Friday, February 12, 2010

¡Chao Argentina! (sniff, sniff)

It is with a heavy, HEAVY heart that we board our bus out of Buenos Aires this afternoon.

These two country mice have fallen deeply in love with the tenth biggest city in the world - whodathunkit? It is the first time in all of our travels that we can emphatically say that we don't want to leave. We have spent 10 nights in this city and 57 in the entire country. We have gorged on some very incredible food, met some very amazing people, and had some very unforgettable experiences.

We are not ready to say Chao. In fact, we just plain don't want to. But, in order to finish our travels and make it back to Canada in time for the wedding, we have to get a move-on (damn you Phil)!

Our final week in Buenos Aires, and Argentina, has been a busy and eventful one. We took advantage of the fact that we were sitting still for awhile to continue our Spanish studies and we hired a private teacher to come to our B&B to teach every day. What a difference this little bit of focus made for us! Not only did we get to learn new things and also get answers to many questions that have plagued us since our last class in Bolivia, but it also increased our Spanish-speaking confidence tenfold. We realized that we have actually picked up a lot more then we thought along the way, and we both feel more willing to flex our Spanish muscles rather then deferring to English at every chance we get. We both feel a renewed commitment to learn!

With our afternoons taken up by Spanish, we spent most of our mornings exploring. Besides spending much of our time wandering through the designer shops of Palermo, we also visited the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires where an Andy Warhol collection is temporarily on display. The exhibit had quite an astounding array of his art and personal effects, as well as contrasting works from Argentinian artists of the same era. As with all art displays, so much of it was beautiful to us, some was very confusing, and a few others made us wonder if our three and four year old nieces had been there to add their personal touch the day before. So cultured, we are!

One of the other major tourist attractions we visited was actually a cemetery - La Recoleta contains some of the most famous Argentinians, including several presidents as well as the grave of the illustrious Eva Peron. It exists as a walled city within the city, and we spent a good hour just wandering down the little streets, in general awe of the lavish displays of wealth in the exquisitely ornate mausoleums.

Eva Peron's gravesite (shared with her brother)

This isn't the first cemetery we visited (the other being in Sucre, Bolivia), and it was an entirely different experience. This felt almost like we were perusing a North American suburb neighbourhood where each neighbour is trying to outdo the other with a newer Lexus - but in this case, the competition is in the form of who has the bigger angel statue. While wealth was also apparent in Sucre, it at least actually also had the feel of a cemetery - with large, full trees casting shadows, and more space to actually stop and pay tribute to any given mausoleum. Instead, La Recoleta invoked no feelings of solemnity, just awe of how the dead were still intent on keeping up with the Jones'.

While our days saw us soaking in culture and the language, our evenings were mostly about the food! Our neighbourhood of Palermo holds an abundance of diverse restaurants, and we took full advantage. We indulged on Thai, Vietnamese and Indian our first few nights, while our remaining two saw us taking in our last few bites of what we love most - Argentinian beef. Just down the street from our B&B is the best steakhouse in all of Buenos Aires, as evidenced by the throng of people waiting outside every night. We joined the throng for two nights in a row and were treated to champagne and grilled sausage while waiting for our table!

Waiting for steak with our new friend Margaret!

The steaks, abundant garnishes and atmosphere made it well worth the wait... would do it again tonight if we were here!

And so, while reliving all of these wonderful (and yummy) memories of the last week, we are also preparing ourselves to say goodbye. It is time for the top five lists! We have given it some serious thought over the past few days as to what items make the top five things to love and loath about this country, and this is what we've got:

Top 5 things we loooovvvveeee about Argentina
- The people! This country is full of the most generous, helpful and thoughtful people we have ever met. We have so many examples of when random Argentinians went out of their way to help us that they are the number one reason why we are so in love with this country.

- The beef! Yep, we're sorry to say, but it kicks Alberta's world-renowned ass. There have been no "hit and miss" steak experiences here - from the nicest restaurant to the smallest Ma & Pa establishment, all have served up melt in your mouth steaks for an incredible price.
- The diversity! Similar to Chile, this country has it all - from the glaciers and snow capped mountains of Patagonia to the northernmost point of the Iguazu Falls, and everything in between. There is no shortage of astounding sights and activities.

