South America Post Trip Report: Argentina

19 Oct

Well, back in January I said I would be back with the post for the Argentina portion of the trip.  Yes, I realize it is now September–a full 9 months later.  I could give you many excuses, best of which could be the 9 month timeframe actually did mean I was focused on nurturing a baby.  Not so, I am afraid.  I have no excuses.  The only baby I have been nurturing is this over-grown one. I am back, as promised, and ready to give this all a go again.  This posting may not be as colorful as the last and may run a little long, but I will try to recall as many details as possible and present them as concisely as I can.  Note to self: Do not wait 9 months to post details of your vacation.

Thursday, December 30th

Were was I?  Oh, leaving Santiago for Buenos Aires.  After a very early morning wake up call, Debbie and I made it to the airport only for me to have to trek to some mildew-infested office to track down my luggage.  I gave the airline employee my luggage tag with my name and the numbers on it.  She disappeared into a storage room to pull the bag.  After what seemed an hour, she came back only to tell me she couldn’t find it.  Deep breaths, Kelly.  Deep breaths.  I was then invited back to the room to see if I could identify my bag myself.  Seriously??  What is wrong with these people?  Is there nobody in the airline industry that can think logically?  Instead of throwing all of the delayed luggage into a room willy-nilly, how about we arrange the bags according to their numeric tag numbers.  There’s one option, or, call me crazy, how about the novel idea of alphabetically?  This, I realize, is all a bit too organized and efficient for an airline, so instead I spent another 20 minutes climbing over piles of luggage, tossing–seriously tossing–other passenger’s luggage aside to dig for my own.  Every man for himself here.  I had a flight to catch.  Sorry! 

FINALLY–cue the heavenly harp music–the bag appeared from the very bottom of the pile at the very back corner of the room.  Yeah!  Clean clothes, jewelry, shoes and actual outfit choices for the remainder of the trip.  Visions of me strutting down the streets of BA in my newly purchased, sexy clothes played in my head. Come on.  You know you’ve been there thinking that somehow you can go from boring, corporate girl to irresistible girl when you hit foreign soil.  Somehow, these foreigners will not be able to resist the temptation of you and your average American self.  The millions of people in your own city clearly have something wrong with them if they cannot see the super model in you. Life is more interesting when you are pretending to be someone else.

Now, do I still have time to make my flight?? Make it I did and we were on our way to BA for fun and festivities.  Our little duo would add a key ingredient to the party here–Chris, the instigator and wingman extraordinaire! Let the birthday party really begin!

Deb and I took a taxi to the hotel (about 45 minutes and 60 pesos or 15USD).  On this drive what struck me was just how large and spread out this city is. I did not expect that. Deb had used her points and booked us in at the Marriott Plaza Hotel on Florida in the Retiro district.  Not my kind of hotel and I would have preferred staying in San Telmo or Palermo, but free is always good.  It is listed as a “luxury” property.  It was built in 1909 and certain features, like no elevator access on the lobby level, make this fact very clear.  You have to drag your suitcases up or down a set of stairs to get to an elevator.  This, of course, is why God created bellmen.  Thank you, God! Rooms are a bit dated, but very large and clean.  The property has a pool, which came with the hottest lifeguard I had seen since my teenage years on the beaches of Jersey.  Seriously, Wow is all I can say–athletic build, deeply tanned skin and piercing blue eyes.  Again, Wow!  They don’t grow them like that in NYC. Suddenly, there was no need to do anything but sit by the pool on afternoon #1.  We were thoroughly content and entertained.

Chris met us at the pool.  It was crowded with few chairs.  We were lucky to snag a few precious lounge chairs, but they were not quite far enough from the obnoxious group of drunk American dirt bags. Lounge chairs in Santiago wouldn’t have been far enough away from this group.  Why?  Why do these people exist and how do they afford these trips??  This is when I claim Canadian citizenship if anyone asks.  It was like Jersey Shore hits Buenos Aires.  Thankfully, it didn’t take long for this band of idiots to get kicked out of the pool area, so we could get back to sunning and staring at the hottie lifeguard without distraction.

As the entire pool discussed the idiotic behavior of these muppet heads, we got to chatting with the girl next to us, a young, thin, beautiful blonde from Australia.  We came to find out that she was “stuck” in Argentina because she didn’t have the proper visa to go to Brazil to meet her boyfriend for New Year’s Eve. Do a little Google search before you leave, people, or you may get stuck spending  days with the likes of us.  We couldn’t let this poor girl spend days by herself in the city, so we invited her to join us for dinner and drinks that night as well as got to work securing her a seat at our table for the sold-out New Year’s Eve party we had reserved.

