A Travellerspoint blog

The Street Fair in San Telmo and Caminito

semi-overcast

The street fair in San Telmo is renowned for its array of random antiques. For me, ancient baby dolls and old lady jewlery are just creepy. For me the fair is all about people watching and the food. San Telmo has long been a popular neighborhood for foreigners, but according to Carlos on this trip the fair was "too" international. Instead of mainly antique wares, people roamed the streets selling Colombian coffee and tacos??? and German apple streudals and pastries. Ehh I think these are tough times for everyone, so who cares what they're selling. I couldn't buy anything anyway.

The fair has grown, covering many cobblestone blocks on Defensa Street. We only walked a third of it, since we got a late start, as usual. Everything from clothes to license plates to máte gift baskets was being sold by old ladies, fat old men and the ocassional South American foreigner. We also explored the "official" San Telmo market, which is an odd combination of antiques and fruit and veggie stands.

After so much walking, I, of course, was starving, so we went to El Desnivel, the place for traditional Argentine take-out or sit-down. People were lined up ordering typical meat favorites, like choripan. We got bondipan, which to me was pork meat but steak style on a hoagie roll. You can add an onion dressing and chimichurri to taste, all for 25 Argentine pesos, or about $5. When the guy at the barbeque tossed it in the plate in front of me I was like no way am I going to finish it. But it was gone in about 20 minutes, which is record time for those who know me. While enjoying that delicious meal we enjoyed a show of traditional tango music. In the street, a group of musicians had set up their stage: accordians, bass, cello, violin and piano.

As the sun started to go down, we ran to catch a bus to Caminito, La Boca, the neighborhood famous for being the birthplace of tango and the home of Maradona, a god-like Argentine soccer player. This is the most photographed neighborhood in Buenos Aires, famous for its loudly painted houses- green, blue, yellow, red. La Boca literally means "The Mouth" of the river. It used to be the main port of Buenos Aires, and it's still a working class neighborhood. Carlos explained that the unique splash of color originally came from the left-over paint from the ships that was used to paint the houses. We walked around the block, but not too far, because you don't want to push your luck with a neighborhood that hasn't struck it rich despite its supposed fame.

On the way out we stopped to watch a tango show, my first. These performers were definitely from the 'hood, which gave the spectacle a genuine charm that other performances lack. A family quartet: mother, father, daughter, son. They danced a few numbers for us before the rival soccer team showed up in an armed armada of buses and police squads. We enjoyed the cogmbination of the top 2 Argentine passions, soccer and tango. Fans hung out of bus windows yelling as mother and son gracefully twirled across the sidewalk stage.

When we got back to the San Telmo neighborhood we were still able to catch the drum show at the end of the fair. Young adults with tamborines, snare drums and other percussion instruments paraded down the street, signaling the end of the fair. In Plaza Dorrego we watched another tango show, similar in music and rhythm but not as endearing as the more humble tango show we saw in La Boca.

Not that I know anything, but if tango came from the hood it should still be a show in the hood. Not some elite, fancy performance that middle, upper class people pay good money for. It was super cute watching the old rich people dance, but it didn't compare with the little girl dancing with her father with the random, festive-colored palette of La Boca as a backdrop.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 19:30 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Argentine Parrillada

Too Much of a Good Thing Makes You Fat

It's 12:30 am and we just got back from dinner. 3 hours at an Argentine parrillada and I don't think I'll fit into my sleeping bag, let alone my jeans tomorrow. We've been so fortunate for this first part of our stay in Argentina to be hosted by an Argentine family. This is the first time everyone's schedules lined up, so we went out for my first Argentine parrillada (steakhouse) experience.

Our hosts took us to La Parrillada de Mi Barrio, "My Neighborhood Steakhouse." Rowdy groups of men and a few families sat at wooden tables set around a buffet, soccer games casually being watched between food and conversation. We started with a salad bar, which I haven't had in about two years and Carlos claims that never, so we ended up with a motley, slightly gross mix of all the veggies we haven't had in awhile. Mine ranged from eggplant to green olives to purple cabbage with too much garlic and olive oil dressing. Once the plates of food started coming out I wished I had just waited for the main course.