- The transportation! How is it possible that the bus service makes our top 5? This is how...full lay down beds + free wine + hot dinner + shots of whiskey + inexpensive tickets = the best way to travel across this huge country on a budget.

- The culture, the wine, the ice cream, the weather, the pastries, the tango, the parks, etc. etc. You name it, we probably loved it. This list could go on forever!

Top 5 things that are meh about Argentina

- Bedbugs are not just meh, they are pretty downright disgusting. And while I know that it is not exactly an Argentinian phenomenon, this is where we got bit. Luckily, we got rid of them fairly easy. Unluckily, the scars remain.
- The postal service. May seem like a silly thing to comment on, but it was a big deal to us for a few days when we were trying to send a package home. Because it was more than a letter, we had to actually take it to a customs official, who's availability was hit and miss. We ended up having to take it with us on the bus from Salta to Puerto Iguazu, and then almost missed getting it sent from Iguazu. A huge pain in the backside.
- Pete and I disagree on this one, but I really dislike the late dinner hour. Most restaurants don't even open until nine, with the regular dinner hour being at ten! There is one plus: the towns and cities are buzzing with activity well after sundown, but I usually have such a hard time sleeping after such a late dinner that I strongly dislike it. And then, it's hard to get myself out of bed until double digits. And then, we often ended up eating almost four meals a day just because they were so far apart. Not the healthiest practice we've had to endure.
- Caca. As in, dog poopy. It is a big problem in Buenos Aires, as well as throughout the country. Have some respect for your country people...clean up after your pooch!

- ¿Propina, por favor? We are not opposed to tipping people for good service (in fact, Pete has historically been a chronic overtipper), but when people aggressively ask for tips for every little thing, it gets quite annoying.

(Side note...this top five meh list was a stretch, there is little to dislike!)

After 57 days of immersing ourselves in this glorious country, we are sadly making our exit. Late this afternoon we board a 20 hour bus to Santiago, where will catch a flight on Sunday morning for Arequipa, Peru. We have become so comfortable here that we actually feel somewhat nervous about this next step and the bit of culture shock that it will likely cause. However, onwards and upwards...



  1. Hello,
    I have enjoyed reading your post about Argentina as my husband and I have been here for a week. As I was looking through your photos I realized we are in one of them at the La Bomba show! What a small world. Thanks for all the info-we are going to check out recoletta tommorow. I went to the Andy Warhol exhibit today and was amused by a coulple elderly Argentian women confused by the video of the boy doing something provacative- not realizing what was happening. Anyway, thanks again for the info. What B&B did you stay in? Will you suggest a place to stay in Patagonia & Iguazu?

  2. That is crazy (about La Bomba!) Did you enjoy it? It was cool to see, but it was sooo loud. We're so old...haha

    We stayed in the BA Soho Rooms B&B which is on the same block as La Cabrera (the steak house). It was a really nice place to stay and the staff were fabulous.

    Where in Patagonia are you going? We stayed in Bariloche, El Chalten, El Calafate on the Argentina side, and in Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas on the Chile side. I can definitely give you some tips on where to stay (or where not to!) In Iguazu we stayed at the Peter Pan Hostel which was really close to the bus station, and it was very clean with A/C and a nice pool.

  3. I had a blast at the show- it was the second day we had been in BA, so it was exciting to see what the young generation of Argentinians do. We are planning to go to Patagonia this Thursday or Friday. I think we are only going to El Calafate. Thanks for the info about Iguazu.

  4. In El Calafate we stayed at the Hospedaje Lauturo. Basic rooms, clean and good breakfasts - the best part about it was the fantastic hosts, they were some of the most amazing we've met. Dario will also cook dinner in house (YUM!) for a very reasonable price. If you find you have a couple of days to spare, try to get to El Chalten for the amazing hiking there!