After sufficient pool time, we all headed to our respective rooms for some rest and showers.  We met in the lobby and headed out in search of some Argentinean meat, both of the bovine and the male homosapien types.  First things first.  We headed to El Trapiche in the Palermo district.  The place was huge and the menu was even larger.  This is a typical Argentinean family spot and was filled with locals, who it seemed all knew each other and the owners.  There was a very homey and friendly vibe. I do believe we were the only tourists in the place, which is a good thing.  You know if the locals are eating there, it has to be good and it was.  Chris ordered a rather large slab of meat, which he ordered as his always does–still moving.  This is hard to translate from English to Spanish, so Chris took to using sign language of sorts, quickly turning over his hand from one side to the other making a searing noise.  It was something like “sss, sss, off”, trying to convey his raw message.  After sending back 2 steaks, they got his Neanderthal message and Chris got his raw steak with sear marks.

After paying the extremely cheap dinner bill (something like $20/person for apps, mains and drinks), we were off for some nightlife.  We walked down the road from the restaurant to find several bars to try out.  We landed at Carnal (http://www.carnalbar.com.ar/), a bar with a rooftop terrace.  We made our way up to the terrace level and tried to order drinks from the waiter, Mr. Grumpopotamus.  It took a while, but with a bit of persistence and charm we finally got his attention and placed our order for Cosmos all around.  Since Captain Slow was our waiter, we ordered another round the next time we saw him even though we were nowhere near finished the first round and asked for the check.  We were going to search out some other signs of life in the neighborhood. We stopped in another unremarkable spot for a drink and decided to then call it a night.  It had been a very long day for Debbie and me and we wanted to get our beauty sleep for the big NYE celebrations.

Friday, December 31st – New Years Eve

We spent the day wandering and taking in sights.  We hit the obligatory Recoleta Cemetary and the surrounding area in the morning.  Debbie and I then moved on to Palermo/Palermo Soho for shopping.  There are so many great boutiques–too many to single out.  Spend a day wandering the streets and shopping.  grab lunch at one of the many restaurants with sidewalk tables.  One place in which I found several things was a place called Calma Chica (http://calmachicha.com/).  They have great animal skin pillow covers and hide rugs.  There are other nice leather goods on offer as well. Check out BlackBook.com for a comprehensive list of Buenos Aires shopping (http://www.blackbookmag.com/guides/buenos-aires/shopping/l/palermo-soho).

After purchasing our wares, we headed back to the hotel for some afternoon sun.  Deb and I sat by the pool with our new Aussie friend, Nadine, and Chris hoofed it over from his apartment rental to join us for some pre-NYE cocktails poolside.  No awful Americans in sight and the hottie lifeguard was back on duty.  Life is good!

We had booked a Tango show and dinner at El Querandi (http://www.querandi.com.ar/). Milena Scarcella was extremely helpful in helping me book and made the impossible 4th seat appear for our new Aussie friend. New Year’s Eve options are very limited (see previous post for more info), so this seemed like a good option. We had complementary transportation included in our NYE booking.  The transport would pick us up from the hotel at 7:30pm.  The 3 beauties were ready and waiting with the rest of the crowd, but the man of the group was nowhere to be found.  As I nervously texted him to see what the holdup was, I gave false, reassuring smiles to the 20 other passengers that were growing ever impatient while we waited for my wingman. Suddenly, at about 7:40pm Chris came flying down the street, sweat dripping down his temples.  He had underestimated the time it would take him to make the roundtrip between the hotel and his apartment.  We kept the entire bus waiting, but only encountered a few nasty looks upon boarding.  Off we went to El Querandi.

Upon arrival, we were escorted to our table and immediately served champagne.  The place was full of NYE revelers ready to have fun and party.  After a few rounds of champagne, the stage show began.  Strangely, the tango show started with a comedian performing some terrible magic tricks while telling jokes in Spanish.  Our energy level went from high and excited to low and disappointed.  I didn’t pay $250 for some cheesy magic show.  We all glanced at one another over the table with the same look.  No need to say anything.  If this is what our NYE had in store for us, we were in for a very long night, and not in a good way.

Thankfully, our comic bomb left the stage and dinner was served, along with more alcohol of our choosing.  We all needed a few to help erase the memory of those tragic “comic” moments.  The dinner was quite good, surprisingly, or at least much better than expected.  The tango show began after dinner and the drinks kept flowing.  The tango show was decent.  Our seats were not the best for viewing.  We had a bad angle, but the upside to that is that we were pretty close to the bar:-)  This was New Year’s after all!  The tango show wrapped up close to midnight.  We were not quite sure what to expect after the midnight toast.  Do we go home?  Can we stay and imbibe for an hour?  What was included?  We had already gotten $250 worth of alcohol for sure. To our surprise, there was a DJ playing tunes.  The crowd, including our table, hit the dance floor.  At this point we all had enough drinks to help us believe we were part of Paula Abdul’s dance troop.  One of the bartenders joined us on the dance floor and proceeded to grab me for some salsa dancing.  That’s right, Sally-Sit-in-the-Corner was dancing salsa with a hot bartender.  I have never danced a step of salsa in my life.  At this moment I was wondering why.  I was feeling so free and alive,  like I haven’t felt in a very long time.  Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone has its rewards, like dancing and flirting with hot Argentinean men into the wee hours of the morning.  As a matter of fact, there was a competition for my attention between 2 men.  The one I liked naturally gave up first.  Wingman to the rescue! Chris swooped in, gave him a few well-phrased lines and the next thing I know he was at my table asking me to dance.  Mission accomplished.  Georgie and I continued our New Year’s celebration with more dancing and laughing into the early hours of the morning. I think it is actually better when you cannot understand a word each other is saying.  It makes for a much more enjoyable date.  You cannot tell if he is full of shite or himself and you don’t care! 

