Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

David reminded us that we get an extra 5 hours of 2015 due to the time change. Yay for us! And because of this trip we also got two summer solstices in 2014. Hooray for summers! We noted that temps here yesterday  in Celsius (34) were about the same as Portland in Fahrenheit (34). I’ll just say that the warm weather has served us well.

Our last full day in Argentina was relaxed to say the least. We did score authentic Argentine World Cup soccer jerseys for about 1/3 the price in the US, and they were made here. Scoooooore! This morning was full of rain and thunderstorms, but it cleared early afternoon and we took advantage for some last minute shopping and a decent walk.

Our flight is tomorrow evening so we booked lunch at a local favorite that we ate at earlier in the week. We may need one more steak before we fly home. But I will admit, some fruits and veggies sound really good right now. I may have to break out the juicer.

The New Year celebrations here are just getting started. It is 1:45am and the people out and about are of all ages and ethnicities. Almost everyone is dressed in white. The little girls are in all white dresses, women in sexy white outfits, and men in white tuxes. Our hotel lobby is all decked out in white. It’s a fun scene.

Fireworks started about a minute before midnight and we had prime viewing down on the water. After 25 minutes the show started to mellow and we headed back for some Argentine bubbly. Our room is 6 floors above a popular nightclub and the hotel is having a huge party with live music. I suspect we will sleep in tomorrow before packing up and stuffing ourselves of Argentine beef one last time.

This has been a great trip, with so much to see, and we have the blistered and cracked feet to prove our pedestrian prowess. Next visit I’d like to head to the countryside for a rural experience. But this trip was great for the history and culture lessons that these old cities and neighborhoods can offer.

Once we get home I’ll post some final thoughts, highlights, and a couple videos. Luckily those videos were backed up prior to my phone being stolen.

Fingers crossed our return home is an uneventful trip despite traveling through two giant airports. Until then, goodnight from Buenos Aires!

Soccer jerseys for us

Soccer jerseys for us

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Argentine sparking wine

The obligatory selfie

Puerto Madero fireworks

 

Good and Bad

Let’s start with the bad so I can get it out of the way and focus on the good:

My phone was stolen from my purse this afternoon. My purse that has three closed, zippered pockets and was cross strapped on my chest. We were in a bookstore (largest in South America) that used to be a theater. The searing levels now hold bookshelves, and the stage is a cafe! It was beautiful, I had taken pictures (along with many others), and slid my phone back into its dedicated zipper pocket that is right at my hand level. A few min later, I glanced down and saw the pocket was open and the phone was gone. Professional thief, I’m telling you. We have been so very careful here, and are disappointed to say the least.

I’ll leave all the other details off the Web. We have reported it lost on the phone’s features. It’s a CDMA phone and won’t even work down here. It’s good for nothing but spare parts.

Unfortunately, all my pics from yesterday and today are gone. Too bad, but not the end of the world. That was one downside of using a phone instead of a large camera. However I did so to avoid drawing as much attention to myself as a large camera does. But at least my bag wasn’t ripped off my head! My wallet and other goods are safe.

OK on to better news! Yesterday, after a day on our feet, we went to a Tango show. The music was live, and the band amazing! There was a piano player, violin, bass, and accordian plus two singers. The dancers were beautiful, and their show was a story of Tango history starting right around 1900 through modern times. I think they had 7 costume changes. We were totally impressed and I would go again in an instant.

We also explored the Retiro barrio (neighborhood) and had lunch at one of our favorite places. It was all locals, and the food excellent. They open for breakfast and remind me of a diner. The food was great!