In case you didn't know, this is meat country. Especially beef. The question isn't what is it- rather, what part is it. And, just like in Mexico, sometimes you really prefer not to know. Not because it's dirty or even all that disgusting, but as the chicken and turkey eating  American that I am, I just can't handle it. We were first served little meat empanadas and a fried cheese dish. Then came the meat. Chorizo (sausage), morcillo (blood sausage) and kidneys. The chorizo was delicious, the blood sausage was...manageable, and I wasn't touching the kidneys.

All the while we had baskets of bread and French fries with a garlic and cilantro sauce. It turns out all of those dishes were appetizers. Then the real meat came out. Entraña (intestines), asado de tira, bife, vacio... In all my life the only other part I knew about was ribs. Oh how inexperienced I am. But whatever it was, it was all tasty and tender. I had the bife which is like steak and vacio which was stringy but still melts in your mouth. To top it all off we had a cup of coffee. Here they call it cortado or cafe con leche, which is espresso with milk. In Mexico cafe con leche is American style coffee with milk. Having it with espresso isn't bad, but the cup is just too small for me. But whatever- after that meal I wasn't going to fit much more in there.

If you're in Argentina, definitely make sure you visit a parrillada. Provecho!

Posted by UnMejorHOY 19:32 Archived in Argentina Tagged people parties food travel family meat sandwich Comments (0)

The Recoleta Cemetary

Death in Latin America is weird. But really awesome. They've got holidays like my favorite, the Day of the Dead, and skeleton candy. I'm fortunate enough to have kept my otherworld experiences to a minimum in the United States, but in LA it's everywhere. In Buenos Aires the cemetery in Recoleta is a sight to see, but unlike Mexico it's the famous people within it that make it such a popular tourist destination.

The Recoleta cemetary is the final resting place for the Buenos Aires well-to-do, including doctors, past presidents, military, many professors. People also flock to the gravesite of Eva Peron, the beloved wife of an ex-president. Evita, as she is more fondly remembered as, is adored by many people for her role in the women's suffrage movement and other social acts. Look her up on Wikipedia for more details; like I said, I'm horrible with history.

It's pretty awesome, though, to see the mini houses and palaces created for some of these people who are now less than dust. I mean, with all due respect, who wants to be locked up in a cobwebby closet? Please throw my ashes into the ocean (in case any of you random readers are charged with the task). However, the architecture provides for some amazing photos and spine chilling shadows. Everything from angels to virgins to soldiers guard and adorn these tombs, many of them over 200 years old.

Entrance to the cemetery is free, although someone did ask us to make a donation. Bring your camera and remember to be respectful. Even if it would make an awesome place to play hide-and-go-seek, you can totally get lost in the labyrinth of marble and cobwebs.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 19:19 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

How to Get from Colonia to Buenos Aires

Take Buquebus...

Sometimes going cheap isn't the best way to do things, even if you are traveling on a shoestring. Argentina and Uruguay are separated by the Rio Plata, a wide, coffee with milk colored river that is currently the only way to go between countries. Three companies offer ferry crossings: Sea Cat, Colonia Express and probably the most popular, Buquebus. Sea Cat was way out of our budget and there was about a $5 USD difference between the other two, Buquebus being more expensive.

Of course we took the cheaper one, but it was not worth the trouble after comparing the two experiences with other travelers. Just getting the tickets with Colonia Express was stressful because you can only buy tickets in the morning or an hour before the 4 o'clock ride. If you try to buy tickets online it says they're all sold out except for one weird hour that's not even on the normal schedule. It's an hour and 15 minute ride, not uncomfortable but quite monotonous. You pass through immigration on the Uruguayan side of the river. Our ferry was half empty and you weren't allowed on the deck. It was like a giant speed boat but without the speed and the joy of the wind in your hair.