Party over and reality raining down, or should I say sun coming up, I had to hit the hay.  We were flying to Iguazu Falls that afternoon. Georgie dropped me off at the hotel and carried on home.  I knew I would never see him again, but that didn’t matter.  I had an amazing night with a wonderful group of friends, old and new, and Stella got her groove back by stepping out of her comfort zone and just having fun.  If day 1 was any indication, this was going to be a good year!

Saturday, January 1st

Thankfully, our flight up to the falls was not until mid-afternoon.  This gave us time to sleep in, pack up AND get an hour or so by the pool before leaving for the airport.  We said goodbye to our now single friend, Nadine, and headed out. (remember Nadine was supposed to be meeting a boyfriend in Brazil and said boyfriend basically said I am not coming to Argentina to rescue you.  You are on your own.  See you back in Australia.  Not so much.  Adios, jacka$$). 

The flight up is a short one, only 1 hour and 45.  I had researched many hotels and decided upon La Aldea de Selva (http://www.laaldeadelaselva.com/inicio_i.html).  After driving by the many hotels, which were right  along the main road, I think we made a good decision.  La Aldea is off the main road in a natural setting. This place is more like a lodge with separate cabins.  The staff was wonderfully warm and welcoming and the grounds were lovely. 

We settled in to our rooms and rested before dinner, which was served in the main lodge.  They had a special BBQ theme that night and served continuously a selection of meats and side dishes until everyone was full.  Dessert was also included and, naturally, we had red wine.  Still suffering from our New Year’s extravaganza, we were all ready to head back to the rooms to relax.  I brought our bottle of wine back and we sipped it out on our private deck swinging in the hammock listening to the harmonic jungle symphony under the night sky, which was now blanketed with stars.  What a wonderfully relaxing night!

Sunday, January 2nd

We booked our falls excursion through the hotel.  We decided on the “Great Adventure” excursion, which included roundtrip transport from the hotel, entrance into the park, a guided walking and jeep tour and a boat excursion into the canyon of the Devil’s Throat under the waterfalls.  By far the best bit of the trip was the boat trip.  First of all, after trekking through the jungle for 2.5 hours in the middle of the summer, these sweat-soaked travelers were in dire need of any breeze or spray the boat could throw our way.  Packing on a rather large life vest was the last thing any of us wanted to do, but once that boat got moving, we got exactly what we needed.  These speedboats hurl themselves up river and into the path of the falling water.   After about 20 minutes and three falls, we got soaked!  What fun!  Can we do it again?  Unfortunately, we had to disembark and take another trek through the jungle to jeeps that would bring us back to the park entrance.  There are a bunch of shops and some restaurants serving really crappy food.  I got–what else–Pringles and a diet coke to hold me over until dinner back at the lodge.

We made it back to the lodge by 5:00pm.  The sun was still hot enough to spend a couple of hours by the pool.  We sipped some cool Caipirinhas as we baked in the hot summer sun.  Life doesn’t get much better than this!

The dinner choices were to eat at the lodge again or head into Puerto Iguazu to check out the locale scene.  I voted for the latter, but my cohorts out-voted me.  We ate in the lodge again and had a repeat of the night before.  It would have been nice to see what there was to see, which probably wasn’t much, but c’est la vie!  You cannot win them all.

Monday, January 3rd

Our return flight to Buenos Aires wasn’t until 2:00pm, so we were able to squeeze in a bit more pool time before heading to the airport for some fun with check-in.  Chris and I had no issue checking in.  Debbie, however, did have an issue or, more accurately, a breakdown.  Her traveling companions were of no support. As she struggled with the desk agent, pulling document after document from her bags with things sprawled all over the floor, we sat back gasping for breath because we were laughing at the scene now being created and the stares coming her way.  Oh, and we took a few pictures for posterity.  Nothing like supportive friends to help you get through the first few hours of your 30-hour journey home.  The last time I saw this sort of display from Deb was the morning of our transfer from the W to the airport in Santiago.  I heard more F-words dropped from her mouth that morning than in the entire time I have known her.  Again, a very comedic situation in which I enjoyed several belly laughs at my friend’s expense (hiding in the bathroom, of course, so she couldn’t see me laughing right at her and this unreasonable behavior). 