Today our plans were thwarted on multiple avenues. The ranch we wanted to visit is closed all week. The giant public beachside park we took a taxi to was also closed! So we spent the day walking three different barrios. The highlight was definitely Cemeterio de Recoleta. It is a walled city (55,000 Sq meters) but entirely of mausoleum. Most are very old, some new, some well maintained, others look to have been abandoned for a century. I’m bummed about losing these pictures. It’s too far to walk back there, so my memory will have to suffice. But alas, if you are curious, an internet search will give you a good visual and more info than I would ever type. From there we walked a mile to the bookstore, El Ateneo (sneaky phone theviery), and had empanadas for dinner across the street.

One other neat thing we used today is an iPhone app for calling official taxis! You register your device and phone number, use the phone’s location setting, and say you need a taxi. It calls the service via the app, and a driver responds. You then track the driver’s location on the app’s map! When the car came, David’s name was on the driver’s phone so we could confirm each other. Coolest thing ever. And because it’s a reputable taxi company we had less worries about getting ripped off. Worked like a charm!

We all have gotten a kick out of the driving here. Lanes are merely a faint suggestion. Four Lanes across become easily six, and motorcycles weave constantly. So do taxi drivers! We were in a single left turn lane this afternoon that was actually three cars wide. And the traffic lights go green-yellow-red (normal for us) but also red-yellow-green! So you get an advanced warning before the light turns green. Just more opportunity to hit the gas!

The weather tomorrow looks bad, so we may have to lie low. Our feet need a rest, so it’s doubtful we will go out for many miles again. But I’ve been wrong before! We do plan on a picnic dinner dockside here in Puerto Madero and lucky for us, it is where the fireworks will be. That is, we will watch fireworks assuming there is not a torrential downpour. Last night we experienced crazy wind, driving rain, thunder, and lightning – all with temperatures in the low 80s.

Hot and sticky it as been, but usually there is a breeze and therefore lovely in the shade. No complaints, mostly!

This city really is beautiful and despite the setback today, it’s been fantastic.

Not sure how many more pictures I will be able to post tomorrow but I will try to snag a few more. We have enough devices here to make that work.

Hope you all have a happy New Year!

Sundays are the day

Sundays are the day for Seahawks winning their division! Go Hawks!

Sundays are also the day for the Fiera de San Telmo. The city closes one of their streets from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza Dorrego – at least a mile long – and vendors line both sides to sell their wares. You can pretty much buy anything here: shoes, sandals, clothes, art, crafts, antiques, junk, repurposed items, books, records, pipes, leather goods, incense, food, fresh orange juice, and churros (which we visited twice!).

Today was warmer, 85 or so and humid. and the street market was crowded as you can see from the photo. But it was so much fun! We had a great time and actually walked it in its entirety – both directions!! Devlin bought himself a leather wallet and I bought myself a hand-made shawl.

At the southern end of the madness is Plaza Dorrego, another square set up with stalls galore. This area has more antiques. Also in a couple of areas were professional Tango dancers and live music for entertainment. It was a serious treat.

We also stopped at the Mercado de San Martin, which is an indoor market for produce and antiques. It was beautiful and we sat inside and enjoyed a cold Coke and watched the people. No air conditioning in the mercado but we felt good to get out of the sun. It was also a great spot for photos.

All the street musicians we saw today were VERY talented and I took some video of one in particular. When we get home and on a computer I will post it.

Tonight Devlin played a few games of pool at the hotel with two other kids. He had fun and got to use more Spanish. I had a couple of glasses of wine, and David and I watched the Seahawks game stats tick by on YahooSports.

Our feet are really sore. Let’s just say that after the market adventures we walked another 2 miles to cross part of Avenue 9 de Julio, one of the widest streets in the world. It was HOT and crowded, so we didn’t stick around. Yes, some of us have blisters, but thankfully not from the sun!

Tomorrow is up in the air. We are waiting to hear back from an estancia (ranch) on spending a day there on Tuesday or Wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Just look at how far this market goes! Everything is sold here.

Just look at how far this market goes! Everything is sold here.

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Beautiful produce at the Mercado de San Telmo

 

Fruit market stand at Mercado de San Telmo, est 1897.

