It’s the little things that remind us of a good trip: the pop song on the radio that played in every bar in Spain; the grey beat-up backpack that dutifully carried all our belongings; and the site of red wine served from a penguin.
It’s the latter that reminds us of all our hot Latin nights, dining on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires eating juicy steaks and cheap house wine.
“Wait, did she say wine from a penguin?”
Yes I did. Yes I did.
For just $10 per person we got to experience what The Observer named as number one of the "top 50 sporting things to do before you die." And just like our Turkish bath experience that I posted about last week, this was another one of those classic "we're definitely not in America anymore" moments.
Suuuuuuperclásico. This seemed to be the word of the week around Mendoza when we were there last February. Waiters, locals, tourists, and everyone in between were chattering about the upcoming fútball match between the bitter Argentinian fútbol (soccer) rivals, River Plate and Boca Juniors.
They come once per year to play a match on neutral turf, in Mendoza, and fortunately for my sports-addicted husband, we just so happened to be there that same week.
As some of you may know, Tom had to return to the States (Texas) for a few weeks to take care of some…well…stuff (long story). While he is gone, I’m getting a taste of solo travel.
After 18 hours, 3 taxi rides, 2 bus trips, and 1 flight, I finally made it to Buenos Aires from Baños, Ecuador. Yes, you heard that right…Buenos Aires, again!
Naturally, after a long day of travel, I dropped my bags at my hostel and immediately headed out to find a bar to watch the Argentina/Switzerland fútbol game which had already begun about 20 minutes prior.
As I began walking down the street, I noticed that Buenos Aires was not as I remembered it. It was eerily quiet, there was not one car driving down the street, and I only passed one or two other people on the sidewalk.
At every corner I turned, I could hear the faint sound of a fútbol announcer repeating Messi’s name over and over again. It almost seemed as if somebody had installed citywide surround sound. There was not one TV or radio playing something other than the game. All else was quiet in the city. There were no car horns, no dump trucks, no people chatting on their cell phones.
I have sat down to write this post at least three times now, and I have given up each time.
We just finished a month long trip through Patagonia. It was the most jaw-dropping natural landscapes I have ever laid my eyes on and yet I have toiled to figure out what to say about it.
My husband, Tom, suggested that I write this post to an audience of hikers and to explain why they need to visit Patagonia. But against his good judgment, I decided, instead, to write this post to you.
You, who does not own a pair of hiking boots. You, whose idea of nature is your own backyard. And you, who feels more at home in cityscapes than landscapes.
To you, I am recommending that you add Patagonia to your bucket list.
In lockstep with “selling ice to eskimos,” one would think that selling hot water to Portenos in the middle of the hottest summer in Buenos Aires in 43 years, would be nearly impossible.
But it’s not. It’s actually quite easy.
In fact, it’s rare to find an Argentinian or Uruguayan walking around without a thermos of hot water under one arm - rain or shine, blistering hot or freezing cold.
In the parks and at the beaches, kiosks advertise “hay agua caliente” (hot water available) as people walk by dripping in sweat. The first time I saw one of these signs, I did a double take and wondered if my high-school Spanish teacher accidently taught me the wrong word for hot.
I thought to myself, why in the world would anyone want hot water in this weather?
Don’t go wine tasting in Mendoza. Do lunch.
We walked out on the terrace, the Andes to our left, the parilla (grill) to our right, and a chilled glass of Torrontes, an exclusively Argentinian white wine varietal, directly in front of us. One sip and I knew we had made the right decision.
The day prior we had toured the valley on bikes attempting to visit five different wineries as the tour company had recommended. We made it to three and that was plenty. Have you ever tried riding a bike after tasting vino at three wineries? It’s hazardous to say the least.
“Cambio! Cambio!” Tom and I nervously walked down Florida Street in Buenos Aires stereotyping the hawkers as we tried to select which person was least likely to rip us off. There were hundreds to choose from and meanwhile the weight of thousands of US dollars in cash felt heavy next to Tom’s groin. For the first time on our trip we decided to actually use the RFID scan-proof money belt we bought from REI.
We selected our guy and after a brief negotiation for the best rate based on the amount and the denomination of bills we brought (with $100 bills being the most valuable), we followed him into a building, up a few floors, to a small, unmarked 6x6 foot office.
We entered the tiny room. There was no sign, no pictures, and no furniture; just an overweight, slightly sweaty Argentinian man with a stash of cash, an electronic bill counter, and a calculator. The windows were covered by old newspapers; papers that probably reported the ever decreasing value of the Argentinian peso and next to it the unofficial “blue market” exchange rate.
I stepped inside from our balcony to grab my camera and suddenly heard a loud boom, this one much closer than the others. I whirled around just in time to see the flash of light fading into the thick, damp summer air and a few wisps of smoke rising off the hot pavement just outside the gate to the US Embassy.
Cheers erupted and several other bright flashes continued to dot the Buenos Aires skyline. It was midnight on Christmas Eve and all seven of us huddled on our tiny balcony on the twelfth floor to watch the Porteños usher in Christmas with a traditional citywide display of fireworks.
Sweat dripped down my temple as I hurried to set up my camera. I positioned myself between two strangers-quickly-turned-friends and took my shot.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!