Debbie was heading home to Chicago while Chris and I stayed on in BsAs for another week.  We got Deb in a cab to get from Jorge Newbery Airport (domestic) to Ezeiza International.  Chris and I cabbed it to our apartments.  Chris was in the same apartment for the entire stay, so we were able to leave most of  the baggage behind when traveling to the falls.  I was able to rent an apartment in the same building, which made it easy for us.  I researched many, many rental companies and properties.  Since Chris and I went back and forth for much too long on hotel vs apartment/house rental, most of the really good ones with pools or backyards were rented. 

As I said, I was able to get two studio apartments in the same building.  Chris had a 3rd floor apartment with small terrace.  I had a slightly larger apartment on the 6th floor (top) that was slightly larger and had a nice sunny balcony.  There is where the niceness sort of ends.

Upon entering my apartment I was knocked over by the smell of cigarettes and dirty ashtrays.  It was absolutely disgusting.  This coming from a smoker, so you know it was bad. Whoever was in that apartment before me did nothing but smoke for a week non-stop and clearly didn’t open the terrace doors to let any fresh air into the apartment.

The apartment was dirty when I arrived with no towels or toilet paper.  No TP?  Come on!  Throw me a bone here.  I’ve just traveled from northern Argentina only to find no TP in my dirty, smelly apartment.  I would have to borrow some from Chris until I get myself to the store for that a nd the largest bottle of Fabreeze air freshener I could find.

When you rent, you are responsible to buy your own food, shampoo, etc., but you think they could throw in a roll of TP until you are able to get to a store to buy supplies.  On top of the TP emergency and the stench that made me feel like I was EATING an ashtray instead of just breathing in the after effects, the towel bars in the bathroom were broken, the window cranks no longer existed, the kitchen lacked a corkscrew (May Day!  No wine with no corkscrew) and several other basic kitchen utensils, the window shade for the sliding glass door was rolled up in a corner and the 2 chairs on the terrace had holes in the seat clear through.  Is this a joke and why wasnt I invited to that party?  Must have been a hell of one for sure.

According to my rental company, Rent in BA http://www.rentinba.com/en/, the apartment was definitely cleaned before I arrived. BsAs–BullShitASs_ _ _ _ _!  If the maid had even given the cleaning agent one squirt in the sink or on the floor, you would have been able to smell it.  Any differing scent from the smoke, good or bad, could have been detected.  I was too tired to fight, so decided to leave that for my departure and take a nap on the bed before heading out for the night.  If the rest of the apartment looks like this, what is going on with the sheets??  F-it.  I am willing to take my chances. I have slept in worse places. I am tired and diving in for a nap.

Other than the fact that this apartment was dirty and in ill-repair, it was actually a nice building with a pool, elevator and 24-hour doorman.  I might give Rent in BA another chance, but would insist on some sort of cleaning clause in the agreement and be sure to inquire about smoking v non-smoking apartment.  As I said, I smoke, but that is for outside the apartment on the terrace, not in it!

Chris and I headed out for dinner and drinks.  Since it was Monday night and we were still a bit tired from our travels, we decided to stay pretty local.  We ate at the steak place across the street from our apartment. Parrilla la Dorita is on Bulnes and Cabello (http://www.parrillaladorita.com.ar/).  It is one of about five in the city.  They offer a typical Argentinean menu of steaks and other meats.  When I say typical, keep in mind that Argentinean beef is probably the best in the world, so this place was typically delicious.

Monday nights in Buenos Aires, like most cities in the world, are not the most exciting.  People are recovering from the weekend and getting ready to do it all over again come Wednesday, at least that’s how I do it here in NYC.  Monday is always a day of rest after Sunday Funday.  Chris and I, however, decided to venture out to see what trouble we could find.  We took a stroll to Mundo Bizarro in Palermo on Serrano http://mundobizarrobar.com/home.php.  This place felt like other bars I have been to before in Chicago and Santa Barbara.  It has a sort of 50’s American vibe serving cocktails of the era with their own spin on them.  Cocktails were yummy and the service friendly.  The crowd, however, was thin.  We were not going to find the trouble we were looking for here or anywhere else in the neighborhood.  After a few drinks and some nice conversation with fellow travelers, Chris and I wandered Palermo and ended up in the area of Armenia and Costa Rica. 

Plaza Armenia (Armenia Square) is an area with several old school as well as trendy bars and restaurants.  Great place . for people watching. Unfortunately for us, many were either closing early because it was Monday and slow or they were full with no seats.  We ended up in a bar called Sugar on Costa Rica near Armenia (http://sugarbuenosaires.com/).  The bar was a sort of sports bar with a lounge area in the back filled with 20-something girls and boys.  A 30-something gay man’s hell, but Chris got through it by flirting with the bartender even though he knew this god, I mean guy, wasn’t on his team.  This man was WOW–6’4″, built like an Adonis and with the looks of an Armani model–the hottest man I would see in Buenos Aires or, as it turns out, in all of my travels to this point this year. It is not often that I cannot control my staring or am at a loss for words, but it is not often that you are treated to a vision like that.  After we picked up our jaws off the bar, we ordered some drinks and chatted with the 2 bartenders for a bit.  We were the only 2 at the bar, so they had nowhere to run or hide.  After a few cocktails, Chris left in pursuit of–how shall I say–more attainable (and desirable) things and I called it a night and headed back to the smokestack, aka my apartment. Mr. Rich Wonderful Millionaire would have to wait another day to meet me.