Fruit market stand at Mercado de San Telmo, est 1897.

 

Great view outside our hotel.

Great view outside our hotel.

Love

We have arrived in Buenos Aires! I love this city already. We have yet to venture out for dinner, and I’m getting an early jump on today’s updates. We walked a bunch today and it was a feast for the senses.

After breakfast we headed into the Microcentro district to look for money changing. Imagine yourself in a huge outdoor mall that is one street wide and about 10 blocks long. Everything from shoes, clothes, perfume, snacks, ice cream is sold here. Modern stores such as Adidas, Nike, and others are all here. Now add a few tens of thousands of people. And about 8 people per block are inconspicuously standing around saying, “Cambio, cambio.” (Change, change). Some are quiet, a few are animated. None are aggressive. It’s the way you exchange $USD for Argentine Pesos.

We spotted a man who looked nice enough. You can’t exchange on the street and so after we negotiated 13 pesos per USD, we followed him to their place of business, down a (not) dark alley and into a shop that fronts as a tour/event place. There behind a door were customers like us and the man with the money. They even had a security guard. We were given our stack of bills and a table to count and inspect for counterfeit. Everything was legit, and we were quickly on our way. And for the record, the official rate today is 8.25 pesos per $USD.

We walked the Microcentro area and within is Plaza de Mayo. This plaza was founded in 1580 (yes that old) and was named to commentate the May Revolution that began Argentina’s independence from Spain in 1810. It is used for many protests, and it sits right out front the Casa Rosada, more on that below.

Around Plaza de Mayo are many famous buildings including the Argentine National Bank, Casa Rosada, and Catedral Metropolitana. Casa Rosada is Argentina’s equivalent of the White House, and is used for presidential meetings. It was built in 1873.

Catedral Metropolitana is a huge cathedral and also the final resting place of General San Martin. Cathedrals are amazing places as they are, and this one was fantastic plus the added bonus of such an important historical figure.

The city is beautiful. The streets in the two barrios (neighborhoods) we have been so far were relatively clean, not much litter to speak of, and starkly different from one another. Microcentro is bustling with people! Puerto Madero is adjoining to the east, yet quiet and peaceful. You can walk from shopping insanity to quiet waterfront in just a few blocks.

Weather today was partly cloudy and mid-80s and humid. Clouds came in later in the afternoon and brought a breeze. We cooled off and had ice cream at a popular chain called Freddo. Despite the temps, we were not uncomfortable.

Tomorrow we walk to barrio San Telmo for Feria de San Telmo, their Sunday market. From what we have heard, they close their main Street and vendors with art, crafts, leather goods, jewelry, antiques, and memorabilia come to sell their goods. Oh and the parrillas (grills) are there a plenty.

I assume we will find another place serving steak tonight. Not sure I will get tired of that. David sure isn’t!

I had a hard time narrowing down the pictures. Here are a few!

Parks have exercise equipment

Parks have exercise equipment

Puente de la Mujer is a bridge designed to look like a couple in Tango

Puente de la Mujer is a bridge designed to look like a couple in Tango

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Puerto Madero. The park benches here are solid dark wood and are amazingly beautiful.

The Christmas tree in the Galleria mall, decorated entirely with Swarowski crystal ornaments

The Christmas tree in the Galleria mall, decorated entirely with Swarovski crystal ornaments

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Catedral Metropolitana

 

The entombed body of General San Martin

The entombed body of General San Martin inside Catedral Metropolitana

JFK isn't the only one with an eternal flame. General San Martin has one too.

JFK isn’t the only one with an eternal flame. General San Martin has one too.

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No bathing in the fountain, or you’ll be in for a shock!

Argentina's version of the White House. No background security check required to go in.

Casa Rosada, Argentina’s version of the White House. No background security check required to go in.

How things should be

The hour is late (after midnight) so I will keep this brief.

