29 May 2008

Good Evening Colleen

La Cabrera BWColleen and I have had a special bond ever since we chugged a bag of wine in the Onslow bathroom one night, so I guess it was fitting that she come visit me to chug whiskey and drink a bar out of Baileys. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. 

Her trip started out on a high note, vino tinto in Pallermo and then moving on to dinner at La Cabrera. Cabrera is the same place I went for my birthday, its pretty much the most incredible restaurant with amazing steak, free champagne while you wait and cool little side dishes all for a pretty reasonable price (dinner + drinks para dos for $50). Meat sweats.

301143195_8S6yc-OThe next day, after Colleen's $500 leather binge ("no, I'm just gonna see what they have"), we hit up the U2 show again. Good times as expected, complete with bizzaro Bono falling off a railing and a bizzaro Haggerty runnig around the bar. We went back early (3am) to rest up for North River Park Clean Up on Saturday morning. The park is a biological reserve up by San Isidro on the coast of the Rio Plata that is home to a bunch of birds, snakes and about 7,000,000 plastic bottles from the last time the river flooded. Twenty of us removed about forty big bags of trash, mostly water / soda bottles (though also styrofoam, light bulbs, tennis balls, a tire, trash bags, etc), and barely made a dent. Its a bummer to see all that trash in a nice wildlife park so stop using so much bottled water, and if you do, at least try to recycle them. We spent the rest of the afternoon in San Isidro then had a delicious (and authentic Argentine) meal in Chinatown.

Yerba MateSunday was an American roller coaster of a day. We grabbed something resembling American brunch with something resembling American bagels, pancakes and French toast at a cafe in Recoleta. We washed down brunch with mate, the traditional/ritualistic/super caffeinated Argentine drink.  It was fun, the waitress showed us how to pour it and everyone in the cafe put up with us as we got louder and louder and more jittery. Lest the caffeine wear off, we went from brunch to high tea at one of the posh hotels here (more English than American, but whatever). Lots of finger sandwiches, bubbly water and sports jacket... I felt something like an adult (this would not last).

So after getting all hopped up on caffeine we decided the only way we could ever get to sleep was to consume massive amounts of alcohol. We started with Jameson at an Irish pub but since it was 2 for 1 happy hour (happy hour is all day, all night, every day, every night) we were pretty quickly two whiskeys deep. Then we decided to see the new Indiana Jones movie and (naturally) sneak in a little bottle of $3 whiskey. The whiskey was delicious, I don't really remember the movie but I think it was bad (pretty much like every other movie I've snuck booze into). So then we got in a fight with the people at McDonalds and ended up back at the Irish pub and quickly put down two more whiskeys. Then just as the bar was closing we moved inside and had our first car bomb. Then our second. And our third. Then moved on to Baileys shots. That is what I like to call American drunk. So three hours after they tried to close, we stumbled out, ran into one of the work guys catching his 5:30am cab to the airport and crashed.

I did not go into work on Monday. Thanks for the visit Col!

21 May 2008

U2 and Uruguay

Its been quite a week down here. A manager who is involved with the project got here last Sunday then another came last Friday, so its been a lot of happy hours, dinners and drinking. Rough life, right?

The guy who has been here 10 days is a vegetarian proving you don't have to eat meat to come to Argentina (just to get a real taste of the country). That led to a funny exchange with a street vendor where I asked (en Espanol) "Do you have any sandwiches without meat or chicken for a vegetarian?" and he said "Of course, ham and cheese".

The weekend was good fun. On Friday checked out a U2 cover band which was equal parts good and hysterically terrible. Had the Argentine version of Vodka Red Bull which is appropriately titled "Speed con Alcohol". Me gusta. On Saturday we went to a Boca futbol match against Racing (which I had to get breathalyzed before I was let in... believe it or not my first time). The first half was kinda shit with Boca going down 0-1. They came back in the second half and scored the winning goal in the last minute. The Boca fans went nuts, the Racing fans threw anything they could and I got hit in the foot by a flying plastic chair (no worries).