Tuesday, January 4th

All of Chris’ late-night shenanigans finally caught up with him. He wasn’t feeling fabulous with a head cold coming on, so he decided to stay in bed and chill.  I ventured out and decided I was going to finally hit the San Telmo area.  Armed with a suggested walking tour, I headed out the door in Palermo and walked my way to San Telmo.  I knew I had a long walk ahead of me, but I love to walk and I think this is the best way to get to know a city.  Walk, get lost and stumble upon things the guidebooks don’t point out.  I did not, however, realize that the walk was 8.3 miles ONE WAY!  I would not be making the roundtrip via foot.

Along the way, I saw many of the “required” sights, Casa Rosada (think “Dont Cry for Me, Argentina” scene in Evita) being one of them.  I walked through Plaza de Mayo, the center point of political life and the continued scene of protests by the mothers and grandmothers of desaparecidos, those who “disappeared” during the Dirty War. I recently watched a documentary featuring one of the children that survived these atrocities only to find out that her “father” was actually the man who killed her biological mother and father and then took and raised her as his own.  She, of course, didn’t know this until she was in her 20’s. How does one grapple with that realization??

After strolling through this beautiful, but somber place, I carried on walking through Montserrat. This is Buenos Aires’ oldest neighborhood and even today, very little of the cityscape here is less than a hundred years old. I stopped in a ubiquitous church, as a good Catholic girl always does.  After some photos and a few prayers (family, friends, health, blah, blah, blah…now give me that winning lottery ticket already!  I have been more than patient, dear Lord…) I strolled down Alsina in search of my rest stop.

My road-weary bones needed a rest and a snack before dinner, so I stopped at La Puerto Rico Cafe, and old-school cafe started in 1887 on Adolfo Alsina http://www.lapuertoricocafe.com.ar/historia.htm. These are the kinds of places I seek out on vacations, places steeped in history and oozing character from every crevice.  With the exception of the new-ish stage for the tango shows they now host, this place is like stepping back to another time.  Despite soaring ceilings held up by massive old columns, this cavernous space manages to feel small and intimate. At the heart of it, this place is still an old school cafe and gathering place for locals where they can sip their espresso while enjoying small sandwiches and sweet treats over lively conversation.  Being it was after 12 o’clock and I was on vacation, I felt it was only right that I order red wine and a jamon crudo y queso.  Tea and sweets weren’t going to do the trick.

I spent a good hour sipping my wine (it was a half carafe, and, yes, I drank it all) while reading at a table in the front window.  My timing for this pit stop couldn’t have been better since it started raining very shortly after I sat and stopped just as I was paying my bill.  Maybe that stop in the church up the road was a good idea.  The Lord was looking out for me weather wise.  A lottery win can not be far off.

I wandered the small streets of Montserrat toward my end goal, Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo.  This was the Buenos Aires I was waiting to see.  I travel for many reasons, but one of the biggest is to experience the architecture of old places like this.  The buildings, many decaying and suffering from neglect, take me to that place where I start seeing what could be and, more importantly, what was.  I can envision these streets 100 years ago.  Even though most of these buildings are suffering from a bit neglect and age, I can see through that and see them as they were in their glory days and as they can be today if given some love and attention.  Am I still talking about buildings or myself?  Anyway, this wonderfully bohemian area has much to offer the eye as well as the stomach and I was careful to take note of several spots Chris and I might try after dinner.

After stopping in numerous antiques stores and other fun shops, I finally made it to Plaza Dorrego. This square is surrounded by bars and restaurants of all types. Take your pick.  Mine was Bar Plaza Dorrego, the oldest bar in Buenos Aires, established in 1881. You can feel the history in here and you can also become part of it by etching your name in the wood panels. Grab a seat by the window or across the street in the plaza for a beer and complimentary peanuts. I believe there is a daily tango show in the plaza at 1:30pm.  There is also dancing action after the antiques market breaks down on Sundays and, I imagine, almost any other time the spirit moves these people.

I sat at a table in the window, watching the world pass me by and soaking in the atmosphere of this place while I waited for my partner in crime to head to dinner. Chris showed up looking pale and tired.  The head cold was in full force, but since he hadn’t eaten all day and he is not one to give up a fight, not even to a cold that dares to challenge him on vacation, Chris was ready for a meal.  I was armed with a few recommendations from friends that had been here recently.  Sagardi or Amici Miei?? Both had gotten rave reviews. Sagardi has a Basque menu and is know for their pinxtos, or tapas http://www.sagardi.com.ar/#origenes.  Amici Miei is a modern Italian restaurant in a lovely 2nd floor location overlooking the plaza http://www.amicimiei.com.ar/. If you are looking for a little romance, reserve one of the balcony tables for 2. Chris and I chose this one because, well,  it was 2 doors down from Bar Plaza Dorrego. Additionally, neither of us had eaten Italian since arriving in Argentina.  It was an easy choice and Chris being in the condition he was in didnt want to fuss.  The atmosphere was nice and the service very good. Chris had the duck and I had pasta.  Both were very good.  I can also remember the bread served being delicious.  Neither of us being huge dessert people, we decided to go for a wander around the area.