Before we set off, we could see through the gloomy windows to the luxurious competition. Buquebus offers one or three hour trips on a giant yacht. There's food and entertainment and you can go out on the deck (on the cheaper, 3 hour ride). The Argentine friends we met in Colonia spent most of the ride sighing over how much better Buquebus was. First class. Oh well. Honestly, who gives a flying flip about cushiony seats. It's only an hour.

However, there is one major difference that could greatly affect your trip if you've never been to Buenos Aires, you don't speak Spanish or you don't have street smarts. Colonia Express brings you into who knows what part of the port, dropping you off with no welcome/information desk and just hungry taxi drivers waiting to rip your touristy butt off. You have to walk across highways with tractor trailers to get to Puerto Madero, the ritzy neighborhood along the port, and then walk at least 20 minutes to the closest metro line. Buquebus on the other hand, brings you waaaay into the city, into a nice part of town. If I had known I would have paid the $5 difference in a heartbeat just to save my shoulders (and Carlos's) the stress.

Before you go to Argentina, make sure you change over some money, at least $10-15 USD, so you can pay for the bus or subte (subway) and get some food. Get coins, too. Also, be aware that at least right now you can't take out US dollars from the ATM, so if that's the currency you're hoping to use you'd better take it out in Uruguay.

You can also catch the Buquebus service in Montevideo, so check with your hostel or online for more details. Keep your eyes peeled as you get closer to the Buenos Aires coast for some great panoramic views.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 19:36 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Colonia- For When I'm 50

I want to send my grandparents to Colonia. It is the quaintest little town ever. It's colonial, as its name suggests, and it's right on the shoreline even though you feel like you're in the woods. Reminded me a lot of the lakes in North Carolina. Everyone at the hostel said it was just a day trip, and when we got off the bus I was sure it was going to be a lunchtime trip and that's it. The cobblestones were pretty enough, but I wasn't about to waste a day wandering around that po-dunk town.

The main street, however, is a different story. Fall leaves framed the trees lining the road, and every cafe had tables outside with people drinking beer or coffee. We quickly found a hostel (Hostel Colonial, will write later)  and hurried off to explore with the few hours of daylight left. Colonia was founded by the Portuguese and later taken over by Spain.  There's a super cool bridge, the original gateway into the city, and a big stone wall. For me it is like being in Colonial Williamsburg. The church is nothing exciting, but all of the houses in the old part of the city had great details like long wooden shutters or climbing bugambilia. Buildings have been maintained or restored, many of them having been turned into boutique hotels.

The afternoon we got in we wandered down to the lighthouse and decided to go up since the lady selling tickets claimed you could see Buenos Aires (15 Uruguayan pesos, ≈ 0.75 USD). Lies. But we decided to be all romantic and stay for sunset. Then we followed the coastline, scrambling across rocks and breaking in our hiking boots. Night came fast, but there were still lots of people out and about. We found the docks with lots of little rowboats and sailboats. I met Sirius Black in his animaeus form, a giant black dog that patiently followed us around the rest of the night. Hippies thumped out a drum beat as girls danced down the street.

For dinner we stayed in, because prices, just like in Montevideo, were way too out of our budget. A meal was at least $12 a person and the hostel was $18. Hence the reasoning that I will come back when I'm rich and older. But it was a good choice, because we met an Argentine couple that was very fun to talk with. We shared a Pilsen, a local beer. And I shared my medio y medio, a Uruguayan drink that is half wine and half champagne. I accidentally got red wine, which  didn't like as much as the white wine one, but it was still bubbly fun. The Argentine couple gave us lots of travel tips and talked about Buenos Aires.

The next day we went picture crazy, retracing our footsteps from the night before. It was so nice to experience fall again. It's been 4 years since I've seen red, yellow and orange leaves. I had to fight back the urge to jump in the piles or steal the rake from the workmen. The town was a pleasant surprise, and we both agreed that we would have preferred to spend more time in Colonia than we had in Montevideo.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 19:41 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

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