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Playing Tourist with the Family

22 Dec

Just as we began to get a little homesick with Christmas approaching, my mother, father, and brother paid us a visit from the U.S. The timing was perfect. The company was great. And playing tourist was a welcome change of pace from playing local.

Arriving at the airport in Buenos Aires.

Christmas tree at the Hilton, Buenos Aires.

View of the city from the Hilton in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires.

Whatever immediate culture shock they might have felt from the airport and ride into town surely dissipated once we walked in the doors of the Hilton in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, where we were greeted by a large Christmas tree, reindeer on the elevators, and boughs of holly throughout the halls.

With the storm clouds zooming by and rains pounding down at random throughout the whole first day, we decided to lay low, rest, and take pictures of the rain and rainbow outside.

The rest was a good idea, because the next few days we conquered Buenos Aires with the help of an open roof tour bus we spotted from the hotel window.

Ready, aim, click!

The Buenos Aires Bus takes tourists like us around the city with the option of getting off and on at 21 different destinations. The buses come by every 20-30 minutes and have headphones with piped in guides in several different languages.

Here are few things we saw along the way.

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

"Don't you remember these?"

Rose Garden, Palermo, Buenos Aires

Rose Garden, Palermo, Buenos Aires

Marcus and Mom in Buenos Aires

Mom soaking it all in on the tour bus.

After a full day of roaming the city as tourists, we decided to give them a taste of our local life. That, of course, meant eating amazing empanadas, holding on for dear life on a bus, and traveling by subway.

Our local empanada restaurant. 3 empanadas for AR$ 13.50 or US$3.14.

The Buenos Aires colectivo (bus) -- a daily amusement park ride.

Safely on the subte (subway) in Buenos Aires.

On the Subte (subway) in Buenos Aires.

In just a few short days we were able to see so much of the city. We saw how tourists live and how the locals live. We capped it all off with a blending of the two worlds on a stroll down Defensa Street in San Telmo for the weekly Sunday street fair.

We celebrated a mini Christmas together. They had brought so much from the U.S., half of their luggage was for us. We took a picture of some of the gifts we’ve already opened. Notice a theme? (Not included are a new comforter, new towels, and a large air purifier, plus more still to be opened.)

After playing tourist with the family all week, we weren’t quite ready to go back to local life. Because they had a red-eye flight, their hotel room was booked for another night. We happily made sure it didn’t stay dormant. Call it an act of selflessness. We were very kind to attend to the rooftop pool on Monday morning.

Ah, but it did all come to an end. Local life is back. Work is calling. And the taxis are replaced with buses and subways. It’s always hard to return from a vacation, especially when the vacation was spent with family, had a rooftop pool, and had water pressure in the shower. I can’t wait to play tourist again.

A Day at the Feria

6 Dec

Porteños love their farmer’s markets and festivals on the weekends. Recently, we traveled with some friends about forty minutes outside of the city to one called Feria de Mataderos. Good music, great food, and gaucho games entertained the public throughout the hot afternoon.

Take a look:

It’s been a while since we posted. Recently, many of our other adventures have involved cooking at home. More on that to come!

An Afternoon with Evita in Recoleta

11 Nov

Church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Sadly, we didn’t know too much about Argentina before arriving here. If we had to spout off a few words related to the country we probably would have only come up with “tango,” “beef,” “South America,” and “Evita.” Or we’d just sing the line, “Don’t cry for me Argentina!” We’ve learned a bit more during our first month, but Evita would still top the charts, so we decided we ought to pay her a visit.

In the heart of the Recoleta neighborhood sits one of the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires: the Recoleta Cemetery. Within it lies María Eva Duarte de Perón, or “Evita.”

The inconspicuous tomb of Eva Perón

A plaque from "her followers" that reads, "Don't cry for me, lost and distant, I'm an essential part of your existence. All my love and pain were my destiny, I assumed my humble responsibility of living like Christ. May whoever followed my path continue in that endeavor."

Evita’s tomb may be the original lure for visiting the cemetery, but the rest of the cemetery steals the show.

We were able to peak into one of the tombs (below). They’re dug about 6-10 feet deep. One of the guys we were hanging out with commented that the tombs were very much like the apartments in the city. All the people are packed in tight, only that the dead didn’t rooms for sleeping or cooking or cleaning up.

After strolling among the dead and tourists in the Recoleta Cemetery, we headed to the market just outside in Plaza Francia. They have everything from artisan jewelry and crafts, leather wallets, belts and bags, and your miscellaneous nick-knacks for tourists.

Then before the sun started to put an end to the day, with our new friends (we regret not taking pictures with them) we joined the locals in the park who were drinking their mate, listening to live music, and watching the entertainers.

Not a bad way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires! And it didn’t hurt the wallet one bit. Everything was free, except, of course, the street vendor’s coffee.

Hey Tigre, I’m Looking at You

6 Nov

Located about 17 miles outside of the city center, Tigre is a perfect weekend day-trip for city dwellers. Don’t expect to escape the hoards of people, but do expect to see trees, sky, water. That’s exactly what Maggie and I wanted, so this past weekend we went with a group of other students from Verbum Spanish School to visit Tigre.

The journey for us started at the Retiro train station in the city. For an Argentine $5 (that’s about U.S. $1.17) we got two round-trip tickets.

Retiro train station in Buenos Aires

Our group lined up for the train.

What’s great about Tigre is that it’s located right in a river delta, so there are numerous canals to explore. But, the only way to explore them is by boat. You can ride in a “lancha colectiva,” a public water bus that has routes throughout the delta.

"Lancha colectiva" - Public transportation 'bus' on the river.

If you know someone or happen to have one these handy, you could skip along in one of the little guys. We saw a handful docked along the river bank.

You could also row your way around. I guess that’s the water equivalent to a bicycle. Maybe conservationists prefer this way of traveling, but they get stuck breathing in the fumes from the boats.

We didn’t ride any of those this time. With our group we took one of those site-seeing boats that wanders up and down the canals for an hour for about $12 each (AR $50). I get seasick really quickly, so I was a bit worried to be on any boat without Dramamine, but the crew said if worse comes to worse I should use the toilet and not the river to “heal” myself.

I made it the entire hour without getting seasick.

Here are some of the sights from our journey through the canals of Tigre’s river delta.

After the boat ride we followed the crowds to a large outdoor market. Food was on our mind, not shopping, so we sat down at an outdoor restaurant to have some pork. I ordered the “sandwich de bife de chorizo” and Maggie had the “choripan.” The chimichurri sauce we spread on top was amazing.

Sandwich de bife de chorizo.

Choripan, a sausage link on a white bread bun.

In all, we had a wonderful time in Tigre. Next time we go, I’m hoping to spend some time on the grassy river bank with a book and a beer.