We had more time in Mendoza due to a 2-hr flight delay. No worries, LAN airlines called us 4 hours ahead of time to let us know. So we had another Argentine Gatorade and salad at a restaurant instead of being surprised and frustrated at the airport.

Air travel here reminds us of the pre 9/11 days. No need to remove shoes, no need to fuss with liquids in little baggies, no long lines at security, no jockeying for position to pre-board or board the plane, and no fighting for overhead bin space. LAN managed to deplane and reload our aircraft in 17 minutes. Board from the front and back of the plane at the same time. No kidding! And passengers were patient, polite, and efficient. Oh and we got free snack boxes and drinks on the flight. Take that USA airlines!

Mendoza airport has a grand total of 3 gates. The bathrooms were clean, the airport as a whole was clean. There was no pushing, shoving, standing for hours, or cranky staff. Delayed flight? Yes. Angry passengers? No!

Today we walked and geocached in Mendoza. Today is another holiday in Argentina so most places were closed. We hit the parks and enjoyed the warm temps and the shade. We found our first geocache in Argentina today, a little container hidden in a hole in a tree. Great find for Devlin was the Argentina flag pin. Score!

Beyond finding money, we have no set plans for tomorrow in Buenos Aires. I suspect we will explore the area on foot and gather our bearings. Oh and geocache a bit,  eat some steak.

Irrigation water flowing in the cobblestone lined ditches.

Irrigation water flowing in the cobblestone lined ditches. Our taxi driver told us there are more than 4000 kilometers of irrigation channels like this in Mendoza!

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Tile work on the benches at Plaza España.

Thank you Hilton Diamond status and the free room!

Thank you Hilton Diamond status and the free room in Buenos Aires!

 

Plaza España

Plaza España tiles in Mendoza.

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Our first geocache find in Argentina.

 

Our picnic view at Plaza Chile

Our picnic lunch view at Plaza Chile in Mendoza.

Who is San Martin?

Christmas morning had Devlin up and searching the room for evidence of Santa’s arrival. Luckily Santa left a card by the door with some Argentine Pesos, and a note that there is something back home for him. Ah to be 10 and still believing!

Who is San Martin? He was a very important man in Argentine and Chilean history. Born in Argentina, his father was a general in the Spanish army. San Martin was educated in Spain and after taking part in the Peninsular War against France he offered his services to lead battles in southern South America’s (now Argentina, Chile, and Peru) fight for independence. He was instrumental in key battles for securing independence for these three countries. As explained by our driver, he is like our George Washington.

Subsequently, there are schools, parks, and streets named after General San Martin everywhere you look.

Parque San Martin (San Martin Park) is on the west side of Mendoza, and expanses 971 acres. The park has been planted with more than 50,000 trees of hundreds of varieties. This helps not only improve air quality but also helps reduce flooding. It is one of the most important urban greenspaces in Argentina for it’s proximity to the city and size. It is also public (free). This park is a popular gathering place for the locals, as proven today. Thousands convened in the park to play soccer, eat, and nap under the large trees. One tree in particular caught our eye because of it’s beautiful bark (see below). Mendoza really is desert, but the abundance of water makes things so green and shaded, an afternoon outside is not uncomfortable at all.

We walked throughout maybe a third of this park today before running out of steam and needing food. Someone turned up the thermostat here too, and it was 93 by mid-afternoon. We probably walked 8 miles, and my brain was craving something cold and sweet. So the local gelato shop was the perfect end to our walk before a siesta in our room.

We were a little concerned about availability of dinner given the holiday, but there were a lot of people out and a few places open, so we dined at an Italian restaurant – Devlin had pizza and David and I had steak. Our waiter was probably in his late 60’s and he and Devlin had a great conversation about the local mountains, where the tourists come from, and that an American boy at age of nine climbed Aconcauga, the highest mountain outside of Asia. Devlin is on a 4-day streak of locals complimenting his Spanish and more questions of where he is learning it. I don’t think I will get tired of hearing this. The people here have been very friendly, especially to young boys speaking Spanish, and it has been very much enjoyable.

