was really really really hot! We later found out it had reached 100 degrees that day!!! Good thing we didn't know it at the time. From there we headed over to the reserve, expecting to walk along the waterfront pier, see some boats and hopefully get a good breeze. About 15 minutes into the walk we still had no view of the water. There was a ton of brush blocking it. Finally we decided to turn around and try a different way. After wondering around for what seemed like hours in the heat and getting stopped two different times for being on private property - we gave up and went to a downtown cafe and got some beers. That was much more like it. After a beer and a pizza, we ordered another. The pizza was sooo good. We are still trying to figure out way BA doesn't use their waterfront to their advantage - or maybe we were just in the wrong area. That night we went OUT to eat at 1am! Late night but great food. We didn't realize how late it was until we got back because so many locals go out to dinner at that time on Saturdays. Boy, we were really starting to fit in.

Luckily the people we were renting from let us stay at the house until late Sunday night because our flights didn't leave until around midnight. We headed down to the famous San Telmo Market Sunday morning...and can you believe none of us bought a thing? They had great stuff but we had no room to pack anything and there just weren't that many good deals. But at least we can say we did it.  

It took us all week to try and get used to the BA time schedule. Needless to say, we never did get on track with it. We had such a wonderful time here. It was a big change for Brian and I as we had been in nothing but smaller towns and villages for the previous 3-4 weeks. It was great to see Susan and have someone else to travel along with us. It was really hard to say goodbye. We highly recommend seeing Buenos Aires if your in Argentina!  

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