We strolled around and happened upon one of the places I had noted earlier. Bar El Federal (http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/central-and-south-america/argentina/buenos-aires/29294/bar-el-federal/nightlife-detail.html) has been around since the late 18oo’s and is another of those places overflowing with character and atmosphere, especially at this time of night.  I think we got there around 10:00pm and the place was bustling with portenos enjoying an evening meal or catching up with friends over drinks. This isn’t a bar in the American sense of the word.  Sure they serve drinks, but it is a restaurant, coffeehouse, dessert bar and social club all in one. 

We managed to get a small table at the front.  After searching through the wood-covered menu, I decided on a glass of sangria.  It was apparent that Chris’ full medicinal assault on this cold was a lost battle, so he ordered a Coke. Our drinks arrived after a few minutes and it was very clear that  my sign language of pushing my hands together to indicate a small glass of sangria was read a small pitcher.  Ooops.  Ah, how I love when things get lost in translation!  More for me.  The good Lord truly was shining favor on me today.

I was just hitting my stride and ready to paint the town red, but with my co-pilot down for the count things were not looking good.  Half pitcher of sangria remaining, Chris needed his bed which meant it was time for us to hit the bricks and call it a night.  Damn!  The Lord’s luck was lost already??  I knew it was too good to last, but he could have at least given me a full 24 hours.  Keep the lottery win, dear Jesus.  Just bring me a tall, dark and handsome millionaire.  Ask and ye shall receive, my a$$!

Wednesday, January 5th

You know you are on a fabulous vacation when you can sleep in until noon and not care.  There is no panic that you are running out of time and missing half of the things you need to see.  The key to this, of course, is taking at least 2 weeks.  We Americanos are extremely unfamiliar with this concept.  We get 1 consecutive week, if we are lucky, and try to shove as much into 6 days as one could fit into 6 months.  We return more exhausted than when we left.  Why are we torturing ourselves?  Where is the balance?  I am one of the lucky ones that gets 4 weeks paid vacation plus holidays and personal days.  I could do with 1 more. My brother gets 1 week.  Can you imagine?  Working 53 weeks a year with time for only 1 short break or 2 mini breaks. It is ludicrous and nobody should be asked to do that, but I digress.

I slept in and Chris needed more rest.  After pulling myself together, I wandered around the neighborhood and hit Alto Palermo shopping mall.  This is a very modern shopping mall with all the shops you could want under one roof.  Being told how cheap things were in BsAs, I was looking forward to finding a few bargain treasures to add to my closet.  Find I did not.  Clothing, leather and most other items were as expensive if not more expensive than in New York.  You can get a cheap cab ride and a cheap meal. Sadly, however, you will not be building a new wardrobe in Buenos Aires unless, of course, that elusive tall dark and handsome millionaire is by your side.  God, a little help here, please! Mama needs a new pair of shoes…and a dress and…

I had a bit of a rest back at the apartment and then Mr. Sniffles and I headed out to have some cocktails before dinner down in Puerto Madero.  Chris had 2 friends from London coming into town and we were going to meet them for a bite port side. Puerto Madero is the old port area which has been revitalised.  Restaurants, bars and shops have taken the place of decaying warehouses.  Chris and I had decided on a steakhouse, who name now escapes me, which is of no consequence since after several strolls up and down the cobblestones in heels, we came to the conclusion that it was definitely closed for business.

Feet sore and blisters developing (Self, remind me why I chose to wear heels when I never, EVER do?  Rookie vacation mistake), we headed down the waterside promenade to another place called El Potrillo(http://www.elpotrilloweb.com.ar/menu.html).  We grabbed an outside table and settled in for our meal.  Cosmos ordered, we were now faced with the difficult task of choosing items from the menu.  Everything sounded fantastic. This place is a what I can only describe as a meatateria and it is fabulous!  We walked in from the waterside.  What we missed from the street side was the massive open grill where our Flintstone-sized steaks would be cooked.  There is also a wonderfully expansive wine room holding over 200 different wines.  God is back on my side!

After an extremely filling and delicious meal and 4, maybe 5, rounds of drinks, we were ready to head up the promenade to make our way to my Argentinean birthday celebration.  On our walk up, we were treated to a wonderful fireworks display.  we have no idea what is was for, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.  It is always great when traveling to get caught in the middle of a locale celebration you knew nothing about. It is these little surprises that are most memorable.