Sunday morning found us on the slow ferry across the rive to Uruguay. We headed to Colonia, a great little town best described as tranquil. The air is fresh, the buildings painted neat pastel colors and no one is in a hurry... a nice change from the intensity of BsAs. Unfortunately the rental place was out of golf carts, so we just wandered around, snapped photos, enjoyed the weather and drank at the cafes. It was a great relaxing day. Rough life, right?


11 May 2008

Things that made this weekend awesome

1) Drinking champagne in Puerto Madera watching the sun set and having the following conversation (important note, everyone in this conversation is very white):

Me: "We can have s'mores"
Belgian: "What are s'mores?"
Me: "Marshmallows and chocolate between two graham crackers"
Belgian: "Whats a graham cracker?"
Me: "Like a sweet cracker, a cross between a cookie and cracker"
Belgian: "Whats a cracker?"
Michael: "Us, we are all crackers"

2) Speaking spanish with 20 year old co-eds until 4 in the morning at a bar.

3) Wandering around BsAs Chinatown (really more of a Chinastreet) and having the most delicious Chineese empanada thing. It was honestly the most delicious non steak thing I've eaten in a long time, I'll take pictures next time.

4) Not really specific to this weekend but the fact that you can get everything delivered in Buenos Aires. From pizza to cappucino to laundry to your groceries, they deliver it all and usually for free. What makes this particularly awesome are the pizza delivery guys that bring you pizza on rollerblades! Incredible.

5) Hosting a parilla all Sunday afternoon with one of the most impressive chunks of steak I've ever seen.

6) The sponatenous protest that broke out at Santa Fe y Callao (big intersection) with synchronized pot banging and singing.

09 May 2008


Monday was yet another beautiful day in Mendoza, we got up and hopped on the 10-173 bus out to the town of Maipu recommended to us by the tourist info folks. After about an hour we arrived in the front yard of Mr. Hugo, a really likeable guy who fit the mold of everyones favorite uncle. He hooked us up with bikes, maps and a bottle of water (kinda against the point of a wine tour, but whatever) and off we went.

We checked out four wineries (La Rural, Tempus Alba, ViƱa el Cerno and Familia di Tommaso), a place that made liquor and chocolate (a good combo) and an olive oil-ery. The wineries were great and pretty varried, one was a pretty big industrial operation with stainless steel everwhere, one was a small place that hand labeled all their bottles after they filled them by hand from oak casks, one was a really modern looking building with an amazing roof deck. We drank a lot of good Malbec, a lot of good Cabernet Sauvignon, an ok Merlot though my favorite was probably a blend called Pleno from Tempus Alba.

At the liquor and chocolate place we had, you guessed it, absinthe and chocolate liquer (and a bunch of chocolates and jams). Lunch at Tommaso was awesome, its hard to beat snacking on cheese, meats, the best sundried tomatoes I've ever had (though really the only ones I've ever had outside of a sandwhich / Loop bagel) and drinking free wine while sitting in the sun looking out on a vineyard. The olive oil place had some good eats, but unfortunately the whole tour was in Spanish (though they have them in English) so about the only thing I learned is that olives have three parts.

About seven hours after we left, we returned to Mr. Hugo's, a little sunburned, a little drunk and very happy. He promptly opened another bottle of wine and we sat around talking with some other folks from Canada and Wales until that bottle was gone. Took the bus back to Mendoza, got back about an hour later than I wanted (I guess wine + biking = no sense of time) so told my cab to the airport 'rapido, por favor'. This is something I would recommend doing only in dire situations, as the second I said it the driver slammed on the gas, I flew back in the seat and he proceeded to run every red light he could on the most exhilirating cab to the airport I've had in a while. Needless to say, I made my flight.

Kyle and Meghan left on Tuesday after a day of shopping for souvenirs and I've been enjoying the last few days while my manager is in the states. Might try to check out Tigre and the north weekend, then planning on making nice big parilla (BBQ) on Sunday.


