Friday, March 28, 2008
So I am no longer in Argentina. I arrived here in Mexico on March 10th. I would have liked more time in Argentina but we flew here for a very good reason. My Mom had her spring break holidays these past two weeks and sister Lisa also was available so we all met together here in Mexico for our first family vacation in many years. Luis was invited to join us as guide and boyfriend. (Lisa´s, not mine.)
Well my mom has already come and left but in that short window of time we saw and did a lot. I don´t have the time or inclination to write everything so I will put down a few highlights. They are in chronological order:
A visit to the symphony. We went to hear the Guadalajara symphony play in a beautiful, historic theatre. The venue was gorgeous and the music better. They played a Bach violin concerto and Vivaldi´s Four Seasons. It was great. The Bach concerto was really enjoyable and to you my readers, I will impart the secret of being able to always recognize music written by Bach. Ready? Each note is absolutely perfect. And as an added delight, the Four Seasons is a great piece of music and they came out for a double encore. All in all an amazing (alliteration) experience and all for the reasonable price of $20. (Front row of first balcony.)
A trip to the town of Tequila. Beautiful little town famous for, well I can´t remember at the moment. Luis has a friend who works for the Jose Cuervo tequila factory. The only day he was available to take us out happened to Friday the 14th so we spent Good Friday trying Tequila and enjoying cheap margaritas. Most people have a healthy fear of Tequila but I´ll let you in to another secret that the Mexicans have been keeping from the rest of the world. They´re exporting the lousy stuff. When Tequila is 100% from the Agave plant it is quite nice, and from what I´m told, doesn´t cause the infamous Tequila hangover. Jimmy Buffet´s "Margaritaville" flowed through my head a good portion of the day.
The Town of Mascota. A friend of ours is from this charming little town. It is located in the dusty hills of Jalisco. We stayed at his farm and drove around. I wore a sombrero. A nice little plaza built for flirting. At night the girls circle the plaza going one way and the guys the other so everybody could check everybody else out. Not that this was a highlight, I just thought it was interesting enough to warrant attention. An added bonus, now I can make fun of my friend for being from such a hick town.
The beach by Puerto Vallarta. I won´t say that I loved Puerto Vallarta. It was just too touristy although there are some beautiful areas of the city that overlook the ocean. Nice beaches too. We went to one a ways out of town to avoid the crowds and aggressive vendors. I went for a swim as soon as I got there but I foolishly choose the empty part of the beach. The sand gave way to rocks as soon as I entered the water. The strong current did a good job of dragging my carcass across the barnacle encrusted rocks. I wouldn´t have gone in the water so far if it weren´t for the fact that I had to pee so badly. Later we discovered the reason the two sides of the beach were so much busier. (Soft, beautiful sand all the way out.) I had a great time and managed to not get too burnt.
So that´s my story. There´s more to hear but at a later date. Signing out, Ed
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Sometimes it´s the serendipitous experiences that occur while traveling that are the sweetest. On our last full day in
It turned out that we had been given some misinformation. The fair was at this time of year on Saturdays not Sundays and so there wasn’t too much to see. I did buy a couple souvenirs though, a couple of matte cups. They were available all over the city but marginally cheaper at this fair. Later Luis heard about a restaurant where there was live music so eventually we headed over to take a look.
The restaurant was a simple affair. The building was considerably longer than wide and so from the street there wasn’t much to see. We walked a fair ways towards the back of the restaurant where there was a small stage and the smell of smoky barbeque filled the air. Now it would have been funny to take Kate and Jane there if they were vegetarians, but they aren’t. They’re vegans.
I was leading the way to through the restaurant feeling quite guilty the whole way. In the back of the restaurant was a small courtyard with a big barbeque where a wide array of meats lay sizzling. This was obviously the sort of restaurant where it was more than the language barrier that kept them from understanding the word vegan. However this restaurant was, as I pointed out, the restaurant that I’ve been looking for my entire life.
We sat down and took a look at the menu. Mixed salad and french fries. They were the only two items on the menu that weren’t meat. Not the only two items that didn’t contain meat, the only two items that weren’t meat. Luis and I ordered the special mixed parrilla; it was, after all, our last day. Kate and Jane each ordered a salad and french fries; they didn’t have any french fries. Our waiter brought us out the regular parrilla by mistake. We clarified that we wanted the special parrilla, with the better cuts, and as our waiter went back to change the order Kate, wondering about the huge quantity of meat, asked Luis, “You told him that that it was just for two people right?”
“Oh yeah,” replied Luis. “That is just for two people.”
Now the beer and barbeque alone would have been enough to make it a memorable experience, but then the band came in and began to play. There were two guitarists, and a drummer. The music was loud and catchy, traditional folk songs. They were all talented musicians, but the drummer was more than that, he was also a talented showman. He had one big drum that he wore with a strap slung over his shoulder. With that one drum though he did more than keep time, hitting the edge of drum for varied sounds and adding flairs, using tables and beer bottles for added interest musically and aesthetically.
The restaurant was soon packed with people although we were the only tourists to be seen. The other patrons were all gauchos, Argentinian cowboys, and their families.
It was perhaps the best live music that I’ve ever heard. Everyone was having a good time. One of the older guys caught the eye of a woman and they began to dance some of the traditional dances. The songs and dance steps long familiar and their smiles genuine, they weren’t dancing for the enjoyment of tourists. Both lacked the beauty of youth but there dance was the most authentic and I enjoyed watching them dance more than the other professionals we had already seen.