The people here really do eat late compared to the USA. Tonight we arrived for dinner closer to 9:pm and when we left the restaurant and sidewalk tables were packed, with long lines waiting for tables. Last night we had 8:00 Christmas Eve dinner reservations and we got seated closer to 8:30 and were the first people to arrive. When we finished at closer to 11:pm is when things really started to pick up. Two nights ago when we went out for empanadas, the sign said the restaurant opened at 7, so we figured 8:30 was safe, and we were the first to arrive for dinner and the only people there for at least 30 minutes. The guy standing outside actually had to unlock the door for us! It is an odd feeling, but the later dinners are something we are getting used to.

Tomorrow eve we are off to Buenos Aires. The humidity will be a change from the hot and dry here. We’ll be ready for the last leg of our trip.

Not many photos today:

Bife de Chorizo = steak for David

Bife de Chorizo = steak for David. Yes that is Argentine Gatorade in the background.

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This is tree bark! Beautiful! The tree has leaves like a maple and gives much appreciated shade.

 

Fountain at Parque San Martin

Fountain at Parque San Martin

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Another trail. Each seems to lined with different tree species.

 

One of the many trails we walked today. This one lined with palm trees.

One of the many trails we walked today. This one lined with palm trees.

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!

We are less than an hour from midnight, our bellies are beyond full, and I suspect we will turn in shortly. It has been another good day, and time for a quick update:

Due to the holiday and lack of busses, we took a taxi to Maipú to Mr Hugo bicycles. This family-run business hooks you up with a bike and a map and then turn you loose to ride the wine country. Almost everything was closed but we did see some nice countryside, taste a little wine, and visit the most interesting ‘brewery’ we have been to.

Perfect weather made for great riding, despite the heavy auto traffic in some places. Our stop at Mevi winery was well timed as we discovered Devlin also had a flat tire! Mr Hugo quickly delivered another bike and we were on our way. While we waited, we made friends (not) with an owl family. Photo included!

On the way back, we detoured to a ‘brewery’ that was open, but all their taps were closed. So we had a bottle of Stella, which David now refers to as “Argentine Gatorade” and a Coke for Devlin. The 975 ml bottles of Stella are about $5, a bargain! Devlin took care of us again with all the ordering and payment. We had the place to ourselves! The gal running the place again complimented Devlin on his great Spanish. This is becoming a trend, which has been great to witness.

The taxi picked us up when we were finished at Mr Hugo’s, where we departed after some juice and hugs/kisses. Back at the hotel, we had naps, except Devlin, who is getting his fill of cartoons in Spanish. I managed to beat him in cribbage finally, but I suspect he will want a rematch tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was at the hotel grill. David may have eaten his weight in beef. The food was all great and in addition to the late hour we are suffering from food coma!

Tomorrow we assume most everything will be closed, so we will explore on foot. We leave Friday for Buenos Aires and are starting to make plans for our time there. We need more cash, so hopefully banks are open on Friday. Our flight is early evening, so Mendoza will see us a bit longer.

Merry Christmas!

Vino at Mevi winery

Vino at Mevi winery

This fall's vino ingredients

This fall’s vino ingredients

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Grapes and olives with Andes mountains in the background

 

Vino at Mevi

Vino at Mevi

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At a side road ‘brewery’ where all they had were large bottles of Stella, which David has lovingly re-named “Argentine Gatorade”

 

Mr Hugo bicycles. A legend in Maipú. Family run and a joy to be with.

Mr Hugo bicycles. A legend in Maipú. Family run and a joy to be with.

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My cribbage partner

 

One of many owls out in the daytime. These were nesting in the hollows at the base of olive trees

One of many owls out in the daytime. These were nesting in the hollows at the base of olive trees