Thursday, June 7, 2012

Don't Cry for Me Argentina (and Uruguay)

Hope you all enjoy the especially creative and unique post title this week. Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina and take a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It was a whirlwind four days in which I spent too much money, didn't get enough sleep, saw lots of sites, ate a ton of steak, drank (moderately of course, Dad) delicious and cheap wine, and went through customs six times in four days.

Thursday night we arrived at our hostel slightly exhausted from the traveling/the school week, but managed to make it out to dinner at a delicious restaurant called Desnivel, the first of many parillas (traditional steakhouses) we would visit in the next few days. I tried a milanesa which is basically just breaded steak with seasoning. It's cheap and delicious.

Friday we got up early to take a day trip to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. If you can manage to get on one of the express ferries it's only 45 minutes each way! Being a group of 5 college students we had a tough time making the 8:45 AM ferry, so we ended up legitimately running through the ticket purchasing process and customs. It's possible they had to hold up the boat for us....oops, sorry to be the "ugly American!"

Colonia was well worth the early wake up call. It's a quaint bayside city rich in history--it was passed between the Portuguese and Spanish for centuries before eventually gaining independence. We wandered around, ate a delicious lunch of wine, cheese, and various small plates, took in the coast, and made sure to head back to our return ferry 45 minutes early. You know, just in case :)

Our lunch destination! So cute!

Enjoying Uruguayan wine
This was just for Megan and I, ambitious but we conquered it
After so much needed siesta-ing at the hostel, we headed out to try the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl. Santiago has it's own pub crawl, which is basically a gringo's night out. You pay $20 USD and they take to 3 bars and a club and you get (limited) free drinks at each one. We hadn't been impressed with Santiago's Pub Crawl, but Buenos Aires has one that occurs every single night of the week and was rumored to have free pizza (because you know, we needed to eat more cheese) so we figured we'd try it out. We had a good time but it certainly wasn't the authentic Argentinean nightlife experience (go out at 2 AM, return home at 8 AM). It was great to see a new neighborhood, Palermo, which was much more upscale than where we were staying, San Telmo. 

We slept in a little the next day and enjoyed our included breakfast at the hostel. Then we set out on foot to see the touristy sights of Buenos Aires. First, we hit up the Obelisk, which is reminiscent of the Washington Monument (only smaller) and sits in the middle of BA's main street, Avenida 9 de Julio. Then we took a tour of Teatro Colon which was fascinating and beautiful. There we also learned a lot of the social structure in Argentina because the theater was built to allow the wealthy to showcase their status, while the poor were relegated to the back door and the worst seats. Also, someone on the tour said Americans were communists and everyone turned around and stared at us which was fun. USA USA USA. 

Next we headed to Casa Rosada (literally, the Pink House) Argentina's presidential palace. It was my favorite touristy thing we did that day. Absolutely beautiful. Inside there's a gallery which pays tribute to various Latin American heroes, from Simon Bolivar to various indigenous leaders to Che Guevara. 

After a sunset walk back to the hostel and more napping, Megan and I headed to Palermo for a one of the best steak's I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot steak) at La Cabrera. Not only was it recommended by various travel and food blogs, but Megan had been there before and assured me I would not be disappointed. She was right. We started off with bread and a delicious caprese salad and ordered a bottle of Malbec. We thought we'd be reasonable and split a side dish along with our bife de chorizo, which is a type of strip steak. As our delicious steaks arrived on the table, our waiter came out with a sample of every. single. appetizer. and. side. dish. offered at the restaurant for us to try. On the house. Basically we were in heaven. After a long leisurely dinner sipping wine, trying all kinds of side dishes, and of course, enjoying our perfectly cooked tender steak, we obviously couldn't skip dessert. And when it comes to eating, we're all about going big or going home. So we ordered a volcán de chocolate (literally, volcano of chocolate) which was delicious and we managed to fit about half of it in our stomachs. It was by far the best meal I've had in the last three months/possibly ever. 

After a food-coma induced sleep, we got up early to explore Recoleta cemetery where Evita is buried. Since Buenos Aires is built so close to the coast, bodies can't be buried underground so the cemetery is made up of these elaborate above-ground tombs. It's fascinating and feels somewhat morbid at the same time--this burial ground is a huge tourist destination. 

After some touristy shopping at the artisanal fair in front of the cemetery we cabbed over to Palermo to meet our friend Carolyn who's studying in Buenos Aires this semester. Last semester she was in Santiago and actually lived with my host mom. We had gringo brunch complete with bagels, omelets, and mimosas. Carolyn and I gossiped about Claudia and then we all went off in search of leather jackets, which Buenos Aires/Argentina is famous for. Carolyn brought us to this amazing shop called Las Pepas where I got an amazing leather jacket for half price. We wandered Palermo for a while, headed home to nap (again!) and then it was time for our final dinner. We went to a delicious parilla in the Recoleta neighborhood with Mark and Sophia's friend Natalie who is also finishing up a semester in Buenos Aires and lived in Santiago last semester. We split these giant platters of meat, veggies and grilled cheese (not the sandwich, literally, cheese, grilled) and drank more Malbec. We headed to bed early since our flight was at 7AM.

All in all, it was an amazing trip. Buenos Aires is huge, much bigger than Santiago. It's beautiful and very European-esque. I'd love to go back someday. The Argentinean accent is gorgeous (it sounds sort of Italian or Portuguese). But, at the same time, I'm really happy I chose to study here in Chile. Santiago is a smaller city and I think has a different type of character than BA. Although I can't rave as much about the Chilean food, the cariño (accommodating nature) and spirit of Chilenos make up for the lack of spice and abundance of hotdogs.

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