Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meat, wine, meat, wine, Buenos Aires, meat and wine.

Quality steak, colorful graffiti scattered throughout the city, palatable wine, fun to watch tango, and incredibly nice people. Welcome to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I was pretty excited for our flight from Delhi to Buenos Aires, mostly because international flights give me the opportunity to catch up on my movie watching and also wine is usually included. During our six hour flight to Qatar I watched two movies I had really wanted to see. Perfect. Then, we arrived in Qatar, and we thought the airline would put us up in a hotel like they were doing for many people around us since our layover was more than 12 hours. We found out since we could have taken a flight the day after that only required a two hour layover in Qatar, they wouldn’t put us up in a hotel. We told them this was not an option when we booked it, and they kept saying it was on option on their website. At this point, we decided we would never fly with them again and we ended up being in the airport from 11 am to 7am the following day.
After a 19 hour flight from Qatar to Buenos Aires, we finally made it to our fifth continent. Since we arrived at 11pm at night, we had our bed and breakfast arrange a taxi to pick us up from the airport for the first time ever. I admit, I could get used to this sort of travel. We booked a bed and breakfast that was out of our budget for the first three nights in order to have a nice place to recover from jet lag. The owners, Elana and Mike, were wonderful and the place was exactly what we needed. Also, there was hot water. In Northern India it was pretty cold, so taking a “shower” meant filling up an extra large bucket of cold water and using a small pitcher to poor it on yourself. I confess, I didn’t shower much in Varanasi, Agra, and Delhi (shhh, don’t tell anyone). At our bed and breakfast, there was a shower AND hot water. Oh the luxuries.
Our first day saw us explore the city with the subway. Our goal was to find a “South America on a Shoestring” lonely planet, however, this was astonishingly difficult. Also, to our shock, Argentina is much more expensive than we were hoping. Importing goods to Argentina is expensive, and as a result, finding English lonely planets was not only hard but once we found one it was twice the cover price. Instead of paying $30, every bookstore was charging $60. We ended up buying a 2007 edition at a used bookstore a couple days later for $7. After an exhausting day of trying to locate this book, we finally made it to the recommended and relatively cheap steakhouse called Las Cabras. It might have been considered a budget option in Buenos Aires, but was quite expensive compared to India. I hadn’t seen Bryan so happy in quite awhile, and he savored that steak like it would be his last.
Bryan was pretty excited to have to go to the US Embassy because he needed more pages in his Passport. Go, Bryan! This took up half the day, but he now has enough pages to travel the world for another year. So, it looks like we won’t be back home until 2014.
Just kidding.
Buenos Aires has several nice parks scattered around the city, and we found a really nice sculpture park we explored after the Embassy. Then, it was time for more steak. This time we found a restaurant that was Buenos Aires version of an American diner. Basically, it was filled with a lot of single men…and pretty good steak. After steak, we went back to our room mostly because we had a living room and a couch. A couch has become quite the luxury, as they’re not common in hostels. During the rare times when there was a couch, it was usually pretty gross. When we get home, I will never take a couch for granted again, but at the moment, I have to make some sacrifices in order to see the world. I live such a hard life.
So far, traveling in South America has been quite different from traveling in Asia. It was usually easy to find someone who speaks English in Asia as it was the common language for backpackers around the world and for anyone who needs to communicate with foreigners. Thais who want to communicate with Cambodians generally speak English. Vietnamese who need to speak to Malaysians generally speak English. In South America, everyone speaks Spanish and almost all of the backpackers we’ve met have been Argentinians. I think we’ve met two people who speak proper English. Deciphering the food menu has also been entertaining mostly because we don’t know what anything is. We’re getting better though, and have started writing words down for later instead of having to look at our Spanish/English dictionary every time. Although, we’ve heard that food is very different from country to country in South America, so we’ll see what happens when we make it to Bolivia. Our Spanish is getting better, especially Bryan. Bryan’s pretty good at forming sentences, which is something I need to work on. I understand a lot of words, but I’m having a hard time (and get a bit nervous) speaking in complete sentences. Hopefully this will change with time.
The next couple days in Buenos Aires were spent taking pictures of all the awesome graffiti, visiting La Recoleta cemetery, and spending a bit of time in La Boca district.
Graffiti is one of the many things that make Argentina (and probably most of South America) different from the rest of the world. It is everywhere and considered to be artistic, and I agree. The beautiful colors and interesting pictures and words make for an entertaining walk. One could take thousands of pictures of graffiti art and still not see it all. It’s rare that the graffiti in Argentina is just the basic tagging like you would usually find in the US.
Mike told us at the beginning that La Recoleta cemetery is worth seeing, so we made our way over via subway to the Palermo district in order to see where Presidents of Argentina, Evita, and thousands of other notable figures have graves. Instead of being buried, their mausoleums are placed in immaculate large stone structures all above ground for everyone to see. I have never seen a cemetery like this. Unfortunately, we didn’t find Evita’s mausoleum because the cemetery was huge and we were hungry.
According to US Department of State, one should not visit La Boca at night due to violent robberies, but what do they know? No, we only went during the day and we wished we would have spent more time here. Tango, colorful handicraft work, and leather were just of the few things we enjoyed in La Boca.
The day before we left Argentina, we ate some of the best steak ever. Steak in Argentina means you can get a huge steak for half the price it would be in the States. The best “lomo” should be able to be cut with a spoon. As you can imagine, Bryan was having the time of his life. I’m hoping I will be able to find healthier foods in other countries in South America, but according to Miguel (a nice Colombian guy we met), it is even worse in Bolivia and Peru. Yay.
Next stop, back to hostels, probably no couch, and Argentinian wine country. Here’s to the adventures of traveling and learning about new cultures.

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