08 May 2008

Foto, foto, foto

Proving that absolutely every conceivable food in Argentina has been combined with ham and cheese (burgers, steaks, pizza, flan), Aeorlinas served us ham and cheese flavored chips on the flight to Mendoza. More proof: the steak at dinner came wrapped in bacon (ham), but not ordinary bacon, the most delicious half inch, 6 ounce piece of bacon I've ever had.

Anyways, Mendoza is a cool, laidback city with lots of parks and good looking restaurants (some probably serving things other than ham). We met up with Justin, walked around a bit, talked to the incredibly helpful people at the tourist info place, booked a tour to the Andes for Sunday and called it a night (Kyle and Meghan in the 'matrimonal suite').

Our tour was scheduled to start at 7am the next morning and when they only showed up 30 minutes late, things were off to a promising start. We made it to the Pan American Highway and were into the foothills in good time, watching a beautiful sunrise light up the Andes.

But then the driver pulled over, stopped, popped the hood and stood back as steam poured out of the engine. After trying valiantly to revive the van, the guide told us that we'd be getting an extra, unscheduled stop on the tour while he headed to the nearest town (nearest being a relative term) to call us a new van.

So we sat at kilometer 1121 watching bus after empty bus pass us by. We played iPod games, we went on little hikes, we made our own Taboo games, we lamented the fact that I left my cards in the other bag. We waited one hour. Then two. Then three. Finally, just as we were all considering hitchhiking back to town, our new bus pulled over and wisked us away.

I do mean he literally wisked us away. Since we had lost three hours, most of the stops were reduced to the bus driver slowing down, saying "foto, foto, foto" and pointing left, then all of us jumping to that side, throwing open windows and frantically snapping pictures. Finally we made it to Aconcagua which is just before the Chile 'limit line' and had a nice hike. At 6,962 meters it is the highest mountain outside of Asia and, like the Himalayans, looks very young and rugged. Unlike the Himalayans, there are supposedly some fairly simple, non-technical ascents that you can do if you are fit and acclimitized (I'm 0 for 2 there).

We also got to stop at Punta del Inca which is a natural land bridge right next to where thermal springs rise to the surface. The thermal springs run down over the bridge and riverbank, covering the rocks with these incredibly colorful mineral deposits. Very cool. Then we headed back to town, planned our wine tours for Monday and crashed.

07 May 2008

And in this photo... a waterfall

Got back yesterday from a whirlwind weekend tour with Kyle and Meghan. We started bright and early with a 7am flight (only a few hours later than we went to bed on Wednesday) to the Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

Iguazu means "big water" which is really quite an understatement. Theres really no way to describe the imensity of falls or the feeling of standing on a cliff surrounded 400,000 gallons per second hurtling into the river below. (Avid readers will note I didn't use awesome in describing Iguazu. Though it is awesome).

Over the course of the day we probably pounded out 6 miles on the trails / catwalks that make up the Argentina side of the park. We passed on the jet boats that will take you right up to the base of the falls, with the drizzly weather and digital cameras that didn't seem particularly prudent. We did take the boat to a little island in the middle where you can stare into the walls of the falls while getting soaked by the mist, pretty incredible. We also saw some very cool tropical birds, tame coatis (kinda like lemurs?) and the always exciting feral japaneese tourist.

That night we stayed at the Hostel Inn Iguazu which was quite nice (after they fixed the whole issue of giving the three of us a double room), they had a huge common area, pool tables, comfy couches and free internet. Over four bottles of Malbec we made quick friends Welsh-ians then poppsed some sleeping pills and had a great nights sleep.

Next morning we hit up Igauzu town proper which was, especially after the falls, less than awesome. Theres a park that marks the Argentine border where you can see the other parks that mark the Paraguay and Brazil borders, an empanada place and a store to buy postcards. So we hightailed it out of there, caught one flight to BsAs then another to Mendoza. But thats a whole nother posting (or two).

El Garganta del Diablo