Jon and Clive decided they needed to call it a night since they had basically come straight from London to dinner in Buenos Aires.  Disappointed, but undeterred, Chris and I headed to the Faena Hotel’s Library Lounge (http://www.faenahotelanduniverse.com/#/eng/universe/library/) , where a hotel industry acquaintance of mine did me a VERY nice favor and reserved an area for us to celebrate my birthday.  We were happy for the table and he mentioned we could have a drink on him.  Little did we know he had something else entirely arranged.

Walking into the Faena Hotel + Universe is enough to make you feel like a rock star with its Phillipe Starck interior and top-notch service.  Doors are open for you while warm welcomes abound.  Walking along the grand hall with its red carpet and the 2-story tall mirrors and doorways running symmetrically down the length of it, you feel like you are in a mini, modern-day, Asian inspired Versailles.  Starck certainly knows how to make an impact, and he didn’t miss here.

When we approached the Library Lounge the hostess greeted us with her clipboard.  It was nice to know we were “on the list”.  When I gave her my name, glanced at the list and seemed to be at a loss.  Chris and I looked at one another thinking this was a wasted trip.  Where to next?  To our complete and utter surprise out came the hotel manager to greet us personally and escort us to our “table”.  This explains the questionable look and the frazzled reaction to our arrival.  We really were rock stars for the night.

The manager took us to our area in the back of the room.  We had an entire lounge area to ourselves–large comfy sofa, oversized lounge chairs and ornate cocktail table.  There was a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for us along with a 3-tiered dessert tray with all sorts of confections.  If we were half empty, the manager came running to fill our glasses.  Now that’s what I call service!

Happy with our drinks and sweet treats, we sat back and enjoyed the music.  As we lounged on the sofa withy bubbly in hand, another manager came out carrying a birthday cake with a sparkler.  With only one person by my side instead of the expected three, the singing of happy birthday was a bit weak, but Wow, what a birthday surprise!  Ted rocks! (Ted being my hotel acquaintance.  I am not just drunkenly shouting random names, though I wouldn’t be surprised at this point in the evening.  Let’s see, cosmos and wine at dinner, bottle of champagne, 2 more cosmos…)

As the band wrapped up and the crowd thinned, Chris and I figured we would have a Cosmo poolside.  The manager shuffled us out to a lovely table and brought us the requested drinks.  This, we were sure, was now on us.  Wrong!  After 2 cosmos each, we requested the bill from our waiter only to be told there was none.  Ted, you really rock!

As drunken intelligence as does, it told us we needed more.  Off we went to Asia de Cuba ( http://www.asiadecuba.com.ar/) for a nightcap.  It is now Lord knows what time, probably 2:00am.  This is prime time in Buenos Aires when things are just really kicking off.  Chris and I entered after being carded by a doorman I lovingly dubbed Lurch–this guy was massive and not very attractive, but lovely to talk to on my smoke breaks.  We headed for the bar for our 27th cocktail of the evening.  Nobody explained this crazy nightclub system to me and I didn’t read about it in any guides.  To me it is ass backwards, but clearly I am missing something.  You have to flag down a “bartender” to order your drinks.  This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an eternity.  Drinks ordered, you pay and the bartender then gives you drink vouchers.  Que???  You then have to flag down someone else behind the bar to take your vouchers and actually make the drinks.  The whole process took over 20 minutes.  Annoying as it was, Chris and I really didn’t need any more alcohol, now did we.  It gave us time to scan the crowd and look for potential victims.  Drinks in hand, we decided to do a loop and take a closer look.

Somehow in the chaos of the crowd, I lost my wingman.  I finished my loop and returned to where we started thinking Chris would have gone back there as well.  He would show up eventually.  The place is only so big, right? In the meantime, I struck up conversation with those around.  None of them the future Mr. Right, but a few potential Mr. Right Nows.

At least an hour passed and there was no sign of Chris.  I did several more loops in search and had several more drinks.  Doing loops makes you thirsty.  I gave up and figured he had just had it with this young, hetero scene and made a break for the young, gay scene.  I would catch up with him in the morning.  Who am I kidding?  It was morning.  I would see him that afternoon.  In the meantime, I picked up conversation with a tall, dark porteno (notice I did not include handsome or rich) and danced the night(morning) away with him.  With the sun up and the sunlight shining a clear light on my Asia de Cuba partner, I decided it was time to head to bed, but not before having to give my little local friend cab fare to get home.  He had spent all his money wooing me. See, neither handsome nor rich.

Thursday, January 6th

OUCH!!  This was hangover day.  Holy Cow. Cosmos, wine, champagne, cosmos, rum, vodka…I stayed in bed until at least 2pm.  Nursing my hangover with cigarettes and Diet Coke (there were no Pringles left), Chris sent me a text on his way home from his early morning activities.  He was feeling the pain as well and wanted greasy food.  He was in front of McDonald’s and taking orders.  Yes, please! I love you, Chris!! 