The music was so good that it couldn’t be ignored. The couple began to dance, everyone would cheer at the end of the songs. One man stood on his chair singing along and gesturing wildly.
I was pretty sure that we were the only tourists there, I was positive when later the drummer came to our table and asked us our names and where we were from. He later announced our presence over the microphone, welcoming us. Everyone smiled and waved. It felt good to be treated as guests, rather than money carrying tourists.
When we left the restaurant after several hours we were brought back up in front of everyone for a picture with the band. Everyone in the restaurant smiled and clapped for us and waved goodbye as we left. The rest of the day I replayed the music in my head and hours later I still felt as full as if I had just finished Thanksgiving dinner. It was truly one of the most memorable traveling experiences of my life.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
When bad vegetarians die they go to Argentina. While there we decided to flip the Canada Food Guide pyramid upside down, expand the meat and protein portion and then eliminate all the other food groups, except beer and wine.
I thought that I would be better prepared for
Despite this I was surprised to learn that unlike the Brazilians, the Argentinians don’t even pretend to balance the meat with vegetables or fruit. For our first, and highly anticipated, meal in
Or maybe another part of the reason for the lack of Starbucks is due to the fact that there are countless little cafés already, each so inviting that I desired to stop at all of them. I think that these cafés are what invoked the comparison with ´50’s
Actually everything in
On our first full day in
We then headed to the cemetery where rests
After seeing these I was somewhat surprised when we came across the tomb of Evita. Much smaller and in a place of little prominence it was however, the most photographed it was the only one that I saw with fresh flowers placed reverently by the doors. We hastened our exit though since it began to rain.
We made our way to the Museo de Bellas Artes, a promising name to be sure. It didn’t disappoint. Entrance to the museum was free, as I feel all museums ought to be. Sometimes when I see works by “great” artists I wonder what makes them great. Here the opposite was often true, I would see works by some unknown artist and wonder why he hadn’t achieved greater fame although to be fair perhaps in my ignorance I was admiring works by an artist who was famous.
I myself have a fairly simple method for judging if a painting is great or not. It is great if I would like to have it in my living room and by this standard there were a lot of great paintings. There were several by the most famous of painters, Rembrandt, Degas, Renoir, Van Gough and one especially lovely painting by Monet, but then I’ve never seen a Monet that wasn’t especially lovely. The gallery was big enough that it deserved multiple visits but due to the brevity of our time in
After leaving the gallery we stumbled across a couple of street performers. They were performing different tangos and they were great. We watched them for some time.
The show went late into the night. At around two in the morning we walked the girls back towards their hostel. We were speaking English and a woman overheard. She asked us where we were from and then proceeded to give us a ten minute history lesson on
On the way back to our hostel we decided that the best way to finish the day would be to eat a steak. The nights in
Friday, March 7, 2008
Our last week there was spent with some great friends. We didn`t do a lot of touristy things but visiting with friends proved to be as enjoyable as anything else that I`ve done here. After leaving Sao Paulo we made our way to Foz de Igaçu, famed for the famous waterfalls just a few kilometers away.
The Cataratas do Iguaçu are incredible. I have never been to Niagra falls but I don`t know if I`ll ever make the effort. Iguaçu is a group of over 270 waterfalls, many large and powerful. The falls are on the border between Brazil and Argentina and we spent a good portion of a day on either side. I for one am certainly glad for the invention of the digital camera. Around every corner it seemed that there was a new and better view that I just had to capture. At the end of the first day I had taken over forty pictures, the next day I took another forty or so. Some of them are bound to be good.
A good portion of our last week was spent in buses traversing the immense distances in between the major South American cities. From Sao Paulo to Foz de Igaçu was a twelve hour bus ride. Normally I can sleep almost anywhere but that`s assuming a normal temperature for human life forms which on this bus was assuming too much. It was freezing. I suffered through a couple of hours and until a brief reprive at a bus stop. I don`t know what time it was, probably close to midnight. I really wanted to sleep. We started driving again and I enviously noticed the lady in front of my had brought a blanket. I began to wish that I had a blanket. A short while later I remebered the almost unused sleeping bag that I`ve been packing everywhere. It was stowed under the bus.
The next stop, several cold hours later, I retrieved my sleeping bag and then made my way to a rickety old washroom. There were several people in the washroom but somebody pointed out a stall to me and said something in Portuguese that apparently meant that I could use the stall. I opened the door to find a man sitting on the toilet. Apologizing profusely I shut the door. I was pretty embarassed but people do look pretty ridiculous sitting on the can.
We arrived short of sleep and then almost imediately headed out to the falls. Later that day we bought tickets to Buenos Aires for the following day, Thursday. The company had a sale on so we got a good price for great seats. Instead of four seats to a row, this bus was equipped with three seats to a row. The seats recline almost entirely back allowing for a good night sleep.
Thursday we went to the falls on Argentina´s side and returned to discover that there is an hour time difference between Argentina and Brazil and that we had missed our us by moments. We bought new tickets, for inferior seats and then consoled ourselves with beer. Not a huge deal though, good seats aren`t that important on short journeys such as the fifteen hours or so that we traveled.
Well Buenos Aires is great but you´ll have to hear about it another night because it´s really late and I am tired. This blog needs editting but I need sleep more so that`s that.