Having felt like I just barely cheated death, I managed to get myself in the shower and slowly pull myself together to head out for–you guessed it–more drinks.  Lord, save my liver.  This is my last night in South America. The birthday trip was coming to an end and I had yet to meet the tall, dark and handsome millionaire. Why do you hide?  It is inevitable, so might as well surrender now, luv.

Having caught up on rest, Jon and Clive were ready for a night out.  Chris and I headed to their hotel and had cocktails poolside while we waited for them to get pretty.  After–what else–cosmos, we headed to one of the many places on my list of restaurant/bars to try.  We piled in a cab and headed for Grand Bar Danzon (http://www.granbardanzon.com.ar/danzon/default2.htm).

All of the write-ups and personal recommendations on this place must be right.  The place was packed and we would have to wait over an hour for a table. With no seats at the bar, we decided we would head for another spot on my list, Casa Cruz (http://www.casacruz-restaurant.com/eng.html).

Casa Cruz is a fabulously chic restaurant, oozing with class and style.  Chris managed to sweet talk our way in.  We hadn’t booked in advance and they were not happy about that, but they finally caved and sat us for dinner.  The food here is like no other we had in Argentina.  It is on par with that of the finest restaurants in London, New York and the world over.  Beautifully executed and sophisticated, we were all blown away with this meal from starters to mains to desserts.  We ate it all!  The service, as well as the food, was impeccable.  Find this restaurant in Buenos Aires, but don’t forget to make a reservation and make sure you are well dressed.  The waiters wear Converse, but they frown upon guests doing so.

After our fabulous meal we headed next door for an after-dinner drink.  Here we go with the crazy drink process of  buying your drinks and get a ticket only to go to the bar to order all over again.  I really don’t get how this is more efficient in any way other than pissing me off.  Normally it takes a good 5 minutes before I lose it on a bartender for being so slow.  This takes 2 seconds.  Regardless, we stay for 1 drink.  The crowd is very young, Jonathan and Clive are tired, so Chris and I leave with them.  They head back to their hotel and we head to my first gay bar of the entire trip.  How I was able to avoid this for so long is beyond me, but clearly Chris has been a good sport.  That is not to say that Chris hasn’t  had a chance to enjoy the gay culture of the city.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  He saw more of gay Buenos Aires than I did of hetero.  We will leave it at that.

After about 45 minutes of house pumping music, watching multiple sets of boys make out on the dance floor, and numerous other “sightseeing” activities, we decided to call it a night. Things were only going to go very far downhill very quickly from here.  Back to the apartment in a cab I went with no tall, dark and handsome millionaire escorting me.  sadly my birthday blowout would end without finding Mr. Rich Wonderful.  C’est la vie.  There is always Barcelona in February and there is still hope in the airport or on the plane, right?

Friday, January 7th

Sadly, the trip is over and I cannot go on to Brazil with Chris.  We decide to have a wander around Palermo for some last-minute shopping and lunch before I have to head to the airport.  This is Chris’ last opportunity to gross me out with his menu choice and he takes full advantage.  He naturally has to order the morcilla, an oozey sausage that is enough to turn any normal person’s stomach by just watching someone cut into it.  I had a terrible hamburger and cold french fires.  How could this be my last meal in Buenos Aires?  What a bad pick, but anywhere we would have chosen couldn’t have topped the meals from the past two nights.

After picking up my bags at the apartment, Chris got me into a taxi and I was on my way to the airport.  Depression starts setting in.  Every time I am away this is the case when I am forced to face the facts that I have to go back to reality, which for me is a very boring job and somewhat boring social life.  The monotony of it all sucks the life out me, but I realized some things on this trip that could help change the picture.  I didn’t find Mr. Rich Wonderful, but I did find a bit more of me.  I learned a bit more about myself and what I need, instead of focusing on what I want.  I have a clearer picture of where I am headed and for that I am grateful.  I am sure the path is still not a straight one for me.  Not a chance in the world. I think it would be incredibly boring otherwise.  I will continue to live somewhere between the firm earth and the clouds and believe that good things are coming my way, even my tall, dark and handsome millionaire.

3 Responses to “South America Post Trip Report: Argentina”

  1. John Gambler October 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Kelly

    Great keep on writing ,you are superb.

    John

  2. Jason Barnard October 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    We are interested in purchasing this website. We have a large monthly investment budget to work with, and can pay up to 1.5 times the appraisal value.

    If you are interested in selling, please contact me by email, with the verified appraisal value of your site (if you don’t already have a valuation, you can get one here: http://ow.ly/6ZPrV )

    Please only contact me if serious about selling.

    Jason

    • kellian70 October 21, 2011 at 10:33 am #

      Jason,

      I had the website appraised. It was appraised at 2,500 to 3,000 USD. I have really just started it and like the name, but the right offer could persuade me to sell it and start with another. Make me an offer and I will let you know my decision.

      Regards,

      Kelly

      Online Domain Name Appraisal
      Domain Name: urbantravler.net
      Appraised at: $2,500 to $3,000
      Appraisal Date: 10/21/2011
      Contact: kelly.killian@lehmanholdings.com

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